While Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland could make another move or two before the start of the 2021-22 National Hockey League, his offseason work is largely done, following an eventful few weeks that saw a flurry of additions and subtractions.
In total, there are six NHL veterans new to the Oilers; forwards Warren Foegele, Zach Hyman, Brendan Perlini, and Derek Ryan; and defencemen Cody Ceci and Duncan Keith.
But while they may be new to Edmonton, these six players are not entirely strangers to their new teammates – nor to one another, for that matter. Many have played together previously in their NHL careers and share some notable connections. Here’s a look at the former teammates that are being reunited on this coming season’s roster.
The coolest connection comes between Foegele and Ryan, even if they have skated in the same jersey only twice, with the Carolina Hurricanes late in the 2017-18 season.
For his NHL debut, on March 26, 2018, at PNC Arena against the Ottawa Senators, Foegele was slotted on a line centered by Ryan. The winger opened the scoring at 18:52 of the first period, notching the first goal of his career with the primary assist going to Ryan. Then in the second period, Foegele and Ryan then each drew an assist on Carolina’s game-winning goal by Valentin Zykov.
To top it off, Foegele scored the next night, in his first NHL road game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center, with Ryan once again recording an assist; Two games, six points shared between Foegele and Ryan. The next day, Foegele was reassigned to the American Hockey League before catching on as an NHL regular the following season.
After 200 regular-season games with the ‘Canes, Foegele was traded to Edmonton on July 28, the same day Ryan came to terms on a two-year contract with the Oilers.
In addition to getting back together with Foegele, Ryan has re-joined Oilers goalie Mike Smith as combatants in the Battle of Alberta. Only this time, they’re on the other side.
Ryan became teammates with Smith on the Calgary Flames when the former signed as a free agent on July 1, 2018. He notched a career-high 38 points and a team-leading four goals in 2018-19 as the Flames finished atop the conference standings for the first time in thirty years. Calgary, however, would be upset in the opening round of the playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche, and Smith left Calgary to join the provincial rivals via free agency that summer.
On July 28, the opening day of free agency, the Oilers inked deals with three players that were together on the 2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs: Hyman, Ceci, and blueliner Tyson Barrie, the latter who re-signed for three years after joining the Oilers on a one-year deal and leading all NHL defensemen with 48 points in 2020-21.
Hyman spent the first six seasons of his NHL career in Toronto before signing a seven-year, $38.5 million deal with the Oilers. Barrie and Ceci were only with the Leafs for the 2019-20 season.
As right-side defencemen, Ceci and Barrie weren’t paired together during their time in Toronto, but they share a similar narrative: both struggled in their season with the Leafs, who choose not to bring either back when the blueliners hit free agency in the 2020 offseason.
Like Barrie in Edmonton, Ceci took a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins and re-established himself with a strong season. And now, just like Barrie, he’s got a new multi-year deal, signing with the Oilers for four years.
Before being dealt to Toronto on July 1, 2019, Ceci played the first six seasons of his NHL career for the Senators, with whom his teammates included current Oilers forward Kyle Turris. Ceci and Turris played five seasons together in Ottawa. They were part of the Sens’ Cinderella run in 2017 when they went to overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final before losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Keith was the first offseason addition made by Holland, who acquired the three-time Stanley Cup champion from the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade July 13. He brings veteran experience to Edmonton’s back end, including an old friend in Slater Koekkoek, returning to the Oilers with a two-year contract extension.
Koekkoek, who first joined the Oilers on a one-year deal last season, played with Keith for parts of two seasons in Chicago, 2018-19 and 2019-20. The two played pivotal roles In Chicago’s upset win over the Oilers in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Qualifying Round, with Keith tied for the team lead in assists (four in four games) and Koekkoek tied for the best plus/minus (plus-4),
Another former Blackhawk, Perlini, was a teammate of Keith and Koekkoek in Chicago for part of the 2018-19 and the start of the 2019-20 season before being dealt to the Detroit Red Wings. Perlini also played with Smith on the Arizona Coyotes in his rookie season, 2016-17.
As an added bonus, Perlini, who signed a two-way contract with the Oilers on August 7 after spending the 2020-21 season in Switzerland, is being reunited with Edmonton bench boss Dave Tippett, who in Arizona was Perlini’s first NHL head coach.
That familiarity certainly won’t hurt Perlini as he looks to win a spot in Edmonton’s lineup. Likewise, previous relationships among players could expedite the acclimatization process for the Oilers newcomers, allowing the team to hit the ice for the 2021-22 season already in full stride.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.