Oilers News & Rumors: Puljujarvi, Smith, Leadership, Trades, More

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there is lots of talk surrounding the team’s early exit from the postseason and what comes next. Ken Holland spoke to the media and gave some analysis of what he saw and hints as to his thought process moving forward.

There are debates about why the Oilers lost the series, updates on Jesse Puljujarvi’s relationship with Edmonton, and talk about whether or not a trade between the Maple Leafs and Oilers exists.

Holland Spoke About the Oilers Early Exit

Needless to say, the general manager of the Oilers was not pleased with how the season finished. “We had much higher expectations going into the bubble,” he said during an almost hour-long interview.

Holland noted that he was pleased with the progression of players like Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, and Caleb Jones during the regular season, but was disappointed in some aspects of how the team performed after the pause. He noted he wasn’t going to throw out the 70 games the team played in the regular season for a couple of bad playoff contests but he did suggest there were issues that will need to be addressed in a tighter salary cap season.

Andreas Athanasiou A Cap Casualty?

There is more and more talk surrounding Andreas Athanasiou and how little he brought to the Oilers during their series against the Chicago Blackawks. Because he requires a qualifying offer from Edmonton, Elliotte Friedman notes in his 31 Thoughts podcast that Athanasiou may become a cap casualty.

Andreas Athanasiou Edmonton Oilers
Andreas Athanasiou, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Oilers may walk away if an arbitration hearing seems inevitable and it’s not likely the player takes less than he thinks he’ll earn at that hearing. Holland noted of his plans when it comes to the RFA, “I think Athanasiou’s impact wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I’ll assess here over the next six, seven weeks and into the offseason.”

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Puljujarvi and Oilers Apparently Have Different Views

Friedman relayed that he’d heard the Oilers believed a signing with Jesse Puljujarvi was close but Puljujarvi didn’t think so. Friedman added that there is talk the Oilers were looking to sign him to make it easier to trade him but that Puljujarvi was trying to get control over the situation and have some say as to where he might end up.

Friedman believes a trade is still possible which is a stark difference from the reports that the two sides were mending the relationship last week.

Future of Mike Smith in Edmonton

Holland noted the goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen was, for the most part, good. “I would first off say to you my assessment over the regular season goaltending was a real strength of ours,” he said. He added, “I thought the coaching staff did a great job… they kind of assessed when it was time to let one guy run with it for a little bit.” He did admit the goaltending faltered in the postseason.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Bob Stauffer said during Monday’s episode of Oilers Now that he believes it’s time the Oilers move on from Mike Smith. While neither goaltender gave Edmonton the key stops they needed against Chicago, the tandem just isn’t getting it done.

Jeff Marek asked Friedman about Mike Smith and Friedman noted that the number of goalies about to hit the market this off-season should be an interesting storyline to watch. Some goalies will have to take serious pay cuts and Smith could be among them. Should he not want to, Friedman suggested Thomas Greiss and Anton Khudobin as options for the Oilers.

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Lack of Leadership?

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector took both Drasiaitl and McDavid to task for their lack of leadership during the series. He notes he doesn’t blame either player for the loss to the Blackhawks but adds that until they have their “Steve Yzerman moment”, the Oilers won’t become anything more than a decent regular season team. That article didn’t sit well with fans.

Holland was asked about both player’s defensive game and said he thinks both players were improving and has spoken about it with them during the exit interviews.

Possible Trade Fit Between Oilers and Maple Leafs?

Finally, Friedman wondered if there was a possible trade fit between the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Certainly, both teams could be looking to make moves and Friedman says a key find for the Oilers will be help for Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.

Friedman explained:

The Maple Leafs and Oilers have been close on some things before. Connor Brown, before he went to Ottawa. Matt Benning and Jujhar Khaira, although that one fell apart when the forward got hurt. But Oilers GM Ken Holland is determined to avoid previous mistakes and not give up on young players too soon. So I’m not sure it works.

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