With Evander Kane now officially a part of the Edmonton Oilers, questions will turn to what comes next. I recently wrote that I believe the Kane signing could open the door to a big trade that would see the Oilers go after a bonafide goaltender, but the general idea behind the piece was that the Kane signing puts Edmonton in a spot to make additional moves, otherwise, why add Kane at all?
If the Oilers are going to try and round out their roster, they’ll have to do so by either moving money or being crafty with what little salary cap space they have left. Here are four directions the team can go to give themselves the best chance at an extended playoff run.
Add That Goaltender
The focus for GM Ken Holland should be adding a goaltender. The team has been connected to every imaginable name, including, but not limited to Joonas Korpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Martin Jones of the Philadelphia Flyers, Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby of the Dallas Stars, Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders, Alexandar Georgiev of the New York Rangers, or Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek out of Washington. The big get would be a player like Jeremy Swayman out of Boston or Marc-Andre Fleury out of Chicago, but those are lofty goals.
What seems clear however is that the Oilers need to make a decision about a netminder in the next three-to-four weeks. Mike Smith is back with the team at practice and Mikko Koskinen will get the start against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night, but if Smith shows any further signs of injury issues, it’s time to move on. If Koskinen has a couple of blips in his performance, the Oilers need another option.
Holland has bet the Oilers playoffs hopes on those two netminders this offseason and it hasn’t worked out well in 2021-22. He’ll need to finally make his move if there are any further hiccups.
Move Tyson Barrie
Just making trades or adding players is going to be difficult for the Oilers who are working under tight salary cap restraints that got even tighter with the Kane signing. The team is now operating out of LTIR and one way to clear up some of the space they’ll need is to move defenseman Tyson Barrie. If Edmonton can either swap his salary for the salary of another blueliner or move him in a deal and use that money to acquire other players, Holland should consider it.
If the cap wasn’t an issue, keeping Barrie would be wise. He’s a nice backup option to run a power play if something happens with Evan Bouchard. But, in a salary cap world, someone has to go to create a more well-balanced roster and Barrie’s $4.5 million coming off the books for the next three seasons offers immediate relief. There should be a market for him, or at the very least, teams with cap space might be willing to bring him in. As much as he gets ragged on in Edmonton, he’s a top-four player on a number of strong NHL rosters. He’s not a bad contract for a team to take back. He also holds no trade protection, so there’s nothing stopping Edmonton from making the deal if they find the right trade partner.
Add Functional Depth
Elliotte Friedman mentioned in a recent 32 Thoughts post, “watch to see if the Oilers also look at Kevin Stenlund.” He’s a physical forward out of Columbus that could offer some size and grit on the Oilers’ fourth line. What makes him attractive for the Oilers is that he provides some of the same elements a player like Zack Kassian does, but at a fraction of the cost.
If the Oilers can kill two birds with one stone and move Kassian, while also adding Stenlund, it might be worth a look. This isn’t a slam dunk move because Kassian would be a handy piece to have during the postseason, but there’s a good chance he’s moved in the offseason anyway. Also keeping in mind that the Oilers might have eyes on calling up Dylan Holloway before the season is out, there’s a move needed at the forward position to free up a spot for him.
If it’s not Stenlund the Oilers go after, try landing someone else with a similar skillset and at the same price point.
Get Your Left-Shot Defenseman Once You’ve Made Your Other Moves
Should the Oilers successfully pull off moving salary from the roster — whether that be in the form of Barrie or Kassian — the team can target the left-shot defenseman they’ll need to round out their blue line. The Oilers will likely move a player like Kris Russell or Slater Koekkek over to the right side, meaning a left-shot to fit in behind Duncan Keith and Darnell Nuse could be an attractive idea.
Brayden McNabb would have been a nice grab from Vegas, but the Golden Knights just re-signed him. Someone like Vladislav Gavrikov out of Columbus or Jack McCabe out of Chicago might be a fit. The point here is that there are options and as the trade deadline nears, more potential players will become available. The Oilers aren’t likely going to be in on any of the big names so this isn’t a move that has to be made immediately.
If Edmonton were in on Ben Chiarot or Jakob Chycrun it would be a different ball game. They probably aren’t, so a smaller piece that is a slight upgrade over what the Oilers currently have is the play here. Essentially, this is a move to provide some support for Keith and Nurse. Both have played well but there are going to be concerns about Keith’s ability to maintain his strong level of play along with his heavy minutes since joining the team.
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.”