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Photo Credit: Jason Franson/Canadian Press

Weekly Rumours – Free Agent Frenzy Edition

I had high hopes for the NHL Draft and I was extremely disappointed. Every year I buy into the hype and hope that we’ll see a flurry of activity and this year was more boring than ever. But, with the salary cap being finalized and lower than expected, we might see some interesting moves once free agency draws closer.

The Oilers are being connected to a few different names and given their cap situation, there is a world of possibilities. Let’s dig into a few rumours.

THE SEARCH FOR A GOALTENDER

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I’m going to be referencing Elliotte Friedman a lot in this week’s blog since his final “31 Thoughts” dropped yesterday. He mentioned the Oilers in connection to both Petr Mrazek and Mike Smith, which is hardly a surprise.

For me, those two options would reflect just how much the Oilers are willing to spend on a goaltender. If they go with Mrazek, then they’re likely looking at a $3 million cap hit on a deal that spans at least three seasons. If it’s Mike Smith, I think you’re looking more at a one year deal worth about $2 million, which is exactly what Brian Elliott got from the Flyers yesterday.

Friedman also hit us with a bit of a curveball, connecting the Oilers to Semyon Varlamov. He added that Varlamov will be an expensive option, I would imagine that he gets at least $4.5 million, and that likely takes the Oilers out of it unless they find a way to free up money. If they shed Kris Russell without taking back a really bad contract, Varlamov could be in the picture. 

Clearing out Russell or maybe even an extra $2 million could lead to Holland having some extra flexibility when it comes to adding a forward as well.

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HOLLAND WANTS ALL OF THE WINGERS

Friedman and Pierre LeBrun have connected the Oilers to a whole flurry of depth wingers.

Obviously, we know that they’re in on Bret Connolly since his agent confirmed to Reid Wilkins that there have been discussions between the two sides.

That would make sense. Connolly is coming off of a good season where he spent most of the time playing with Lars Eller. If he was thrown next to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, I think he could continue being a 20-25 goal guy for the next few seasons. For the cost, I don’t think we’ll see it get to $4 million, something around $3.5 over four years seems realistic to me.

LeBrun also said that the Oilers have reached out to Gustav Nyquist’s camp to see if there would be interest. Nyquist is a consistent 20 goal, 40 point player and considering his past with Ken Holland and the Wings, it’s easy to see why this would be a fit. Similar to Semyon Varlamov, I think he might be too expensive. If the Oilers rid themselves of $4 million in cap space, then they may be able to afford a Varlamov/Nyquist combo instead of a Smith/Connolly combo, but it would still be tight.

There’s also the middle tier of options for the Oilers which includes Joonas Donskoi, Brandon Tanev, and Alex Chiasson. All three bring something different to the table but I really like Tanev. He scored 14 goals last season, which 13 of them coming at even strength, and he can play both wings. I can’t imagine he’d cost more than $2 million.

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There are also a few lower tier options. Daniel Carr spent this past season with the Chicago Wolves, the Golden Knights AHL affiliate, and racked up 72 points in 51 games. He was also named the AHL’s MVP for the season. He’s a Sherwood Park product, so I would imagine he’d be interested in coming to Edmonton. As for a cost, it won’t be more than $1 million. He would be a good bet.

Brandon Pirri is another former Golden Knight who the Oilers might have an interest in. When he’s in the NHL, he scores goals. In 259 career games, he has 79 goals. That’s an average of 25 goals every 82 games. His skating and consistency are issues and the Oilers need guys who can move and put up goals on a consistent basis. Pirri should be cheap as well, but I think I might prefer Daniel Carr. I would expect the Oilers to make calls to both of these players though.

Friedman also hit us with a bit of a curveball, mentioning the Oilers and Jason Zucker in the same breathe. I love Zucker as a player. He’s a guy who can step into any lineup and score at least 20 goals. He’s got lots of skill, but his $5.5 million cap hit leads me to believe he isn’t a realistic option for the Oilers. The asking price would probably include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as well, which is not something I’d consider. If a package of futures and a cap dump would interest the Wild, then I’d do it, but I think Paul Fenton wants to get that team into the playoffs next season.

JESSE REMAINS AN OILER… FOR NOW

Friedman also added in that the Oilers are still looking to move on from Jesse Puljujarvi and his preference would be to leave Canada. Friedman mentioned the Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning as possible suitors.

The idea of trading with Tampa entices me. If the Oilers want a third line centre, maybe Cedric Paquette could be had? You’re losing the upside of Puljujarvi, but Paquette is a competent NHLer.

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With the Canes, the name Julien Gauthier has been mentioned but I don’t think he’d ever be more than a fourth line winger, if that.

For the Bruins, I was trying to see where they have some depth. At centre, they have Krejci, Bergeron, Coyle, and Kuraly. Would they be tempted to move 24-year-old Karson Kuhlman? For right-shot defensemen, they have Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Kevan Miller. I wonder if the Oilers could pry Connor Clifton out of Boston.

I’m obviously just spitballing here.

I think the return in any Puljujarvi deal is going to be disappointing, but if the Oilers think they can get a young player, with some NHL experience, that they like from another organization who isn’t getting an opportunity, they should jump at it.

THIRD ANNUAL OILERSNATION OPEN

After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.

  • When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday)
  • Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
  • How much – $1000/team or get in on the $900 Early Bird price until July 10th
  • Teams – Groups of Four (4)
  • How – Book your team here

As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.


  • Spydyr

    The Oilers can turn a high first round pick into “I think the return in any Puljujarvi deal is going to be disappointing” in a few short years.

    What is your super power?

    Al kidding aside let’s hope Holland fixes this. It is one of the most terrible failings by the Oilers have done in the Katz era.

  • BrandieBear

    Holland has a big job a head. I would like to see smaller and shorter deals for free agents this year. We keep being impeded by longer term and higher dollar contact. In an ideal world I’d love to see Chaison back at $2m or less at 2 years or less. I like the sounds of Connolly and if we can land him on a contract around $3m x 3 years that would be great. Both guys are 3rd-4th line guys so paying more then $2-3m for them might put us in a bad spot again.

    I also think Mrazek is the best option for goalie. I think he has the best potential to be a starting goalie which would really turn the battle for the net up a notch. The other guys on the list have been establishing themselves as more of a back up option instead of a 1a/1b option in my opinion. Getting Mrazek may not be easy but I hope it’s possible.

    On a different note I think if we are looking to trade a D I would trade Russell for what ever I can get in return. I would want to keep Sekera so he can play on the third line with a younger player. I think Sekera may have lost a bit of his step but he would be a great third pairing D that would be a good mentor and help on the PP. After this season I would evaluate again and potentially buy him out with one year left if they need the cap space or roster spot. I watched him at the world championships and he was looking a lot better. I think he would bring more than Russell

      • Nanook

        I agree. he played great at the worlds and stills knows how to play a solid game. I expect him to be a fair bit better this year. im ready to move on from russel and benning to make some room for the kids to start getting their feet wet

  • CMG30

    Not surprised KH didn’t pull the trigger on too many trades. First step is always to get the team into a position where meaningful changes can reasonably made. In this case we have a roster riddled with holes (created when former GMs ‘traded from strength’) and a pathetic cap situation. Finally, our recently departed GM established a reputation of losing trades. It will take a while to reset NHL expectations and that Edmonton actually does understands the value of its players.

  • Schmidt Head

    I would not be disappointed if the Oilers did nothing on July 1st. I think it was Brian Burke who once said that free agent season is the time when far too many stupid and/or desperate GMs spend far too much money and get far too little in return.

    I agree with this! I say wait a few days (or even a few weeks) and let the madness settle down.

    Yes, the odd time you do score a good player at a good price but those are very much the exception, not the rule. Most of the time we end up with deals like the Lucic farce that we spend 7 agonizing years regretting!

    What you have to remember is that in most cases, if these players had any real value, their current teams wouldn’t be letting them go for nothing.

    • I think some Oilers fans completely overblow the bad part of free agency. Even with our awful history it’s not something we can avoid. If we don’t bring in free agents then be prepared to see Yamamoto, Benson, Marody, and Starrett up here by default. If you’re looking to make a grand slam franchise changing signing just like Chiarelli did with Lucic then you’re absolutely going to make mistakes. If you’re looking to bring in pieces to fit what you have like Letestu then you’re going to succeed. Draft and develop from the ground-up and sign useful players to fit them.

  • Rama Lama

    I for one feel that JP was never given a proper chance to showcase his skills……….he was continuously moved from line to line, and never played with the same players more than three games.

    If he is traded, he will soon show us what we did was plain stupid and wrong…..I for one was hoping he could start the season with the new coach before being traded.

    • Hemmercules

      The fact that he still wants out after a complete management and coaching change tells me there is more to this. The city maybe? The players? We may never know but he’s as good as gone one way or another.

      If only he spent that first entire year or two in Bakersfield we may have had a decent top 6 guy. Maybe he’s just a bust.

        • He does not like seeing the same incompetents employed that not only ruined his development, but several others as well. If by some miracle they actually develop a player, they are gone for magic beans just about the time they are ready to make a real contribution. Lowe’s still around (Useless and arrogant) Howsons still here (currently VP of player development while he at the same time denies responsibility for player development or lack there-of) also recommended Nikitin, Quick look the other way, I’M in charge of Bakersfield. Bob Green (Rienhart Fiasco), Bill Scott VP of salary cap management (p*ss poor job period) If you saw your grossly incompetent bosses screw up over and over and over and over again and NEVER be held responsible, why would anyone think anything is going to change?

        • hagar

          Not sure why he doesn’t like Canada, he is a nearly arctic laplander. He comes from as cold or colder and from as much or more snow as we do.

          I guess that could also be a reason he wants out of Canada… maybe he is sick of it.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    The Oilers are not going to be taking on guys with 3 or 4 mil a year deals without moving a couple contracts out, the Oilers have a lot of needs and right now there are a ton of champagne wish list players out there that the media say’s the Oilers have a interest in but you have to remember we are still on that beer budget.

    Varlamov is looking to hit it out of the park on a contract, but after a not so great year in Colorado it remains to be seen if he will get it, I dont see the Oilers diving into the pool with Varlamov’s agent unless nothing happens with him for a while on a contract.

    Unless the Oilers move a couple contracts, I think we are looking for guys that are expendable by teams due to cap or contract constraints. As for Jesse, let him go play in europe his trade value is way too low to get anything tangible back and other teams may be a little leary of Jesse and his Agent if other teams get the idea that Jesse and his agent want Jesse in the NHL on another team and the AHL is not going to happen, that may make some teams pass on him.

    With a lower cap than expected teams that dont have a lot of space are going to sacrifice guys, the Oilers could do well to see who gets left without a chair by some teams, there may be some good players that could be had reasonably

    • ed from edmonton

      I don’t think Varlamov will “hit it out of the park” in any way this July. He basically lost his starting job last year and I’m not aware of any team really looking for a starter. Columbus maintain they are okay with going with last year’s backup. I assume that Lehner will sign with the Isle. Mrzarek maybe, maybe not with the Canes. Varlamov quite likely will end up with a one year “show me deal” where having a chance to re-establish himself as a starter will be as important as the term or $ of the contract. The Oil would certainly be able to offer him this opportunity.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Florida is looking for a starter. They are in the hunt for Bobrovsky, but how much they are willing to pay is another story, so I wouldn’t at all be surprised if they have Varlamov and some other names as back up plans

        • Reg Dunlop

          I could never understand how Voynov and Varlamov were treated so differently for Bobby Hulling their mates. If your dish washer doesn’t work, hitting it doesn’t fix it. Big pass on Simian.

  • hagar

    I vote to treat Jesse as a hostile employee and bury him in Europe to either run him into the ground, or fluff up his trade value.

    There are certain times when the reward out weighs the risk, and this seems to be one of those times.
    If he is bringing in a 2 million dollar third line winger or third round pic on trade, take the risk he will get better after his surgery.

    If he plays in Europe and gets back to his pre-draft skill level in that league, he instantly triples his value.

    Worth the risk imo.

    • OilerForLife

      If the surgery fixes his problem his value could go through the roof and him playing in Europe is the best option. Unless they get a third line right winger who can play up the lineup and could be still developing, then it’s the only way I would swing a deal.

      Aside from that Bryan Rust’s name has come up, would that be enough for you?

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I say let Jesse play in europe, its best for both he and the Oilers, I expect Holland will do just that unless he gets trade offer that makes some sense, and with Jesse value so low, I dont see that happening

  • Goaltender Interference

    Can anyone point to a single thing JP has done to suggest the Oilers should give two [email protected] what he does or does not want?

    Sure it’s clear that the team made horrible mistakes in his development. But there is also an onus on the player to put their best foot forward as well.

    If he doesn’t want to play in Edmonton then pack his bag for him, send him back across the Atlantic and wish him the best. His time in the NHL should be over at that point.

  • crabman

    I don’t love the idea of giving Connolly a long term deal and I’ve read elsewhere at him possibly getting 4×4 or higher. That deal stinks like the Pouliot deal. This was the 1st year Connolly cracked the 30 point mark. Maybe he figured the league out at 26 but I wouldn’t bet a long term contract on it. It’s just as likely he had a career year and will revert back to a 25 point 3rd liner and $4M is too much to pay for that. Anything over 3×3 is too much risk for me and I would pass.

  • Armchair genius

    JP was constantly passed over and benched or scratched by team Finland coaches when he played in tournaments after he was drafted by the Oilers. So I don’t think it’s just on the team, I wonder if this young mans hockey iq is up to speed with his skills. I really feel that JP needs to take onus of the situation or he’ll end up being Yak2.0 If I we’re KH I would let him simmer back home till the right deal comes along.

  • TKB2677

    I am a bit surprised that the Oilers haven’t traded a dman yet. If you look at the UFA market, it’s pretty thin. The guys on the market are going to make a fortune. You know it’s thin when Myer who was on the Jets 3rd is rumored to be getting a 7-8 year deal north of 7 mill. A lot of teams need defense. The Oilers have a Russell. He’s a 4-5 dman who can play both sides. Ideally he is on your 3rd pair but he can be a #4 and give you OK minutes. He’s got 2 years left at 4 mill which given that Myers might get 7 mill, Russell’s contract is affordable. I’d even go so far as to retain 1 mill if you had too. IF the Oilers had to retain 1 mill, that still frees up 3 mill in cap space. That extra 3 mill is your pretty good back up paid for.

    • hagar

      The cap has to be raised like ten million if the wages keep going this way. If Myers is getting 7 million a year, it’s not long before 6 million is an average player wage.

      • Hemi

        It has become very obvious that the salary escalation is in “full speed ahead mode” which will do more damage to every team. Not sure how teams can pay an entire team with salaries and caps colliding.

        • hagar

          It’s becoming simple math. Every few months a team needs to sign some 9 million defenseman, or a 12 million dollar forward.
          Wont be long before any drafting skills a team has, will simply feed lesser teams because you’re drafting skills will make it impossible to pay the picks along their natural team development, that is important for championship teams.

          They should bump it a bit and allow teams to lock down their studs, while running a team that isnt comprised of 37 year old has beens, simply because it’s the only option.

  • TKB2677

    I am looking forward to the day when the Oilers are better and we don’t have to hear about Chia or the “failings of the Katz era” over and over again from the same guys.

  • SailorD81

    I’d like to see an article or research into the last time a “big ticket” UFA went on to have some success and worked out well for both the player and the team.