Weekly Rumours – Still names available, are the Oilers in on anything?

Another Thursday means another opportunity for me to scour the web in search of the hottest rumours from around the hockey world and put them all neatly into one nice block of words. 

Of course, we saw the Oilers make a big splash last Friday, but are they done? Nobody knows the answer to that but fans sure hope they aren’t and the fact a free agent like Jake Gardiner has some dreaming about the possibility of him becoming an Oiler and the team going all in next season. That’s where I’m going to start.

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Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet 590 the other day and was talking about the different possibilities for free-agent defenseman Jake Gardiner, who is no doubt the best of the available UFA’s. When the summer started, the word was that Gardiner was in search of a long-term deal worth between $6-7 million. Obviously, that isn’t going to happen at this stage of the offseason and Friedman suggested that Gardiner might be forced to take a short-term deal to reestablish his value and then try to get a long-term deal next summer.

The Oilers would benefit from an addition like that, but there are a few problems. The first is that the team lacks cap space. The only way for this to work would be for them to deal off a player like Kris Russell and attach his entire $4 million contract, then sign Gardiner to a one-year deal worth between $4-5.5 million.

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I would say that’s not going to happen for one very simple reason. If a team was willing to take on the $4 million cap hit of Kris Russell, why would they not just pony up the extra $1 million and go sign Gardiner, a better defenseman, instead?

Also, Gardiner is a left-handed defenseman so unless he’s going to play his offside, he’d be playing behind Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. I just don’t see how this is a fit. 

If Toronto could make the money work, I’m sure the two sides would love to reunite. If Winnipeg could get their big-name RFA’s done, they’d probably like to take a shot at him, but I also think that is unlikely. I honestly don’t see a perfect fit out there for Gardiner and I’d expect that this is going to go on for another few weeks.

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With Andrew Copp’s new contract being decided by an arbitrator, the Winnipeg Jets have opened up a second buyout window which they could use to buyout Dmitri Kulikov. If they went that route, they would have around $20.3 million to sign Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor. 

I’m expecting those two to get around $15-16 million in free agency so they still wouldn’t have enough to go out and get a top-four defenseman, which I believe they need considering they lost Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. Kevin Cheveldayoff might be looking to get rid of one of his big forward contracts and the name I think that could likely go is Mathieu Perrault.

He can play centre or left-wing, is good at both ends of the rink, and has scored at a 15 goal pace in each of the last three seasons. He’d be a perfect fit for the Oilers, but his contract is a massive problem. He has a cap hit of $4.125 million for the next two seasons and the only way the Oilers could afford it is if they sent back one of Kris Russell, Brandon Manning, or Sam Gagner. I could see Winnipeg taking back Russell in a deal, but that would mean the Oilers have lost two veteran blueliners in one summer and barely have any cap relief to show for it. 

Like the Gardiner situation, I would love to see the Oilers get in on this situation, but I don’t think it’s very likely. I’d rather see them target a team like Pittsburgh or the New York Rangers. Which brings me to my next point.


Jim Rutherford is in a bit of a pickle right now. He has just over 150k in cap space and he still needs to sign defenseman Marcus Pettersson. There are three contracts he is reportedly looking at moving. Nick Bjugstad (two years at $4.1 million), Bryan Rust (three years at $3.5 million), and Jack Johnson (four years at $3.25 million) are on the block and while the Oilers wouldn’t have any interest in Jack Johnson, I could see why they would want Bryan Rust or Nick Bjugstad.

The only problem here, once again, is that they don’t have money to blow.

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If they could find a way to get rid of one of Sam Gagner or Kris Russell, then sure, they could go out a grab a good third-line centre like Bjugstad or a middle-six winger like Bryan Rust.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of players available that would improve the Oilers roster but Ken Holland is simply handcuffed by some bad contracts that he inherited.


    Gardiner is an okay dman-nothing the Oilers need given the plethora of young and experienced dmen combined within their system that they have. Gardiner is a second pairing dman which we have plenty of. Lets concentrate on a budget plan to keep Nurse after next year. Don’t know what the hype is about getting Gardiner for the Oilers is.

    • The Ghost of Alex Plante

      If they can find a way to get rid of Russell and bring Gardiner in on a 1 year deal I’d be all over that. Makes the team better right now and frees up some cap space for Nurse.

        • The Ghost of Alex Plante

          He can ask for whatever he wants, doesn’t mean he’s going to get it. No one is suggesting paying Gardiner 7 million a year. Are you telling me that if you had a chance to get rid of Russell and the 2 years left on his deal and replace him with Gardiner for 1 year at around 5 million you wouldn’t do it?

    • Ken Holland

      Does anyone know how much cap we save if we move Gagner, Brodziak, Manning to the minors?

      Capgeek shows 15 forwards signed, with 2.5 million in space. When we drop down to 13 forwards we should clear up room.

      If that is the case I would look at the following trade options.

      Benning and a pick for JP Pageau.

      Benning and prospect for Gusev.

      Or potentially sign Brassard to a one year deal.

      The lineup actually looks closer to a playoff team with one of the above players slotted in.

  • Ty Guy

    Hey…What about that Hall kid in Jersey? Do you think if we offered up a like an Adam Larssen they would be dumb enough to do it straight across? Hear he is coming off his contract this coming year.

  • Hemmercules

    Gagner + draft pick + retain a little money for Rust? Or JP and a pick maybe?

    I think it’s the wrong time to trade Russel unless they seriously believe one of the D prospects is ready. Unless of course they trade Russel and get another dman somehow.

  • TKB2677

    As much as I buy into the idea that there is value in keeping Russell, at the same time if as an example you have the opportunity to turn Russell into a 3rd line center or even if you can turn him into a right shot, say another Benning type who maybe skates a little better and moves the puck a little better and could be a #4 but maybe that’s not a lock, I think you have to do it. That same trade might not be there later on or next offseason.

    I think the Oilers as they sit today provided things go well, could squeak into the playoffs. I think they would make the playoffs if they have a legit 3rd line center.

  • OilCan2

    The trade Russell talk is worn out. I do not think it will happen. Gags is probably over priced right now so I think he stays too. JP will be at camp; either here or in Europe. The most likely scenario is a PTO or a late & cheap signing and maybe even a waiver grab with our available roster space. Next year will be a whole new deal as Ken will have TONS of CAP SPACE.

    • Violentgent13

      We’re really handcuffed this season. If we can get some proven wingers and dmen on a PTO that’s all we can really do. It’s gonna be a tough season but I think we’ll do alright, I’m really excited for next summer and the 2020-21 season.

  • Danger Pay

    Time to change the CBA and limit the term and amount free agents can sign for. Also need to look at guaranteed money contracts that are easier for teams to get out from. The current free agency, buyout and offer sheet system does not work.

    • Hemmercules

      Good luck convincing the players to take less term and money. Recipe for a lockout. Free agency is a gamblers market and players usually put in their dues as RFA’s to afford that luxury of making it to free agency. I think they could go a little easier on the draft picks for offer sheets though, the league has made it almost impossible to use them. Buyouts are what they are, a penalty to the team for signing a bad contract.

      What they need to do is eliminate NMC’s unless you are making top money. Again though, the players wouldn’t go for it.

      • Danger Pay

        I disagree, it looks like the league will have to save GM’s from themselves. The game is getting faster, younger and players are becoming more expendable/replaceable. NHL should adapt term limit like the NBA, 5 years Max to re-sign and 4 year max in free agency. Max 5 year deal is 12mil/year and Max 4 year is 10/year (I’m just using these number as examples). Then it becomes which team has the best max player instead of these albatross, retirement contracts that handcuff teams for years.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I have said this before and will again the only way the Oilers take on a guy with a 3 to 4 mil salary is to move a couple players out. This would either mean Russell or Benning or someone else would have to go. With teams trying to get to cap compliance I dont see anyone taking on big contracts unless they have one they moved out and have a need.

    The Leafs with their now you see it, now you dont LTIR moves are just that, it might work for now but they are right back to cap hell next season and they are going to run into issues this season if they have to start bringing up guys from the AHL.

    Holland does not want to pull a Chia and have the Oil tight to the cap with money or tight to the limit for contacts allowable. If we see any moves in the next while it will be someone moving out and they may bring someone in, but unless there is some money or a couple layers going one way and one coming back I dont see anything happening right away.

    Honestly unless Holland has a deal where Russell, Benning or Poolparty are moved I think the Oilers will wait to do anything further there are teams still working out their cap issues and players they may have to let walk for cheaper guys. Honestly if Holland does nothing further till when the season starts to roll I am fine with that, I would rather not have the Oilers handcuffed to the cap like last year, no sense in pulling a deal just for the sake of one, it has to make some sense

  • Gordie Wayne

    Since Holland moved out Lucic, I will trust that he knows what he is doing from this point forward. Most people said it couldn’t be done, and he did it, gotta give him props for that.

    • TKB2677

      You don’t honestly think that the Flames were trying to trade Neal well before they made the Lucic deal? The guy is coming off a 7 goal, 19 pt season while making 5.75 mill. The reason the Oilers made the deal is because they have a worse player in Lucic and the opportunity to get rid of him was too good to pass up.

      The play with Neal is to play him this year and hope he has a bounce back year playing on the wing with McDavid or Nuge which is a real possibility. If he pots over 20 goals, then you could probably deal him.

    • Hemmercules

      The Oilers would have to retain salary or get an equal bad contract in return in a trade I think. Calgary had to of been shopping him for months with no takers before talking on the Lucic contract. If the there is a trade out there that makes sense by all means they should do it but I would be shocked if they could find a taker and win the trade. That said I was shocked that Holland could trade Looch so anything is possible. Maybe Vegas would take another go at him? Cap space is such a commodity these days its hard for most teams to take on a gamble for so much dough.

      Oilers needed a winger with some finish anyway. With Neal already training hard (and training with McD apparently) I think he has potential to make himself tradeable or possibly worth keeping by next summer. I have to say, I’m pretty relieved getting Neal. All those rumours about swapping him for Eriksson and sending Looch to Van had me worried. At least with Neal there is potential there. Louie and Looch are washed up.

    • toprightcorner

      Wilson focused on WOWY numbers, which is fine, but when Calgary had some of the best possession numbers in the league last year, there will always be a couple of players on the team that crap the bed in those metrics. The key is that Neal still had okay possession numbers, better than most Oilers, his CORSI was 51.9 and Fenwick was 49.3, the Oilers would have killed to have those possession numbers, they were better than Nuge, Draisaitl and basically the same as McDavid.

      When you have a player whose sole strength is offense and you don’t play him in an offensive possession and instead play him on a shutdown line, when he does not possess the skills to succeed, his WOWY numbers will look terrible.

      Almost everyone on the Flames had a career season last year and Neal had the worst season of his career, his WOWY and most other analytic numbers would look bad.

      Lucic has always been strong in possession and of course, his WOWY numbers will look good when he plays with Reider, Cave, Khaira and Brodziak, all who had terrible years.

      Wilsons article was mostly about finding one area that justifies the trade for the team. If Neal shot his career shooting % and ended up with 16 goals in less than 70 games last year, playing 3rd line and 3 min less a night than career average, then nobody would care about his WOWY numbers.

      Wilson and Trevling are the only people in the hockey world that thinks Calgary is better off with Lucic instead of Neal, so I would not be followingtheir advise

    • Spoils

      well, I guess I am just hooked on Holland’s sweet moves but the main point is the heavy odds are that Neal will NOT bounce back and as such this is the best opportunity we will ever have to move the contract. Sure, roll the dice maybe he bounces back yada yada yada, but what is most likely to happen? Can we package Jesse and Neal off to a team? Odds are both of them are worth A LOT less next year. I’d like mgt to play the odds… oh and dive in on analytics while they’re at it…

      trash away dreamers.

      • Canoe Ride 27

        You make some good points Spoils and I trust KH is looking at all angles. It’s just nice to see him fixing this mess and creating options. As long as we continue to make good trades, I don’t care if Neal ever puts on an Oilers Jersey.

        As for this batch of FA’s, I would sit tight.

      • Hemmercules

        You make a good point but I don’t think the odds are “heavy” that both JP and Neal don’t have some sort of bounce back. I think the odds are just as good that he does bounce back and has a decent season. JP is a mystery though. If they can find a decent partner trade him by all means, hard to come back from asking out.

  • Gordie Wayne

    I am ok with moving out Russell if there is another d-man that can move the puck better than him for the same salary or less but I just don’t know if that is currently available.

    • Gordie Wayne

      If you read some of Holland’s comments early on when he got hired, he has stated he wants puck movers on the back end. Russell is not a puck mover, so I could see him moved out if an opportunity for a trade exists.

  • toprightcorner

    I do like the idea of approaching Rutherford. He has made a few questionable trades and signings lately and Holland may be able to win a trade. I don’t think the Oilers can Trade Russell right now. Holland may think that Benning can take his spot with Persson 3rd pairing RD and Jones on the left side, but that makes you pretty thin. If they need to trade a dman to get their 3C or another winger, Benning would be the best bet, but I wouldn’t trade Benning this year either, there just isn’t enough NHL depth once injuries come.

    Rutherford just needs cap space, he doesn’t necessarily need bodies back and Bjugstad and Rust have 2 and 3 year terms, meaning the buyout dead cap lasts longer.

    If the Oilers could trade Gagner to the Pens, they could buy him out and get $2.1 mill in savings this year with a $1 mill penalty next year. If you add Bear, it gives them more defensive depth and Bear would have a shot as playing in the NHL for them next year with under $1 mill cap hit, saving them more money.

    The Player I would want would be Bjugstad. He is huge, plays a very good 3C and can put up points. If the Oilers traded Gagner, Bear and rights to Dan Marino (wants to play in the U.S.) for Bjugstad. Pens buy out Gagner, they would save over $3 mill in cap on the deal, get Bear who could be their 6/7 dman this year and get a decent prospect.

    With Rutherfords las few questionable trades and signings, that may be a possibility to save the cap he needs.

    For the Oilers, it adds only $1 mill in cap space and gives them a great 3C. Gagner would be replaced by Chaisson on the 3rd line now the Neal is here and will play top 6 RW.

    Maybe Holland can pull another rabbit out of the hat and swap Bjugstad for Gusev!!!!!

  • > I could see Winnipeg taking back Russell in a deal, but that would mean the Oilers have lost two veteran blueliners in one summer and barely have any cap relief to show for it.

    With the cap situation it’s all about babysteps. Same term and only $125K more. He’d more useful to us right now then Russell. It wouldn’t save us cap space but it means we don’t have to throw money at another player to play 3rd line center this or next offseason.

  • Oily Reign

    Over hyped, over valued, and probably soon to be over paid.
    The Eastern MSM have been trying to pump these tires for awhile. Great if you want a defenseman that doesn’t defend so well.
    This is going to be some team’s major regret this year… after they sign him.
    Please, no more overpriced UFA’s. They rarely work out at that price range.

    • macinmillwoods

      My expectations for Gagner were very low when he came back to the Oilers. All I remember was how clueless he was on his side of center ice and always puck watching instead paying attention to his check. But I think the last couple of years have humbled him and he’s matured as a player. Could be a good fit as a 3rd line winger who can take strong side face-offs and help on the PP. I guess we’ll see if he’s given the chance.

      • KootenayFlamesFan

        If you want to see “clueless on his side of center ice” watch Neal. The other problem is he doesn’t have the legs to keep up with any of the guys that will benefit him. IMO his only hope of a bounce back is playing on PP1. Even strength I feel you as fans will just get frustrated with him (as we were), and defensively, you will be pulling out your hair (as we were).

        Having said that, here’s to a successful hockey trade and things working out for both sides!