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Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain

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Tyler Yaremchuk
11 months ago
As expected, it was a quiet offseason for Ken Holland and the Edmonton Oilers. Their biggest splash was signing Connor Brown to a deal worth just $775k this upcoming season. 
The team’s core is locked up, they’ve won three playoff rounds in the last two years, and while some people wanted Ken Holland to make sweeping change, it was never a realistic expectation.
Yes, it would have been great for the Oilers’ GM to go out and trade a first-round pick plus a high-end prospect for someone like Travis Konecny or Brett Pesce, the flat cap really hurt Holland’s ability to make a big splash.
Some people will say that Holland’s inability to make a big trade was totally self-inflicted. They’ll point to the Jack Campbell contract as the number one example of that. 
It’s totally fair, especially when you look at how flooded the goalie market was this summer. Last offseason was clearly not the time to commit long-term to a goalie.
At the same time, I don’t think buying him out and signing a $1-$2m backup was the solution either. Having eight years of dead cap space on the books would have just hurt the team way too much down the line. Think of how annoying it is that the Oilers are still paying James Neal almost $2 million a year.
Biting the bullet this summer with Campbell also opens up the door for him to have a bounce-back season and could even make his contract tradeable next summer or the summer after.
People will also say that the Oilers could have dumped Cody Ceci’s $3.25m contract and found a replacement and while I agree with the notion that Ceci was not good this past year, my counterpoint to the idea of just dumping him for nothing is: did you see some of the contracts handed out to defenseman on the free agent market?
Luke Schenn got nearly $3m, Radko Gudas got $4m, and Justin Holl’s AAV is close to $4m as well. There were some insane overpays and expecting Holland to sign a Ceci-level replacement for less than his current cap hit of $3.25m is insane. Second and third pairing defencemen got paid very well this year. It was not the time to be shopping in that market.
Finally, just because the Oilers are heading into this upcoming season with more or less the same roster, doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll head into the playoffs.
I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that this Oilers team as currently assembled is good enough to make the playoffs and contend for a division title. Holland can wait until the deadline to make another big splash, just like he did last season.
There are obviously pros and cons to doing that.
The downside is that it can be hard to predict who will be available. The other side of that coin is that obviously, a player like Mattias Ekholm could shake loose. On Oilersnation Everyday, listener Tyler Mulek loves to bring up the possibility of the Minnesota Wild having a lousy year and local product Jared Spurgeon becoming available. That might be a reach but remember, 12 months ago nobody thought Ekholm would be leaving Nashville anytime soon.
Another con is that you only get the player for the final few months of the season and some players take some time to adjust to their new surroundings.
A big pro to waiting until the deadline is that your needs are much better known. If the Oilers have a player go down with a serious injury, then they’ll need to fill that need. They would also then potentially have some LTIR space to play with making a deal much easier to make. 
If they were to trade their 2024-first-round pick and someone like Xavier Bourgeault now, they won’t have as many premium assets to use at the trade deadline.
Also, getting teams to take on a full year of Cody Ceci or Warren Foegele will be much easier to do at the deadline instead of right now. Think of last year when the team was able to just include Tyson Barrie in a deal and get rid of Jesse Puljujarvi’s full cap hit for nothing.
It’s also easier to get teams to retain money at the deadline versus before the start of the season.
If they want to go after a big name at the deadline, they should be able to create some cap space relatively easier than they could right now.
In the moment, I can understand some fans being frustrated. You have to sit and watch all these other teams making big splashes while your favourite team sits and does nothing. Think of this as short-term pain for long-term gain though.
The Oilers are staying quiet now in order to put themselves in a better spot to make a big splash or two at next year’s deadline.

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