Oilers News & Rumors: Kassian, Expansion, Bad Losses, More

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, Adam Larsson is back with the Oilers, there is talk surrounding Zack Kassian, early looks at the NHL Expansion Draft and how it affects the Oilers and there is concern in Edmonton over bad losses to not-so-great teams.

Adam Larsson Returned on Thursday

The Edmonton Oilers got Adam Larsson back on Thursday after missing every game since the season opener. He slotted in alongside Kris Russell on the third-pairing unit and while the two looked steady, we’re a combined plus-minus – 1.

Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Larsson shouldn’t need too long to get back into his rhythm and it will be interesting to see if coach Dave Tippett keeps Larsson and Russell together or if he puts Larsson back with his old partner Oscar Klefbom.

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Zack Kassian’s Next Contract?

One of the pressing questions in Edmonton is what to do with a player like Zack Kassian? He’s exploding offensively but is that an indicator of him riding shotgun with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — in much the same way Patrick Maroon, Alex Chiasson and, to a lesser extent Ty Rattie did — or is he the real deal?

Zack Kassian Edmonton Oilers
Zack Kassian, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It would be dangerous to overpay Kassian or reward him should he move to another line on a longer-term contract and not produce the same numbers as he has so far this season. That said, he is a guy you want around come playoff time.

Outside of Joakim Nygard, Kassian might have been the most tenacious Oilers player in a nasty loss to the Kings on Thursday.

Related: Should Anyone Actually Expect Oilers Deadline Moves?

Speaking of Bad Oilers Losses

While the organization is happy with the current record and the way the season has gone to date, there has to be concern in Edmonton over the kinds of losses the team is suffering.

Dave Tippett Seattle
FILE – Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett (AP Photo/LM Otero, file)

Edmonton seems to play well against teams in the standings that are around where they are or higher, but when it comes to teams like the Kings, who are dead last in the Western Conference, the Oilers seem to disappear. Tippett said:

“Poor start. We gave up goals early. The goal right at the end of the first period is a poor goal to give up. Five seconds left, we have control of the puck at the offensive zone blueline and we give up a goal.

“That was kind of a microcosm of where we were tonight.”

The Oilers need to figure out how to get themselves motivated to play lesser teams. At some point, the bounces won’t keep falling their way and injuries might strike. Those are points the team can’t afford to give away.

Related: THW’s Top-12 NHL Trade Rumors Tracker

Early Look at NHL Expansion and the Oilers

What will the Oilers do when it comes time for the Seattle (whatever their name is) to select their roster?

There are a two options the Oilers can take: 7-3-1, which allows them to protect more forwards or 8-1, which allows them to target on protecting more defensemen. Daniel Nugent-Bowman took a good look at the optics of both in a recent article on The Athletic.

James Neal Edmonton Oilers
James Neal, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He argues a lot of this will depend on the next contract the Oilers sign with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and one player that isn’t on his list is James Neal. He writes:

Where’s James Neal, you might ask? It’s hard to imagine his scoring rates remaining at the level of his great start after another 140 games. He also turns 34 just before the start of the 2021-22 season and he’ll have two more years on his contract with a $5.75-million cap hit.

source – ‘Evaluating the Oilers’ readiness for the 2021 Seattle expansion draft’ Daniel Nugent-Bowman – The Athletic – 11/18/2019

There’s a long way to go before the Oilers have to really consider how they approach that expansion draft but it’s interesting to see that there are already debates about who the team should protect knowing they stand to lose more than they did the last time around in Griffin Reinhart.

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