The Edmonton Oilers made a lot of changes in personnel from last season, including a number of depth players at forward and defence. There were 11 total players that the team decided to let go in free agency or buyout, including seven forwards and four defencemen.
The Oilers elected to go with the same goaltending duo along with Stuart Skinner as the third option for this season before changes will inevitably be made. This group of former Oilers as a whole are not doing very well on their new teams, with a couple of them not even in the NHL anymore.
First up is Alex Chiasson. He is coming off his longest tenure with one team, the Oilers. He spent three seasons in Edmonton and put up his best season in regards to goals (22) and points (38) in 2018-19, his first with the team.
Chiasson’s role with the Oilers turned into a net-front presence on the power play, as he was always able to keep his stick on the ice and bang home rebounds or deflections. He would play lower in the lineup, typically the fourth line once Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi arrived in Edmonton, and would get a lot of his points from being on the No. 1 power play in the league.
His role with the Vancouver Canucks is the exact same as it was at the end of his tenure with the Oilers. He’s playing on the fourth line, recording five of his six points this season so far on the power play.
Jujhar Khaira found himself with a two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks after the Oilers decided they’d seen enough from him in a bottom-6 role. He had failed to play close to a full season any of the years, whether it was due to injury or being a healthy scratch.
Since Khaira was never able to reach what the Oilers thought was his full potential, scoring over 10 goals and 20 points just once, they wanted to try out some new blood and give room for some newer young players.
As a member of the Blackhawks, he is back in the same role he is used to, a bottom-6 that has seemed to have dropped off even more offensively. Attribute a bit to the team having a ton of difficulties scoring, but with two goals in 18 games, he hasn’t contributed much. Once again, he also finds himself out of the lineup for a number of games, this time on the injured reserve after a bad collision with Jacob Trouba.
James Neal was the only player the Oilers decided to buy out of his contract in the offseason. He signed a professional tryout with the St. Louis Blues, which turned into a one-year contract. He has been contributing as much as you’d expect from someone his age and with his speed.
Neal is playing the least amount of ice time per game in his career, which is under 12 minutes a night, but has been able to score two goals and four points in 17 games on a deep Blues team. Injuries and COVID has kept him out of the lineup for the entire season, but with the emergence of a number of young players, while NHL-regulars have been absent, it will make it more difficult for him to stay in the lineup regularly when he returns.
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Another option net-front on the Oilers’ power play in years past, his role was easily filled by Puljujarvi or Zach Hyman this year, while Neal has contributed half of his points on the power play this season.
Dominik Kahun is one of the players I mentioned who left the NHL. A German-born player who elected to go to the Swiss-A league after departing from the NHL instead of back to the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). He is now playing for Bern SC and has found success there after 29 games. He leads his team in points (29) by a margin of six and is second on the team in goals (10) to only former NHLer Cory Conacher.
Kahun was originally brought to Edmonton for a year to see how he’d fair with fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl, but the Oilers elected not to bring him back after he recorded nine goals and 15 points in 48 games as what was meant to be a top-6 player.
After a season and a half, Tyler Ennis returned to the team he found his most recent success on, the Ottawa Senators. At the trade deadline in 2019-20, the Senators traded Ennis to Edmonton where he finished the year and also played on the team the following season. Edmonton was hoping they’d get the player that was putting up over 0.5 points per game. Instead, they got less than 0.33 from Ennis.
Ennis has raised his production from where it was in Edmonton, but he has struggled to score this season, recording just one goal in 26 games. He is in a bottom-6 role, even with a number of injuries and players in COVID-protocol throughout this season for the Senators. He had a role throughout the Oilers lineup, as he is versatile and can play his game with any combination of players.
Ennis is one of the departed Oilers who is finding more success on their new team, though he isn’t getting paid much for it.
After spending two seasons on the Oilers, Gaetan Haas decided to return to the Swiss-A league. He has only played for two other organizations in his professional career: Biel HC where he started out, and Bern HC where he spent a couple of years playing, including this first part of 2020-21 when the NHL was waiting to start the season in January of 2021.
He has returned to his roots and is playing for Biel HC this season. He has never been a point per game player even though you’d expect that of someone returning to a European league after spending time in the NHL. Haas is fourth on his team in points with 18 in 26 games played.
The third and final player that returned to Europe to play hockey is Joakim Nygard. Instead of heading to Switzerland like the other two former Oilers, he returned to his home country of Sweden to play for the only other franchise he’s ever played for professionally, Farjestads BK Karlstad.
Nygard has once again found success back home where he leads his team in goals (11) and points (21) through 27 games. He was another player the Oilers gave a chance in the NHL, but it didn’t really pan out, scoring three goals and nine points in 42 total games. He too started the 2020-21 season playing for Farjestads BK Karlstad before the 2020-21 NHL season kicked off.
Adam Larsson started the year playing well on the Seattle Kraken blue line in his first season with the team after being selected and signing with them in the offseason. You could debate that he was the best defenceman on the team in the first 10 games, showing more offensive abilities while also being a staple defensively and on the penalty kill. Since then he has struggled, having the lowest plus/minus among the defencemen and second-worst on the team.
I and many others would consider losing Larsson as the Oilers’ biggest loss by a wide margin this past offseason.
Larsson is on pace to have his best season offensively since 2014-15 with the New Jersey Devils. He has two goals and eight points in 30 games. The bad plus/minus can be somewhat attributed to the struggles with the team and goalies, while also being paired with an offensive-minded defenceman in Vince Dunn.
Larsson leads the team in ice time on a defensive group that is pretty spread out. He has more help in regards to being counted on to be the main shutdown defender, as the Kraken also have Mark Giordano and Jamie Oleksiak, as opposed to the lack of help the Oilers provided in that regard during his tenure.
As opposed to all but one other player leaving the Oilers during the offseason due to their contract ending, Ethan Bear was traded in an attempt to add forward depth. It was a one-for-one swap with the Carolina Hurricanes to bring back Warren Foegele.
He is in a lesser role than he was in Edmonton on a very solid team which both have done well for him. After Bear’s rookie season in Edmonton, things went downhill a bit and he wasn’t able to recapture that last season. With the number of solid young defenders coming up in the Oilers’ system, Ken Holland saw an opportunity to get an established forward with potential.
Bear is in a good place for him to grow at the NHL level, as he is still just 24 years old. He is behind Tony DeAngelo and Brett Pesce, and I don’t see that changing without a big development. He has six points in 22 games played and has a positive plus/minus for the first time in his career. This former Oiler will always get a huge applause from the fans in Edmonton, as he was beloved in just a short time.
Caleb Jones is the only other player that left the Oilers via trade. He was sent the other way to the Blackhawks in the deal that allowed the Oilers to get an experienced and veteran presence on their back-end.
Jones hasn’t played much this year, but recent developments has allowed him to step in and be tested alongside his brother Seth on the top pairing. This could kickstart something in his game, which the Blackhawks are surely hoping for. He may be playing above his weight class on the top pairing, but he has put up a goal and three points in just 10 games, so he isn’t doing so bad thus far.
The Blackhawks are willing to try a lot with a new coach, the season in jeopardy, and players injured or on COVID-protocol. So this is the chance C. Jones has been waiting for and hoping he’ll get on a new team.
Though Dmitry Kulikov only played 10 games for the Oilers after being a trade deadline acquisition last season, he has really found success as a third-pairing defenceman on the Minnesota Wild. In just 29 games in a reduced role from what he’s generally played throughout his career, Kulikov is doing what he hasn’t done in years.
He has three goals and 13 points this season already. The last time he had more than three goals was in 2013-14 when he scored eight. Also, the last time Kulikov had more points than he did this season already was in 2015-16, his last season with the Florida Panthers.
Though sometimes you don’t want to see a player go and it leaves a void, in the Oilers’ case with a number of these depth players, it was necessary for new players they’ve developed to come in and get a shot in hopes that the depth isn’t as much of an issue as in previous years. Looking at the additions compared to the departures, the Oilers did a pretty good job, all things considered.