The Edmonton Oilers are going to have to maneuver the free agency market with precision this summer. Without much cap space, but a lot to do, how general manager Ken Holland goes about trying to improve the team over a Western Conference Final appearance will be an intriguing storyline to watch.
This article aims to take a look at two options for each position. The first will be “Plan A” (the ideal option). The second will be “Plan B” if Plan A doesn’t work out or isn’t feasible. It’s unlikely Holland is able to completely land every Plan A option available. As such, any good GM needs to have a backup plan in place.
Oilers Goaltending Needs
Plan A: Ville Husso
There will be at least eight or nine teams looking at Ville Husso as a free agency option this offseason. Even the St. Louis Blues will be actively trying to keep him in the fold, only missing out if Husso elects to make the kind of money he’ll likely be offered by another team but the Blues cannot afford. The expectation is that Husso will get at least $4 million by four seasons. That’s right in line with what the Oilers would love to spend on a starter, which Husso projects to be.
The concern with Husso is that his NHL resume isn’t very big. He could turn into one of the steals of the summer or become another Mikko Koskinen. If Holland gets it wrong, it’s a big mistake to have made, or he’ll need Stuart Skinner to absolutely bail him out and become the legit NHL goalie and lot of Oilers’ fans think Skinner can be.
Plan B: Jack Campbell
Don’t be shocked if Zach Hyman picks up the phone and gives Jack Campbell a call. Hyman has loved his time in Edmonton since choosing the leave the Maple Leafs and sign with the Oilers during the last offseason. Campbell isn’t sure if he’ll return to Toronto and Hyman would be a convincing voice if Holland needed a salesman.
Campbell’s career in the NHL has been solid and while he’s had some ups and downs in Toronto, he’s among the better possible options for goaltenders this summer. It will cost the Oilers at least $5 million by three or four seasons, but it might be worth it.
Oilers Top-Six Forward:
Plan A: Evander Kane
The Oilers want Evander Kane to return. He proved to be the perfect fit for Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ top six and Holland is willing to pay a whole lot more than the $2 million he paid this past season over 40-some games. The issue with Kane is that he could be more expensive than the Oilers can afford, depending on how his grievance case with the San Jose Sharks unfolds. If he’s available for $5 million, the Oilers are all-in. If he’s on a $7 million contract for multiple years, the Oilers are probably still in but need to proceed with caution and determine what they’re willing to sacrifice to fit him in.
Edmonton could look around the marketplace and try to find a cheaper fit, but they won’t find one as good. Kane proved that the whole ‘anyone can play with McDavid thing’ isn’t entirely true. If it were, others could have replicated Kane’s numbers and no one ever came close.
Plan B: Mason Marchment
Allan Mitchell of The Athletic likes Mason Marchment from the Florida Panthers and I agree. This is a player that could fit in nicely on a mid-level contract and come somewhere in the $2.5 million per season range. There will be competition to sign him and Mitchell writes:
Mason Marchment delivered a fine season (54 games, 18-29-47) on a one-year, $880,000 contract. His five-on-five points per 60 (3.42) and five-on-five goal share (68 percent) were exceptional and he reaches free agency with an eye-popping resume.
Add his skill set (big man with good hands who can make room for linemates) to those numbers and the offers from NHL teams will be pouring in. Edmonton may not get this player, but an aggressive early offer in free agency might get his attention.source – ‘Lowetide: 10 free agents for Edmonton Oilers to target this summer’ – Allan Mitchell – The Athletic – 06/24/2022
Plan A: Brett Kulak
The easiest play for the Oilers would be to re-sign Brett Kulak. He played well after coming over from the Montreal Canadiens and there is rumored to be mutual interest from both sides to get a deal done. The Oilers have already told Kulak’s reps they’d like to retain him and it would probably be a three-year deal. The question will be cost and what the Oilers can get him signed for.
There was some talk that the Canadiens would be interested in bringing Kulak back, but the money is likely not going to make sense when you consider the Canadiens aren’t going to spend it on a six or seven defenseman during a retooling of their roster.
Plan B: Erik Gudbranson
The Calgary Flames are going to have to make some difficult decisions this offseason, focused mostly on Johnny Gaudreau and eventually Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane. As such, some players are going to shake loose that the Flames can’t afford to keep, including defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
If the Oilers trade Tyson Barrie this offseason, they’ll need another right-shot defenseman. With Evan Bouchard on the roster, Edmonton can afford to go after someone who isn’t as offensively minded, but has size and grit, with the ability to put up a few points. Gudbranson is 6’5″ and almost 220 lbs. He scored six goals and 17 points for the Flames last season and has plenty of playoff experience. He’s still only 30 and coming off a $1.95 million contract.
He’s a 16-19 minute per night d-man and that’s a good fit for the Oilers in their third pair behind Bouchard and Cody Ceci. If Kane and Zack Kassian are gone next season, the Oilers will need a little more bite on the ice.
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.”