Unfortunately, the last play Ethan Bear made as an Edmonton Oiler led to the tying goal in Game 4 against the Winnipeg Jets in the 2021 Playoffs. The game went into triple overtime while Bear and defence partner Slater Koekkoek did not see another shift after the third period.
On July 28, 2021, the Oilers traded the 124th overall pick from the 2015 NHL Draft to the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Warren Foegele. The Oilers fanbase was shocked, as Bear had established himself as a fan favourite and a role model for the indigenous community. It was a puzzling move. For so long, the Oilers had coveted homegrown NHL defensemen, and for once, they’ve developed one. However, after general manager Ken Holland completed his offseason deals, it was clear — from Holland’s perspective — that there wasn’t room on the right side for Bear.
Instead, Holland opted for more experience on the right side. He re-signed Tyson Barrie and added Cody Ceci, leaving only one spot for Bear or Evan Bouchard. Maybe because of his 10th-overall draft pedigree, Holland chose the latter.
Now that the dust has settled, it’s easier to see the silver lining in the Bear for Foegele trade. While it was disappointing to lose a young 24-year-old right-shot defenseman with his best playing days ahead of him, but it helped fill a need the team has desperately lacked.
Adding Warren Foegele
When the Oilers traded for Foegele, the scouting report assessed him to be an excellent skater who is hard on the forecheck, great on the penalty kill and defensively responsible. He was known to generate scoring chances but could not finish plays. It didn’t sound promising to trade an up-and-coming young defenseman for what appeared to be a dime-a-dozen bottom-six player. Nonetheless, the Oilers signed the winger to a three-year, $8.25 million extension on July 31, 2021.
However, from what we’ve seen so far, Foegele has solidified the third line. With Zack Kassian and Derek Ryan, the three of them have created an identity. A typical third line is supposed to check, grind and wear opponents down. At the same time, they should be able to generate a reasonable amount of offence. Yet Edmonton has lacked one since a young Ethan Moreau, Todd Marchant and Mike Grier made an impact in the late ’90s.
Oilers Now Have a Third Line With an Identity
Since Connor McDavid entered the NHL, the Oilers haven’t had a consistent offensive threat from their bottom six, and more importantly, the third line. After the first and second lines, all the coaching staff seemed to expect from their third line was to not get scored on.
This season, Foegele, Ryan and Kassian have combined for five goals and four assists in five games. In last Friday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights, that line scored the game-winner after Kassian beat goaltender Robin Lehner on a breakaway. The night before, Foegele scored a McDavid-like goal off a nice individual play against the Arizona Coyotes.
The trio has produced exceptionally well, and while they likely won’t keep up their current scoring pace, they’re playing the role of a prototypical third line. They’ve been relentless on the forecheck, winning board battles and crashing the net. Moreover, they’ve combined for 34 hits in five games with center Ryan, boasting a 59.1% faceoff percentage (FO%).
Oilers-Hurricanes Trade Working for Both Teams
Losing a homegrown talent like Bear was difficult. However, he and his partner — who were both targetted by racial comments last year — recently got engaged and seem to be thriving in Carolina. Through five games, Bear has two assists, is a plus-4, and averaging18:56 of ice time. He’s also filled in on the top pairing with defenseman Jaccob Slavin. His most recent assist came against the Toronto Maple Leafs when his shot was re-directed by Sebastian Aho.
Initially, the Bear for Foegele trade was disappointing. Ultimately, however, the team traded from a position of strength to fill a need. They dealt a young defenseman for a tenacious player who has solidified the third line and established an identity there. Both the Oilers and Hurricanes are 5-0 to start the season, and as we move forward, this may be a one-for-one trade that worked well for both teams.
First ever Ultimate MVP fan of the NHL as declared by Upperdeck – CBC Radio Oilers’ Fan Panel Analyst – Freelance Writer. Edmonton Oilers’ Sportswriter for the Hockey Writers.