The NHL draft has come and gone and now free agency awaits. Heading into the draft, the Oilers had some issues at their feet that needed to be addressed that were non-draft related.
Zack Kassian and Duncan Keith are no Edmonton Oilers. From a money perspective, losing the two of them benefits the team massively. Ken Holland now has around twenty million to spend in free agency and improve this team.
We all know the holes that need to be filled on this team and for that reason, we will not talk about them today. However, we will address the draft itself, the Kassian trade, and the Keith retirement.
Edmonton had a light workload in Montreal making only four picks. Judging those prospects before their careers with the Oilers begin would not be fair. Instead, let’s just trust Tyler Wright and the rest of the scouting staff.
The Oilers took Reid Schaefer from the Seattle Thunderbirds with their first pick. He is a big, power forward who had a breakout season helping Seattle get back to the Western Conference Finals. Many scouts have talked about the progression Schaefer’s made over the season going from a later round pick to a first rounder.
Edmonton took a goaltender Samuel Jonsson in the fifth round. It didn’t matter if it was their first or seventh round pick they had to take a goaltender.
Nikita Yevseyev went in the 6th round with the 190th pick. He’s a 6’1”, 187 lb Russian defenceman. Yevseyev is a left shot who played for Bars Kazan last season in the VHL. Tyler Wright in his post draft interview said the Oilers Russian scout, Alexander Naurov, was adamant that they take him.
Then, Joel Maatta, went off the board with the 222nd pick. Maatta is a 6’2”, 201 lb forward from the University of Vermont. In back-to-back drafts, the Oilers have taken a player from the University. Last season, Luca Munzenberger in the 3rd round, and this year Maatta. Vermont are coached by Todd Woodcroft, Jay’s brother.
No complaints on the Zack Kassian trade from me. Holland owned up to his mistake of signing Kassian in the first place and did what was necessary. Fans compared it to the Peter Mrazek trade suggesting Holland overpaid. In that instance, it feels like we saw a rookie general manager, Kyle Davidson, make an inexperienced move. He gave Kyle Dubas a get-out-of-jail card. The Oilers likely had to give up the third to stay in the first round. At the end of the day, does it really matter? Edmonton now has a couple of years to get those picks back if they want, plus the team never picks in the second or third round anyways.
Another player gone is Duncan Keith. If you had asked me heading into the playoffs if Keith was going to retire at the end of the season I would have said no. Now here we are a few days before free agency with the news coming that Keith’s hockey career is over.
Say what you want about Keith, but I can guarantee he brought more to this season than Caleb Jones would have. That is not slander on Jones, but credit to Keith. The experience he was able to bring to the dressing room clearly helped his team on the ice. Throughout the playoffs we heard many times how Keith’s calming presence on the bench helped this team. Additionally, Evan Bouchard got to play the season aside a future hall of famer beside him. What he learned from Keith can only help the oilers with future success. When we look back at the Keith trade knowing everything that has happened, it was a success.
One final thought I have is on Tyson Barrie. After Keith announced his retirement, Daniel Nugent-Bowman reported that it’s now unlikely that Barrie is moved.
There are two sides to this situation.
On one hand, $4.5 million is too much to pay for a third pairing defenceman. With Evan Bouchard and Cody Ceci on the right side, Barrie is restricted to the third pair. Additionally, Bouchard’s role needs to progress and keeping him off the powerplay for another season is not helping anybody.
On the other hand, I think it’s important that the Oilers keep Barrie for the role he plays as a leader on the team. With Keith, Smith and Kassian gone, it feels wrong to remove another veteran player from team right now.
Maybe this is a question for next week’s Nation Thoughts.
Overall, Edmonton’s time in Montreal should be viewed as a success. They found a way to create more cap space for themselves which was the goal. We’ll see how that money gets distributed next week when free agency begins.