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A Quick Outline For The Oilers Off Season

May 17, 2023, 7:33 PM ET [30 Comments]
Sean Maloughney
Edmonton Oilers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
This blog is coming about a month earlier than I was hoping. The Oilers have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs and now the organization will start to turn their heads towards the Draft, Free Agency, and the Off Season as a whole.

The message from Ken Holland, Jay Woodcroft, and the players was all the same. This core group has what it takes to win a Cup. There are things that need to be improved from within and certain players need to take another step forward but there is plenty to like about this group led by the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Today we aren't going to go into deep detail on a number of these topics but instead just a wide overview of what we should expect from Ken Holland and the Oilers this off-season.

#1 REPLACE AND UPGRADE CODY CECI AND KAILER YAMAMOTO

Kailer Yamamoto and Cody Ceci are legitmate NHL players. The issue is they just are not the right players that Edmonton needs in those positions. The Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci pairing worked great in their first year together but that is looking like the outlier of Ceci's career. He is likely best suited for more of a third pairing role and not the heavy minutes that Nurse logs.

Yamamoto has had bursts of production but is still a streaky player and didn't bring much to the table during the playoffs. A team with more patience would hold onto Yamo and continue to work through these growing pains. Right now the Oilers can't afford to be patient and hope he lives up to his 3.1 million dollar cap hit.

Ceci and Yamamoto combined have a cap hit of 6.25 million. Yamo signed for one more year and Ceci signed for two. Whether it's packaging these players with other assets to upgrade or dealing them for picks and upgrading through Free Agency or other trades, these are two key moves I beleieve Holland must do.

#2 SIGN EVAN BOUCHARD

Bouchard had an up and down regular season with some growing pains in the first half of the season and a low PDO and some bad puck luck. A combination of those numbers regressing to the mean and being paired with a legitimate NHLer in Mattias Ekholm showed that Bouchard has what it takes to be a top 4 and maybe even a top pairing NHLer. He also stepped in after Barrie was traded on the powerplay and the Oilers numbers improved dramatically from what was already a dominate PP.

I would love for the Oilers to try and lock Bouchard up long term right now but the cap situation may make that impossible. Instead we will probably see the team bridge him for a couple of seasons and use the additional cap space to address other spots to try and win right now.

#3 SIGN OTHER RFA'S

In addition to Bouchard, the Oilers also need to look at new contracts for Ryan McLeod, who took a mighty pay cut last season and new addition Klim Kostin. McLeod I would try and lock up long term as he is quickly showing he can be one of the better defensive forwards on the ice. Kostin is a useful depth player but likely is best suited as a fourth line energy player. The team needs to ensure they pay him as such and don't give him a Kassian contract.

In addition, prospects like Raphael Lavoie and Phil Kemp will get new contracts. We will certainly be talking about both of these players more in the off season.

#4 SIGN PENDING UFAS
Edmonton has a couple of UFA players they may want to look at bringing back. Derek Ryan might be 36 years old but he was an excellent part of the Oilers best defensive line in the playoffs and has stated he wants to stay. I would have no issue signing him for 1x1 deals until he shows he can't play anymore.

Janmark and Bjugstad are two players Edmonton may want to look at keeping but in both cases Holland needs to temper expectations. Both players bring a useful skillset to the roster but if the price in free agency starts getting too high than Edmonton should immediately move on and find another option that can do the same thing for half the price.

#5 FIGURE OUT THE GOALTENDING

I put this down because otherwise people were going to ask me why I left off one of the main reasons the Oilers got bounced from the post-season. The answer with goaltending is likely to expect the team to roll the dice with it once again. Stuart Skinner has finished his first NHL season and has a better idea of what to expect and how to train in the off-season. We have seen in plenty of organizations a UFA goalie struggle in year 1 before bouncing back the following year.

I don't expect a Campbell buyout or a trade unless something big falls into Edmonton's lap. If a goalie move is made it could be something that happens during the season if Holland and Woodcroft don't like what they see.

#6 ADD CHEAP DEPTH CONTRACTS THAT CAN OUTPLAY THEIR CAP HIT

Barbashev lit it up on the top line for the Golden Knights and only made 2.25 million. Tolvanen was a waiver wire pickup that was phenomenal for the Kraken during their run. The Oilers need to find a few diamonds in the rough that could become solid complimentary players on skill lines. Don't expect the Oilers to be going big game hunting for the likes of Tarasenko or Killorn.

Just throwing names out into the ether; David Kampf, Nick Ritchie, Garnet Hathaway, and Andrew Cogliano will be more the types of names Edmonton will be looking at.

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Ultimately this off season will be about managing the cap to surround an already highly talented and well balanced team with additional depth pieces that will better help them push in the playoffs next season. In the coming weeks and months we will discuss many of these and many more topics at far greater length.

Thanks for reading
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