The Edmonton Oilers added one piece at this year’s NHL Trade Deadline. Dmitry Kulikov will join the organization later this month and could be likely slot in on the second pair behind Darnell Nurse, but ahead of a player like Kris Russell on the depth chart.
This will effectively bump all other left-shot defensemen down a peg and have a ripple effect on the roster as the Oilers make a push towards the 2020-21 postseason and try to put an embarrassing play-in round against the Chicago Blackhawks last season the past.
But, when it comes to roster spots being taken, Kulikov’s arrival won’t just mean a defenseman likely sees less playing time. There are other obvious changes happening in Edmonton when it comes to this roster and it seems clear head coach Dave Tippett has decided who he’s going to rely on and who he’s not.
If we take a closer look at the final roster Tippett might deploy over the next couple of weeks, and based on who he’s been using of late, we get a better sense of which players have probably lost their roster spot down the stretch.
In relation to the Kulikov conversation, William Lagesson is probably the odd man out here. He was given a couple of opportunities this season and played decent in those appearances, but he’s been banged up at time and hasn’t cemented his spot on the roster. Caleb Jones has been getting the looks of late and that’s a trend that could continue unless Jones starts to really struggle.
Some might make an argument Lagesson should be given time over Russell, but Tippett tends to lean on experience and despite how fans feel about Russell, the coaching staff likes him.
Neal lost his roster spot a while ago. He may slot in if injuries play a toll on this team and the Oilers haven’t ruled out the idea of him being a factor down the stretch, but a few things would need to happen before he’s called upon again.
Other forwards would really need to struggle and the coach have no choice but to pull them out of the lineup, or an injury would have to create an opening, with Neal coming in and scoring a couple goals off the hop to keep his spot. Neal has played only 18 games this season and has three goals and six points.
He’s a buyout candidate for the Oilers this offseason leaving dead cap space of around $1.9 million on the Oilers books for four additional seasons.
One might think that Kyle Turris could see more ice time because GM Ken Holland didn’t address the need for a third-line, right-shot center during the trade deadline. That’s not necessarily the case. The Oilers may find it better to go with players like Jujhar Khaira, Devin Shore, and Gaetan Haas over Turris, as he’s done over the previous few games.
It’s been a poor year for Turris who did not perform as the organization was hoping. He’s been in and out of the lineup and not producing. It’s likely over the next few games that a clear trend will emerge when it comes to this player and our bet is that Tippett elects not to use him.
Oilers fans have probably seen the last of Evan Bouchard this season. Even if Edmonton has a playoff spot securely locked up and they know where they sit six or seven games out from the start of the postseason, it’s not likely Tippett calls on Bouchard.
Holland recently acknowledged that Bouchard was a big part of this team’s future, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be making an impact this season. The Oilers aren’t prepared to send him down to Bakersfield yet — in the event of an injury — but Holland noted he would reevaluate the situation in a couple of weeks.
Bouchard got caught up in a numbers game and a COVID season. He was too valued to not have on speed dial, but not quite good enough to get regular duty with a relatively healthy roster.
Granted, Alex Slalock never actually had a roster spot to lose. That said, don’t expect to see him this season unless something really unfortunate happens with the goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen.
When Stalock was picked up on waivers, I don’t believe the plan was to never use him. But, a few medical issues and some strong play by both Smith and Koskinen has made it so that the Oilers are merely running through the motions with this goalie to make sure they have an insurance policy on hand.
Next season could be a different animal as there will be questions about the netminding, but this season, Stalock is too big a question mark to call upon him voluntarily.
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.”