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Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg and how Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland views their future

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Photo credit:Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
8 months ago
It should be an exciting offseason for the Edmonton Oilers as lots have been made and will continue to be made about the club making defensive improvements ahead of next season.
It’s always possible those come externally, but the truth is that there are a number of players on the team — up front and on the back end — whose games can improve.
Next season it’s expected that the evolution of both Evan Bouchard and Phillip Broberg’s game will continue. Bouchard quieted the doubters in terms of his ability as a top-four defenceman and is a candidate to play on the top pairing next season with either Darnell Nurse or Mattias Ekholm. He’ll continue to see big minutes on the Oilers powerplay unit and his offensive production will surely continue.
Bouchard is an RFA this offseason and as noted by The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman, there’s always a possibility that a young puck-moving, offensive defenceman like him could be offer sheeted. The Oilers don’t appear overly concerned about that, however, even though the truth of the matter is that the team couldn’t match a predatory offer sheet without undergoing surgery to make it happen.
Nugent-Bowman noted in an article Friday that Bouchard is likely to re-sign with the Oilers on a one-year deal in the range of $3-million. This makes sense for both parties as the salary cap is expected to grow significantly following the upcoming 2023-24 season. Bouchard, meanwhile, will be able to get a nice pay bump from his entry-level pact and can cash in on a long-term contract with the club next year.
With CapFriendly projecting the salary cap rising $4-million for that season, the Oilers are — at least as of today — projected to enter the offseason with $19.083-million in cap space. That number will of course change as the Oilers tweak things in the next three weeks, but the Oilers will likely find themselves in that range.
Broberg, meanwhile, needs to take a big step forward in his game. He’s played limited minutes during his 69 NHL games — 46 of which came this season — and averaged 12:36 time on ice per game this past year. He had positive impacts on the ice providing offence at a three percent rate above league average and defence at a five percent rate above league average, according to Hockeyviz.com. Those are strong numbers, albeit in a limited amount of ice-time and against weak competition.
But even still, it’s important that no matter the competition a player faces, they need to control the pace of play and help move the puck up the ice to the offence. That can be done through a number of means, and we saw Broberg take steps in his game.
He’s got the potential to step into a bigger role with the Oilers this year and there’s a world where it makes sense having him in a top-four role at some point this season.
Oilers GM Ken Holland recently spoke with Nugent-Bowman, where he spoke at length about both Broberg, and Bouchard’s game.

On Bouchard, his contract, and conversations with his camp

“We’ve talked two or three times. We’ve got work to do. We’re challenged. We’ve got to find a solution.
It looks like the salary cap’s going to move next year. Then, I’d think it would start to go up like it was before — $3 million to $5 million every year. I’m going to my fifth year as the manager of the Oilers. The first year I was here, the cap was $81.5 million. Five years later, the cap is $83.5 million.
In that time, (Kailer) Yamamoto wants a raise, and (Jesse) Puljujarvi wants a raise. Bouchard wants a raise. (Ryan) McLeod wants a raise. Skinner wants a raise. (Darnell) Nurse wants a raise. We trade for Ekholm. We sign (Zach) Hyman. We re-sign Kane. Things are tight. Money is tight. It’s a salary-cap world.
We found a solution a year ago with McLeod on a one-year deal. I’ve got to find a deal that works for the Bouchard camp and works for the Oilers.
He’s a big part of our team. He runs the power play. I traded Tyson Barrie away. I’ve got to work with his agents to find a solution that he’s comfortable with. He’s not signing anything he doesn’t like. I’m not signing him to anything I don’t like.”

On Broberg and his role with the club moving forward

“I’ve been talking to Jay Woodcroft about him. I believe Jay Woodcroft, Dave Manson and I all think he has the potential to be a top-four guy. Now, saying all that, you’ve got to play. To play better, you’ve got to play. When you’ve got Darnell Nurse on the left side, and Ekholm, and Kulak, they’re pros. It’s a dilemma.
I don’t really have an answer for you right now. That’s what I’ve got to sort out in the next couple of weeks. But being in the seven hole, playing five minutes, I don’t know that that’s doing much for his development and growth as a player. He needs to play 15 to 20 minutes.
That’s the downside. The upside is it sounds like we’ve got a pretty good defence. Those aren’t bad problems. Those are good problems. Over 82 games, you probably need seven defencemen, and everybody gets their ice time. But he needs to get in the lineup every night. He needs to play every night and feel important. That’s how young people grow.
I feel really good about our left-side D. He can play right. I think he’s most comfortable on left. Broberg’s development and growth weighs on my mind on a regular basis.”

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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