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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How to prioritize the Oilers’ new cap space

wHappy Monday, Nation, and welcome to a brand new Mailbag to help you get your week started and break down what’s happening with the Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re looking at the Zack Kassian trade, Duncan Keith’s retirement, how to spend the new cap space, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

Mar 26, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1) Yves asks – What were everyone’s first thoughts about the Zack Kassian cap dump trade? Was it too much to include the second and third round picks to make this happen?

Robin Brownlee:

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There’s a price to pay to undo a bad contract like Kassian’s. Helps right now. Not unhappy about it at all.

Jason Gregor:

It wasn’t ideal, but the picks are two and three years down the road. It gives the team time to try to recoup them in other trades, but freeing up the $3.2m for the next two years without a buyout was a better option. The key is that the Oilers can’t overpay on a UFA this summer, with the Kassian money. Use it wisely.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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I think it was a slight overpay, but it was a necessary overpay. GM’s never throw each other life rafts, they throw each other anvils. I think Ken Holland did just fine in this deal, but it should be remembered that he signed Kassian to this deal.

Baggedmilk:

A necessary evil, I think. I liked Kass as a player but he produced too inconsistently to be on the roster at $3.2 million. Unfortunately, that meant he had to go and we knew it was going to take a sweetener to make it happen.

May 26, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith (2) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period in game five of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Oilers fan in Van asks – Was anyone else surprised to see that Duncan Keith was retiring? Even though he wasn’t the player he was when he won those Stanley Cups, I thought he was an effective defender for the Oilers this past season.

Robin Brownlee:

A bit surprised, but pleasantly so. Players have talked about Keith’s value beyond his on-ice play. His presence was a huge help to Evan Bouchard.

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The people who didn’t like the deal for one reason or another when it was made and who still feel that way weren’t paying attention and are just being stubborn. That said, the $5.5M in cap space will come in handy now that Bouchard has a year of schooling from a two-time Norris Trophy winner under his belt. He’ll be better for it.

Jason Gregor:

I was a bit surprised, but understand why he opted to retire. He’s had a fabulous career, and I think ending his career with a berth in the conference final was much better than the past few years in Chicago. Keith is slowing down, and he likely knew it would be difficult to maintain the high standard he holds himself to. He was a fine defender last season, but another year older and another year of training wasn’t appealing to him. This is great for him, he gets to retire when he wants, not when teams don’t offer you a contract.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Yeah, I really thought he was coming back. it sounded like he enjoyed his time here and I thought the pull of trying to win one more Stanley Cup on a team with Connor McDavid would be strong enough to bring him back. Guess not.

Baggedmilk:

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I was surprised. Even though we heard rumblings that he may shut it down, I thought he would come back for that final year of his contract.

3) Blake asks – Now that Ken Holland has some cap space to play with after the Kassian trade and Keith retirement, which are the biggest areas of need that you think will take up those extra dollars?

Robin Brownlee:

Goaltending is top of the list. It’s also worthwhile finding out what it’ll take to re-sign Evander Kane. Term will be the killer here. Will have to spend a little on the left side of the defence as well.

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Jason Gregor:

They need a goalie, a winger to replace Evander Kane (or re-sign him), and then need a veteran LD.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Go get a starting goaltender, sign Kulak, then go get a legit top-six winger. In that order. Get it done. If you have money left over, go sign Dylan Strome too. He’s good.

Baggedmilk:

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Biggest area of need is goaltending and goal-scoring. We know Mike Smith is probably going to go on the LTIR all year but who knows what’s going on with Evander Kane, and those are two major holes to fill.

Nov 12, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith (2) takes a shot on goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

4) Ed asks – The Oil gave up a 3rd rounder and a spare part in Caleb Jones for one year of Keith at $5.5M. Good deal or bad?

Robin Brownlee:

Good deal.

Jason Gregor:

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Very good deal. Jones was never making the Oilers better and the third round pick, even if they made a good pick, wasn’t helping the Oilers for five years. Sure Keith’s cap hit was a bit high, but he played well and he helped Evan Bouchard learn more about defence, and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl learned how to handle playoff pressure. His presence and words of wisdom could pay dividends for years.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Bad deal. Keith came in and gave them decent top-four minutes and was a good mentor for Evan Bouchard. That’s great. But it can’t be forgotten that he was only willing to go to a handful of teams most of which weren’t interested, and Ken Holland still paid market value. There was no reason for him to not get Keith for a bargain. None at all. It should have been either just Jones and the Oilers agreeing to take all the salary, or Jones plus the third in exchange for Keith at 50% retained. Simple as that.

Baggedmilk:

Still, I’m not too fond of the trade because there was no retained salary, but I do believe that Keith was better for the Oilers this year than Jones would have been. Remember Game 2 against the Flames? I certainly do.

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Jun 26, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Avalanche game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

5) Jess asks – All of a sudden the Oilers have some cap space to play with but plenty of holes that need filling. How would you prioritize the money (goalie, defence, forwards) since it’s unlucky that Holland gets everything done that he’d like to do?

Robin Brownlee:

Goaltending
Re-signing Kane or replacing him.
Need LD to replace Keith

Jason Gregor:

Goalie, Defence, Scoring winger

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Well, they have around $22 million in cap space. $5 million to a goalie (Campbell), $2.5m to Kulak, $3m to Yamamoto, $1 million to McLeod and let’s just say $3m to either Puljujarvi or his replacement (these are all rough guesses). Now you’re down to about $7.5 million in cap space. So, will they blow it all on Evander Kane? Or will they go try to find two players who can contribute for the same cap hit? That’s the big question. I’d say they should make sure they get a goalie and take care of the other in-house signings before looking at forwards.

Baggedmilk:

Goalie and defence both need upgrades, but the forward group will take a hit if Kane walks. Interesting summer to say the least.

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