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Off Season Chatter

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Photo credit:Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
7 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ off-season has been, as expected, fairly quiet with player signings. Connor Brown, Lane Pederson and Drake Caggiula were new arrivals. Kailer Yamamoto was traded. Nick Bjugstad, Devin Shore, Ryan Murray, Slater Koekkoek, Mike Smith and Oscar Klefbom weren’t re-signed. Smith and Klefbom’s expiring contracts will allow the Oilers not to start the season in LTIR, assuming no major injury occurs between now and the start of the season, which means the Oilers will accrue cap space during the season and gain some salary cap flexibility for the first time in a few seasons.
The biggest acquisition was signing Jeff Jackson as the new CEO of Hockey Operations, while Bob Nicholson moves into an advisory role.
The Oilers rather quiet off-season wasn’t surprising. Ryan McLeod was going to get a raise and he did when he avoided arbitration and signed a two-year deal with a $2.1m AAV. Evan Bouchard, who doesn’t have arbitration rights, is still negotiating his deal. He is in a similar spot as McLeod was last year. He doesn’t have much leverage, although he does have some recent signings in Bowen Byram ($3.85m AAV) and K’Andre Miller ($3.872m AAV) that he and his camp will use as comparisons. The Oilers have just over $4.282m in cap space. If they sign Bouchard for $3.8m they will have to start the season with a 21-man roster.
If Bouchard signs for $3.5m then the Oilers would have room to add another player at the league-minimum salary of $775K and carry a 22-man roster. But they’d only have around $7,000 in cap space which wouldn’t allow them to accrue much during the season. The Oilers could play hardball with Bouchard and offer him $3m to make sure they can accrue cap space, but there are risks with that. He might not sign until after the season starts, and very few players perform well when they miss training camp and the first month of the season. The most plausible scenario is Bouchard signs for at least $3.5m and is on the ice for day one of training camp.
Right now, the most intrigue surrounding the Oilers is about professional tryouts. Brandon Sutter signed a PTO last week. He hasn’t played for two seasons as he battled long COVID. In February, at an event, I spoke with his father Brent Sutter. At that time, Brandon was feeling better, and starting to work out again. They weren’t sure if he would be able to play again, but the goal was to at least give himself a chance to see if he could. It is great news that he is feeling better and will now have an opportunity to see if he can play in the NHL again.
Sutter has played 770 NHL games over 13 seasons. He battled injuries and COVID in his last four seasons playing 61, 26, 43 and 44 games from 2018 to 2021. If his cardio is back to normal, the 6’3″ right-shot centre should push Lane Pederson for the fourth line centre job. Between 2015-2021 there were 89 centres that took at least 4,000 faceoffs. Sutter’s 52.9% rate was tied for 29th. The Oilers could use a right-shot centre who can win draws, but they need one who can contribute more than just winning draws and Sutter will have training camp and preseason to show he can.
The Oilers play eight preseason games.
  • Sunday, September 24 – Winnipeg @ Edmonton, 4 p.m. MT
  • Monday, September 25 – Edmonton @ Winnipeg, 6 p.m. MT
  • Wednesday, September 27 – Vancouver @ Edmonton, 7 p.m. MT
  • Friday, September 29 – Edmonton @ Calgary, 7 p.m. MT
  • Saturday, September 30 – Edmonton @ Vancouver, 7 p.m. MT
  • Monday, October 2 – Edmonton @ Seattle, 8 p.m. MT
  • Wednesday, October 4 – Calgary @ Edmonton, 7 p.m. MT
  • Friday, October 6 – Seattle @ Edmonton, 7 p.m. MT
I could see Sutter playing three or four of the first five games. Both he and the Oilers will want to see how his body reacts to playing every second day. They might even have him play on the 29th and 30th just to see how his body responds.
The Oilers will likely have another player or two in camp on a PTO. I was told by two sources within the Oilers who said they’d heard nothing about a Nolan Patrick PTO. It would be great to see him have an opportunity to restart his career, but as of today there wasn’t anything to that rumour.
Sam Gagner, however, is interested in a PTO. Gagner feels great after his hip surgery. He believes he can help. He and the Oilers haven’t agreed to a PTO yet, but there have been discussions.
There are some other players the Oilers would gladly invite on a PTO, but they are younger UFAs, who are still hoping to sign a contract in the next 38 days before training camps begin. Players like Max Comtois, Noah Gregor, Nick Ritchie, Zach-Aston Reece, Tyler Motte, Brett Ritchie, Danton Heinen, Adam Erne, Joel Kiviranta, Jujhar Khaira and Colin White. They range in age from 24-29. I’d guess at least half, if not more, will sign a deal before training camp, but some will have to show up at a training camp on a PTO and earn a contract.
The Oilers are an attractive team to sign a PTO with if you are a bottom-six player. The team is good, and the 12th forward spot is up for grabs. Any forward who signs a PTO with the Oilers would know the best-case scenario would be signing a league-minimum deal. The Oilers don’t have cap space to offer more.

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