Oilers’ Offseason Moves: Insiders Agree That Fewer Is Better

The Sportsnet panel discussed what happened in the Edmonton Oilers and the Vegas Golden Knights series after it ended, and some interesting points came up. Stuart Skinner was discussed, changes were talked about, as well as the unlucky hand the Oilers were dealt.

This was the season for the Oilers to go deep. Juggernauts like the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning were all eliminated in Round 1, but the Oilers ran into another very good team. Despite finishing second in the conference and sixth in the league, they still had the pleasure of facing the top team in the West and the fifth-ranked team in the league in the second round. Elliotte Friedman noted that the matchup could have been a Stanley Cup Final (if they weren’t in the same conference). The other Western Conference semifinal teams, the Dallas Stars and Seattle Kraken, ranked fourth and seventh, respectively.

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)

There are always going to be tough teams to face in the playoffs, so that won’t get any easier next season. But the Oilers have the team in place, with many of their players signed or under team control for next season. Of course, they will need to make some minor moves, since it’s nearly impossible to bring the same team back for seasons in a row. But this team got through Round 1 easier than they did in 2022, and their second-round matchup was a much tougher than the Calgary Flames last season. The Oilers didn’t match up, as well against the Golden Knights, and some of their best players were evidently dealing with injuries. Still, their window is far from closed.

Oilers’ Goaltending

Moving on from Jack Campbell has already been rumoured, but I think the Oilers will give it another year to see if there is progress. He’s signed for five years, and Skinner picked up the slack, doing much more than was expected of him in his first season. Skinner was just supposed to serve as Campbell’s backup and get adjusted to the NHL. Instead, he ended up taking over the starting job and held it throughout the playoffs. Questionable decisions regarding the goaltenders aside, Skinner started every game in the postseason as a rookie, while Campbell wasn’t trusted. It’s hard to fault Skinner’s performance with just 61 NHL starts before the playoffs.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Friedman noted, “as tough as this series (Vegas) was for Skinner, he wasn’t supposed to be the guy playing these games for Edmonton this year. This was supposed to be Campbell’s team.” Skinner is coming back next season, especially with three more years on a great new deal, and if there were doubts about Campbell heading into the postseason, he squashed those and gave himself at least another year to prove himself in Edmonton. Cambell stopped 49 of 51 shots in four games of relief and even won one of those games. That’s the Campbell the Oilers expected and paid for. I think this is going to spark a huge bounce-back season for him, like what Jacob Markstrom did for the Flames between his first and second seasons.

What Changes Might be Made in Edmonton

The Oilers had a tough mountain to climb in these playoffs, and in a different year, they might not have faced such tough competition so early. They could have been healthier, and with better goaltending, what else is there to change this offseason?

Latest News & Highlights

Kevin Bieksa said that if you simulate this series, the Oilers win it at least half of the time. They potentially go on and win the Stanley Cup. I agree, especially considering the high-danger scoring chances that were converted and the execution from both teams. Only one team can win the Cup each season though, so with a few more bounces in the Oilers’ favour with this exact team, they could have advanced.

While Friedman thinks they should add five-on-five scoring, Bieksa said that he thinks the Oilers had the right team but that it’s hard to win in the playoffs; it was more about the Oilers’ wingers who didn’t step up. There was no issue last postseason or during the latter half of this season with five-on-five scoring, but one arose this time around.

Related: Oilers Trading Yamamoto in Offseason is Becoming Inevitable

For the most part, the Oilers could run it back with mostly the same roster, but they can’t get complacent and come back with mostly the same team. This team should reach the final four every season, especially with two of the four best playoff performers (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) on their roster.

After hearing the different perspectives reflecting on the Oilers’ postseason, what do you think should happen? Changes have to be made, but they should keep their goaltending tandem because if Campbell bounces back and the Oilers remain the top-scoring team in the league with the best power play (no doubt in my mind), they will be a Stanley Cup contender from Day 1 in 2023-24.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120