While the Edmonton Oilers are expected to be buyers this season and GM Ken Holland is expected to make a play for some proven commodities that could help the team during a postseason run, there will be players pushed out of the lineup as the season rolls along. In fact, some free agents might find themselves so far out of the picture that the likelihood of these players getting another shot with the team even next season is limited.
There are about 15 players on this team’s current roster (or on the verge of being on the roster) with contracts that will expire at the end of the season. While a couple more arguments could be made that prospects and RFAs might not be guaranteed spots, here are the four most obvious candidates to be eliminated from the lineup, due to either a lack of production or for salary cap reasons.
A pending UFA who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $4.5 million per season, Mikko Koskinen‘s time in Edmonton is coming to a close. All things considered, he’s not been a terrible goaltender, but bouts of bad goals and untimely gaffes have all but guaranteed he isn’t a reliable option for the team long-term.
Holland has made it a mission each offseason he’s been with the team to look at upgrading the goaltending position. In the past two summers, he’s failed to do so. A third won’t go by without a significant addition in net. Koskinen isn’t a reliable starter that can play 50-60 games per season. That much is proven. Because of it, Edmonton will look at finding a more proven option.
Say what you will about Josh Archibald‘s decision to not get vaccinated or the fact that he’s drawn ill as a result of catching the virus, he’s a valuable depth forward on this Oilers’ roster and the team certainly misses him. That likely isn’t enough to warrant the team giving him another contract when his final year runs out at the end of this season.
It’s not clear how many teams will be looking at signing players who chose not to get vaccinated but if there are teams out there not concerned about that, he could garner some interest. It’s doubtful he gets a raise on the $1.5 million he’d be making this season but if he’s willing to sign for $750K, there are teams (maybe even the Oilers) who look at him as an option if other options fall through.
The Kyle Turris experiment was a failure. Holland decided to sign the former Nashville Predators center to a two-year deal in the hopes that his pedigree as a high draft selection meant he had a lot more to offer and in the right environment could produce better results. Unfortunately, he’s been little more than a part-time roster member.
There was consideration for buying out his contract this past offseason but the decision was made simply to let his deal run its course and the team will likely move on and invest more in a better third-line center or find a less expensive depth forward at a lower cost if they find another solution down the middle.
William Lagesson has been a handy asset to have around in a season that has been up and down with injuries and COVID illnesses. That said, in any other season, he’s not on this roster and not playing meaningful minutes. If and when the COVID situation calms itself a little, Lagesson probably isn’t on this team.
The defenseman is a pending RFA with arbitration rights. His qualifying offer won’t be the issue but making room for other defensive prospects like Philip Broberg, Markus Niemeläinen and Dimitry Samorukov will probably take priority.
Which Free Agents Stay Put?
There are a few free agents that may have earned themselves more time with this Oilers’ team. Kris Russell would have been a player that was clearly looking at his final run with Edmonton, but he stepped into the lineup when injuries hit the team and played extremely well before being injured himself. Colton Sceviour has been a pleasant surprise coming off of a PTO and been one of the bright spots in the Oilers’ bottom six. He might have earned himself a one-year extension if his strong play continues.
As for a player like Kailer Yamamoto… he is an RFA the Oilers would like to keep, but he’s going to have to shoot more and produce regularly if he wants to keep his spot in the team’s top six. He could be used as a trade chip this season if he doesn’t up his offensive game.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”