In No Particular Order: Athanasiou, Ekman-Larsson, Koivu
It's Sunday and there is a Stanley Cup Final currently going on in Edmonton, in Rogers Place without the Edmonton Oilers being involved. Grab a coffee, add some Bailey's to it and come drown your sorrows with another blog.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Ken Holland made a couple good depth moves at the deadline, acquiring Mike Green for a fourth round pick in 2020 and Tyler Ennis for a fifth round pick next season. Signing Ennis was a great pickup as the Oilers desperately needed more scoring depth in their lineup and before we had time to think much about where Ennis would fit the Oilers also announced they had brought in Andreas Athanasiou.
No one really had any qualms when this deal was made. Losing two second round picks hurt a bit but Edmonton had brought in a winger with speed that rivaled McDavid's and had scored 30 goals just a season prior. He had the misfortune of playing on a historically bad Red Wings team. He was also an RFA meaning this wasn't just a rental; this was a player Holland could lock up long term.
Fast forward to now and it seems the Oilers may let him walk.
Aside from not fitting immediately into the lineup as Holland hoped, Edmonton now reportedly do not want to qualify him at his 3 million dollar salary and arbitration could be risky as he is only a year removed from scoring 30.
COVID changed everything. Holland himself admitted that when they signed Athanasiou, they had expected the cap to go up at least a couple million more. Even with a poor showing, in a normal year the Oilers could have qualified him, brought him back to start a year free of injury and with a proper training camp to get acquainted.
Right now Holland needs to decide what is more important to help the team next season; having Athanasiou at 3 million, or having an additional 3 million dollars in cap to make further changes to this team. Losing two seconds for nothing would not be ideal but under these circumstances I find it hard to fault Holland.
New reports have suggested that the Oilers have not only enquired about Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper, but also defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Bringing in a goalie like Kuemper would certainly bolster the team between the pipes... OEL is a player Edmonton should stay far away from, unless the Coyotes do something dumb.
From the start of the 2014/2015 season through the 2016/2017 season, OEL was an absolute force. He posted positive goal shares, logged massive minutes, and stayed on the right side of possession. That is not the case anymore. This last season, of defencemen who played at least 700 minutes, Ekman-Larsson finished fifth behind Goligoski, Chychrun, Lyubushkin, and Demers.
This is a player who just turned 29 making it far more likely we are talking about his decline in a couple years and not a resurgence. More dangerous than that is his contract, seven more years with a cap hit of 8.25 million. He will be 35 years old when his contract expires.
The Coyotes are a team trying to shed salary and due to their own stupidity, also don't have a second rounder this year or a first next year due to violating the Combine Testing Policy. If there was a scenario where the Oilers traded a first this year, a second next year, Kris Russell, and Athanasiou for Kuemper and OEL and the Coyotes retained 3 million of Ekman-Larsson's salary I would consider it. I see no reason why the Coyotes ever would.
If the Oilers are going to sign an 8+ million dollar defenceman, they might as well make an offer on Pietrangelo.
In another curious move by the Wild, the team announced that they would not offer a contract to long standing captain Mikko Koivu. Koivu who spent 15 years with the Wild, producing 709 points through 1028 games may not have the same offensive production he once did but even at 37 years old he is still is a strong two way 5 on 5 player.
This past year he posted a 50.63CF%, a GF% of 54.35% and an xGF% of 54.23%. He also remains a great player in the dot, winning 431 of 811 faceoffs, good for 53.1%. I would have no issue offering Koivu a one year deal in the 1-2 million dollar range to bring him in as a responsible third line centre who can help limit chances against. Koivu is also Finnish and might be able to mentor a certain young Finn in the Oilers system.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to check in tomorrow. Have a bit of a surprise that might interest some of you.