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‘It’s going to be hard:’ Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch reflects on looming roster changes

Edmonton Oilers bench in game 1
Photo credit:Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
24 days ago
The last game of any season can be a bittersweet one.
For the players and staff, it means stepping away from the game they love for a few months to rest, relax, and prepare for the following campaign.
It also means that it’s the last game that version of the team ever plays in. The nature of the hockey business is that there’s rarely an instance in which no players are departing and no new players are coming in, whether that team was the worst in the league or the best.
In the case of these Edmonton Oilers, head coach Kris Knoblauch understands that all too well, looking at a team that has come back from the dead so many times this season.
“I’ve been proud of them all season. Even if we fell short and didn’t get to Game 7, they showed a lot of perseverance, hard work, and character,” he said Friday night after the Oilers 5-1 win in Game 6, his voice cracked with emotion. “I’m very proud to be a part of this team.
“There’s a lot of good guys, and unfortunatley, with the business it is, Game 7 is going to be my last game coaching this group. People are going to be moving on, and that’s just the nature of the business. It’s going to be hard. Just spending the time coaching this group, it’s been an real pleasure for me.”
Knoblauch knows what lies ahead for his team this summer.
The Oilers have 11 unrestricted free agents and two restricted heading into the offseason, which will come up quickly for the team. With the team having limited cap space to work with — a hair over $10-million, according to PuckPedia — they will likely utilize a buyout this summer to free up some cap space, and could just as easily look to the trade market to clear out cap space.
Jack Campbell is the likely buyout candidate for the team, while Darnell Nurse’s name has come up in the market, but a full no-movement clause could stop a trade dead in its tracks. Others from the blue line that could be moved in a trade to free up cap space are Cody Ceci and Brett Kulak.
Up front, one of two players who realistically could be moved is Evander Kane, who has two years left on a deal paying him $5.13-million, but he also has a full no-movement clause for the start of the season. On March 1st, 2025, he will submit a list of 16 teams to which he would approve a trade, according to PuckPedia. The other is Derek Ryan, who has one year left on a deal paying him $900,000. Only seven Oilers forwards are locked into contracts for next season: Kane and Ryan, as well as Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan McLeod.
It goes without saying there will be turnover in the roster. Decisions will need to be made surrounding Corey Perry, Sam Gagner, Adam Henrique, Sam Carrick, Connor Brown, Adam Erne, Mattias Janmark, Warren Foegele, Vincent Desharnais and Troy Stecher as Edmonton’s unrestricted free agents. New deals will need to be reached for restricted free agents Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg, both of whom who have had breakout performances in the Stanley Cup Finals.

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@thenationnetwork.com.

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