Oilers Should Pursue Alex DeBrincat if Evander Kane Doesn’t Return

Now that the Edmonton Oilers’ season is complete, they can proudly look back at their efforts and pat themselves on the back for their best finish in nearly 16 years. They moved the needle forward for the organization and one player who was a big part of that was Evander Kane. In 58 games, including the playoffs, the physical winger tallied 35 goals and 21 assists. However, at this time, it’s unknown whether he’ll be back with the orange and blue, considering contractual matters with the San Jose Sharks still have to be determined.

If Kane does not return, it will be hard for the Oilers to transition from having a pure goal scorer in the top six, to “trying to find a winger that could potentially score with Connor McDavid.” The Oilers have been there and done that. They’ve tried that with wingers like Ty Rattie and Drake Cagguila, but they weren’t a good fit. The Oilers’ captain just finished his seventh season in the NHL and made the Western Conference Final. They need to continue advancing, not start falling behind. That said, If they’re not able to bring back Kane for next season, they should pursue McDavid’s former junior teammate and legitimate NHL sniper, Alex DeBrincat.

DeBrincat and McDavid Had Great Chemistry in the OHL

Hockey insider, Frank Seravalli, released an article stating that DeBrincat is the number one player available ahead of the offseason. Also, the Chicago Blackhawks made it known they’re listening to offers on any players aside from Johnathan Toews, Seth Jones, and Patrick Kane. DeBrincat is coming off a 41-goal season and has lit the lamp 160 times in the last five years. If he’s available, he’s a player that the Oilers should kick the tires on. McDavid and DeBrincat have familiarity with one another as teammates for one season with their junior club, the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

Alex DeBrincat Formerly of the Erie Otters. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

The duo played on the same line in 2014-15 and had amazing chemistry together. Prior to their first season as a duo, McDavid spoke of his connection with DeBrincat, saying, “He’s like five-foot-nothing. Are you serious? This is the guy you want to play with me? Then came training camp. He was a real good player and we kind of found instant chemistry and then by the end of the year, he was just dominant.”

That season, McDavid registered a whopping 120 points in 47 games and DeBrincat tallied 51 goals and 53 assists in 68 games in his rookie junior campaign. Many felt that the winger’s production would fall off once McDavid left, but in fact, it got even better. The following season, he recorded 51 goals and 50 assists in 60 games, and tallied 65 goals and 62 assists in 63 games in his last OHL season, becoming the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer.

The Oilers — who already had McDavid in their system — had a chance to draft DeBrincat in 2016 and it seemed like a no-brainer to draft someone that McDavid had chemistry with. Instead, they took Tyler Benson 32nd overall, who finally got a crack playing at the NHL level this season, appearing in 29 games and tallying just two points. Just seven spots later, the Blackhawks selected DeBrincat. It’s safe to say that the Oilers swung and missed, as DeBrincat has a career points-per-game average of 0.83, set a career-high in points this past season (78), and appeared in his first NHL All-Star Game last February.

DeBrincat Has Been Praised for His Play Away From the Puck

The 5-foot-7 forward also has some feistiness to his game, as he’s not afraid to go to the tough areas to find scoring opportunities, which also has led to four career NHL fights. Former Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton spoke of DeBrincat in the summer when discussing his 2020-21 season, saying, “He broke out. I thought he had one of the elite two-way seasons in the whole league this year.” Stan Bowman, former Blackhawks general manager added, “He became a real engine for our team. He was probably one of our more active players at retrieving the puck when we don’t have it and pressuring the other. When he has it, he does good things with it, but he really worked really hard to get the puck back and I think made the difference in our team, big time.”

What Would a Deal With the Blackhawks Look Like?

Legitimate snipers at the NHL level do not grow on trees, so it would take a big offer from the Oilers to acquire McDavid’s former teammate. DeBrincat is only under contract for one more year at $6.4 million in average annual value (AAV), and according to PuckPedia, he will have two additional years as a restricted free agent.

Again, this move should only be considered if the Oilers aren’t able to re-sign Kane. That said, there have been rumours circulating that they might move forward Jesse Puljujarvi in the offseason, although, I feel he would bring value on a bargain contract if they kept him. Edmonton only has $8 million in cap space next season, so they’ll have to move contracts to make the trade work. They’re picking at the 29th spot at the NHL Draft this season, and the Blackhawks don’t have one, so the Oilers’ pick would likely be in play.

The Blackhawks have over $24 million in cap space next season and if they were able to retain a portion of DeBrincat’s salary, the Oilers could send Zack Kassian or Tyson Barrie (salary dump), Puljujarvi, the 2022 first-round draft pick, and most likely their 2021 first-round pick, Xavier Bourgault to Chicago in the deal.

Related: 4 UFA Signings or Trades Oilers Might Target If Evander Kane Leaves

The Oilers would be sending over a heavy haul of players with potential, but it’s important to remember that they’re in “win now” mode and it’s time they use their prospects and up-and-coming players as trade chips. McDavid and Draisaitl — after putting up legendary playoff performances — are in their prime and have set the baseline of what should be expected of them for the next few seasons. A legitimate scorer like DeBrincat should get them one step closer to raising that elusive Stanley Cup.

Would DeBrincat be a good fit for the Oilers? Have your say in the comments below.

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