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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Pending UFAs

As we all eagerly await the end of this current off-season and the return of NHL hockey, I decided to take a look ahead to next summer and what’s in store for the Edmonton Oilers. Earlier this week, I looked at the pending RFAs that Peter Chiarelli will have to take care of and today I’ll be looking at the players who are scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1st, 2019.

CAM TALBOT

Dec 21, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) makes a save on St. Louis Blues forward Scottie Upshall (9) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s obvious that Talbot is the most important UFA that the Oilers will have to deal with and his play this year will go a long way in not only dictating what his next contract will look like but also where he’ll play in 2019-20.

If Talbot plays like he did in 2016-17, and the Oilers make the playoffs, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they agreed on a long-term deal. To get an idea of what a deal could look like, I dug around and found what other 30+ year old #1 goalies have gotten.

In 2013, the Arizona Coyotes signed a 31-year-old Mike Smith to a six-year deal worth $5.66 million per year.

In 2014, the Vancouver Canucks signed a 33-year-old Ryan Miller to a three-year deal worth $6.0 million per year.

In 2017, the Dallas Stars signed a 30-year-old Ben Bishop to a six-year deal worth $4.9 million per year.

If Talbot has a good year, I could his see him wanting a long-term deal and if he does, I think an AAV $4.9 million is fair. He’s a little bit older than Ben Bishop and hasn’t had as much success as him either, but the cap has gone up since 2017, so I think the Bishop deal is a good comparable. A six-year contract would bring Talbot to his 38-year old season, which isn’t ideal either.

If the team really wants a short-term deal, I think a three-year deal worth around $6.0 million a year.

One thing that might hurt his ability to make money is the fact that next years UFA goalie market appears loaded. Sergei Bobrovsky, Pekka Rinne, Semyon Varlamov, Jimmy Howard, and Mike Smith could all hit the open market.

Also, what if Talbot doesn’t bounce back? I wonder if a combination of Talbot having a bad year, the Oilers missing the playoffs, their cap situation, and the fact there are plenty of options on the UFA market might lead to the Oilers letting him walk.

No matter which way you frame it, this is a massive year for the man who shoulders plenty of the responsibility when it comes to getting the Oilers back into the playoffs.

MIKKO KOSKINEN

My thoughts on the remaining UFA’s will be much shorter simply because they aren’t as important to the Oilers future success.

No matter which way this season goes, I think it’s highly unlikely that Mikko Koskinen is playing here past this season. If he has a good season, which likely means he plays 30 games and posts some very strong individual numbers, then he’ll honestly be looking to go somewhere he can compete for a #1 job.

If he has a bad year, or even an average year, it will be clear that he isn’t worth $2.5 million the Oilers gave him and he’ll likely go back to making good money overseas, where he’s been dominant.

The only way I can see him being back in Edmonton is if there is a combination of him having a sensational year and Talbot either getting hurt or completely falling apart. If that happens, then the Oilers might explore a 1A/1B type situation next year.

That would likely involve them keeping Koskinen, letting Talbot walk, and adding another unproven goalie with starter potential in free agent. Guys like Jonas Korpisalo, Casey DeSmith, and Calvin Pickard come to mind.

JAKUB JERABEK

The Oilers inked him to one-year $1.0 million deal not even two weeks ago, so it feels a little weird speculating what might happen next summer.

I’m not super familiar with Jerabek’s game, the only time I’ve watched him was during this past season’s playoffs where he played two games, so I tried to dig up some scouting reports. What I got from the few sources I visited was that he moves the puck well up the ice, has some offensive upside and while he can struggle in his own end, he plays an intense game.

I think Jerabek could be a guy that really surprises this year, and as long as he holds his own at even strength I expect he’ll find a way to stay in the lineup.

Jerabek has the opportunity to take the chance that the Oilers are giving him and turn it into a good run with the team.

KEVIN GRAVEL

Chris Kelly of the Ottawa Senators is hit from behind by Kevin Gravel of the Los Angeles Kings during first period of NHL action at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, November 11, 2016. Photo by Jean Levac ORG XMIT: 125302

If you would have asked me about Gravel a month ago, I would have said he was a lock to be the Oilers’ seventh defenseman. I suspect that the Oilers starting six defensemen this year will be Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell, Matt Benning and then one of Jakub Jerabek, Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard, or an outside option (Justin Faulk).

That means the competition for spot #7 will come down to Jason Garrison and Kevin Gravel. Jerabek might be in the mix for the 7th d-spot as well.

I’m not sure I love Gravel’s chances of making this team, but there’s no doubt this is a massive year for him when it comes to continuing his NHL career. He’s going to be 27-years-old by the end of this season and has still only played 70 NHL games.

He got a one-year/one-way deal with the Oilers this summer and if he doesn’t stick in the NHL for a whole season, I suspect this may be his final one-way deal.

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