2023-24’s Biggest Storylines #9 – Connor Brown’s Upside
Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
9 days ago
With the start of the 2023-24 season just around the corner, I’ve decided to dig in and countdown the top ten storylines that will impact the Edmonton Oilers next season.
#10 on the countdown was all about the Oilers young forwards. Today, we’re staying on the topic of the forward group for #9 on the countdown: How big of an upgrade will Connor Brown be?
It was a relatively quiet offseason for Ken Holland and the Edmonton Oilers. The biggest change to this roster came when they essentially swapped out Kailer Yamamoto for Connor Brown.
They dumped Yamamoto’s $3.1m cap hit, along with pending RFA Klim Kostin, in a deal with Detroit that saw the Oilers get nothing in return. With that saved cap space, the Oilers were able to take care of their other pending RFAs. It was an important piece of business for Holland and his staff.
With very little cap space to work with, we knew the Oilers front office would have to get creative and that’s exactly what they did when they signed Connor Brown to a one-year deal in free agency. His cap hit this season is only $775k, which will give the Oilers incredible value in 2023-24. However, once he plays 10 games, a $3.25m bonus will kick in and that bonus will affect the team’s salary cap picture in 2024-25.
So will Brown be able to make enough of an impact this year to justify all the dead cap space that the team will be hit with in 2024-25? Let’s take a look.
If we view this as purely a ‘Yamamoto for Brown’ swap in the Oilers’ top six, then I think it’s a win for the Oilers.
Last season, Yamamoto had 10 goals in 58 games, which isn’t terrible production but it also isn’t worth $3.1 million. That production also isn’t good enough when you’re put into the spots in the lineup that Yamamoto was.
Last season, he played 821 mins at 5v5. He spent a total of 346 minutes on a line with Leon Draisaitl and 216 minutes on a line with Connor McDavid. He was consistently being played in a top-six role and he just quite frankly didn’t produce enough to justify it.
I really like the kind of player that Yamamoto is. He forechecks like a demon, creates turnovers, and doesn’t mind going to the tough areas of the ice. He struggles to finish off chances in tight and in recent years, injuries have become a concern. I think he will carve out a solid career as a third-line winger who scores 12-15 goals a season, but it became clear last season that he was never going to be the top-six scorer that the Oilers needed him to be.
While I don’t think Brown is a player with 30+ goal potential, I think he’s a much safer bet to pop home 20 goals than Yamamoto.
Brown has scored 20 goals just twice with his best season coming in 2020-21 with the Senators when he popped home 21 in just 56 games. He missed basically all of last season with an injury and in the 2021-22 season, he scored just 10 goals in 64 games with the Sens.
I don’t know if I would call Brown a lock to score 20 goals, but I do think it’s more likely than not that he’ll get there. What I like about looking at his stat lines from previous seasons is that he has never been a player who scores a lot on the powerplay. His offence mainly comes at even strength and that’s something that the Oilers could always use more of.
Of course, a big reason why fans are so excited about the idea of Connor Brown joining the team is his history with Connor McDavid. The duo were teammates with Erie in the OHL and they lit the league on fire.
They played together for two seasons with the Otters and in the second year, McDavid posted 28 goals and 71 assists in 56 games while Brown had a ridiculous stat line of 45 goals and 83 assists that season. They had some really solid chemistry in junior and the Oilers are certainly hoping that they can pick up where they left off in junior.
Is Brown an upgrade on Yamamoto? I believe so. He should be able to pop home 20+ goals in the Oiler’s top six next season. Is he going to break out and score 30+? I think expecting that would be a tad foolish.
The big question will be: Was this one season of having Brown in the top six worth taking on $3.25m in dead cap space in 2024-25? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
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