Evander Kane released a note last week on his social media, thanking the Edmonton Oilers organization and its fans for an excellent season. Many that are reading between the lines figure it’s his goodbye, yet only time will tell if the power forward will return to Edmonton.
After scoring 35 goals in 58 games, and the chemistry he established with the Oilers’ top-six players, the team should make a serious attempt to bring him back, within reason. That said, Kane will likely test the free agency market first. After a Western Conference Final appearance, it’s clear the Oilers are in “win now” mode, and their Colour Commentator, Bob Stauffer, has mentioned on his show “Oilers Now,” that Josh Anderson would be a suitable replacement if Kane doesn’t return.
Anderson, at $5.5 million AAV, would cost less than what Kane is anticipated to fetch in free agency; although you get what you pay for considering his 0.46 points-per-game (P/G) this past season is significantly less than Kane’s 0.90 P/G. Anderson is signed with the Montreal Canadiens until 2027, and a trade would have to be facilitated to acquire his services. Oilers prospect Xavier Bourgault is the rumoured player to be part of any deals involving Anderson. If that’s the case, Edmonton should think twice before trading one of their top prospects for a player with a history of injuries, signed for another four years.
Rumours Circulating That the Canadiens Would Want Bourgault for Anderson
Hockey insider Frank Seravalli released a list of 25 trade targets, and listed Anderson at the No. 24 spot. He reported that Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes’s phone has been ringing constantly, with teams inquiring about his power forward. With interest from many teams, there will certainly be a bidding war for Anderson’s services.
A player of Anderson’s skill set is rare in today’s NHL. He has size, he’s mobile, can put the puck in the net, and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty with his 15 career NHL fights. Former Oiler and Robbie Schremp chimed in on the Anderson-to-Edmonton talk and said Oiler fans would love what Anderson could bring. He stated he’s one of the players that could provide power and scoring if Kane decides not to return. But at what cost?
As mentioned, a name that’s been circulating in trade rumors is the Oilers’ 2021 first-round pick, Bourgault, with Stauffer saying he’s the player that the Canadiens would want in return for Anderson. The Quebec native had an amazing season with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), finishing with 75 points in 43 games. Most recently, he helped his team win the QMJHL title, tallying 12 goals and 10 assists in 16 games, and he’ll be playing for the Memorial Cup in Saint John, New Brunswick. All in all, the right-shot forward is a player with a high offensive ceiling and would look good on the Oilers’ top-six wing, and could provide offensive production on an entry-level deal.
The Oilers would have to dump salary in a deal involving Anderson, so Tyson Barrie, at $4.5 million AAV, would have to be going the other way. If the deal was Barrie and this year’s 29th-overall pick, that would be a deal worth considering because Bourgault is further in his development than whichever player the Oilers would select this year.
On that note, however, it’s worth mentioning that I recently wrote an article for a potential deal for Alex DeBrincat, and included Bourgault in the trade proposal. The difference in giving up Bourgault for DeBrincat is that the latter is a legitimate sniper at the NHL level, who’s shown previous chemistry with the Oilers’ captain. There are no surefire deals in the NHL, but there’s a high probability that DeBrincat could step in right away and light the lamp regularly on McDavid’s wing.
However, regarding Anderson, there are too many questions and “what ifs” about him to give up a top prospect like Bourgault. Can he stay healthy? Three seasons ago, Anderson missed 56 games due to a shoulder injury that required surgery before he was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Last season, he missed 13 games. Another question is if he will mesh well in the top-six with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl? The Hockey Writers’ Melissa Boyd previously wrote about Anderson’s downfalls with his bouts of inconsistency and lack of offensive creativity. Also, there’s the question if he’ll follow the same path as a similar power forward: Milan Lucic?
Power Forward Lucic Did Not Work Well With Oilers
The Oilers should take a cautious approach for a deal for Anderson, especially with their previous history with the once-dominant player with a similar skill set, Lucic. The former Oiler signed a seven-year deal with Edmonton in 2016 when he was 29-years old, one year older than Anderson’s current age. He had a good first season in Alberta’s capital, recording 23 goals and 27 assists in 82 games, but his play took a hard decline thereafter. He was signed as a top-six winger, but tallied only 34 points the next season. He was traded in the summer of 2019, along with a conditional third-round draft pick to the Calgary Flames, in exchange for James Neal. Within a year, Lucic declined from a top-six forward, to a bottom-six checker, making $5.25 million AAV.
This comparison between Anderson is Lucic is worth mentioning because Anderson is roughly the same age as Lucic was when he signed his seven-year deal. For the most part, power forwards follow the same career trajectory, often slowing down when they enter their 30s. It’s also worth noting that Lucic’s fast decline was after being one of the league’s premier power forwards, with two 60-plus point seasons under his belt. Anderson’s highest point total; however, is 47, back in 2018-2019.
Related: Oilers Should Pursue Alex DeBrincat if Evander Kane Doesn’t Return
If the Oilers aren’t able to sign Kane to a reasonable deal, the “lite” version of him, Anderson, seems like an attractive replacement, but not at the cost of Bourgault. The deal might pay dividends within the next year, but regret will kick in if Bourgault reaches his potential in the coming years, Anderson’s play declines, all the while being on the hook for his $5.5 million AAV.