Oilers News and Rumors: Smith, Larsson Injury, Roster Changes, More

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there is bad news after a big win for the Oilers; they’ll be without a key defenseman for as much as six-to-eight weeks. There are also rumors about what this means for the blue line moving forward and notes from the home opener from the perspective of the new coach.

Larsson Injury Update

There have been plenty of reports on this site about the Larsson injury, so we won’t get into great detail (see links below), but after blocking a shot in the first period of Wednesday’s game, the news on Adam Larsson isn’t good. He’s got a broken fibula that will keep him out weeks and the team has moved him to the long-term injured reserve list.

To give the Oilers more room in LTIR cap space, the team has shuffled the roster a little with what will amount to be nothing more than a series of paper transactions, sending Ethan Bear to Bakersfield and recalling Evan Bouchard. Bouchard won’t likely join the Oilers and Bear won’t leave but the moves give the team additional room on the cap (You can see a breakdown below thanks to PuckPedia).

Tippett said that they’ll need to sit down and come up with a plan prior to Saturday’s game. Joel Persson has been cleared for practice and contact but they’re not sure he’s ready to see game action yet. The Oilers may need to make a temporary call-up from Bakersfield until Persson is ready.

Related: Edmonton Oilers’ Adam Larsson Sidelined with Foot Injury

Tippett Liked Bear’s Game

When the news first broke regarding Larsson, there were some fans confused about the moves that followed wondering why Edmonton would send Bear down. That they’re not isn’t merely about money but also an indication that the team liked what they saw out of the young blueliner. In fact, they’ll likely need to call upon him to take even more responsibility.

Bear was steady. He didn’t do anything flashy but at the same time, he wasn’t a liability. There were moments where the Oilers were stuck in their own zone with the Vancouver Canucks holding Edmonton’s end of the ice and significantly outshooting Tippetts’s squad but the team battled hard and Bear was a big part of that.

Tippett also mentioned a few other players showed well but the consensus was that Josh Archibald struggled as did Jujhar Khaira at times. Both were given opportunities to work themselves out of it.

Smith Has Won the Starting Job

It appears as though Mike Smith has won the job as starter for the Oilers this season and he proved on Wednesday that might have been a wise choice. Smith was instrumental in the win and was like a sixth defender on the ice, making outlet passes to his blueliners with accuracy and conviction. In many cases, the defense didn’t even go back to retrieve a puck, they just peeled off and waited for a pass.

J.T. Miller, Mike Smith
Vancouver Canucks J.T. Miller is stopped by Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

As the Oilers try to juggle what to do with Larsson out of the lineup, this quality in Smith’s game will be increasingly important. He finished with a .933 save percentage.

Related: Bear is Ready for Oilers’ Roster Spot

Trade in the Works With Larsson News?

Earlier today, Kyle Gipe of The Hockey Writers reported that Elliotte Friedman said there were whispers of a connection between the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers that could include Josh Ho-Sang. One has to wonder if that changes now with Larsson injured.

Edmonton is looking for depth at forward to help the top-end of the roster with scoring, but Larsson’s injury may change the priority for the team as they look for a solution in the top-four on their blue line. GM Ken Holland had already said he’d love to add a top-four d-man but that those players weren’t necessarily available on the market. Might he take another look?

Rasmus Ristolainen is still out there in trade talks and the St. Louis Blues are negotiating with Alex Pietrangelo. Both of those options may be long shots at best but it might be worth a peek. Jack Johnson is rumored to be available out of Pittsburgh but that doesn’t make much sense considering the term left on his deal.

Related: Mikko Koskinen’s Consistency Is Key to Oilers Success

Gaetan Haas in the Dog House?

Haas only played 2:11 in the game on Wednesday versus the Canucks. Is that an indication that he’s already considered unreliable to new coach Dave Tippett? No.

Gaetan Haas Johan Larsson
Gaetan Haas of Switzerland, right, and Johan Larsson of Sweden during the Ice Hockey World Championships (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

Tippett said after the win that his intention was to play Haas more but the optics of the game simply didn’t allow it. With two days rest before Game 2, Tippett ran with his horses, knew Haas was still getting acquainted to the NHL game and ice surface and didn’t feel it was right to throw him in. It’s a shame considering Haas flew his family out to watch the game but the Oilers won and Haas will get another chance.

For the Oilers, many of the games this season will depend on the bottom-six treading water and the top scorers scoring. There’s not much margin for error there. As a result, players like Haas might see limited ice time.

Related: Canucks Weekly: Boeser, Pettersson, Gaudette & More