On Wednesday afternoon, the Oilers announced that the team had re-signed Kailer Yamamoto to a two-year, $3.1 million contract extension and I was pumped to see it. I personally think Yamamoto is a big part of moving this ship forward and that’s why getting him done for two years was important, but as much as I was excited to see his new deal get done, I instantly became aware of how the clock is ticking on someone potentially making their way out.
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With both Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto locking in new contracts ahead of their respective arbitration dates, Ken Holland really doesn’t have a whole lot of housekeeping left to handle outside of getting Ryan McLeod locked up. Once that’s done, the Oilers will basically be bringing the same team back outside of losing Duncan Keith to retirement and Mike Smith to the LTIR, and if you had told me this would happen two months ago when the season ended, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I mean, to have the band back together while also losing our two old boys at the same time? Who would have seen that coming, ya know? That said, I’m still not 100% sure that Ken Holland has done enough to turn the team into a true contender, ya know?
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Even though we’ve still got two months until the season starts and plenty of time left to make a deal or two, I find myself looking at the current roster and wondering if it’s good enough to truly take another step forward. As much as I’m happy with what we’ve got up front and in net, I’m having a hard time saying the same thing about the defensive group as it’s currently constructed. While I absolutely think there are some really nice pieces back there — the top four options are pretty solid from my side of the TV screen — but I also think that a third pairing of Bouchard/Barrie along with Broberg leaves something to be desired. Is that too much to say? I don’t think so. The problem, of course, is that the Oilers don’t have any money to address this need barring some kind of trade. Does that mean something is coming?
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According to PuckPedia’s tweet listed above, the Oilers are currently $423K over the cap when Klefbom and Smith hit the LTIR, and that’s not exactly a great spot to be in with McLeod still yet to sign. Needless to say, my dreams of defensive upgrades kinda hinge on having some money to spend and the only way that can happen is if Ken Holland starts moving more players out of town — we’re going to have to do that anyway to get cap compliant. But if you’re going above simply being compliant to find the space to upgrade the defence then you’d probably have to move Foegele + Barrie for very low returns just to find the money to upgrade those positions. Depending on the hypothetical players you brought in to replace those guys — at this stage of free agency, there aren’t many compelling options available — at what point are you moving backward just because you’d like to spend differently?
As far as I see it, the Oilers really only have three options here:
  1. Trade Foegele for a pick and save the $2.75 million -> won’t affect the forward group too much
  2. Trade Barrie for a pick to clear the $4.5 million -> Lots of extra space here but who fills that slot
  3. Trade Puljujarvi for a mediocre return and clear $3 million -> just don’t do it
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All I know for sure is that the Oilers have at least a move or two coming just to be cap compliant before the season starts, and what I don’t know is how Ken Holland will approach this problem or who will be the odd-man out in terms of fixing it. From where I blog, Warren Foegele seems like the most likely candidate to go given his price tag and production, but would trading him for a pick even clear enough space to handle what’s left on the to-do list? With just over two months left in the season, there is still plenty of time to sort these issues out, but it’s going to be endlessly fascinating to see how different the roster will look by the time October rolls around compared to where we’re at today.
We all know that something else is coming, but what that actually looks like remains to be seen. We wait.

BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER

Last night, I recorded a quick reaction episode of Better Lait Than Never to talk about Yamo’s new deal and offer up a few takes on what comes next. Subscribe to Better Lait Than Never for FREE on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and wherever else you get your podcasts.
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YAMAMOTO’S CAREER SO FAR

SeasonGPGAP+/-PIMPPGPPPSHGSHPGWGOTGSS%
2021-2022 Playoffs
14
2
5
7
-6
10
1
2
0
0
0
0
16
12.5
Career Playoffs
22
2
6
8
-9
18
1
3
0
0
0
0
26
7.7
2021-2022
81
20
21
41
-1
40
3
6
1
2
4
0
114
17.5
NHL Career
186
40
53
93
17
82
6
12
1
3
4
0
263
15.2