Montreal hosts the NHL starting today as draft-eligible players, scouts, managers, coaches, media and fans converge for the 2022 NHL entry draft. Teams will conduct some final interviews with players, talk to opposing GMs about trades today, tomorrow and Wednesday and then the first round of the draft begins Thursday evening at 5 p.m. MT. Rounds 2-7 will be on Friday beginning at 9 a.m. MT.
However, there is much more than the draft to discuss.
— It wasn’t a surprise when Darren Dreger reported that Dave Manson and Glen Gulutzan were staying on as assistant coaches with the Oilers under Jay Woodcroft. Gulutzan has overseen the best powerplay in the NHL the past three seasons, while Manson has been Woodcroft’s right-hand man on the bench for the past four seasons in the AHL and NHL (since February 10th).
Brian Wiseman won’t return as the third assistant coach, however, he is considering other options within the organization. Wiseman wants to grow as a coach, and being the third assistant for another year won’t offer him the growth he’d like. He and the Oilers are discussing the option that he becomes the lead assistant coach in Bakersfield, or possibly in player development. However, he has other options outside the organization as well. Woodcroft will be looking for a third assistant coach and hopes to have one by the end of the month.
— I can confirm that Dustin Schwartz will be returning as goalie coach. The Oilers have granted AHL goalie coach Sylvain Rodrigue permission to speak with other NHL clubs. He’s already interviewed with one team and has a second interview coming up. If he gets hired then Edmonton will be looking for a second goaltending coach, but if neither team hires him then he likely remains with the Oilers.
— Look for the Oilers to add a second video coach to work with Jeremy Coupal. Coupal does great work, but they’d like to give him more support. Other NHL teams have two and adding a second video coach to combine video with analytics would be beneficial. The organization is also discussing adding a goalie scout.
— The first buyout window opened July 1st. Buying out Zack Kassian is an option, but so is trading him. A trade likely means Edmonton has to add something to the package, and that isn’t the Oilers’ first choice. A buyout frees up $1.5m (Assuming Kassian’s replacement has a $1m cap hit) this season, but virtually none next year and then there is $966K of dead cap space in 2024 and 2025.
— Holland was very patient with Jesse Puljujarvi in the summer of 2019 and again in 2020. He never traded him away, and his patience paid off. Holland’s viewpoint hasn’t changed. He won’t just trade Puljujarvi away for a draft pick. He feels Puljujarvi has value, and that much of his struggles in the second half was a combination of getting COVID, being injured and then losing his confidence. I would agree. We’ve seen many players lose their confidence and it is very noticeable on the ice. Puljujarvi wasn’t close to the same player after COVID and his injury as he was to start the season.
It is important to remember Puljujarvi had 10-13-23 in the first 32 games until COVID. He returned and produced only two assists in 10 games. Then Woodcroft was hired and Puljujarvi produced 2-1-3 in four games before getting injured. He scored 2-6-8 from March 17th to the end of the season. He didn’t have much confidence making plays over the final few months. The Oilers might trade Puljujarvi, but Holland will have the same approach he had in 2019 and 2020. He won’t give him away, and will only trade him if he feels he is getting a player of similar quality in return.
— The Oilers would like to re-sign Brett Kulak, and right now they are discussing term and cap hit. Most contending teams are in a similar cap crunch as the Oilers. Kulak could get more from a less competitive team, so will he look for a bit more money or will he prefer to play on a contending team close to home? There is interest from both sides to find a deal. Would Kulak sign three or four years at $2.5m AAV?
— Still no decision from Duncan Keith. It is not an easy decision. Keith was solid on ice for the Oilers, but his biggest contribution might have been his words of advice to Evan Bouchard as well as his calming presence in the room during the playoffs. Walking away from the game you love is not an easy decision, and the Oilers are giving Keith as much room as he needs to make the decision. If he returns I think the odds Tyson Barrie gets dealt increase, but if Keith opts to retire, then the odds Barrie is moved decreases. I’m told Keith is expected to tell the Oilers his plans sometime this week, and by the weekend at the latest.
— Give Tampa Bay GM Julien Brisebois a lot of credit. He makes moves. He’s shown for the past three seasons he isn’t afraid to trade away prospects and picks for players at the trade deadline, and on the weekend he moved out veteran defender Ryan McDonagh to Nashville for Phillippe Myers and prospect Grant Mismash (61st pick in 2017). Brisebois met face-to-face with McDonagh to explain his plan and why he needed to move the veteran and two-time Cup champion. McDonagh agreed to waive his NMC and is now a Predator. Brisebois cleared up cap space for this season, and next year when Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak need new deals.
— I also think the Predators are hoping this deal entices Filip Forsberg to re-sign with them rather than test free agency. Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau are the two biggest potential UFAs on the market, and with nine days until free agency begins both the Predators and Flames are making pitches to keep them. It would be a major blow for either organization if their star forward opts to test the market. If they do, I wonder if this starts a trend of more high-end players going to free agency? Outside of John Tavares that really hasn’t happened in the NHL, but once a few players do I could see it becoming a more regular scenario.
— Some RFAs I’m interested to see if they get qualified:
Miles Wood needs a $3.5m qualifying offer. He only played three games last season due to injury. He is one year from being unrestricted. He did score 17 goals and 25 points in 55 games in 2021.
Dominik Kubalik needs a $4m QO. He scored 30 goals in 2020, 17 in 56 games in 2021 and 15 in 78 games this season. He is also one year from being a UFA.
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