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How much and how many?

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Photo credit:© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
10 months ago
I could be wrong, but I think fans wanting or expecting GM Ken Holland to make sweeping changes to the Edmonton Oilers roster this off-season after a second-round exit from playoffs are going to be disappointed.
First, unless Holland can get really creative in creating cap space beyond moving out Kailer Yamamoto, I don’t think he’s going to have enough money to bring in anybody significant after he’s done working out new deals for his two big restricted free agents, Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod. Then, there’s Klim Kostin. As for UFA’s, who does Holland keep from a group including Nick Bjugstad, Derek Ryan, and Mattias Janmark?
Second, I don’t see the need to make wholesale changes to a team that won 50 games and finished with 109 points before losing to Las Vegas in the second round. The Oilers didn’t get enough stops from Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell in the playoffs, but they aren’t going anywhere. They’ll get a chance to bounce back, and I think they will. Buy out Campbell? Sorry, that’s just goofy talk.
So where will the sweeping roster changes some fans want and expect come? I was listening to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug chatting with host Dustin Nielson on TSN 1260 this morning and I found myself nodding in agreement with Rishaug more than once. Where’s the money? Where’s the need for changes beyond a tweak or two?

WHAT HE SAID

“I think that not much is going to change,” said Rishaug, who followed the Oilers through their series against Los Angeles and Las Vegas. “I think that people combing through Cap Friendly to find a right-shot, unrestricted free agent defenceman, I think it’s wasted time. I think if Oilers fans are expecting significant changes to the team this off-season, or even like, a brand-new shiny top-six forward and brand-new, second-pairing right shot defenceman, I don’t think it’s going to happen. 
“I think that they’re going to try and clear some cap space that’s going to allow for some internal raises that have to happen. I think they’re going to return largely the same group that they can. I think they’re going to return the same D-group that they ended with and they’re going to avoid making any big decisions until the trade deadline.”
If Rishaug is right, and I think he is, that’s not going to satisfy those looking for more significant changes. Bouchard is going to get paid. McLeod gets a raise. What’s left after Kostin and the UFA players Holland decides to retain?
“I think it’s going to feel underwhelming for Oiler fans, I really do, especially those who think that there’s some way to bolster this team defensively,” Rishaug said. “I think the analysis will be they didn’t get near the goaltending that they needed and not to overreact on the blue line.”

THE WAY I SEE IT

Like I said off the top, I’m in agreement with the way Rishaug sees this playing out. If Holland had an unlimited budget like he did in many of his seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before the salary cap came in, he could just go get another top-four defenceman or a point-producing winger, but the cap dictates that he doesn’t. Those days are done.

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