The Edmonton Oilers would have required more than just two much-needed trades if it weren’t for the retirement of Duncan Keith and Mike Smith landing on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Ken Holland already dealt Zack Kassian at the 2022 NHL Draft along with draft picks to move him and clear space. There is little time left before training camp opens and it may be too late in the offseason to cap off the final moves that would do the Oilers well.
There’s still some cap space needed to finish signing Ryan McLeod and some assets to be gained from making the following trades that now may not happen until next offseason.
The Oilers have gotten much deeper at forward over the past full year. Warren Foegele is one who was added to the fold in Edmonton more recently, joining talents such as Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, Ryan McLeod, and Mattias Janmark. Seeing as how Kane and Hyman easily slot higher in the lineup than Foegele, it has made him expendable.
Foegele didn’t have the first season in Edmonton that management had hoped after expecting more contributions like he did the previous two seasons in Carolina. He was expected to be a third-line winger with the ability to move up if needed. He spent a good chunk of the season on the third line, got a small chance in the top-six, but eventually fell to the fourth line where he remained. Playoffs should have forced the Oilers’ hand even more as he was scratched at times (from ‘McDavid and Smith lead Oilers to the second round of Stanley Cup Playoffs’, Edmonton Sun, May 15, 2022).
The Oilers are deep at every forward position which doesn’t bode well for Foegele. This should start to force the hand of the Oilers into trading him. He has two years remaining on a deal he signed last summer, but a $2.75 million cap hit for the role he’s now playing is expensive when every dollar matters. The Oilers have yet to sign McLeod who projects to be the third-line centre now and in the future. It is important the team locks him up and moving Foegele’s contract that spans two more seasons would go a long way in doing that.
Time is running out on the offseason and many teams are either done adding or are close to the cap and can’t. Edmonton already used assets to move Kassian’s $3.2 million in cap space at the draft, and though it may have cost an asset or two, should have moved on from Foegele as well and added a cheaper replacement. As many of the young forward prospects have graduated to the American Hockey League (AHL) and Dylan Holloway has a fair shot at making the team out of training camp, there is no room for Foegele to regain the ground he lost. He is stuck as a fourth-line player barring a ton of injuries and his value will only drop the longer the Oilers wait to move him.
If Keith wouldn’t have retired, you can bet Tyson Barrie would have already been moved. There would have been no way the Oilers could have made the great additions they did if there was still over $5 million on the books. That being said, it looks as if Barrie has got a little extra time in Edmonton seeing as the team missed their shot to offer an offensive right-shot defenceman to the teams that needed it.
Barrie is a good defenceman and should be in the top-four, but the Oilers are a unique team that is strong down the right side of their defence. He wavered at the start of last season which opened the door for Evan Bouchard and Cody Ceci to move up. Regardless of how well he played after that, the other two also played well and kept him stuck on the third pair.
Barrie is a power-play specialist who has struggled with defence throughout his career. The Oilers brought in reinforcements at the trade deadline in Brett Kulak who had an immense impact on Barrie’s overall game, especially in the defensive zone. The Oilers could manage if Barrie was paid half of what he is making to play on the bottom pair at even strength and on the power play, but he has become a luxury the Oilers can’t afford.
Bouchard can take over the role on the power play as we’ve already seen from 2021-22 while the Oilers need someone who is more defensively minded on the third pair, not offence-first (from ‘The major power play shake-up the Edmonton Oilers don’t want, but evidently need’, Edmonton Journal, Feb. 23, 2022). It will be tougher for Philip Broberg to grow alongside a defenceman who takes risks offensively and leaves the rookie vulnerable to defending odd-man rushes. Barrie’s cap hit may be more difficult to fit under another team’s salary cap, but the Oilers should attempt to get assets back for him rather than paying to move him.
We await what Holland will do to find space to sign McLeod. As the door isn’t completely shut on trading one of these players this offseason, it’s not looking good for the Oilers right now and they will likely have to be moved after the season.