Oilers News & Rumors: Nugent-Hopkins, Kulak, Yamamoto, Kane

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there’s talk about when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will make his return, the newest Oilers have arrived in Edmonton and a couple of players are saying goodbye to the team, for now. Are the Oilers already thinking about an extension for Brett Kulak, and with the two hottest players on the team right now being free agents this summer, what are the chances the Oilers can lock up all three of Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Evander Kane?

Nugent-Hopkins Return Close

The Oilers have loaned Brad Malone back to the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL, as the team makes room for new arrivals and is expecting forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back imminently. Nugent-Hopkins has been out of action since February 26 and was a major contributor to the Oilers’ top-nine and on special teams. He had 37 points in his first 45 games and if he can make his return Thursday against the Sharks, that will be a welcome addition.

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When he gets back, the Oilers will have all of their forwards healthy for the first time in a long time. This was an area where Holland felt the team was strong heading into the deadline and added only Derick Brassard to round out the depth of the team.

Brassard and Kulak Arrive

Brassard and Brett Kulak arrived in Edmonton and took photos from their new dressing room while getting acquainted with the staff and awaiting the arrival of the team. There isn’t talk that the Oilers will look at an extension for Brassard, but there is already chatter that the Oilers might like to speak with Kulak about an extension.

It’s not clear when those discussions will take place but it makes sense that GM Ken Holland would have grabbed a rental who is a local kid and might have a desire to stick around. According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, “Kulak called his Dad, who was in the cab of a farm truck or tractor on their Stony Plain farm. He told him he was coming home to play for the Oilers, and Dad teared up. “Yeah, he was happy. I think he’s excited for what’s to come.”

Related: Shooting Down 3 Myths Holland and Oilers Were a Trade Deadline Loser

Brassard was given the No. 16 jersey which could mean that Tyler Benson is not in the cards for the Oilers the rest of the way. He was wearing No. 16 this year and while he could return with a different jersey, it would make sense to assume he’ll stay in the AHL down the stretch.

Yamamoto and Kane Hot Right Now

Kailer Yamamoto has scored in six of the last seven games to give him a career-best 17 goals and 30 points on the season. He’s got 10 points in those same seven contests. Meanwhile, Evander Kane is on fire. As per a stat provided by the Oilers social media account, “only four players (Perron, Duchene, Lee, Matthews) have scored more goals than Evander Kane’s eight so far in March.” They add, “This is his most productive 10-game stretch since Jan. 16 to Feb. 14, 2019 when he lit the lamp 10 times.”

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The questions moving forward will be what Edmonton does about their forward corps after this season. Is Kane on the radar for an extension? He certainly should be. But, what does that mean for Yamamoto who is playing some of his best hockey right now? Finally, can the Oilers fit in both of those players and re-sign Jesse Puljujarvi?

If Holland doesn’t find a way to shed some cap space this summer, it’s not likely the Oilers can keep all three players. It’s reasonable to assume that Kane is playing himself into a big contract and the Oilers will need to convince him to work with them in order to stay with Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisaitl. It’s not clear this will be an easy sell.

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