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Monday Mailbag – What do you expect from the Oilers in free agency?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
15 days ago
Happy Canada Day, friends! Welcome to a free agency/NHL Draft edition Monday Mailbag, where I take your questions and send them off to the crew for their thoughts. This week, we’re discussing winners and losers from the draft, the Oilers’ free agency plans, the Ken Holland era, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk , and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
Jun 24, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Edmonton Oilers look on after the defeat against Florida Panthers in game seven of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
1) Mike E. asks – How big a deal was Florida having home ice in the Stanley Cup Finals? Do you think the Oilers securing home ice throughout the playoffs could be the difference-maker next year?
Jason Gregor:
History says it is an advantage as the home team is 13-5 in Game 7 of Cup Final. I think it was a factor, but not the major factor. Ideally, the Oilers would secure home ice in more than one round next year.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
No, I don’t think it would have made a difference. It’s always nice to have, but would the Oilers have erased a 3-0 deficit if they didn’t have Game 6 at home? We’ll obviously never know but I don’t think simply having one more game at home would have swung that series. Home ice is always a plus, but never a deal breaker for me.
Zach Laing:
As Gregor mentioned, the numbers show home ice advantage is a thing. That being said, the Oilers were close enough to winning Game 1 on the road and that could’ve changed how the rest of the series played out.
Baggedmilk:
I think it probably would have made a little bit of difference since the Oilers would have had the last chance, but ultimately, they only scored one goal in Game 7 and it’s pretty tough to win with so little offence. If anything, being in that building, the Oilers looked like they were out of gas and the Panthers did a great job of choking them out.
2) Clay asks – How would you describe the Ken Holland era as GM of the Oilers? What were his best and worst moves over the last five years?
Jason Gregor:
He led the Oilers back to relevancy and being a top team. He brought stability to the organization and there was much less drama with Holland in charge. He made more good moves that bad moves and the Oilers were one game from winning the Cup. How anyone can say he wasn’t a success is beyond me. Edmonton has played the 2nd most playoff games the past three years. Winning is never guaranteed. GM can’t control injuries and like Florida last year v. Vegas, EDM was the most banged up team in the final, and that played a role.  His worst acquisition was the Jack Campbell contract. His best was Zach Hyman.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I gave him a C+ grade. There were some great moves like the Hyman contract and the Ekholm deal but there were some really tough moves as well. The Kassian deal was awful, the Nurse deal isn’t looking great, and the Campbell contract was a disaster from the jump. They didn’t draft great either. One Stanley Cup Final appearance isn’t enough for me to give him a B grade.
Zach Laing:
Complicated. On one hand, he hit some grand slams in bringing in Zach Hyman and Mattias Ekholm, as well as extending Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. On the other hand, he ground into more than his fair share of double plays. His record on other contracts wasn’t great, considering the likes of Zack Kassian and Jack Campbell were a cap dump and a buyout. He blundered the Duncan Keith trade with the soon-to-follow Darnell Nurse extension, and had multiple other misses over his time. Nonetheless, he assembled a team that got to the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals this year, and over his tenure, the Oilers played the sixth-most playoff games. That has to count for something.
Baggedmilk:
It was a very mixed bag for me. Holland made some fantastic moves like the Hyman signing and the Ekholm trade, but he also had some really tough moments such as the Nurse contract, Kassian contract, Campbell contract, and inability to shore up the defence. By no means do I think he was a failure, but I also think you’d be hard pressed to find many fans that thought he was perfect.
Jun 21, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) during the warmup period against the Florida Panthers in game six of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place.
3) David O. asks – With the season over, if you could give truth serum to one member of the Oilers organization and ask them one question: who would it be, and what would your question be?
Jason Gregor:
Interesting question…lots of options.
I’d ask McDavid how much is core/oblique injury impacted his ability to shoot and did he re-aggravate late in Florida series?
Tyler Yaremchuk:
It would absolutely be Ken Holland. Who else were you close to trading for? How much control did you have over the Woodcroft firing and the Knoblauch hiring? I want the tea on a potential Draisaitl extension! There are so many things I’d like to know.
Zach Laing:
It would be to any member of the front office who could explain why Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci got so much runway together, and why no move was made at the deadline to upgrade over Ceci.
Baggedmilk:
Leon Draisaitl and Jeff Jackson. How much is it going to cost and when can we get this extension done. I’m tired of the noise.
Jun 21, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Connor Brown (28) skates against the Florida Panthers during the second period in game six of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
4) Yves asks – The Oilers obviously have limited cap space to play with, but I’d like to know what everyone expects from the team in free agency?
Jason Gregor:
They will re-sign at least three of their own UFAs. They buyout Campbell to create cap space. Then they sign UFA veterans to lower AAV deals to fill out the roster. I won’t be shocked if they move one roster player to free up a bit more cap space.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
One mid-priced winger and a depth defenseman. Low expectations but like you said, they’re cap strapped and a lot of pieces on the roster are already locked in.
Zach Laing:
It’s all going to depend on how much cap space they clear. Do they move Evander Kane, Cody Ceci or Brett Kulak? If none of those three move, my expectations beyond re-signing some of their depth guys are pretty much non-existent.
Baggedmilk:
I don’t expect anything, to be honest. I bet they re-sign Connor Brown and Mattias Janmark, but ultimately don’t do a whole lot else until they can clear some cap space. We’ll see.
Mar 12, 2024; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Connor Bedard (98) salutes the crowd after being name First Star of the game against the Anaheim Ducks at United Center.
5) Brayden asks – We’ll be through the draft when the Mailbag goes up, and I want to know who everyone’s winners and losers were from this year’s NHL Entry Draft?
Jason Gregor:
I don’t know enough about players after the top-15 to really have an informed opinion. I’d say San Jose was biggest winner because they got the best player (doesn’t mean he will be in 7-10 years), and a very good D-man in Dickinson. They had four picks in the first 53, so the odds are in their favour they should get some legit NHLers.
Tampa didn’t pick until the 4th round (pick 118), and that puts them behind every team, simply based on odds and history.
We won’t know for at least seven years, and maybe longer, how the overall draft class will do.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I love what Montreal did. Demidov could be an absolute star and the Michael Hage pick was solid value from what I’ve read. Sharks did good with their two picks but that’s pretty obvious. I don’t have a loser. Too early.
Zach Laing:
I’ll be honest when I say I know very, very little about prospects. It’s not my cup of tea. But according to Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis, the San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames all got an A+ grade with the three best drafts. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars (?), and Winnipeg Jets all had the worst drafts, with C- grades.
Baggedmilk:
Hard not to give Chicago props for picking three times in the first round. They’re stacking their prospect shelves quite quickly, and it won’t be long until that franchise is back to being competitive.

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