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News and Notes: Johnny Gaudreau signs in… Columbus?, Edmonton Oilers win free agency, Connor Brown to Washington and more

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
4 months ago
What a day it was.
And hours after the Oilers wrapped up deals with Evander Kane, Jack Campbell, Brett Kulak, Calvin Pickard and Greg McKegg, the biggest free agent shoe dropped.
Johnny Gaudreau signed a contract in… COLUMBUS?!
That’s right, Columbus. He inked a seven-year deal carrying a $9.75-million cap hit.
This is, without a doubt, one of the wildest free agency signings I’ve ever seen. Gaudreau left the Flames to move closer to family on the east coast, but I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed Columbus as the place he signed. There are so many questions that need to be answered.
Why Columbus? Why not New Jersey? What happened with talks on the Long Island? Why wouldn’t Philly use their first-round pick to trade James Van Reimsdyk to clear space for Gaudreau?

Oilers free agency winners?

There is no denying how great of a first day the Oilers had. Kane and Kulak came back on team-friendly deals and the Oilers got some nice work done bringing in Jack Campbell. Daily Faceoff’s Matt Larkin listed the Oilers as a winner:
Just 10 days ago, as part of our Daily Faceoff Roundtable, the panel members ruminated on which GMs were under the most pressure this offseason. I chose Ken Holland. The Oilers, I surmised, had so many question marks. Could they hold onto Evander Kane? Find a new No. 1 goaltender? Cross their fingers and hope for a Duncan Keith retirement and Mike Smith LTIR stash? Find a way to re-sign underrated blueliner Brett Kulak?
If you had told me then that the answer to all those questions would be “yes” within less than two weeks, I would’ve laughed. Hats off to Holland, who managed to lock up Kane, one of the sport’s top power forwards when emotionally committed, on a four-year contract at a reasonable AAV of $5.125 million. He produced as a true front-line scorer upon joining the Oilers last season, tallying 35 goals in 58 games between the regular season and playoffs, forging some real chemistry with Connor McDavid.
Holding on to him, not to mention Kulak, means the Oilers have strong odds of retaining the gains they made in 2021-22, when they upset the Calgary Flames in Round 2 of the playoffs and reached their first Western Conference Final since 2005-06. Securing a new No. 1 netminder in Jack Campbell makes things even more interesting. Campbell occasionally struggles with his confidence and has his detractors, but he was good more often than not as a Toronto Maple Leaf and there’s no shame in losing to Carey Price and Andrei Vasilevskiy in consecutive postseasons. At worst, Campbell should be able to stop pucks as well as a 40-year-old Smith did this past season. The Oilers are positioned as arguably the top contender to win the Pacific Division next season given the massive pendulum swing of Gaudreau leaving the Calgary Flames.

Connor Brown sent to Washington

There were more than a fair share of rumours that circled the Edmonton Oilers and Connor Brown. It’s been long reported that the Oilers could have interest in the forward and those talks intensified Wednesday. Bob McKenzie had reported earlier in the day that Brown was “soon likely to be an Oiler.”
But things clearly changed somehow, as the Capitals jumped forth with a 2024 2nd round pick for the winger. Edmonton mustn’t’ve been comfortable moving that draft capital.
The search continues for more bottom-six help.

About the money…

After day one of free agency, the Oilers sit with $1.318-million in cap space. They have to sign RFA’s Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod and Jesse Puljujarvi and could a few more depth pieces.
Something’s got to give.
I think it lines up for both of Tyson Barrie and Warren Foegele to be dealt, solely for cap purposes. Both should have some value and be able to recoup the Oilers some draft picks, while a Barrie deal could see Edmonton try and get a prospect back, too.
Things are just getting started in Oil Country.

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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