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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Waiting on Kailer

Is it possible there’s an NHL GM out there who would consider submitting an offer sheet to Kailer Yamamoto of the Edmonton Oilers? Sure, it’s possible, but it’s only slightly more likely than me ending up on the cover of GQ Magazine. In other words, it’s a “you’re saying there’s a chance” kind of thing.

With August turned to September, there’s not a lot happening on the calendar of Oilers’ GM Ken Holland, or with many of his peers for that matter in terms of player moves or signings. I’m not surprised to see speculative items circulating when a player of any note remains unsigned. Yamamoto is one of those – an RFA straggler without the ink done.

Right now, with no deal agreed to between Holland and agent J.P. Barry, Yamamoto remains a loose end. He’s a detail on Holland’s to-do list that needs to be taken care of. That’s something that’ll get done — I’m guessing without the distraction of an offer sheet, GQ calling or hell freezing over.

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Yamamoto, 22, doesn’t hold the cards, Holland does. That much has been duly documented. Yamamoto tallied 8-13-21 in 52 games last season, but he scored just one goal in his last 25 games. He’s coming out of his entry-level contract, one that held a $1.24 million AAV. He doesn’t have arbitration rights.

A FORMALITY

May 19, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Winnipeg Jets defensemen Josh Morrissey (44) follow a loose puck during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

A new deal for Yamamoto is a formality. The only question, as is most often the case in contract negotiations, is the number. I came in with a $1.5 million AAV on a two-year pact the last time I wrote about this. I’m still there. There’s no good reason for Holland to go higher. Surely, despite the generosity of some callers and texters on local sports shows in recent weeks, the top end can’t be more than $1.75 million, can it?

Going into training camp, Yamamoto is in the mix on the left side with Jesse Puljujarvi, Josh Archibald and Zack Kassian. Where he fits is up to reasonable debate. Two seasons back, when Yamamoto got on a righteous roll playing on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it seemed automatic he was on his way to being a lock in the top six. Now? Not so much.

With three weeks remaining before training camp opens, the best thing Yamamoto and Barry can do is get the ink done and eliminate any distractions well before players filter into town. Common sense says a two-year bridge deal gets it done. Spend two seasons showing Holland exactly why the next deal should include bigger numbers and a longer term. Barry knows this.

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My sense is the shelf life for stories about Yamamoto’s contract status, offer sheets included, is another week at most. After that, we’ll be down to stories about who, if anybody, Holland should bring to camp on a PTO. Yamamoto doesn’t belong in that group of players or in that news cycle. Get it done.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Fifteen or 20 years ago, I’d be on the phone to Glen Sather for what seemed like half the summer trying, often without success, to get some information about the status of contract negotiations with various players. If I knew something, I might get a tidbit, a hint. If I was fishing without a clue, guessing, no chance. No cigar.

Notepad filled or empty, the conversation was often a bit like a game of chess. Story or not, it was usually enjoyable. These days, it’s texting and Zoom – if you can even get the boss one-on-one at all. Sather, who was in Edmonton recently for the Toast of the Town fundraiser for the Care Cancer Foundation, turns 78 today. Happy birthday, Slats.

Previously by Robin Brownlee