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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Summer of Rage

I knew the Edmonton Oilers’ bandwagon was upside down in the ditch on fire and that Baggedmilk would be hitting the beet juice early when his #SummerOfRage hashtag showed up right after it was announced the Seattle Kraken were about to sign pending UFA Adam Larsson.

Fueled by the crimson nectar and the revelation Larsson was on his way to Seattle, thus leaving a hole you can drive a truck through on the right side of Edmonton’s blueline, plus news GM Ken Holland was bringing back geriatric stopper Mike Smith on a two-year deal with a $2-million AAV, Milk spewed a hilarious Twitter stream of unconsciousness, as did much of the fanbase.

A week ago, I was absolutely convinced Larsson would be re-signing with the Oilers, not inking a four-year-deal worth $16 million with the Kraken. When Holland insisted Larsson wasn’t a done deal, I thought that he was blowing smoke — no need to show up the NHL’s head office by hinting a new deal was already done but wouldn’t be announced until after the expansion draft.

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Even when plugged in Frank Seravalli later suggested it was unlikely Larsson would re-sign here and the Oilers might have to circle back to Tyson Barrie, I wasn’t convinced. Obviously, a bad read on my part. What we’re led to believe is Holland had multiple offers on the table for Larsson that were as good or better in term and money than what he signed for in Seattle. In the end, it wasn’t enough to get it done. Here we are.

MAKING A MOVE

Sep 28, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson (6) against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Until we hear from Larsson, we won’t know what went into his decision to leave Edmonton for Seattle. Larsson, 28, who arrived from New Jersey in a trade for Taylor Hall, was a good honest player here. He struggled with injuries, and he also endured the death of his father, Robert, who passed away here in Edmonton at the age of 50 in February of 2018. Whether that life-altering event played into his decision to put Edmonton in the rear-view mirror and seek a change of scenery and lifestyle, I don’t know.

Whatever the reason, it was Larsson’s choice to make with UFA status pending and the Kraken having the right to talk to him. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. While his decision unquestionably pissed some Oilers’ fans off, we should take the high road, wish him well and resist the urge to take cheap shots as Larsson makes his way out of town. 

That said, I get the #SummerOfRage bit. Oscar Klefbom is certain to spend next season on LTIR, so he’s not in the picture. Caleb Jones was shipped to Chicago in the deal that brought in 38-year-old Duncan Keith. Now, with Larsson gone, the Oilers’ right side blueline has a huge hole in it that will have to be filled — maybe by Barrie. Right now, it’s Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard. Even if Holland can get something done with Barrie, his skillset does not include the grit and edge Larsson brings. That has to be addressed.

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I thought the Oilers’ blueline had a chance to be better for next season with the addition of Keith because, even on the downside of his career, he’s a better player than Jones at this point, but I wasn’t counting on Larsson going anywhere. If Holland has a Plan B or C tucked in his jacket pocket, I can’t wait to see it — some would suggest that’s giving him too much credit. It is, after all, the #SummerOfRage.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Mar 17, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) passes the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
  • I don’t have a problem with a $2-million AAV to get Smith back in the fold, but the second year is playing with fire when you’re talking about a player his age. I tweeted today I’d rather have two years of Smith at $2 million than five more years of Carey Price at $10.5 million, but that doesn’t change the reality Holland needs another goaltender, preferably somebody who at the very least can platoon with Smith this season and maybe take over as the starter the season after.
  • I don’t know if Seravalli is hiding under a desk in the NHL Player Registry or what, but he’s basically been breaking what Seattle’s draft list is going to look like all day. He’s been doing tremendous work. Between what Seravalli has uncovered and what other reporters have dug up, ESPN’s plans to televise the expansion draft tonight has essentially been relegated to must-miss TV.

Previously by Robin Brownlee