According to scribe Allan Mitchell of The Athletic, the Edmonton Oilers are going to make a trade or a move to eliminate some salary off of their roster. It’s not so much because of their recent three-game losing streak but because of needs they have to address for next season, both in goal and due to some roster reconstruction that will have to go into the team.
Mitchell writes, “The organization can’t start the offseason with no cap money, so there has to be a plan to offload at least one player.”
Mitchell goes on to list at least four possible trade candidates, two of which are not likely, one forward who might not have a market, and one defenseman who has a younger blueliner nipping at his heels.
Tyson Barrie is Expendable
The big name Mitchell focused on was defenseman Tyson Barrie. With Evan Bouchard on the roster and making much less money while playing a similar type of role, Barrie is expendable and the Oilers might try to move him to free up the $4.5 million that comes with his salary.
Mitchell suggests Barrie’s spot on the roster is secure for now, but he’s not sure how long that spot will remain his. He writes:
The possible issues for him as an Oilers player are twofold: A less expensive player (Evan Bouchard) duplicates his skill set and Barrie’s cap hit ($4.5 million) may be needed elsewhere on the roster beginning next year.
A third factor, and a key one, is that Barrie is one of the very few roster players in Edmonton who has trade value, in part because he can be replaced internally and doesn’t own a no-trade or no-movement clause in his contract.source – ‘Lowetide: Tyson Barrie’s contract and skill set make his Oilers future uncertain’ – Allan Mitchell – The Athletic – 12/08/2021
After doing some roster projections, Mitchell also notes that if the NHL salary cap increases only slightly (which is what will happen), the Oilers would be barely under the salary cap ceiling with a center and a goalie still to sign. Because Barrie is good at what he does, he will be an attractive addition for a couple of teams and because he has no trade protection in his contract, he could be made available the minute Bouchard secures the top spot on the power play.
Oilers Likely to Sign Jesse Puljuarvi, Not Trade Him
Mitchell notes, “It’s possible Edmonton deals [Jesse] Puljujarvi in front of his big contract but it’s a risky move and Holland would have to find another quality right winger to replace him.” For that reason, he doesn’t think Puljujarvi will be traded and instead believes the winger will sign a longer-term deal with the Oilers this summer.
Mitchell estimates the deal will fall between $4-5 million per season and because of that, Barrie again makes the most sense to be moved. Puljujarvi has had his ups and downs this season but his ceiling is high. The Oilers took their time in developing the player and he’s just scratching the surface of what he could become. This is not the time to give up on The Bison King and the Oilers likely know that.
Zack Kassian a Buyout Candidate?
The inconsistencies that surround Zack Kassian will always make him a name that pops up whenever trades or salary shuffling is discussed. His $3.2 million AAV deal has a couple of seasons remaining on it after this one and he might be a tough sell at that price based on his inability to bring it each and every night.
There will be teams that are attracted to his physical game and gritty style of play but Mitchell notes it could take a sweetener to get a deal done and the Oilers might instead have to look at a buyout. Going that route would save the Oilers $2.5 million for the 2022-23 season, via PuckPedia.
This is likely not a trade the Oilers try to make during the season. If they make the postseason, Kassian will be an important part of that push. This is an offseason move.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Earning His Salary
If the Oilers were to remove Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ cap hit of $5.125 million, it would solve a lot of problems for the team financially. The problem with that move is that the Oilers just committed to him long-term and he’s so far shown he’s earning his new deal, even if he’s not scoring goals as much as he’d like.
What potentially makes him vulnerable is how attractive he might be to another team. He can play wing or center and is excellent on the power play. Teams are always on the lookout for these types of players. He’s signed through the summer of 2029 and the length of his deal will eliminate some potential trade partners.
Mitchell believes the Oilers will stick with the player.
Barrie Is the Player to Go
Perhaps the Oilers find another way to solve their salary cap concerns before the 2022-23 season, but the way things look right now, the most realistic option is that the team starts to shop Barrie when they move Bouchard into Barrie’s role on a regular basis. Moving the $4.5 million salary gives the Oilers room to maneuver and that’s potentially more important than having two offensively-gifted right-side defensemen doing the same job.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”