Happy Monday, Nation, and welcome to a brand new Mailbag to help you get your week started and break down what the Oilers got done in free agency. This week, we’re looking at the Battle of Alberta, what moves are left to do, American born players heading home, 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.
1) Kevin asks – What is everyone’s view on the Pacific Division? Who got better, who got worse?
LA adding Fiala should make their offence better.
Calgary lost two 100-point guys but replaced them with a 100-point player and a top-four, likely top-two Dman. They still have cap space to add more for one year if they wish.
Vancouver added three forwards, so their depth should be better.
Anaheim’s improvement likely comes from their young players having more experience. Not sure they have improved enough.
San Jose lost Brent Burns, a big loss, and new GM Mike Grier has added more size to his depth forwards. The new coach might have them play a more puck possession game.
Vegas lost Pacioretty and Coghlan. Their best chance to improve is simply by staying healthy after over 500 games lost to injury.
Seattle added Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand so they should have more offence, but I don’t see them contending.
Edmonton was in the Western Conference Final. Jack Campbell should play more games than Mike Smith, but will he be able to post similar numbers? Having a full season with Woodcroft and Manson, as well as full seasons for Kane and Kulak I think EDM has a good chance to finish with more than the 104 points they had last year as long as they remain healthy.
Health is such a key part for regular season success.
Too early to tell for certain. What happens with the Oilers’ arbitration cases? Do they have to move somebody to stay cap compliant? That said, I see the Oilers at the top of the Pacific. I didn’t think Kane would be back, yet here he is. Big=time bonus. More Zach Hyman. Top end looks good. Looking forward to a tandem of Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner in the crease. Might not hit Mike Smith’s highs, but can they avoid the lows? More consistency? Full season for the coach as well.
Despite the surprise of the Flames making the Tkachuk deal, they still go into the season without a replacement for Gaudreau. I can see them dropping off a bit, but not a lot. Vegas looks headed the wrong way to me. Mike Grier has work to do in San Jose. How is that blueline without Brent Burns? Don’t see Seattle or Anaheim as playoff teams, but there are unanswered questions on every roster right now.
There’s still time left but I think we have a fairly good idea of what teams are going to look like next season… Anaheim and Seattle are non-playoff teams who slightly improved but not to a playoff caliber. The Kings got better with the addition of Kevin Fiala but if they take a big step forward it’ll be because of breakout seasons from their young talent. Calgary did an excellent job navigating their situation. I don’t think they’re better than they were last season but they’re a playoff team. Vegas got worse by getting rid of Max Pacioretty for nothing. They’re starting to look like a very flawed and toxic team. The biggest wild-card for me is Vancouver. They were winning at a playoff team clip after they hired Bruce Boudreau and they haven’t traded J.T. Miller yet so they could push for a playoff spot in 2022-23. It’s not an elite division but it isn’t weak either. I think the Oilers are clearly the team to beat but it won’t be a cakewalk.
LA got better with Fiala coming in. Vegas is a mystery. Vancouver should be about the same. I’m curious about Calgary after this Huberdeau trade. Seattle will be better. Oilers’ division to lose.
2) Gregg asks – Still plenty of time until the season starts for Ken Holland to make some more tweaks, but how is everyone feeling about the roster right now? What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses you see?
Strengths are top-end skill, and their core is the same. Weaknesses are size and physicality in the 2nd and 3rd D pairs, as well as tenacity in bottom six.
Feel good about the Kane and Kulak signings. Need to see what happens with the right wingers for a start. Would like to see more edge and physicality from the blueline, but who will provide it? Does Holland have to make a trade to stay under the cap?
More scoring depth would be ideal and more depth on the blueline would be too. I’m interested to see which veterans come in on PTOs.
Worried about the RW depth. Worried about the defence. We’ll see what happens by the time October rolls around.
3) Stella asks – I thought Jesse Puljujarvi was going to get traded at the draft or early in free agency, but despite the chatter and rumours, he’s still here. If you’re offering a guess, what is the likelihood that Jesse will be back in Edmonton come October?
There has been interest, but not as much as some would think. When his contract is signed then there will be more clarity. I’d say it is 60-40 he is traded.
It should be about as likely as us being able to go one day without talking about an overpriced player who doesn’t want to be here — in other words, highly doubtful. The problem is it’s past the point of pushing for a one-year show-me deal because I don’t consider a one-year contract for $3 million in an arbitration hearing as a show-me anything. I can’t see Puljujarvi signing for less ahead of time and passing on an arb award like that. Way too much ink spent on this guy.
It seems there isn’t much interest in Puljujarvi on the trade market so the Oilers are best keeping him around on a one-year, show-me deal. Ken Holland didn’t budge the last time Puljujarvi said he wanted out and I doubt he will here either. Puljujarvi is a nice third-line player for the Oilers, so keeping him around is the best path forward.
I think he’ll get traded ahead of Friday’s arbitration hearing, and I also think the return is going to hurt. I’ve been wrong hundreds of times before, and I hope this is another one of those times.
4) Clay asks – Is anyone else disappointed with what’s happening in Calgary as the Battle of Alberta finally felt like it meant something again after years of not being particularly entertaining?
It looked that way until the Huberdeau/Weegar additions by GM Brad Treliving. The challenge for him now is to get at least one of them extended. If he does the Flames should remain competitive, and hopefully, we see more BOAs in the playoffs.
Was feeling that way before the Tkachuk trade. Still do a bit because of the edge Matthew plays with. Flames need to find a way to keep them.
The Flames did a good job given their situation. Losing Tkachuk will take some of the spice out of the BoA but I believe the Flames are a playoff team right now. But we’ll see if they opt to move Huberdeau and/or Weegar for futures during the season if they aren’t confident that they can go on a run.
I think it will still be alright now that they got Huberdeau. The question will be what happens beyond this coming season.
5) Ed asks – With the fiasco in Cowtown there has been a lot of talk about American players going back to the homeland ASAP. I can’t think of an American “star” who chose to stay in or come to or stay in Canada in the last 40 years. Chelios played for a long time in MTL but finished in Chi and Det. Should Canadian teams steer clear of drafting Americans?
Gaudreau was a 4th round pick and gave the Flames eight highly productive seasons. I wouldn’t shy away completely from drafting an American, but it can be a small consideration. Even with Tkachuk had CGY passed on they likely would have regretted it. They got a good return for him, so draft who you feel will be the best player and if they want to leave in the future, you deal with it then.
No. Are we going to use a short period of time and a handful of examples of US players going home to play as the lens for what’s happening with American players in Canada? I hope not. Is it a minor consideration? Sure. It’s something teams will face on a player-by-player basis.
I don’t think the Flames would go back and draft differently knowing what they know now. Is Calgary better off selecting Tyson Jost sixth overall because he’s Canadian?
Not worried about it. Tkachuk and Gaudreau are two guys in a sea of many.
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