5 Free Agent Forwards the Oilers Should Consider Signing

There are still a ton of depth options out there in the free agent market for the Edmonton Oilers to take a look at. If none of them are with teams now, the chances of landing one and paying less are high. Whether Ken Holland thinks the team needs a veteran presence, a younger forward looking for his break, or someone with the capability to play on the third or fourth line, the Oilers can find a player.

The Oilers may not elect to fill their lineup from within considering some money still needs to be moved around, but Holland has done an excellent job this offseason already bringing back and upgrading the roster. Let’s take an in-depth look at five forwards who could do well with the Oilers next season and even beyond that.

Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel would be a one-year commitment and has already made over $93 million in his career (from “The best thing Ken Holland could do for the Edmonton Oilers is “slow it down”: 9 Things”, Edmonton Journal, Aug. 7, 2022). That is more than enough money and he could be a player the Oilers could sign for very cheap while getting solid results from. Last season the 34-year-old right wing put up eight goals and 52 points on the lowest scoring team in the NHL, the Arizona Coyotes. Though his eight goals were the lowest in his 16-year career, the Oilers would be getting a player that will give the team 82 games, a fast and skilled third-line presence, veteran leadership, and a great guy in the locker room.

Phil Kessel Arizona Coyotes
Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The catch to making this a successful signing is moving Jesse Puljujarvi this offseason. There are interested teams and he is now more attractive considering he is under contract for the 2022-23 season. Kessel’s speed beside Ryan McLeod would greatly benefit both of them, more so McLeod. The young forward is just getting acclimated to the NHL and had an underrated and great rookie season. At this point in his career, Kessel is a middle-six talent with a great knowledge of the game. He played higher up in the Coyotes’ lineup due to the lack of talent there. With the Oilers, an ideal place for him is the third line with the potential to fill in higher up if the team suffers injuries.

Sonny Milano

It’s a shock that the Anaheim Ducks elected not to qualify Sonny Milano and no team has signed him yet. He is just 26 years old and started to come into his own last season when he earned a chance to play with rookie sensation Trevor Zegras. Milano would benefit from playing on the third line or better on a team like the Oilers. If he is to be signed and slotted in the lineup, there are similarities between Zegras and McLeod in terms of their hands and puck-handling ability.

Related: Oilers Could Solve Problems Trading Puljujarvi for Maple Leafs Holl

Milano scored 14 goals and 34 points last season in 66 games while also producing a bit on the power play. He could easily be inserted on the Oilers’ second unit and provide some more offence there. As a younger talent, the Oilers could also pay him $2 million less to play the same role Puljujarvi did last season. Milano and Puljujarvi had very similar stats except the latter played the majority of the season with the league’s leading scorer in Connor McDavid. It isn’t even a risk to bring in Milano who can play both wings at a cheap price since he could improve even more than he did in 2021-22.

Evgeny Svechnikov

Evgeny Svechnikov is a bottom-six player, but spent time higher up in the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup last season due to injuries, and proved he could hang with the better players and produce. Ideally, he could provide the Oilers with a depth forward who’s still relatively young and finally establish himself as a full-time NHL player. He could give the Oilers a skilled option for the fourth line at a cheap price who can also play both wings.

Evgeny Svechnikov Winnipeg Jets
Evgeny Svechnikov, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Svechnikov was a draft pick of Holland’s when the general manager (GM) was still with the Detroit Red Wings. Selected in the first round of the 2015 Draft, the forward hasn’t turned out as expected yet. It’s not uncommon that GMs have some loyalty to players they drafted in the past and give them second chances. At a cheap cost, he can provide the Oilers with solid defence while having good vision and passing ability.

Jonathan Dahlen

The San Jose Sharks decided not to qualify last season’s rookie Jonathan Dahlen after he had a very impressive start. He started to cool off around the time the entire team started to struggle greatly. The 24-year-old started the season with eight goals and 14 points in the first 23 games and was in the Calder Trophy conversation early on before the fall-off.

Dahlen struggles with consistency and defensive coverage but also has the skills to be a solid middle-six forward. He is dangerous on the power play and would be an option to fill out the Oilers’ second unit. He can play both wings and had a solid shooting percentage last season. He was average on a bad team and could be signed for the league minimum ($750,000) which would work great for the Oilers who are a cap-strapped team.

Alex Chiasson

Could we see a reunion between the Oilers and Alex Chiasson? If so, he would be in a much lesser role than he was last time around. He would also get no time on the top power play because the Oilers are so much deeper and skilled up front than they were when he was last competing for playing time with James Neal.

Alex Chiasson Vancouver Canucks
Alex Chiasson, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Chiasson is a very hard worker and a veteran presence the Oilers could benefit from being on the fourth line. Even if he doesn’t play all of the games but is in the mix, that would be a solid acquisition. Over the past four seasons, his average ice time per game has dropped. He would likely get around 10-11 minutes a night on the Oilers and they could use a bit of his physicality and grit. A key is getting some production from the fourth line even more next season and Chiasson is capable of scoring goals, even if a good amount of it comes with the man advantage.

There are still moves to be made to clear out cap space and the Oilers won’t make a huge splash signing another player. But these players make sense and could provide the team with that little boost or skillset they need to get over the hump next season.