The Next Two Weeks Must Be Big For The Oilers
Two weeks from today we will know which team hoisted the Stanley Cup, what happened at the NHL Draft, and how much cap space the Oilers will have going into Free Agency. I do not believe it is alarmist attitude to state that the Edmonton Oilers 20/21 season hangs on what Ken Holland does in these two weeks.
Three RFA's need to be sorted out in the next two weeks, Athanasiou, Bear, and Benning. Under normal circumstances these could be drawn out longer but Holland needs to know what kind of space the Oilers are going to have to work with come Free Agency. Signing Bear to a short term bridge deal in the 2 million dollar range would give the team more space right now but there is also huge value if they can get the player to sign a long term deal, similar to what Klefbom has.
Athanasiou needs to be sorted out. Holland doesn't want to re-up the player at his 3 million contract. Money is tight all across the league and Edmonton is one of the many teams struggling to cope with the flat cap.
We have seen Jim Rutherford of the Penguins go on a rampage trying to move out salary. Though not confirmed it looks like Hornqvist might be going to the Panthers in exchange for Mike Matheson. Even at his age Hornqvist is a far superior player and it's a brain scratcher of a move. It would be nice to see Holland find a way to jump on a team like the Penguins or the Wild right now.
(Quick side note, the Pens need right shot defencemen... would you deal Larsson for Hornqvist? I think I would)
Edmonton has a slew of players that they could try and move for picks and prospects in order to free up some space. Here is the list:
Zack Kassian - 3.2 million - 4 years remain on contract
Alex Chiasson - 2.15 million - 1 year remains on contract
Jujhar Khaira - 1.2 million - 1 year remains on contract
Adam Larsson - 4.16 million - 1 year remains on contract
Kris Russell - 4 million - 1 year remains on contract
Ever the optimist, imagine for a moment Edmonton can find suitors for Chiasson, Khaira, Larsson and Russell (I think moving Kassian right now is a pipe-dream). Chiasson is a solid depth player and while a bit expensive he has shown he can contribute both at 5 on 5 and on the powerplay. Khaira is young enough and cheap enough there could be some takers (Boston was interested at the deadline last year).
Larsson could have real value as he is only 27 and plays big top four minutes, I brought up Pittsburgh before but teams are always looking for right shot defencemen. Kris Russell's value comes not in his ability, but his 4 million dollar cap hit and the fact that his actual salary is only 1.5 million. A team like the Coyotes or Sabres that want to shed salary may be interested.
Pretending for just a moment all but Kassian were dealt, the Oilers would have just over 11.5 million dollars in savings. Real change could happen with that kind of money.
Edmonton was a bad team last season at 5 on 5 and they cannot count on their powerplay to carry them every game. Holland cannot afford to waste his Hart Trophy players in Draisaitl and McDavid any longer. Tinkering isn't going to be enough.
Two weeks from now we will see what we are dealing with.