We are very close to free agency and most or all of the players not given qualifying offers from their teams have been revealed. There are some surprising names set to become unrestricted free agents and a number of players the Edmonton Oilers should have their eyes on to fill holes in their lineup. Let’s take a look at the four different groups of players the Oilers should have an interest in.
Erie Otters Connection
It was shocking that the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t opt to at least send a qualifying offer to Dylan Strome considering they could have gotten something for him in return. Rather, they chose to let another young talent go as they completely tore everything down. There has been an obvious connection between Strome and Edmonton as he played with Connor McDavid for the Erie Otters in junior and they both played extremely well together. McDavid can do so on his own, but Strome was at another level and really benefited the season after McDavid left junior as well.
We have seen the connection between Strome and Alex DeBrincat work out in Chicago, so there’s no reason to think Strome, who still has offensive skills and potential, won’t perform well for the Oilers. The team just cleared up cap space by dealing Zack Kassian and seeing Duncan Keith retire, so after bringing in a goaltender as the number one priority, they will surely need backup plans for Evander Kane and Jesse Puljujarvi at forward. Kane has been given permission to talk to other teams after the Oilers reportedly offered him $4.5 million for four years while Puljujarvi is likely on the move before the season starts. That would free up money and key spots in the top six to fill.
Strome, who scored 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games last season would likely cost around $3 million short-term and why wouldn’t he want to play alongside someone who he’s had great success beside, is comfortable with, and will easily get him points to earn a payday in the future?
Backup Plan in Net
It appears likely that the Oilers will have a good shot at landing Jack Campbell as their starting goaltender when he hits free agency, but it’s not a certainty. The Toronto Maple Leafs have moved on after they acquired Matt Murray and used their cap space to go with him plus a couple of draft picks over a slightly higher price to re-sign Campbell.
As there is another goaltender taken off the board, the list shortens. Fortunately for the Oilers, if they somehow aren’t able to bring in Campbell, a shocking name from the Washington Capitals wasn’t qualified and is set to become one of the top remaining free agent goaltenders available this offseason. The Capitals had already traded away Vitek Vanecek who split half of their games while Ilya Samsonov will be available to sign. The Capitals put a lot of work into developing him to become their future starter and continued to choose him over Vanecek. If they are this confident in getting rid of both of their goaltenders, they must have a plan in place which means another goaltender is likely off the board. If it comes down to it and the top two targets the Oilers have, Campbell and Darcy Kuemper, are both off the board, they must consider Samsonov as a young replacement with potential.
Depth Checking Forward
The Oilers just traded Kassian at the draft and Kane may not be back with the team next season. Knowing that there is a depth role available that the Oilers would be wise to fill. A checking role will be up for grabs. There are two solid options now from the unqualified players that they can bring in for cheap.
Neither Brendan Lemieux nor Nicolas Aube-Kubel has averaged over 13 minutes in a season in their young careers and are accustomed to their role and play it well. Lemieux has spent the last season and a half on the Los Angeles Kings and has played for three organizations by age 25. He generally hangs around 50 games played in a season and has made 109 or more hits per season in all four seasons in the NHL. He is more of a goal-scorer but hasn’t produced more than 20 points in a season and hasn’t scored more than eight goals since his rookie year.
Aube-Kubel is another interesting option that the Oilers should take an even better look at. He has more offensive upside, recording 11 goals and 23 points this season while getting into many more games than Lemieux has in a season. Aube-Kubel has also delivered 120-plus hits in two consecutive seasons and is accustomed to playing the fourth line. If the Oilers go and get him, it will be for dirt cheap and they will have themselves a trusted fourth liner.
Trio of Young Defenders
The Oilers’ cupboards are a little bare in terms of defencemen with potential after the high-risk, high-reward Dmitri Samorukov who may not be with the Oilers’ organization for too long. Philip Broberg is going to make the jump to the NHL and they have a couple of other defence a bit further away from being able to contribute in the NHL. Three teams didn’t qualify defencemen that once had high hopes in their career and they are all young enough to still reach their potential.
Kale Clague is expected to hit free agency after the Montreal Canadiens didn’t send a qualifying offer his way. He was claimed by them mid-season from the Kings through waivers and recorded two goals and five points in 25 games while he was in and out of the lineup. With Kris Russell in search of a new team and William Lagesson traded, the Oilers are in search of a sixth/seventh defenceman at a low cost who can come in and play games.
Victor Mete is another option as there was once high hopes for him in Montreal before he joined the Ottawa Senators two seasons ago. He has played 51 games over the past season and a half and registered the least amount of ice time per game in his career last season. He will block shots and kill some penalties, but with one goal, eight assists, and very little shots or hits, he has less offensive upside and would be more of a seventh defenceman for the Oilers who could focus his efforts on getting better at the part of his game he is already better at.
Haydn Fleury is the oldest of the options here that the Oilers could consider and is a former seventh overall pick. He has never really been given the best opportunity or been given much of a chance. He played just 36 games last season for the Seattle Kraken and earlier in his career he was stuck behind a slew of solid defenders in Carolina.
After all these players and more went unqualified, the Oilers have some cheap and potentially sneaky options to consider bringing in to strengthen their depth at every position.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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