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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Early Returns on the Oilers’ Free-Agent Signings

The Edmonton Oilers were fairly active in free agency, signing Kyle Turris, Tyson Barrie, Mike Smith, Anton Forsberg, Tyler Ennis, Dominik Kahun, Slater Koekoek and Devin Shore. How are the Oilers’ 2020 free-agent crop performing with almost ten percent of the season underway?

Tyson Barrie  – 5gp 0g 2a 2p 21:02ATOI

Barrie was the Oilers’ biggest free-agent signing. Barrie didn’t quite fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He isn’t a tough-minute defenceman and his bread and butter, the power play, was already occupied by Morgan Rielly, but he still produced at a 45-point pace and logged nearly 22 minutes a game for the Leafs. That’s a useful player and the Oilers wisely signed him to a one-year deal. With both Ethan Bear and Adam Larsson on the right side, and Oscar Klefbom out for the year, the Oilers could put Barrie in a better position to succeed at even strength.

Barrie’s logging his usual amount of minutes a game and ranks second in five-on-five icetime for Oiler defenceman. He only has two points and the power play is in a bit of a lull, but the Oilers can’t be too upset when Barrie only makes $3.75 million. Finding a partner for Barrie is still a work in progress. Barrie’s spent most of his time with either Koekkoek or Kris Russell, but I’d like to see him beside Caleb Jones more.

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Kyle Turris – 5gp 0g 0a 0p 14:58ATOI

Another early signing, Turris was a reasonable bet after being bought out by the Nashville Predators. Turris had at least a 35-point pace in his previous two seasons with the Predators. That’s not worth six-million a season, but $1.65 million to play a third-line role? Sure, why not. Turris’ buyout saved Nashville over four million a season, but logic figures Turris could still be a productive NHL player in a reduced role.

Third-line center might still be too big of an ask for Turris in 2021. Nashville was outscored 39-31 in 2019-20 with Turris five-on-five, and 27-21 in 2018-19. That’s not great, but would be far better than what Riley Sheahan, outscored 37-18 five-on-five, gave the Oilers. Turris currently has zero points and the Oilers have been outscored 4-0 five-on-five and caved in with shot attempts as well. The Turris-Jesse Puljujarvi combination isn’t working. Even with Puljujarvi looking rejuvenated from his stint in Finland, they have a 36.63 Corsi percentage and the Oilers have yet to score a goal with them on the ice.

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Maybe a move to the fourth line or to the wing is in order. At the very least, separate Turris and Puljujarvi.

Mike Smith

Re-signing Smith was the lone move that didn’t garner praise from Oilers fans. Holland signed Smith on the second day of free agency while there were better options available. It was and is reasonable to ask why the Oilers didn’t seek out a better, younger option to platoon with Mikko Koskinen. Smith had an uneven 2019-20 campaign and expecting him to improve upon his .902 save percentage at 38-years old was a bad gamble.

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Smith somehow got hurt and is on long-term injured reserve for the foreseeable future. If there is any position Holland didn’t acquire enough depth at, it’s goaltending.

Anton Forsberg

Forsberg has NHL games and some good AHL seasons under his belt. That’s good enough for a third-string goalie, and in all likelihood, Forsberg was probably a better option for the backup position than Smith. But the Oilers waived Forsberg to start the season and he was promptly claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes, who have since waived Forsberg again where he was claimed by the Winnipeg Jets.

Forsberg isn’t a star and wouldn’t change the Oilers record on his own, but he’s a competent goalie in a time where you need more than one goalie, let alone two, meaning the Oilers should have kept him on the roster instead of someone like Jujhar Khaira or Devin Shore.

Tyler Ennis2gp 0g 0a 0p 10:36ATOI

Ennis played well for the Oilers in 2019-20 before getting hurt in the play-in round against the Chicago Blackhawks.

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A one year deal at a million dollars is entirely reasonable for Ennis. He hasn’t been a regular in the lineup so far, but it’s not hard to see Ennis drawing in with the lack of depth scoring. Ennis looked good beside McDavid and with Zack Kassian slumping, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Ennis given another shot on the top line.

Dominik Kahun5gp 0a 1a 0p 13:06ATOI

Kahun scored double-digit goals and had over 30 points in 2019-20 split between Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Kahun’s fit in well riding shotgun with Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto. I know fans want the Nugent-Hopkins-Draisaitl-Yamamoto line reunited, but playing Kahun on the Draisaitl line frees Nugent-Hopkins to play with McDavid and create two lethal scoring lines.

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Kahun doesn’t hinder the Draisaitl line. Together they’ve outscored the opposition 3-1. Kahun should stay on the second line and the points will come.

Slater Koekkoek – 5gp 1g 0a 1p 16:45ATOI

Koekkoek was a late addition to the Oilers roster before training camp. He’s been a useful depth defenceman, even logging over 18 minutes a night against Toronto and Montreal. Koekkeok hasn’t looked out of place beside Barrie and that’s well beyond what you can ask for from an $850,000 defenceman.

Devin Shore – 4gp 1g 0a 1p 10:10

The Oilers signed Shore after he attended training camp on a professional tryout contract. Shore’s been a competent NHL forward for both Dallas and Anaheim and can play center. Shore might see an increased role with both Turris and Jujhar Khaira floundering in the middle. He kills penalties and scored an especially nice shorthanded goal against the Canadiens already.