Photo credit:Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Off the Top of My Head
1 year ago
There’s been a fair amount written recently about what it might take for Edmonton Oilers’ general manager Ken Holland to get Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi inked to new contracts this coming off-season.
Can Holland sign all three? Should he? Kane, 30, is a pending unrestricted free agent with a $2.1 million AAV. Yamamoto and Puljujarvi, both 23, are restricted free agents with arbitration rights on the same $1.175 million AAV. Can the Oilers afford them? How much term do they get?
I’m not sure what the numbers will look like when it’s time to talk money, but all three are giving Holland something to think about right now. It’s been a while since the Oilers had this much depth of quality up front. How to keep everybody is a nice problem to have compared to how bare the cupboards have seen some seasons.
While all three had forgettable games in last night’s 9-5 waxing by the Calgary Flames, they had plenty of company. Kane sits at at 15-8-23 in just 27 games after having a seven-game points streak end. Yamamoto came in with 12 points in his last eight games but was blanked and has 18-14-32 overall. Puljujarvi, back in coach Jay Woodcroft’s line-up after a month out with a lower body injury, got nothing done and has 12-19-31.
MAKING IT WORK
Feb 9, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (13) plays for the rebound in front of Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are on long-term deals, so there’s cost certainty there. So, where is the money to sign these three? Do you move Tyson Barrie and his $4.5 million AAV and insert Philip Broberg ($863,333) or Markus Niemelainen ($762,500)? What about Zack Kassian? Kyle Turris and his $1.65 million AAV comes off the books. Those are stories that will played out during this off-season.
As somebody who was against bringing in Kane in the first place because of off-ice issues and questionable conduct, I’d limit any offer to him to three years. If Kane wants top dollar or more term, this isn’t the place to get it. There’s no question the dimensions he brings are a big plus. Skill, speed, toughness. Would Kane leave money on the table to stay here? We’ll see.
As for Yamamoto and Puljujarvi, we’ll have to see what their numbers are at the end of the season because arbitration is an option for them, even if it is seldom used. Both will show well in goals/assists/points. While Puljujarvi lacks finish at times, he can play up and down the line-up on the right side. He goes to the net, gets on the forecheck, retrieves pucks and opens ice for whoever he plays with. Puljujarvi has some very good underlying numbers.
The bottom line for me is I see a fit with all three of them, and for different reasons. Making the money work is an entirely different matter, and that’s up to Holland.
GOT YOUR NUMBER
Mar 24, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Derick Brassard (16) and San Jose Sharks forward John Leonard (43) battle for position during the third periodat Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
There was some consternation online when Derick Brassard was given the No. 16 jersey worn by Tyler Benson after being acquired from Philadelphia on trade deadline day. No, really. There was.
It’s no big deal, especially since Benson has played all of 36 games with the Oilers since being drafted in 2016, is it? The bigger issue for me is that between injuries and lack of opportunity, Benson barely had a sniff here after being selected 32nd overall and is back in the minors. Woodcroft had eyes on Benson first-hand here and in the AHL with Bakersfield, yet here we are.
Benson, 24, might be an NHL player one day, but I don’t think it’s going to be in Edmonton. As for Brassard, he didn’t waste any time making an impression. He scored the 3-1 goal on a lucky bounce vs. the Sharks in his debut and made it 1-0 last night. He’s got more goals with the Oilers in two games game than Benson had during his entire tenure.
Brassard, 34, is already the kind of player Benson might become one day and he looked right at home playing with Nugent-Hopkins and Puljujarvi. Brassard is a plug-and-play guy with almost 940 games of experience. That’s a significant upgrade with the team in win-now mode.
Photo: Mike Stelter
There’s no question Ben Stelter stole the show Thursday whether you’re talking about the pre-game standing ovation, his moment with McDavid, the post-game interview with Zach Hyman or a group photo taken with the Oilers in the dressing room.
Having communicated with Ben’s dad, Mike, Friday morning, he tells me Ben, who was designated Oilers’ captain for the day, is on “cloud nine.” Wins and losses, like seasons, tend to blend together after you reach a certain age, but moments like the Oilers provided Ben and the Stelter family Thursday endure.
What a wonderful, generous and big-hearted display of love for this little boy. A big tip of the cap to the Oilers organization and everybody involved. Unforgettable.
THE GO AT THE JOE
Last night was the 25th anniversary of the March 26, 1997 brawl between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena in a game that was payback for Claude Lemieux’s face-crushing hit from behind on Kris Draper.
The anniversary was marked by an event dubbed Fight Night at the Joe Reloaded at a venue just north of Detroit Saturday. Fans paid $50 to watch the game with Lemieux and Darren McCarty. Ken Holland was the assistant GM of that team, which won the Stanley Cup, before taking over as GM for the 1997-98 season.
Previously by Robin Brownlee
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