Free agent defenceman Ethan Bear is hoping to return to the NHL in late December

Photo credit:© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
6 months ago
A former Oiler could be back by the end of 2023.
Patrick Johnson of The Province recently released an article about how former Oiler Ethan Bear aims for a late-December return from shoulder surgery. This begs the question, could the Oilers look to have a reunion with the right-shot defenceman?
Bear was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by the Oilers. Touted as a puck-moving blueliner who could quarterback a power play, he had some success with the Seattle Thunderbirds during his career in the WHL, including winning the league’s award for top defenceman in 2016-17.
The right-handed defender made his NHL debut in 2017-18, playing 18 games with the Oilers and picking up a goal and four assists. He played his first full season in the NHL in 2019-20 and was crucial in Edmonton’s return to the playoffs after missing the previous two years. Bear had five goals and 21 points, both of which are still career-highs.
Bear regressed during the shortened 2021 season as he was incredibly unlucky. In February, he was hit in the head by the puck when he was sitting on the bench and dealt with concussion issues for a few weeks. He only scored two goals and eight points in 43 games that season.
The Oilers dealt Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes for Warren Foegele the following off-season, a trade that Edmonton most certainly won. Bear had a tough season with Carolina in 2021-22, as he dealt with long-COVID symptoms that kept him out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
He was once again on the move early in the 2022-23 season, as the Hurricanes traded him and Lane Pederson to Vancouver for a draft pick. With Vancouver, Bear had his best season since his 2019-20 breakout, as he scored three goals and 16 points across 61 games.
After sustaining a shoulder injury playing for Canada in the World Championships in the spring, Bear went under the knife to have the issue repaired. The Canucks opted not to qualify Bear at the $2.2 million figure he was due for in the summer as a restricted free agent and he’s been on the open market since. 
So, what would a contract with the Oilers look like? As you may know, Edmonton doesn’t have much cap room remaining, so Bear would have to make around the league minimum to sign with Edmonton. It could also potentially be a two-way deal, so that Bear can find his game in Bakersfield before positioning himself as a late-season call-up to help Edmonton push for a playoff spot.
While he’d make a lot less than what he would have if he re-signed with the Vancouver Canucks, signing a minimum league deal with a contender allows him to show off his game for a chance at a bigger contract after the season ends. Heck, I’m nearly positive he’d already be on the roster, likely filling in for Philip Broberg.
It’s to be seen which team Bear elects to sign with, but the familiarity with Edmonton could help the Oilers sign him to a deal for the rest of the season.


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