The Edmonton Oilers are a little light at right wing. With Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi signed, potentially two top-six spots are filled. That said, there continue to be trade rumors surrounding Puljujarvi and it’s clear that the team could stand to have some extra depth at a position of need. Essentially, GM Ken Holland needs to create competition for a spot but the trick is the money; moreover, that the Oilers have very little of it to spend.
That’s where veteran NHL wingers come in. As the offseason rolls along and players who have yet to sign with an NHL team find that their options are becoming increasingly limited, the bargains start to make their way over to Holland’s ears. Players with skill can be had for cheap and that’s what the Oilers need if they’re going to add to their roster. And, as Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal put it:
It is my understanding that while Ken Holland certainly continues to look for ways to strengthen his roster many would-be candidates are not waiting for their phone to ring and instead are coming to him…. I do know that the list of players wanting to come to Edmonton is not short.source – ‘Could the 3rd time be a charm for the Edmonton Oilers and Sam Gagner: 9 Things’ – Kurt Leavins – Edmonton Journal – 08/14/2022
As part of Leavins’ assessment that players are starting to approach the Oilers, he notes that the team has already been in conversation with Sam Gagner. Gagner scored 13 goals last season for a lousy Detroit Red Wings team, he’s been with the Oilers before, his wife is from Edmonton and he would fit easily into the dressing room as a low-maintenance player.
Gagner is the type of forward who has worked his way back from the AHL before, so it’s not impossible to envision a scenario where he’s confident in his ability to sign a two-way deal and make the Oilers roster, playing for them when injuries or depth issues rear their ugly head. He can play center and wing, power play and penalty kill and he’s a great voice for a locker room that lost Duncan Keith’s leadership over the summer.
Leavins adds, “And while I also do not know what the Gagner camp may be hoping for in a contract, no doubt a lot of names on the “list” would be willing to come for the NHL minimum. Tom Gazzola of TSN reports that there are real legs to Gagner joining the Oilers, although he couldn’t confirm if this was as a contract signing or a PTO.
Phil Kessel has been linked to the Oilers by numerous insiders. The chatter has gone on for a few weeks now and just as recently as Tuesday were Bob Stauffer and Mark Spector talking about the idea on Oilers Now. The delay seems to be the cap situation in Edmonton and the dollar amount it would require to sign Kessel.
Unlike Gagner — who would likely sign for around $750K — Kessel is probably going to fall in the $1.5 million range. This is still an incredibly good value for the player but the Oilers can’t really afford to add that contract without moving out other money first. Kessel isn’t likely a player the Oilers can sign to a two-way deal and if he’s inked to a deal, the Oilers have to be committed to the idea he’ll be an active part of their roster this season. Kessel would want that too as he’s working on keeping his iron man streak alive.
This kind of deal has the potential to be a real winner if the Oilers can make it work.
Admittedly, it’s been some time since the Oilers kicked tires on Brett Connolly. Thus, to use the term “being linked” might not be entirely accurate. That said, in the past, he’d been connected to the Oilers on a number of occasions and he’s a UFA that has yet to sign with an NHL team this summer. If anything, he’d be a reclamation project fit for AHL duty and potentially a PTO candidate.
As recently as 2021, Stauffer was pitching the idea of Connolly at half-retention salary for Kyle Turris in trade, and in 2019, there was a lot of chatter surrounding their being interested in the player as a free agent. The Oilers wound up passing in both instances and it turned out to be the right decision as Connolly played nine games in Chicago last season and 31 games the season before (mixed between the Florida Panthers and Blackhawks). He did not live up to his $3.5 million UFA signing and was bought out.
If the Oilers do give him a shot, don’t expect it to be with the big club. There was a player there. Could there be again? If no other team shows interest, perhaps the Oilers give him a shot. Holland isn’t afraid to give second chances to players the league has essentially given up on.
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.”