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Weekly NHL Rumours – Kuzmenko, Fleury and more!

Offseason transactions are really the last thing on any Oiler fan’s mind right now, but there is still a little bit to talk about. There are also some interesting storylines around the league that are worth keeping an eye on.

Starting with Edmonton. Let’s look at the rumour that prized Russian free agent Andrei Kuzmenko is reportedly leaning towards signing with the Oilers this summer. The report came from Sports Express in Russia, which is a major news outlet, but it hasn’t been confirmed by any major NHL insider, so I would take it with a grain of salt.

Still, this could be a major move for the Oilers. Let’s look at the numbers a little:

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Kuzmenko is 26-years-old and is coming off a season in which he posted 20 goals and 33 assists in 45 games for St. Petersburg in the KHL. That’s a point per game of 1.18.

The year before Artemi Panarin made the jump to the NHL, he posted 26 goals and 36 assists in 54 games for St. Petersburg. He was also only 23-years-old at the time. His points per game was 1.15.

Kirill Kaprizov posted 33 goals and 29 assists in 57 games with CSKA Moscow the year before he came over to the NHL. That was also his age 22 season. His points per game was 1.09.

So Kuzmenko actually has better numbers this year than the other two and both of them found pretty much immediate success in the NHL and are now considered star players. It’s worth noting that Kuzmenko’s point totals really jumped up this year and he never reached the 40-point mark in his other four full KHL seasons. He’s also older than both Kaprizov and Panarin were when they were playing in Russia.

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Do I think Kuzmenko is going to be a star? No. He doesn’t have the same upside as the other two players I’m comparing him to. But I do think he can come over and contribute immediately to the Oilers’ top nine. He’s only 5’11 and just under 200 pounds so he wouldn’t help in the size department, but he’s gifted offensively and you always wonder how a naturally gifted player like that could fit alongside one of the Oilers’ skilled centremen.

Here’s something random I figured I’d throw in here as well: Anton Slepyshev had 25 points in 35 games this past season with CSKA. BRING BACK ‘TONY-SLEP’!!!

FLOWERS FUTURE

Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent Allen Walsh shared a quote from the goaltender saying that he would like to play another season. This will be a fascinating story to watch unfold as we head closer to the offseason because there will be no shortage of teams interested in Fleury’s services.

I don’t think he would choose Edmonton, but the ripple effects of Fleury signing somewhere else could benefit the Oilers if they want to upgrade their goaltending in the offseason.

There’s always going to be the lingering story of Fleury going back to either Pittsburgh or Vegas. I don’t think the Penguins are a likely destination but I could see Vegas being interested considering the drama that’s currently surrounding Robin Lehner. 

I also think it would make sense for him to stay in Minnesota and sign a team-friendly deal with the Wild to help them try to win a Stanley Cup. If he does stick with the Wild, then that means GM Bill Guerin will likely have to try to move on from Cam Talbot and the final year of his deal. If Talbot is available at his modest $3.66 million cap hit, then the Oilers should be all over that this summer. Talbot can still be an impactful number one goalie in the league and a pairing of Talbot and Skinner would be very good for the Oilers next season.

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QUICK HITS

  • The Philadelphia Flyers are going to be the biggest wild card in the NHL this summer. GM Chuck Fletcher will try to flip the team back into a contender in the offseason and he has a handful of tough decisions to make. 
  • Ryan Ellis’ injury situation is also something to keep an eye on there. It sounds like no one even knows what the exact issue is. He has five more years on a deal that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million.
  • The Senators are a team to watch as well. They’re clearly itching to get some support for their young stars and I wonder if they’ll be active in free agency this summer.
  • The Hawks have big questions with both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The latter would get them an absolute haul while the former will be tougher to move, even if they retain money. They each have one more season with a $10.5 million cap hits.

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