Will the Edmonton Oilers miss Kailer Yamamoto?

Photo credit:Jason Franson/CP
Aleena Aksenchuk
8 months ago
Every year the Edmonton Oilers manage to break a few hearts when they say goodbye and announce the trade of some well-loved players, and this year that happened with the announcement of trading forward Kailer Yamamoto.
The trade ended up being what was essentially a salary dump for the Oilers, taking future considerations from Detroit in the deal that also saw Klim Kostin parting the team. By trading Yamamoto, the team had cleared up $3.1 million in cap space just one year after the forward inked the two-year deal ahead of his arbitration hearing.
Now, the question that is burning a hole in everyone’s mind: will the Oilers miss Yamamoto?
Obviously, I cannot speak for everyone, but from a fan perspective, I absolutely can understand those who miss him as he did become a fan favourite. But from a perspective more drawn to a performance-based picture and the organization’s future, maybe not so much.
There are a few things to consider regarding a player’s impact on a team and whether those impacts will leave a gaping hole in the team’s chemistry or success rates. Those considerations are performance, depth and roster balance.
So let’s start with performance. Yamamoto had a good two seasons behind him, solidifying himself as a complimentary top-six player after his breakout year in 2019-20 when he scored 11 goals and 26 points in 27 games. While in 2020-21, he scored just eight goals and 21 points in 52 games, he followed up with a strong performance in 2021-22 scoring 20 goals and 41 points in 81 games — all career-high numbers.
This past year, the forward only played in 58 games scoring 10 goals and 25 points, after dealing with an upper-body injury near the halfway point of the season and struggling further with lingering neck problems. The five-foot-eight right-winger is commonly brought up in conversation regarding size, which begs the question of if his size and injuries come hand in hand. That means the trade could benefit the Oilers long-term if he does become an injury-prone player in the future.
Aside from his size, Yamamoto has now seen his fair share in the postseason, but he doesn’t exactly stand out as a game-changing player. His ice time during the playoffs this year averaged 14:42, almost two minutes off the previous year, and that’s not all that dropped. His Corsi sat at 45.4%, quite the dip from 2021-22 when it sat at 51.5% during the playoffs.
Yamamoto, unfortunately, became the victim of circumstance and a victim of his contract, as Frank Seravalli and Tyler Yaremchuk mentioned during an episode of Oilers Nation Everyday.
Seravalli also noted that the Oilers want to see Yamamoto succeed and do well, and to do that, they had to put him in the best place possible for that to happen. Oilers general manager Ken Holland couldn’t continue to pay a player over $3-million who was only putting up 10 goals, and he seemed like a better fit as a bottom-six forward on what would have been the Detroit Red Wings, before signing with the Seattle Kraken.
So how exactly will the 2023-24 season look without the presence of Yamamoto?
Although the Oilers saw a handful of different line combinations, by the time the playoffs came to a close, Yamamoto was slotted on the right wing next to Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
This year the only remaining right wings are Zach Hyman and Derek Ryan. Ryan will most likely stay slotted in on the third line as newly acquired Connor Brown moves into the second or possibly first line depending on the performance of Hyman. Raphael Lavoie, despite not having a single minute of NHL ice time, could have his shot in the big leagues this season and fit as a fourth-line guy that is in the case the Oilers take him on the right wing, even though he played on the left side with the Bakersfield Condors. Dylan Holloway could be another option to play on the right side even though he shoots left, and this year could be his opportunity to play in the bottom six this season.
With that being said the Oilers aren’t out of options in the absence of Yamamoto, bringing Brown into the mix seems like it will prove well as Brown has proved himself in the past as a penalty-killing forward, which is an area the Oilers have struggled in. Last season Brown averaged 2:14 time on ice during a penalty kill, which is more than any Oilers player, which could make the world of a difference in the playoffs.
As a whole, it does feel like the loss of Yamamoto will be from more of a fan perspective, than an on-ice results perspective. They will miss his work ethic, which is one of a kind when he’s in good health, but this past season he didn’t exactly prove himself as a top-six staple.

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