The Edmonton Oilers had a busy first day of free agency. They acquired their new starting goaltender, re-signed a vital defenseman for their blue line, brought back a scorer, and added organizational depth pieces — and below, we rate their contracts from 1 to 10. Please note: a rating of 1 would be considered the worst value and a rating of 10 would be considered an absolute steal of a deal.
Jack Campbell: 5-year Contract Worth $5 Million AAV
Jack Campbell, Ville Husso, and Darcy Kuemper were the most sought-after pending unrestricted free agents this offseason. However, before the opening day of free agency, Husso was traded to the Detroit Red Wings and signed a contract extension for three years worth $4.75 million average annual value (AAV). With Husso off the market, goalie options were thinned even further, which may have put the ball in the other goaltenders’ court when it came to contract negotiations. That said, Kuemper signed with the Washington Capitals, and the Oilers got their man when they signed Campbell to a five-year, $5 million AAV contract on the first day of free agency.
In a perfect world, Campbell’s contract should’ve been similar in length to Husso’s, but I feel the Oilers didn’t want to put themselves in a bidding war with other teams and risk the same scenario as last year when they struck out on Jacob Markstrom and eventually circled back to Mike Smith.
The knock on Campbell is that, at 30 years of age, he’s still considered unproven with only 142 games under his belt at the NHL level. Yet, in his first season as a true starter with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2021-22, he went 31-9-6 in 49 games. Furthermore, he posted four shutouts, a 2.64 goals-against-average (GAA), and a .914 save percentage (SV%), which ranked 19th in the league last season. It’s also worth noting that he earned the starting role in a hockey-crazed city like Toronto, which proves he has the mental toughness to handle a Canadian market.
General manager (GM) Ken Holland said in his media availability that he expects Campbell to play around 50 games, with Stuart Skinner sharing the net for the rest of the contests. If we read between the lines, the plan is for Campbell to be the team’s starter until Skinner is ready for a 1A/1B goaltending tandem.
Overall, the Oilers got the goaltender they wanted in Campbell. He doesn’t need to be spectacular, he just needs to be reliable — because far too often in former Oiler Mikko Koskinen and Smith’s tenures between the pipes, they either let in a goal on the first shot of the game or put the puck on the opposition’s stick, resulting in goals, which killed the team’s momentum. Campbell’s contract should be good enough value for the first three seasons while Skinner gets more on-the-job experience. He’ll be a vital piece in the Oilers’ push towards a Stanley Cup, although the last couple of years on his contract might start to approach buyout territory.
Contract Rating 7/10
Gregg McKegg: 2-Year, 2-Way Contract Worth $750,000 AAV
The Oilers’ acquired forward Gregg McKegg as a depth piece for their minor league team, the Bakersfield Condors. He’s a journeyman that’s spent time with the Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers organizations. He’s played in 233 games, scoring 21 goals and adding 18 assists.
Contract Rating 6/10
Brett Kulak: 4-Year Contract Worth $2.75 Million AAV
The Montreal Canadiens traded defenseman Brett Kulak to the Oilers for draft picks last season at the trade deadline. In 18 regular season games patrolling the blue line, he had a seamless transition into the Oilers’ system and recorded eight points along with a plus/minus of plus-6. He elevated his play in the postseason, averaging 17 minutes of ice time (TOI), and at times, was their best defenseman at shutting down zone entries. He also filled in on the first pairing in the first round when Darnell Nurse was suspended for Game 6 against the Los Angeles Kings.
Prior to free agency, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector revealed that Kulak was seeking a four-year term around $2.5 million AAV and the response from Oil Country was for GM Holland to sign the hometown player as soon as possible. Although, word got out that he’d entertain offers in free agency, which sent a mild panic to Oilers fans. Despite interest from other teams, he eventually signed a 4-year deal worth $2.75 million AAV.
There aren’t many complaints about Kulak’s contract. The term takes him to 32 years of age, which isn’t too old for a veteran defenseman, and he also has a good cap hit. Looking at comparable free agent signings, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Erik Gudbranson to a four-year, $4 million AAV contract and the Detroit Red Wings signed Kulak’s old Canadiens teammate Ben Chiarot to a four-year $4.75 million AAV deal. In comparison, Kulak at $2.75 million AAV looks like a steal.
Granted, Gudbranson (18:08 TOI) and Chiarot (22:51 TOI) have averaged more ice time than Kulak (17:45 TOI) in their careers, but there’s an expectation that the Oilers’ defender will have a bigger role and potentially play more minutes as a second-pairing defender. With his smooth skating and excellent ability to transition the puck, there shouldn’t be any reason that he couldn’t handle the load of being the number two left defenseman behind Nurse. In two years, if he’s passed by the young Philip Broberg on the depth chart, his contract will still provide modest value for a bottom-pairing defender.
Contract Rating – 8.5/10
Calvin Pickard: 2-Year, 2-Way Contract Worth $762,500 AAV
The Oilers were in search of a third goaltender to play behind Campbell and Skinner after former Oiler Ilya Konovalov left for Russia and goaltender Alex Stalock was traded back to the San Jose Sharks last March. They secured their guy by signing Calvin Pickard to a two-year, two-way contract worth $762,500 AAV.
Pickard will provide added depth in goal for the AHL’s Condors. He posted a 21-16-5 record in 43 AHL games last season, with a 2.58 GAA and a .918 SV%. In 116 NHL games, he has 35 wins, a 3.03 GAA and a .903 SV%. That said, Oilers colour commentator and host of “Oilers Now”, Bob Stauffer, said on his show that he feels Pickard could challenge Skinner for the backup role in Edmonton next season.
Contract Rating – 6/10
Evander Kane: 4-Year Contract Worth $5.125 Million AAV
Evander Kane’s contract signing was announced slightly before the opening day of free agency, but we included his contract due to its significance. He was last season’s best free agent signing and we might be saying the same thing about his newly signed contract when it’s said and done.
Kane signed a one-year deal with the Oilers last January in a “prove it” contract worth $750,000 in salary and $625,000 in bonuses. Not only did he prove that he could stay out of trouble, but he left Oil Country wanting more. In 58 regular season and playoff games, he recorded 35 goals and 56 points. Also, he led the entire postseason in goals (13), despite not playing the final round.
There was speculation and anticipation of his return to Alberta’s capital, but rumours circulated that he was requesting upwards of up to $7 million AAV. On a one or two-year contract, that would be worth considering, but a $7 million AAV on a long-term deal would have hurt the Oilers in the coming years.
Yet, GM Holland held his ground and it’s reported that he allowed Kane to speak with other teams before the opening day of free agency. Perhaps Kane’s camp realized that other teams weren’t lining up to offer extremely generous contracts, and in the end, he signed a team-friendly four-year deal with the Oilers worth $5.125 million AAV.
Now, there’s no guarantee that Kane will replicate his goal output from last season, especially since he had a career-high shooting percentage (14.5%) and an even higher one in the postseason (22.8%), but even if he produces at 75 percent of last season’s pace and continues to be a physical force, his contract might possibly be the best value of all the unrestricted free agents that were and will be signed this offseason. Holland hit a home run with Kane’s contract, and it would’ve been a perfect 10/10 if it were a year shorter with a slightly lower AAV.
Contract Rating – 9/10
The Oilers did well on the first day of free agency. In years prior, they’ve signed contracts for too long of a term and too much money with “buyout” written all over them the moment it hit the headlines. On July 10, they issued qualifying offers to restricted free agents Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ryan McLeod and Tyler Benson, yet after a busy opening day of free agency, I have a gut feeling they’re still not done making moves and adding pieces to their roster for 2022-23.
What do you think of the contract ratings, Oilers fans? Is there anything you’d change? Write in the comments below.