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Three Big Questions…

We’re only five days away from the expansion draft and I’ve got this nagging feeling that it’s going to be a wild couple of weeks around here, but before we get through it together, I’ve got a few big questions that I wanted to get your feedback on.

WHAT HAPPENS IF LARSSON DOESN’T RE-SIGN?

I know that most of us are kind of assuming that Adam Larsson’s extension will get signed at some point, but then I started wondering what the plan will be if that doesn’t happen? Let’s say that Larsson decides to head somewhere else as a UFA — no reason he couldn’t after all — what would Ken Holland do to fill the hole on his right side? Would the Oilers immediately circle back to Barrie and hope they can get something done at a reasonable rate to try and add some veteran flavour to that right side? I mean, this defensive group would look mighty different if the Oilers lost both Barrie AND Larsson, no? As much as I like both Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard, having only those two guys and their limited experience locked up on the right side doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for a long playoff push, does it? And I’m not saying that as an insult to either guy either, it’s just that defence is a tough position to play and it will be tough for the Oilers to take steps forward if guys are fighting above their weight class. Then again, maybe Duncan Keith’s wisdom and intangibles are all we’ll ever need back there. More on that later…

CAN HOLLAND REALLY TRADE KOSKINEN?

I think we can all agree that Mikko Koskinen is not in this team’s plans going forward, but I’ve been preparing myself mentally for a scenario where we’d be bringing back the same goaltending duo for a third kick at the can. Two days ago, Gregor wrote about the state of the Oilers and he mentioned in his predictions section that he thinks there’s a chance Mikko Koskinen can get traded this offseason:

It takes two to tango, but Ken Holland finds a trade partner for Mikko Koskinen. You hear it on the grapevine that there is a market for him. You might think I’m off my rocker for writing that, but don’t be surprised if it happens. I presume salary retention will be part of the deal.

Not only am I anxious to find out which team will want to take a swing on Koskinen, I’m equally looking forward to the #SummerOfRage outcry that comes after the Oilers will be forced to retain salary but weren’t able to get Chicago to do the same in the Keith trade. As much as I understand why people will be pissed when the Oilers have to retain salary on any potential Koskinen trade, it’s important to remember that a guy’s resume matters more in this league than it probably should sometimes. As for who takes Koskinen? Your guess is as good as mine.

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DUNCAN or DUNCAN’T?

Obviously, the biggest story of the week has been the trade that brought in future Hockey Hall of Famer, Duncan Keith, and it’s a move that leaves more questions than answers for me at this point. No, I’m not talking about why Holland couldn’t get Chicago to retain salary — everyone on the site has already talked about that already — but rather what we’ll actually be getting from the soon-to-be 38-year-old defenceman. As much as the intangibles he brings to the team and dressing room are nice, it’s also fair to wonder how much those will make a difference on the ice or even how much gas the two-time Norris Trophy winner still has in the tank despite all the talk of his incredible conditioning. You wouldn’t normally expect a guy in his late thirties to improve instead of further sliding, would you? I know the argument is that he played with weaker (greener) defensive partners in Chicago over the past few years and that playing behind Nurse could improve his fancies that have cratered recently, but until we’re actually able to see what he can do in a decreased role then a sizeable chunk of the fanbase will have their doubts.

Personally, I understand why the Oilers would want to bring a guy like this into their orbit based on his experience and what he can hopefully teach youngsters like Bear and Bouchard — I think there’s value in having experienced players showing young guys the ropes — but I’m worried that the lessons he brings for the boys won’t come close to covering the $5.54 million cap hit he carries for the next two years. I mean, there’s only so much room on the books for anchor contracts and they’re starting to pile up a little bit for the Edmonton Oilers.  I know Holland keeps bringing up the time that he traded for Chris Chelios back in 1999, but these are two completely different human beings so I don’t see how their age being the same has anything to do with what’s happening here in 2021. Not to mention, it would have been much easier to take swings on expensive vets in a world with no salary cap. No matter what happens, I’ll be cheering for Keith to play well because we desperately need him to if this ship is ever going to move forward, but I also think it’s fair to say that this is an expensive gamble for Ken Holland to make when there are plenty of other holes on the roster that need filling.