4 UFA Signings Or Trades Oilers Might Target If Evander Kane Leaves

With Evander Kane writing a thank you letter to the Edmonton Oilers and their fans, many insiders are speculating this might have been his subtle way of saying goodbye and moving on in free agency this summer. If that’s the case, the Oilers are back where they started this past offseason, looking for a top-six winger, someone who can potentially play with Connor McDavid.

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The salary cap is going to play a role in any decisions GM Ken Holland chooses to make with this roster and he certainly doesn’t have an unlimited budget. If he did, signing Kane to an extension would be a no-brainer. As such, are there options out there the Oilers can look at if they find themselves needing to replace Kane’s offensive production but for a much lower cost?

Josh Anderson (Montreal Canadiens)

The Canadiens are a team that could be making big changes this offseason. They are going through a rebuild, but the plan seems to be to get aggressive this summer and try to improve the roster as quickly as possible. That could mean either adding viable NHLers right now or moving their current top stars to get as many top-level picks and prospects in the right age group to make a difference in the next two seasons.

Josh Anderson Montreal Canadiens
Josh Anderson, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If it’s the latter, someone like Josh Anderson might be a fit. Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now has brought the winger’s name up and while he’s not exactly cheap, he is less costly than the $7 million rumored ask Kane might have to stick around. A $5.5 million cap hit for the next five years, Anderson, the Oilers can also potentially move out some salary in any deal.

This isn’t the first time Stauffer has linked the Oilers to Anderson. Back in January of 2020, he said the team had kicked tires on Anderson when he was in Columbus. At that time, the ask was outrageous.

Dylan Strome (Chicago Blackhawks)

If the Chicago Blackhawks decide to move on from Dylan Strome — an arbitration-eligible RFA this summer — could the Oilers kick tires on the player, potentially reuniting McDavid with his old Erie Otters teammate? Strome is coming off of a $3 million deal with a strong season behind him. He potted 22 goals and added 26 assists in 69 games.

Related: NHL Rumors: Blackhawks, Red Wings, Canucks, Jets, Oilers

The issue for Strome is consistency, but he seems to play well when he’s got the confidence of his coaching staff and he’s slotted in with good players. It would be hard to imagine him struggling with McDavid or Leon Draisaitl if placed into the Oilers’ top-six. He’d also come in at a much lower cost than any extension Kane would agree to. Finally, he’s five years younger and doesn’t come with the reputation Kane had to prove was not an issue this season.

Valeri Nichushkin (Colorado Avalanche)

What’s so interesting about Valeri Nichushkin is that his name is already being linked to the Oilers, but not in the way many might expect. With chatter that Edmonton could move on from Jesse Puljujarvi this offseason, the fear is that Puljujarvi turns out to be what Nichushkin has been for the Avs, and the Oilers miss out on that offensive explosion and development, selling low if they move on.

Valeri Nichushkin Colorado Avalanche
Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Nichushkin was bought out by the Dallas Stars and picked up for cheap by the Avalanche. He’s been great for them in the playoffs with nine points in 14 games and he’s a pending UFA this summer who just posted a 25-goal season while playing great all-around, two-way hockey. The Avalanche will want to keep him, but there will be a question about whether they can afford to.

Wouldn’t it be something if the Oilers wound up signing Nichuskin in free agency, but also kept Puljujarvi on their team to see if he can’t learn a thing or two from the type of player the Oilers are hoping The Bison King becomes?

Paul Statsny (Winnipeg Jets)

While Paul Stastny isn’t a flashy add and he certainly won’t score at the same pace Evander Kane did, there’s a lot to like about the idea of adding him to this roster on a short-term deal. Stastny is said to be open to checking out the free agency market before re-committing to the Jets this summer and he might be eyeing up a Stanley Cup contender. The Oilers coming out of the Western Conference Finals certainly qualify.

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Statsny is older (36), but he’s still productive and can add leadership to this group. He’s a low-maintenance, team-first player who still scored 21 goals in 71 games this past season. He does play special teams so he can kill penalties and he played the sixth-most minutes on the power play for the Jets, which means he’d slot in on the second unit for the Oilers without an issue.