Random Thoughts: Free Agency Edition

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
Now that we’re through the first couple of days of free agency, I figured that now was the perfect time to smash my brain on the keyboard and empty my brain of the random thoughts that have been rolling around.


When Zack Kassian was traded to Arizona and Duncan Keith’s retirement was broken by Pierre LeBrun, the first thing that came to mind was how the Oilers suddenly found themselves with a healthy dose of cap space. The second thing I thought about was how the hell Ken Holland was going to spend it. In my mind, I pictured max-length deals and sky-high cap hits for aging veterans that would saddle us with anchors down the line. Instead, what we actually got was a run of decent bets by Ken (Brad?) Holland on players that can help while leaving more than enough room to take care of what’s left on his in-house to-do list. If he can add in a trade for another defenceman or sign one like Mark Pysyk that can stop-gap, it would be tough not to give him an ‘A’ on the work he’s done to this point. Obviously, we’re still months away from seeing what the finished team looks like and how it will perform on the ice, but I’m impressed with what’s been done so far and wanted to give Old Dutch a shout out for serving up some crow to a bunch of us that were expecting the worst.


I said it in the Live Blog and I’ll say it again here now: I did not expect Evander Kane to be an Edmonton Oilers when the 2022-23 season rolled around. So when I woke up on Wednesday morning and saw that he had renewed for a discounted rate — he says it was a discount but I’m not so sure — I was pleasantly surprised to see that a guy that was filling the net for the Oilers this past season would be back for the foreseeable future. But now that the contract is signed, I wanna see how long we’re going to get the guy on his best behaviour over the one that had Byfuglien throwing his clothes in the shower. We’ve all read the stories from his last NHL homes and it goes without saying that this is not the kind of energy we need, making this signing and his commitment to being a ‘team guy’ all the more important. On the ice, I’m pumped to have Kane riding shotgun with McDavid again, and I hope that success includes keeping it together off the ice. Does it make sense to be cautiously optimistic? That’s how I feel about this one.


I’m going on record as saying that I’m pretty excited about having Jack Campbell aboard as our new goaltender. As much as some Leafs fans say the Oilers overpaid in dollars and term, I see this signing as Ken Holland locking in one of the best available goaltenders and paying what was needed to get the job done. Not to mention, some of these complaints feel more like taking shots at an ex over anything that really happened. Besides, most free agent signings are a little too much for a little too long, but even so, I think Campbell is a guy that will make the team better. Last season, Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen posted .915 and .903 save percentages respectively, making Campbell’s .914 — a total registered even after a disastrous run of games for him post-injury — a reasonable bet to be equal or better to what we’ve had in net in the past. To their credit, when Smith and Koskinen were at their best, both guys were very good for the Oilers. But on the other side of the coin, the lows each guy would struggle with between those flashes of brilliance were often painful, and I’m hoping Campbell’s inevitable struggles won’t be quite as punishing. Yet, as much as it’s nice for me to believe that Campbell is going to be an upgrade in net, it will be up to him to show it. And with $25 million coming his way to make it happen, I’ll be fascinated to see what how he handles the workload and the pressure of being the Edmonton Oilers’ new goalie. Welcome to Edmonton, Jack.


When word came out that Brett Kulak would be testing free agency, I was truly bummed out because I thought there was no way that more teams wouldn’t be gagging for his services. Like Kane, Kulak took some time to see what other opportunities were out there and I was worried that he’d find that the grass was greener in some other place. A mobile defender that can move up in the order, Kulak for four more years at $2.75 million is the kind of value deal that I absolutely love to see for a guy that I think can be a real difference maker. The Oilers need defencemen that can skate and defend and I have no doubt in my mind after seeing the guy play for 18 games plus the playoffs that Kulak will help the Oilers keep pucks out of their own net.


Bring it back. Do it for the memes.

Better Lait Than Never Free Agency Show

On the new episode of Better Lait Than Never, I gave my take on everything Ken Holland got done on the first day of free agency, including my surprise that Evander Kane was more than a one-and-done addition to our top six. Subscribe to Better Lait Than Never for FREE on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and wherever else you get your podcasts.

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