What’s Next For Oilers After Duncan Keith Retirement News

While the Edmonton Oilers, nor the player, have officially announced the defenseman’s retirement, Duncan Keith has reportedly decided to call it a career and hang up his skates after 17 seasons that will see him become a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Keith had one more season left on his contract with the Oilers — his actual salary being $1.5 million versus the $5.54 million cap hit he was listed to be on the Oilers’ books.

So, with Keith now out of the picture for the team, what comes next?

Oilers Have A Ton of Cap Space

Between the move to send Zack Kassian to Arizona and with Keith’s retirement, the cap space the Oilers just opened up is now around $20 million for this summer. This factors in LTIR for players like Mike Smith and Oscar Klefbom and will vary by a few dollars based on bonus overages for Evan Bouchard. That’s a lot of room to make moves, but the Oilers have a lot of holes they now have to fill.

Duncan Keith Edmonton Oilers
Duncan Keith, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Among the signings Edmonton needs to get done is a starting goaltender, a new left-shot defenseman for the second pairing, another top-six winger, and perhaps some additional depth. Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod require new deals (shouldn’t be too expensive), as does Jesse Puljujarvi (if he stays, and Holland says nothing was close in terms of a trade). It’s too soon to know where Evander Kane is going to fall — whether that’s with the Oilers or another team — and it’s not clear who the Oilers have their eyes on in the net. Their choices are limited in goal, but that player will cost around $5 million per season. Another top-six forward could be the same.

Related: Oilers Trade Kassian and Picks to Coyotes

With the forwards and goaltending taking about $10 -$13 million to get done, conservatively speaking that would give Edmonton about $6-$8 million to figure out their blue line.

What Are the Next Logical Moves?

The Oilers need to try and get Brett Kulak signed to a new deal. There is speculation that Kulak wants four years and around $2.5 million per season. If that’s true, the Oilers might be a bit leery on the term, but it’s not a bad deal. Kulak solves the depth issue for the left side and can play up in the two-spot at times, but inking him to a new deal still doesn’t necessarily solve the full-time issue on the second pairing.

Edmonton will need to, and should, hunt for a left-shot defenseman who can easily play 18-20 minutes per game while managing tough minutes. Keith’s $5.54 coming off the books is good, but it might cost something in that range to find a replacement in that same position. Can Holland trade for or land someone in the $4 million range to fill that hole? That might be a tall task.

Tyson Barrie Edmonton Oilers
Tyson Barrie, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

On the right side, with Keith now out, Tyson Barrie is less likely to be traded. Yes, the right side and the left side are different things, but having Barrie and Keith exit feels slightly problematic and Keith’s cap hit coming off the books doesn’t necessitate moving Barrie’s salary out as much as prior to the Keith news. If Holland has another replacement in mind that can fill in the third-pair right side for Edmonton, that’s one thing. If he doesn’t, Barrie likely stays. Ideally, Holland moves out Barrie’s $4.5 million and brings in a player for half the cost.

Who Do the Oilers Target In Goal?

If a trade isn’t made that comes out of left field, the choices for Edmonton seem to be Jack Campbell or Darcy Kuemper in goal. Both players are likely going to sign five-year deals and for Holland, it’s about who makes more sense. Campbell has been good and is younger (30), but he’s been prone to drop-offs and isn’t always consistent. Kuemper is older (32) and while he is coming off of winning a Stanley Cup, arguments could be made that he wasn’t the reason Colorado won this season.

Either player comes with some risk and the potential for a high reward. Both are starters, but it’s not entirely clear at what level both can handle 50-plus games for the next five years. The odds are leaning Campbell’s way.

Any More Trades?

If the Oilers are going to make another trade, the most likely candidates are Puljujarvi and Barrie. As for teams who are interested, Carolina and Ottawa might be among the most notable names mentioned. Bob Stauffer hinted repeatedly on Oilers Now Friday afternoon that the Oilers might not be done.