Off the Top of My Head: Fighting for jobs, Matthew Tkachuk, and what’s next for Kailer Yamamoto

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
9 months ago
There’s a good chance that lack of salary cap space is going to prevent Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland from getting a new deal done with UFA Nick Bjugstad this off-season. That’s already setting up some interesting possibilities down the middle.
Even if Holland can clear some cap space, can he afford to bring back Bjugstad? He’s going to get a good raise from somebody on the $900,000 he earned with Arizona and Edmonton after scoring 17 goals. If the answer is no, who are the top candidates to play in coach Jay Woodcroft’s third and fourth spots at pivot? 
Might Jayden Grubbe, the 20-year-old Red Deer Rebels captain the Oilers acquired from the New York Rangers for a fifth-round draft choice and inked to a three-year contract Wednesday, be in the mix behind Ryan McLeod when camp opens next September? A native of Calgary, Grubbe is a competitive player who’ll push, even if he has to start in AHL Bakersfield.
“I’m a good 200-foot player,” Grubbe told Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer. “I like to play physical and use my speed and skill around the net and down low. I try to pitch in wherever I can whether it’s blocking shots, killing penalties or taking faceoffs. I like to think overall I’m a good player that wants to compete hard.”
Then, there’s Noah Philp, a 24-year-old pivot who played 73 games with Bakersfield over the last two seasons after spending 2019-20 and part of 2020-21 with the Alberta Golden Bears. Might Philp be the affordable centre Woodcroft can use in the bottom six — if not to start next season, then down the road?
Philp is big, skates well and is reliable defensively. Simply put, Philp has the attributes coaches value. I don’t know if he can make the jump next season, but he has a chance. Bruce Curlock of Oilersnation has been all over Philp for a couple of years and wrote about him as recently as last week.


May 24, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
The well wishes Matthew Tkachuk and Brad Treliving exchanged in the summer of 2022 after Tkachuk decided he’d rather play elsewhere than commit long-term to the Calgary Flames were real then when he ended up with the Florida Panthers. They’re real now with Treliving officially the new GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
We know how well things have gone for Tkachuk since his sign-and-trade deal landed him in Florida. We’ll find out how things go for Treliving in Hogtown now that he’s taken over for Kyle Dubas in the big chair. What’s obvious is Tkachuk and Treliving have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. Their relationship had nothing to do with Tkachuk leaving Calgary.
“I saw on Twitter that he was going to be named, so I sent him a text right away,” Tkachuk told Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com prior to the start of the Cup final between Florida and Vegas Saturday. “He’s an awesome guy and a great GM. He’ll do great there. He did an unreal job in Calgary, so I know he’ll be great there.
“I still have a great relationship with (him). We still talk once in a while. Either he’ll reach out or I’ll reach out. He’s one of the best, most well respected GMs in hockey and pretty much could have gotten another job in hockey, pretty much any he wanted. He probably had his pick of where to go, and that’s exciting.”
What a year it’s been for Tkachuk. He’s a finalist for the Hart Trophy — Connor McDavid will win it — and he’s put together a very strong Conn Smythe Trophy bid as playoff MVP alongside teammate Sergei Bobrovsky going into the Cup final.


A big tip of the cap and congratulations to San Jose Sharks radio voice Dan Rusanowsky, named 2023 recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award Thursday.
Rusanowsky, 62, the voice of the Sharks since they joined the NHL in 1991, has put together a stellar career behind the microphone in San Jose despite some considerable drama along the way. Dan had a string of 774 straight broadcasts with the Sharks ended by a very serious car wreck near San Jose Arena Nov. 25, 2000.
Rusanowsky sustained a broken leg, a fractured pelvis, a ruptured diaphragm, cracked ribs, a collapsed lung and a severe concussion in the wreck that put him in critical condition and needing several hours of surgery. As it turned out, Rusanowsky was back on the job after missing just 24 games.
Always a friendly face with visiting media in San Jose and during his many stops in Edmonton, Dan is just a super-solid guy on top of all his great work in the booth. It’s terrific to see him honored by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association this way.

AND . . . 

  • With one season at $3.1 million left on his contract and coming off a 25-point campaign, it’s not a newsflash the clock is ticking on Kailer Yamamoto’s time in Edmonton with Holland in need of cap space. Yamamoto is an obvious candidate for a buy-out, with that costing the Oilers $433,334 and $533,334 over the next two seasons if they go that route. Might another team take him off Holland’s hands like Carolina did with Jesse Puljujarvi?

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