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What’s left on Ken Holland’s checklist?

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
3 months ago
Oilers GM Ken Holland has been a busy man this summer. From bringing back key pieces like Evander Kane and Brett Kulak to improving the goaltending by signing Jack Campbell to a long-term deal, Holland has checked a lot of important boxes over the last two weeks.
More recently, he even found common ground with Jesse Puljujarvi’s camp and avoided arbitration with the young winger. Another sign of Holland’s patient approach paying off as he help onto Puljujarvi and didn’t just trade him for the best possible offer at the NHL Draft, which looked like it was going to happen.
There usually aren’t that many big moves made in the month of August as most GMs have more or less set their rosters and are finished making massive changes but there are still a few things that Ken Holland will need to get done over the next few weeks.
First off, they need to get their final two RFAs signed. Ryan McLeod’s situation seems pretty cut and dry. The forward will likely be back on a one or two-year deal worth $1-$1.25m.
Kailer Yamamoto is scheduled to have his arbitration hearing heard on August 7th but, like Puljujarvi, there is always a chance that they settle before. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the club and Yamamoto agreed on a two or three-year deal that would bring the 23-year-old closer to unrestricted free agency. 
Assuming McLeod comes in at exactly $1m and the team puts both Smith and Klefbom on LTIR, Ken Holland will have around $2.4 million. They could take Slater Koekoek off the roster and replace him with a cheaper option but that still likely won’t give Holland enough money to sign Yamamoto.
It sounds like Holland will still need to make one more trade and there are three prime candidates for that.
Let’s start with Warren Foegele. The 26-year-old has two more years left on a deal that carries a cap hit of $2.75m. If the Oilers moved it, they would have enough money to sign Yamamoto and probably another veteran free agent. 
Trading a younger player who’s coming off a down season is never ideal, and I think Foegele will bounce back next season whether it’s in Edmonton or not, but he may just be an unfortunate cap casualty.
He still scored 12 goals last season in a bottom-six role and I think he could be a 15-18 goal guy next season with an improved bottom-six on the team. If he can be a strong physical presence more consistently and improve his scoring, then he could be a valuable member of the Oilers’ bottom six. At the same time, another team may look at him the same way I do and could be willing to take a flyer on a young winger who still has some upside.
He should be a relatively easy contract to move considering there are still two teams, Anaheim and Arizona, who looking to get to the salary floor and six other teams (Sabres, Stars, Islanders, Senators, Blackhawks, Red Wings) with over $10 million in cap space.
The other name that could be moved is Jesse Puljujarvi. Now you might be thinking, well they just signed him, so why would they trade him?
Based on the reports we’ve been seeing all summer, the main sticking point in many of the Puljujarvi trade negotiations was his pending arbitration case. Now that it’s taken care of and teams know exactly how much money he’ll be making next season, he may be a more attractive asset.
If the Oilers move on from Puljujarvi and bring back a player making, say, $2 million, then they should have enough money to sign Yamamoto and they won’t lose a roster piece because they would bring someone back in the Puljujarvi deal.
Like the Foegele trade, I don’t think it’s wise to move a young player whose value is at its lowest. In this case, Puljuarvi is younger, had a better season, and has way more upside. Moving him is very dangerous.
The final option is to trade Tyson Barrie. His cap hit is the highest of the trio at $4.5 million and considering the fact that he currently sits third on the depth chart when it comes to right-shot defensemen, I think a trade would make a lot of sense. 
The only part that would make this difficult is that you would need to replace Barrie if you trade him. You could go the cheap route and sign a veteran d-man like Kris Russell or Calvin De Haan to take that spot on the roster, but that wouldn’t make your blueline better. As much flack as Barrie got over last season, his play really seemed to turn around when Brett Kulak joined the team and having them as a pairing could be really valuable to the Oilers.
The blueline situation is complicated right now and it’s the number one area that Holland must improve. Moving out Barrie, without having another move in his back pocket, wouldn’t make the Oilers better.
It really does feel like Holland will be forced to move one of Foegele or Puljuarvi in the next few weeks and honestly, it feels like Puljujarvi may be the most likely candidate.
I also think the Oiler GM would be wise to go out and sign a veteran defenseman in free agency regardless of what they do with Barrie. If they free up enough money, they could definitely sign one of De Haan or Russell, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. I do think they need more competition in training camp and they can’t just hand a roster spot to Philip Broberg.
So, in short, here is the checklist I’ve put together for the remainder of Holland’s summer:
  • Sign both Yamamoto and McLeod
  • Trade one of Puljujarvi, Foegele, or Barrie
  • Sign a veteran defenseman 
What’s on your checklist? Let me know!

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