According to KHL insider, Aivis Kalnins, the Edmonton Oilers will be getting a little bit more shallow on the right side as Anton Slepyshev could be signing with CSKA Moscow sooner than later.
CSKA Moscow have acquired rights to Anton Slepyshev from Salavat Julaev UFA. Slepyshev is expected to sign with the Moscow team.
— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) May 3, 2018
With CSKA Moscow acquiring Slepyshev’s rights from Salavat Julaev and rumours swirling for months that the winger could be returning to Russia when the season was done, it looks like #58’s time with the Oilers is over. Slepyshev, a former third-round pick in 2013, spent five seasons in the KHL before coming to North America to join the Oilers organization for the 2015-16 campaign. He spent most of that first season with the Bakersfield Condors as he tried to acclimatize himself to the North American game as well showing the big club he deserved a chance, a cup of coffee he finally got towards the end of the year. In 2016-17, however, Slepyshev looked like he was ready to make the NHL jump after seemingly carving out a niche for himself in the bottom six, playing in 41 regular season games and 12 more in the playoffs.
The guy had some size, a great shot, and looked to be a player that could contribute even while playing limited minutes, which was exactly what this team needed. After scoring a few clutch goals in the playoffs, Slepyshev seemed like he would be pretty close to a lock for a job on what was a position of weakness within the organization — the right side. Unfortunately, this season didn’t go the way Slepyshev, the Oilers, or anyone that watches hockey would have expected as the team tumbled down the NHL standings and limped their way into a 23rd place finish. That’s not to say that Slepyshev is solely to blame for what went down, but having him take a step forward was certainly one of the bets made by Peter Chiarelli that didn’t work out. Slep needed to be better and I think he would agree. That said, you have to wonder how many opportunities Slepyshev was truly given as he averaged just under 12 minutes per night on mostly non-skilled lines when he wasn’t crushing popcorn in the press box.
To see him head back home for Russia where he will likely play a more prominent role with his new club isn’t exactly surprising, is it?
This past season was a weird ride for Anton Slepyshev and the Edmonton Oilers after the winger had a decent playoff run (12GP: 3G, 0A) with the club in 2017 but followed it up with a lacklustre season, seemingly derailed by an early injury. After missing training camp with a bum ankle, Slepyshev was never able to find his groove or do enough to earn the coach’s trust which led to him playing in only 50 games, registering a mere six goals and six assists for 12 points. For a player that was expected to fill some of the gap left by the Jordan Eberle trade, Slep didn’t produce enough points or consistency which landed him in the press box at times or riding the pine at others. In his defence, points are a lot harder to come by when you’re usually playing in the bottom six.
At the end of the season, Slepyshev said that he would be happy to stay in North America if he felt like he had an opportunity to play, but clearly, this news points to him feeling otherwise. When you consider that there were trade rumours about him flying around in January, it’s not exactly a stretch to think that the Oilers had given up on him as a part of their future and that Slepyshev knew it. For me, it’s hard to know what to make of this news as it’s not exactly tough to replace a bottom-six guy that has only 12 but the weird part is that they seemingly believed in his abilities just last summer. Not to mention, the Oilers are incredibly shallow on the right side and losing another prospect (?) that they put the last three years into developing is a weird play by an organization that hasn’t had a lot of luck developing players over the years.
It’s not that Anton Slepyshev isn’t necessarily replaceable that bothers me, but the fact that the organization made a pretty big bet on him and then loses him less than a year later is certainly concerning as is the lack of depth on the right side. So was Chiarelli flat out wrong? Was it McLellan? Is Slepyshev just not that good? The reality is that it’s probably a combination of all of those things that led to this point, but the one thing we know for sure is that losing Slepyshev to the KHL added another item on Chiarelli’s summer to-do list that seems to be getting longer by the day. Once again, the Oilers’ offseason just got a little bit more interesting.
SLEPYSHEV’S NHL CAREER