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The Oilers roster looks good, but it isn’t complete

Edmonton Oilers celebrate win at Rogers Place
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
17 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers signed 13 players yesterday. They re-signed eight players within the organization, five of whom were unrestricted free agents, and brought in five new players.
It was the busiest one-day signing I can recall in recent memory for the Oilers organization.
CEO of hockey operations and interim GM Jeff Jackson, and his management team, were very busy filling out both the NHL roster and their AHL roster.
They re-signed Adam Henrique (two years, $3m AAV), Mattias Janmark (three years, $1.45m AAV), Corey Perry (one year, $1.15m AAV, with $250K in bonuses), Connor Brown (one year, $1m AAV) and Troy Stecher (two years, $787.5K AAV).
Henrique, Brown and Janmark had strong playoffs and at a combined cap hit of $5.45m they should provide Edmonton with excellent value. Brown and Janmark should both score more than four goals and their 5×5 possession numbers should be similar to last year. Brown had a rough GF%, mainly due to a lack of offensive finish, but now that he’s fully healthy and has “pop” back in his stride, I expect he will play more like the player he was in the playoffs. Henrique scored 24 goals between Anaheim and Edmonton last year, but with some new free-agent additions, his offensive totals might be a bit lower this year, but he will still be a very solid third-line centre who can move up the lineup if needed.
Stecher told the organization he wanted to stay, even though he saw them sign other depth right-shot defenders. He wanted to be in a winning organization. Stecher is the best puck mover of the three depth right-shot defenders they signed.
My original thought when I saw Perry’s deal was that his base was higher than I expected. However, he did score 12 goals in 54 games between Chicago and Edmonton last year. The concern is his footspeed in the playoffs, but his $1.15m salary means if his play falls off in the regular season, they could send him to the AHL and not count against the cap. I know the Oilers, and their core leadership group, really respect Perry’s leadership and wanted him around the room similar to Sam Gagner last season. Perry might be like Gagner and not play in the playoffs, and just be a positive voice.
The Oilers also re-signed James Hamblin (two-year, two-way deal, with $775K AAV in NHL) and re-signed both Noel Hoefenmeyer and Noah Philp to one-year, two-way deals with $775K AAV in the NHL.  Philp took last season off for personal reasons, so he likely starts in the AHL, but keep an eye on his progression. He had a really good rookie year in the AHL in 2023, and we could be in the mix for the fourth-line centre job as the season progresses.

NEW TOP-SIX WINGERS…

In the Stanley Cup Final, Kris Knoblauch mentioned the lack of offensive players to play regularly with Leon Draisaitl, and yesterday the organization decided to change that by signing Jeff Skinner and Viktor Arvidsson.
Skinner has scored the 43rd most goals in the NHL over the past three seasons with 92. His career high is 40 goals in 2019, and he’s had five 30+ goal seasons including 35 goals and 82 points in 79 games in 2023. Skinner has played 1006 games in his career and made over $100m in salary, but he’s yet to play one game in the playoffs. Once Buffalo bought him out, I mentioned he should pick a team where he had a great chance to make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup. I had Edmonton at the top of potential teams, with Tampa Bay, Dallas and Las Vegas as some other options. But no other team could offer him the chance to play with Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisaitl.
“It was my first time going through the process (free agency),” said Skinner. “It was busy and exciting, and the thing that stood out the most for me, outside of being a great hockey team, which was first on my list, but it was how interested they were. The Oilers were very consistent in their interest and made me feel that. I’ve been around a long time, and the run they went on last year is something everyone is aware of, how strong their lineup is, and it is an exciting time to be part of the organization. I’ve always been able to produce. It has always been my role, and I plan on bringing the things I do well to the team and hopefully that leads to success for all of us.”
Since entering the NHL in 2010-2011, Skinner has scored the 10th most goals in the NHL with 357. He scored 31 goals and 63 points as an 18-year-old rookie. He’s proven he can score and he ranks seventh in even-strength goals since 2011. He has more EV goals than Leon Draisaitl does over the past three seasons, and now the Oilers have four of the top 31 even-strength goal scorers in those three seasons.
Skinner’s $3m deal for one year should be an excellent value contract.
Arvidsson only played 18 games last year by produced 15 points. In his last two seasons he has 32 goals and 74 points in 95 games. Most of Arvidsson’s production comes at even strength and 5×5 as he’s only scored more than four power play goals once in a season. He and Skinner will give Edmonton’s second power play unit more punch, and maybe we see them get more than 25 seconds on a power play here and there, but Arvidsson and Skinner were signed to help bolster the Oilers 5×5 production.
Arvidsson used to be a regular penalty killer, but he wasn’t on the PK much in LA. I could see him used in the Oilers’ third penalty kill unit, similar to how Warren Foegele was used, although I suspect Dylan Holloway will get the first opportunity. Holloway might start the season in the bottom six, which is fine, as it shows how much depth Edmonton has. Knoblauch told me he plans to give Holloway a look on the penalty kill from the start of training camp. He didn’t want to put extra pressure on him late in the season on the PK, but Knoblauch does want him to have that chance next season.
Arvidsson also brings some tenacity to the Oilers. We saw him hammer his good friend Mattias Ekholm early in their round one series a few months ago. In his first presser as an Oiler, Arvidsson was asked about battling his good friend, who also pushed him to sign in Edmonton.
“He probably didn’t want to play against me again (laughs). We are competitors and that is part of the game,” said Arvidsson.
He isn’t very big, standing 5’10”, but he’s solid at close to 190 pounds and he uses his speed to help him be aggressive. He and Skinner should help the Oilers’ 5×5 scoring, although it wasn’t an issue last season finishing with the third most 5×5 goals with 193.

ORGANIZATIONAL DEPTH…

The Oilers finished their day by signing right-shot defenders Josh Brown (three years, $1m AAV) and Connor Carrick (one-year, two-way deal with $775K AAV in NHL). Brown’s contract raised a few eyebrows, moreso the term. He is a big, heavy defender, who has spent the past five seasons with Florida, Ottawa, Boston and Arizona. He is a hulking 6th/7th defender at 6’5″ and 220 pounds, but three years surprised me. They want him to replace the size of Vincent Desharnais, although I’m not sure how often he will play to be honest.
Right now, the Oilers have the six defenders who played in the Stanley Cup final still on the roster in Evan Bouchard, Mattias Ekholm, Darnell Nurse, Philip Broberg, Brett Kulak and Cody Ceci. Throw in Stecher and Brown could be eighth on the depth chart. He had Stecher are vastly different players. Stecher is a very good skater and puck mover, while Brown is a big, banging D-man who can kill penalties. We could see them rotate between Bakersfield and the seventh defence spot. Carrick will likely start in Bakersfield and gives them another veteran AHL defender with NHL experience.
They also signed veteran goalie Colin Delia to a one-year, two-way deal. He will play in Bakersfield, and I sense they want to give Olivier Rodrigue the majority of the starts and see how he handles it. He’s really improved the technical aspect of his game the past two seasons, but now they need to see how he handles an increased workload. He’s played 15, 29 and 37 games the past three seasons and this season it would be good to see him closer to 48 starts and be the main starter.

ROSTER NOT COMPLETE…

Currently, the Oilers are over the $88m cap hit with a salary totalling $90,454,167 and they still need to sign Philip Broberg and Holloway. Neither have arbitration rights, so unless the Oilers sign one of them long-term, their combined salaries will be between $2m-$2.5m.
The Oilers need to clear cap space, but they’d need to shed close to $5m to get under $88m. The other option might be to start the season with Evander Kane on LTIR.
Jeff Jackson said this about Kane’s health yesterday:
“He was going through an issue with his hip. We are going through the process to see what will occur and he is getting the best care and advice from our doctors. We will discuss options with him and his agent (Dan Milstein) and get second opinions. That is where we are at, and nothing is planned (surgery) at this point.”
Kane had said he was dealing with a sports hernia, which isn’t actually a hernia. The proper term is athletic pubalgia and it is an injury to a tendon or muscle in your lower abdomen or groin that causes chronic pain. They are often caused by repetitive and forceful twisting of the pelvis.
Jackson mentioned it was actually Kane’s hip that was giving him issues. We will find out how serious it is, but if he requires hip surgery, I don’t see how he’ll be ready for training camp, which opens up in 78 days. The start of the regular season is in 98 days. It is possible Kane doesn’t require surgery, as athletic pubalgia is treatable with physical therapy, medication and/or surgery. Surgery is always the last resort for players. You’d much rather try to rehab and heal an injury without surgery, like McDavid did with his knee a few years ago.
The Oilers roster looks good on paper, but they will need to make a move, either LTIR or trade before the season begins.
I won’t be surprised if they alter their blueline closer to the trade deadline, rather than this summer. I think the Oilers blueline can improve internally as Broberg gains more experience, and Darnell Nurse is capable of playing better than he did post-All-Star break. I suspect they will use the first 50 games to evaluate their blueline, but more so to see which defenders become available closer to the trade deadline.
The year the Oilers acquired Mattias Ekholm, he wasn’t available in the summer and wasn’t available at Christmas that year either. The Predators made him available right before the trade deadline and the Oilers made a push for him. I see them charting a similar path. Cody Ceci is a UFA at the end of the season and including his $3.25m in a package with picks/prospects at the deadline would seem plausible.
Regardless of what happens over the next two months, the Oilers have to look at free agency as a big win as they retained the players they wanted and added two key forwards.
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