Jeff Skinner just signed an eight-year $72-million extension with the Buffalo Sabres instead of testing free agency. Skinner had a career-high 40 goals but only tied his career high in points with 63. Skinner scores goals. He’s had over 24 goals the past four seasons and over 20 goals in a full season every year but one in his career. $9 million per year is a lot for a top-six winger.
Skinner wasn’t going to be an option for the Oilers. Skinner is the type of player the Oilers need, like Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, but he was always going to make too much money and term for the Oilers. There are options in free agency that could help Edmonton.
The Oilers won’t be buying at the top of the free-agent market this summer, but there are plenty of options that could improve the roster without significant contracts.
RW Brett Connolly – 81GP – 22G 24A 46P
I thought Connolly could have been a nice buy-low candidate after Boston didn’t qualify him in 2016. Washington signed him and he’s been a productive middle-six option for the Capitals since. Connolly should come in at a reasonable cost. EvolvingWild projects a three-year contract at $3.53 per year for Connolly. Connolly’s scored 22 last season and 15 goals the two seasons prior. 21 of those goals in 2018-19 were at even strength. Connolly might flourish next to Connor McDavid, but I like him as secondary option next to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl. Although, he spent the bulk of last season next to Lars Eller on Washington’s third line. Connolly also adds a much-needed right-handed shot to the roster.
Connolly has been a very good 5-on-5 scorer the past three seasons and could continue his scoring surge with additional minutes in Edmonton. Could Connolly be Edmonton’s second-line right wing?
RW Joonas Donskoi – 80GP – 14G 23A 37P
Donskoi is another right wing with solid goal scoring and 5-on-5 production. Donskoi’s scored 14 goals the past two seasons. He doesn’t have eye-popping totals, but he’s played with good players higher up in the lineup in San Jose. Donskoi’s spent most of his time last season with Evander Kane and Tomas Hertl. When he wasn’t with Kane and Hertl, he played a bit with Joe Pavelski. You could sign Donskoi and reasonably expect him to ride shotgun on right wing in the top six.
EvolvingWild projects Donskoi at $2.84-million per year for three years. That’s a nice price for a 27-year old winger who skates very well, can score 30-40 points, and play against good players.
LW/RW Richard Panik – 75GP – 14G 19A 33P
Panik has scored at least 14 goals in the past three seasons with Arizona and Chicago. Panik had 22 goals and 44 points with the Blackhawks in 2016-17, but they quickly traded him to Arizona mid-season the following year. Panik’s a solid .40-.50 points per game player who can play on the penalty kill. Panik spent most of last season with Derek Stepan and Vinnie Hinostroza. He can play with good players.
EvolvingWild projects Panik at $4.88-million per year for four years. That’s a little much. They also have Panik at a $3.71-million AAV for three years, but as most likely to sign for four or five years. That’s too much and too long for the Oilers, but I’d be interested on a two or three-year deal.
LW Ryan Dzingel – 78GP 26G 30A 56P
Dzingel stretches the mid-tier definition. He’s the fifth highest scoring UFA player left with Jeff Skinner extended with Buffalo. But Dzingel was also healthy scratched in the playoffs with Columbus and only scored one goal all postseason.
Dzingel still had a good season, but I wonder if he gets a less expensive contract than people initially thought. Dzingel is a great skater who could be a top-six winger for the next few years in Edmonton. Dzingel spent a bunch of time with Matt Duchene in both Ottawa and Columbus last season. He split 2017-18 with Duchene and Derick Brassard.
EvolvingWild projects Dzingel at $4.33-million per year for four years. That’s not a huge amount for a guy who scored 25 goals and 56 points. Dzingel only has one 50-point season to his resume. $4.33 million still seems a bit low, but EvolvingWild have been pretty accurate with their predictions so far.
RD Anton Stralman – 47GP 2G 15A 17P 20:31 ATOI
Stralman had a down year influenced by injuries. He had the worst possession numbers of his career and only played in 47 games with Tampa Bay. Stralman played mostly with Ryan McDonagh on the Lightning’s second pair, but also spent time with Victor Hedman.
Stralman will be 33 next season and Father Time might be catching up with the right-handed defenceman. I’d be interested in Stralman depending what the Oilers do on defence. They should move out some salary on their blueline, preferably Kris Russell, and that’s where Stralman might come in on the right side.
EvolvingWild projects Stralman at $4.55-million per year for three years. The Oilers can’t give Stralman that money or term, but should definitely look into him on a one or two-year contract. On a one-year deal, EvolvingWild has Stralman at $2.5-million and $3.82-million for two years, which is much more around what the Oilers can afford.
I like Donskoi, Panik, and Dzingel for forwards. They’ve all played top-six minutes and you wouldn’t be signing them and expecting them to play a role they haven’t. With Connolly, he’s been more of a third-line guy but there’s a chance he could play higher in the lineup. Stralman could help the defence on the right side. The Oilers won’t sign the top-tier free agents, but a couple of mid-tier options could improve the roster nicely.