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Oilers off-season changes are coming

Edmonton Oilers practice at Rogers Place
Photo credit:Cam Lewis
Jason Gregor
22 days ago
The harsh reality about losing the Stanley Cup Final in seven games is that within a week, some of the players will no longer be members of the Edmonton Oilers. Free agency begins in five days, and roster changes will be made.
Edmonton has 10 pending UFAs, and currently, they have just under $77.9m in cap space allocated to seven forwards, five defencemen, and two goalies. That includes James Neal’s buyout and bonus overages from Connor Brown and Corey Perry. If they buy out Jack Campbell, that would free up $3.9m in cap space and give them $74m, and they’d have $14m to sign one goalie, two D-men, and six forwards.
Mattias Janmark. Janmark is a solid bottom-six forward. He is excellent on the penalty kill and a very smart and reliable player 5×5. He wins board battles, rarely makes a mistake with the puck, and I can’t remember the last defensive zone giveaway he had. He skates well, is strong on puck battles, and is a gamer in the playoffs. I put very little stock in what his regular season analytics show, his value has been proven in the playoffs. He will bring great value with an AAV from$1m to $1.2m.
Connor Brown had a rough regular season as he tried to play while continuing to rehab his torn ACL. It was noticeable how more effective he was once he regained all of his strength, and Brown spoke about getting “the pop” back in his game. He and Janmark excel as a duo on the PK, and Brown is relentless on the forecheck and uses his stick very well to knock down passes. His offensive production last season should allow the Oilers to re-sign him to a team-friendly deal. Brown said he signed in with Edmonton because he felt they could win, and this season, they got as close as you can without winning. There is a good chance he will remain in Edmonton. His regular season stats will make it difficult for him to command a high AAV, so a one-year deal makes the most sense for him now that he’s fully healthy again. Does he do the Oilers a favour after they paid him $4m (which included $3.25m in bonuses) last year and sign a one-year deal around the $1m AAV range? I know the organization is hopeful he views it that way.
Adam Henrique. Really smart player, with good offensive instincts and finishing ability around the net. He’s an ideal third line centre with enough skill to move up and play the wing in your top six. He scored 24 goals last season and is one of the 13 pending UFAs with 50+ points, so unless he takes a “home-town discount” in Edmonton, I don’t see how they afford him. He could command $3m- $4.5m on the open market, but he’s already made $55m in his career. He went to the Cup Final as a rookie in 2012 but only played four more playoff games until this year. He knows how good Edmonton is, and at 34 years of age, I could see him opting to remain with a true contender rather than sign with who offers him the most. Would he sign for $2.5m in Edmonton? Would Edmonton make that offer?
Warren Foegele set career highs in goals (21), assists (21) and points (42). He played great in the Stanley Cup Final but has likely priced himself out of Edmonton. He had a $2.75m cap hit last season and will likely sign for more this coming Monday. I don’t expect him to return to Edmonton.
Corey Perry. My understanding is Edmonton has already discussed a one-year deal with Corey Perry. It would be around league minimum. They like his leadership and experience in the room, but his footspeed was an issue in the playoffs. If signed, I see him as the 12th or 13th forward and if needed they can upgrade his spot at the trade deadline.
Sam Carrick likely won’t return. Kris Knoblauch opted to play Derek Ryan more, and the Oilers need to upgrade the speed at their 4th line centre spot.
Sam Gagner has expressed interest in playing another season. He is a fan favourite and extremely popular in the room, but he only played two games after March 1. Would he re-sign in Edmonton, knowing he might be destined for Bakersfield again?
Vincent Desharnais. He continues to improve and develop his game. He is very good on the PK. He needs to improve his puck skills, and he has an off-season plan where puck handling and passing will be the main focus. He’s at the stage of his career where he owes it to himself to test the market and see what offers come in, similar to what Brett Kulak did a few years ago. Standing “6”7’ his size and defensive attributes will garner interest. The Oilers would like to re-sign him, but they likely can’t go any higher than the $1.5m-$1.8m range. Will other teams offer him more starting Monday?
Troy Stecher was a depth addition at the deadline, but Broberg was ahead of him on the depth chart. I suspect he will sign on a team where he is a regular in the lineup.
Calvin Pickard was a steady, reliable backup who played well when called upon. Since I expect the Oilers to buy out Campbell, re-signing Pickard to run as a tandem with Skinner makes sense. The organization knows him, he handles his role very well, and he is a great teammate. A one-year deal at $800K seems reasonable.

MANAGEMENT MOVES…

Jeff Jackson will take full control of the organization this summer as Ken Holland will not return as General Manager. He doesn’t want the commitment required to be a general manager. He’s had a Hall of Fame career and would like to spend more time with his wife and family, not to mention golfing. There have been discussions about him being a consultant, but as of today, they haven’t made any real strides to lock that down.
With Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard needing new deals before next season, the Oilers will need to shed some salary between now and next July. Cody Ceci has one year remaining at $3.25m and could be a trade piece this summer. Evander Kane has two years remaining on his deal. He has a full no-movement clause, but on March 1st, 2025 (right before the trade deadline), that becomes a modified no-trade with a 16-team trade list. Darnell Nurse has six years remaining on his $9.25m deal with a full NMC until June 1st, 2027. Brett Kulak has two years remaining at $2.75m, but will the Oilers get better value for the minutes he plays?
Jackson will be the de facto GM this summer, and I wonder if we will see a restructuring announcement from the Oilers this off-season. I also expect him to hire some of his own people in management roles. Expect the Oilers to announce a former NHL player with an offensive pedigree to be added as a skills coach, and I’m sure we will see some other people added in other hockey operations roles.
Jackson will start to put his fingerprints on the organization, both in management and the type of player he wants. The Oilers had an amazing season and came incredibly close to winning, but even if they had won, I think we would have seen similar changes this summer.
Florida lost the Cup Final in 2023 and added seven new players via free agency in July and then traded for a few more during the season. They had a solid core and changed some pieces around them, and I expect the same in Edmonton.
The Oilers are really good. They were devastatingly close to winning the Cup, and I see no reason to make any panic moves. They could use a right-shot centre with speed who can win draws, kill penalties and be solid 5×5. The problem is there are few available. Kevin Stenlund is the best option, but after the season he had and winning the Cup, he’d be foolish not to test free agency. He would be highly sought after and could sign a life-changing multi-year deal with an AAV of $2.5m or more. I’m sure some teams might view him as a third line centre on their team.
The Oilers will sign some UFAs, but they don’t have the cap space or the need to go big-name hunting. They are in a great position because UFAs want to sign here. They see how good the Oilers are, and they do not need, or should, overpay any of them.
I look for them to sign players who they feel can be good or great value contracts—similar to Jonathon Drouin ($825K) last year with Colorado. Look for players who have skill but are coming off a down year and will sign a low AAV. Forwards like Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith, Anthony Beauvillier, Tomas Tatar, Victor Olofsson, William Carrier and Tomas Nosek are options.
This will be a very short off-season. The Oilers preseason will begin Monday, September 23rd, with two games against the Calgary Flames, so Edmonton has fewer than 90 days until training camp begins.

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