Last week I took a look at decisions the Oilers have coming with their pending unrestricted free agents, and now I want to look at their upcoming RFA forwards, where things get really interesting.
The team has four pending restricted free agents and when you consider that none of them are true top-six forwards, it’s highly unlikely that we see all four of them back in Edmonton next September.
Here are my cases, both for and against, each Oilers RFA forward being back with the team next year.
FOR – I started with Strome because I think he’s a lock to be back in the lineup next year. He’s solid 3rd line centre who plays a responsible game and I believe he’s capable of producing more offence. I also think he’s more than capable of contributing on the powerplay.
I like what Strome has done, and at just 24-years-old it’s fair to say his best years are ahead of him. It would only cost $3 million to qualify him, and I think the Oilers should do that or try to go long-term with their third-line centre.
AGAINST – Everyone knows the Oilers don’t have a lot of cap flexibility and with McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Khaira already under contract, is it smart to pay another young centre around $3 million? Or should they go after a more cost-effective veteran in free agency?
As an RFA, Strome’s rights are controlled and he might even have some trade value. If the team moves him for an asset, they could sign someone like Riley Nash or Derek Ryan and even be saving some money.
FOR – It’s clear that Todd McLellan trusts Caggiula, and that’s rubbed a portion of the fanbase the wrong way. The numbers suggest he’s simply a replacement level player who’s constantly playing over his head.
I see a young player who has some offensive upside and brings some energy to the teams bottom six. The Oilers need cost-effective pieces to round out their roster and I think Caggiula fits the bill.
AGAINST – There’s a chance that McLellan’s overuse of Caggiula has given him a false value and that might make him a little too rich for the Oilers blood.
I can’t see that happening, but if it does, the Oilers need to be careful when paying bottom-six players and that could be a reason why we won’t see Caggiula back in Edmonton.
FOR – The numbers are in Slepyshev’s corner. When he’s on the ice, the team generates more chances for than they do against, and a decent amount of those chances are “high-danger” ones.
The problem with Slepyshev has been consistency, and at just 23-years-old, with barely 100 NHL, it’s fair to suggest that he can still find that next level to his game. If he finds that level, then he could be a good offensive top-nine winger.
AGAINST – The bottom-six of this team is pretty crammed and it’s clear that Slepyshev is pretty low on Todd McLellan’s totem pole, so maybe the Oilers should just cut their losses and not waste cap space or a roster spot on a player who the coach likely won’t use.
FOR – Pakarinen has been a solid 13th forward for the Oilers this year. He can kill penalties and makes smart plays at each end of the ice.
He should come in at under $1 million and we’ve seen him clear waivers in the past, so they could even send him down if a better option emerges. They’re familiar with him, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s back.
AGAINST – Pakarinen brings essentially no offence to the table and honestly is a dime-a-dozen type of player. The Oilers could look at Pakarinen as a player who has hit his ceiling as nothing more than a 13th forward, and that could look into bringing in a player with more upside.
The Ryan Strome decision is independent of the decision that will be made on the other three. I think, barring a trade, we’ll see Strome back in an Oilers jersey and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a two or three year deal with a cap hit around $2.5 million.
For the other three wingers, the organization already has Zack Kassian, Pontus Aberg, and Jujhar Khaira locked up for next year, plus they could bring back UFA Ty Rattie, so there aren’t a lot of spots open in their bottom six. I don’t see a scenario where all three of Slepyshev, Caggiula, and Pakarinen return
There is a difference in terms of what I want to happen and what I think will happen.
I would like to see both Slepyshev and Caggiula brought back if they aren’t traded because I like their offensive upside and wouldn’t want to see young, cheap player let walk for nothing. I would let Pakarinen walk because I think he has hit his ceiling and I would rather they use a contract on a player with more upside.
With that being said, I think the organization has lost their confidence and patience in Anton Slepyshev and he’ll be allowed to walk free. I think they like Drake Caggiula and he’ll be back in Edmonton next year, and I would say it’s 50/50 on Pakarinen returning. If he does, it might be on a deal that’s signed later in the summer, after they’ve looked at other options.