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Photo Credit: Jason Franson/Canadian Press

Holland: Top Priority is Scoring Depth

Edmonton Oilers Gm Ken Holland had a lengthy one-hour press conference yesterday discussing his team. There are many areas to discuss, but I want to focus on what I see as the main priority for him this off-season: upgrading his scoring depth.

There are other areas to tweak and improve, and we will look at this in future articles, but today let’s look at left wing options.

I asked Holland if depth scoring at 5×5 was his main priority to address this off-season. “I would probably say so,” he said. I think most readers would agree.

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The Oilers currently have $23,859,694.00 in cap space. Thanks for PuckPedia for that exact number. I base that off of Kyle Turris being in the AHL to start next season. If he is in the NHL, then they have $22,734,694 in cap space.

The Oilers have eight forwards under contract for next season: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian, Josh Archibald, Ryan McLeod, James Neal and Kyle Turris.

Holland said a buyout is very possible this summer, and Neal could be a prime target. A Neal buyout would free up $3,833,333 for the next two seasons, and then there would be $1.91m in dead cap space for the 2023/2024 and 2024/2025 seasons.

If Neal is bought out and Turris is in the AHL, the Oilers will have $27,693,027 in cap space, and they would have to sign seven or eight forwards on top of the six aforementioned, as well as Mike Smith and two defencemen.

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Kailer Yamamoto will be signed. He doesn’t have arbitration rights. I suspect he signs a two-year deal around $1.2-$1.4m.

Jujhar Khaira, Dominik Kahun and Devon Shore are also RFAs. Shore would be an upgrade from Patrick Russell as your 12th, 13th or 14th forward. Khaira played well before his concussions, and I see him getting qualified at his current $1.3m, while Kahun would need to be qualified at $1 million.

So that is potentially nine or 10 forwards signed. I could see two of Shore, Khaira and Kahun coming back.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the major question up front. Will he test free agency or re-sign? If he signs, that fills up one of the top-six left wing spots.

For today, for more fun, let’s assume he tests free agency.

That leaves the Oilers will three left wing slots to fill.

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BEST OPTIONS…

Feb 2, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Tatar (90) reacts after scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton needs wingers with a proven track record of producing at 5×5. Their powerplay will be great, with or without RNH. Here is who I see as the top pending UFA options that could fill the left wing void as well as the right shot centre slots.

LEFT WING…

— Tomas Tatar, who turns 31 in December, would be ideal on a one-year show-me deal. He’s scored 20-29 goals in six of the last seven seasons. He’s had seasons with 16, 18, 13, 19 and 20 goals at 5×5. And he did that without playing with McDavid or Draisaitl. The other factor is I believe he will sign a one or two year deal. From 2018-2020 Tatar was 50th among forwards in points at 5×5. And he did that without an elite centre. Term is key for any free agent signing, and a short-term deal for a skilled winger would be perfect. One year at $3.75m?

— Zach Hyman. Turns 29 in June. He’s proven in Toronto he can complement elite players. Hyman is a tireless worker and he can kill penalties. He’s scored 13, 14 and 12 and nine (43 games) goals at 5×5 the past four seasons. His overall totals were 15, 21, 21 and 15 (43 games). Hyman is a good puck retriever, sound defensively and has enough skill to score when playing with McDavid or Draisaitl. He could also slide down to your third line and contribute there as well. Hyman had a $2.5m salary this season. He is a valuable player, but I’m curious what his price point will be. Can Toronto afford him? He had 33 points in 43 games. Could he command $5.5m? I think $4m- $4.5m is more realistic

— Blake Coleman. Turns 30 in November. He was on the third line in Tampa, but he can be a top-six winger. He scored 22 goals (13 at 5×5) in New Jersey in 2019 and he had 21 goals (16 at 5×5) in 57 games before being trade to Tampa last season. He scored 14 goals (nine at 5×5) with Tampa in 55 games this year. He will get a big raise from his $1.8m salary, but how much? Coleman on a four-year deal at $3.5m? Or will it take more?

— Jaden Schwartz. Turns 29 in June. His cap hit was $5.35m last season, but his salary was $4m. In the last eight seasons he has scored 55-63 points five times. He had 22 points in 33 games in 2016 before a season-ending injury. In 2019 he only had 36 points in 69 games, but then scored 20 points in 26 playoff games when the Blues won the Cup. This season his production dipped with 8-13-21 in 40 games. He could be a value contract. Does he look at a one year Tyson Barrie-like deal where he can elevate his value, or will someone give him the salary on longer term? A two-year deal at $4m.

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Here are their 5×5 stats over the past three seasons:

Player GP TOI Goals Assists Points Shots SH% Pen Drawn Hits
Tomas Tatar 198 2604:48 37 71 108 335 11 19 205
Zach Hyman 165 2438:18 35 45 80 295 11.9 30 194
Jaden Schwartz 180 2550:22 22 54 76 314 7.01 40 142
Blake Coleman 199 2553:22 38 34 72 435 8.74 41 485

And some possession numbers from 2019-2021.
(HDCF equals high danger scoring chance for. and Ozone% is % of time player starts in offensive zone.)

GP TOI CF% FF% SF% GF% xGF% SCF% HDCF% PDO O Zone%
Blake Coleman 199 2553:22 50.78 51.51 52.3 46.81 51.88 50.32 52.41 0.98 41.29
Jaden Schwartz 180 2550:22 52.59 52.48 54.0 54.26 52.37 53.81 52.9 1.001 56.85
Tomas Tatar 198 2604:48 59.43 58.77 58.9 58.68 59.81 59.34 60.93 0.999 46.27
Zach Hyman 165 2438:18 52.47 51.76 51.7 57.03 55.03 55.97 56.25 1.02 53.16

Coleman produced very good numbers despite starting in the O-zone only 41% of the time. All of them are positive players at 5×5, which is something the Oilers desperately need. Mike Hoffman might be an option as well, but he’s more of a pure offensive player. I’d look at these four players before him. I didn’t include Taylor Hall, because I expect him to re-sign with Boston.

Who do you like? Are there any other left wingers you’d want Ken Holland to pursue?

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