Oilers News & Rumors: Kassian, Kane, Draisaitl, Russell, More

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, head coach Jay Woodcroft has shuffled the lines and is making some roster changes ahead of Monday’s matchup with the Arizona Coyotes. Following a 9-5 loss to the Calgary Flames, few should be surprised he’s switching things up.

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Meanwhile, there’s talk of an Evander Kane extension, Leon Draisaitl was named the third star of the week and Kris Russell is out of the lineup and has been placed in COVID protocol.

Oilers Making Changes After Embarrassing Loss

In a game that was a real test for the Oilers, Edmonton badly failed that test playing some of their worst five-on-five hockey all season. Their power play was great and their penalty kill went 100%, but the Oilers gave up nine goals at even strength and the Flames got high-scoring chances with regularity. The Oilers were out of sorts and you could see in practice on Monday that the team was going back to basics.

Jay Woodcroft Edmonton Oilers
Jay Woodcroft, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Woodcroft had them doing elementary positioning drills as a reminder of what their placement on the ice should be in all situations. The idea seemed to be to ensure defensemen weren’t caught out of position and forwards were backing up their blueliners.

Kassian and Shore Among Those Players Coming Out

Josh Archibald and Derek Ryan are making their returns to the lineup in place of Zack Kassian and Devin Shore, who will be healthy scratches against the Coyotes. It’s not entirely clear if Woodcroft is trying to send a message to those two players or if the idea is to simply give Ryan and Archibald a chance to come in motivated.

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Woodcroft noted in a recent interview that it was good to have to make difficult decisions with his roster because everyone who sits is a quality hockey player and has earned the right to be in the lineup. With a lack of intensity shown by Kassian during the Flames game, it might be a message that his not being engaged or taking a game off from the role he knows he’s supposed to fill is unacceptable.

Some are taking this as a good thing because it seems to suggest Woodcroft is not afraid to bench someone like Kassian.

Kris Russell in COVID Protocol

Defenceman Kris Russell, who didn’t participate in the morning skate, was placed into COVID-19 Protocol following the team’s practice. Obviously not in the plans for the Oilers, this is exactly why GM Ken Holland went out and acquired another depth defenseman.

Evander Kane Extension Worth $4M x Four Years?

There’s some talk about Kane possibly being a priority for Holland this offseason and wanting to get him signed to a contract extension if possible. Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now wondered if $4 million by four years would be enough to get it done, but there are some GMs that have taken notice as to how well Kane has played since joining the Oilers this season.

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It’s not clear who the Oilers will prioritize, especially if the plan is still to go out and acquire a top-tier goaltender. Would Kane be interested in sticking with the Oilers long-term or was his signing with the team strictly a showcase for him to make himself more attractive to 30 other teams?

Leon Draisaitl Wins NHL Third Star of The Week

Draisaitl scored a hat trick during the game on Saturday versus the Flames and that gives him 47 goals on the season. The watch for 50 is on, with some wondering if he can hit 60 goals in a single season. The last Oilers player to score 60 in a season was Wayne Gretzky in 1986-87.

Draisaitl’s effort earned him third star of the week honors in the NHL. This past week he scored six goals and eight points in four games. He tied the Oilers’ single-season record with his 20th power-play goal Saturday. Clearly, he’s doing his part of the Oilers, but he also said he needed to be better in the loss to the Flames. It will be interesting to see how he and the team bounce back against Arizona.