Oilers’ 2022-23 Opening Night NHL Roster Now Set: What Next?

On Monday, the Edmonton Oilers (as did every other team in the NHL) needed to have their final rosters for opening night submitted to the league. GM Ken Holland did some last-minute juggling with the salary cap to get under the ceiling and maximized LTIR to do it, but the roster appears set.

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There’s some good news for fans who didn’t want to see a big trade and there are some interesting adjustments that might still need to be made as the first few games unfold.

The Oilers’ 2022-23 Roster

At first glance, there is a lot to like about this team. Offensively, the Oilers are deep with a top six that includes a mix of veterans with experience, a history of high production, and some young wingers with a real motivation to make a dent on this roster.

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Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) tweeted what he thought the first lineups might look like and he’s got Connor McDavid centering Evander Kane and Jesse Puljujarvi. His second line has Leon Draisaitl at center with Dylan Holloway and Zach Hyman on his wings and the third line is strong with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the middle of Ryan McLeod and Kailer Yamamoto. Even the fourth line is potentially dangerous as Brad Malone centers Derek Ryan and Warren Foegele.

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The blueliners who made the roster are Darnell Nurse, Cody Ceci, Brett Kulak, Evan Bouchard, Tyson Barrie, Philip Broberg, and Ryan Murray.

A few things to keep in mind here are that Malone may not stick in this spot. Devin Shore was waived for the purpose of getting under the cap. He cleared and it’s likely Malone gets sent out and Shore comes back in. So too, there are some centers on the wing and everyone knows McDavid and Draisaitl will get time together on the top line when head coach Jay Woodcroft wants to load up.

On the blue line, expect Broberg to depart the team almost immediately and that Markus Niemelainen will be called up in time for opening night. Again, Broberg being on this roster was done for salary cap reasons, but he didn’t earn a spot out of camp. He struggled, while Niemalainen looked solid and earned a right to be on this team.

No Puljujarvi Trade

Jesse Puljujarvi is staying put, at least for now. The Oilers were able to use LTIR to ensure a trade wasn’t required, and for a while, that wasn’t a given. Oscar Klefbom, Mike Smith, and Tyler Benson will all be placed on LTIR, which, as Puck Pedia points out, maximizes their LTIR pool at $7.117 million, with just $165 to spare. Interestingly, as close as it feels like the Oilers got, that $165 puts them fourth among NHL teams who took the same strategy.

Jesse Puljujarvi Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Again, having Malone on the roster was important to ensure the Oilers didn’t have to move out other money. In a way, Malone making this team made it possible for Puljujarvi to stick around.

Overall Assessment of Holland’s Work This Summer

The Oilers are capped out, but credit needs to go to Holland and his staff for getting this all figured out without any major roster changes. Some fans will argue that trading Dmitri Samorukov was a step backward, but when you consider where he was slotted on the Oilers’ defensive depth chart, he wasn’t likely to see early NHL action anyways. Not to mention, Klim Kostin has potential. It wasn’t a trade that made for a clear loss.

Edmonton will run with a roster of 21, which is slightly problematic. They don’t have a 13th forward, but the Oilers rarely use one. And, while fans might say that NHL players in the AHL to start the season isn’t ideal, it’s honestly a good problem to have. Would you rather this team have too much NHL talent and not enough spots for them all, or be dealing with depth issues where AHL- quality players are forced into NHL duty before they are ready?

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