Did anyone else get bummed out when Wednesday and Friday night rolled around and there was no Oilers game to watch? After the amazing run we just witnessed over the last month and change, watching the NHL playoffs move on without us sucks the hind banana but what can we do apart from move on and get ready for the next one? I’m wondering what that looks like.

CAN’T FORGET 2017

After the Oilers made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in a decade, Peter Chiarelli began a run of weird moves that ultimately led to the Oilers missing the postseason the following year and his eventual downfall. While the story of Pistol Pete is a long and painful journey that we don’t need to rehash here today, I’m thinking that we need to remember the lessons learned from that offseason after finishing the 2017-season campaign with all kinds of hope. As much as it was a hell of a ride to see the Oilers go from out of the playoffs in February to marching through Calgary on their way to the Western Conference Final, what just happened doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again without some help. When asked about avoiding that same result next season, Ken Holland said that part of the growth of this team has to come from within:
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“Obviously, the goal is to be a playoff team, have a good regular season and then you’ve got to go out and do it all over again. Part of getting better is internal, with some young people getting better. That’s why there is that fine line of blowing out futures for today and this year, but if you want to be consistently banging away at being good, you must have people coming through the system. They join the team, they play cheap, they get better, they get a bigger piece of the pie and you pay them while someone else goes. If you don’t have that push, you go to the open market and you’re going to sit until August while other teams take all the best players off and you’ll look at what’s left. It’s not the sexy thing, we need Broberg and Holloway to push their way on the team and Bouchard, McLeod, Puljujarvi, and Yamamoto to take the next step. That’s part of getting better. You can’t just think I’m going to go out with a big blockbuster move like last year with Zach Hyman.”
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While I absolutely agree that the young players need to continue taking steps forward for this thing to work, we can’t just ignore the need for upgrades in the hopes that these boys will seize the day either. It’s important to believe in your guys but sometimes you need a few guarantees in case the hopes and prayers don’t pay the bills. I guess what I’m saying here is that I’m as full of hope as the next guy in thinking that Bouchard, McLeod, Broberg, et al will take another step forward — Gord knows we need them to — but that I also love a sure thing from time to time if you know what I mean. It makes me wonder what Ken Holland’s price and term would be for a guy that he’s already said he would like to bring back if possible. What’s your number?

EVANDER KANE

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When it comes to Evander Kane, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think the juice was worth the squeeze on this signing before it happened. Based on the way things ended in San Jose and Winnipeg before that, I felt like bringing him into town was a risk that the Oilers simply did not need. I thought the team was in a fragile place and any alleged drama the guy carried was not going to be helpful. As it turns out, the guy was everything this team needed and then some as he put pucks in the net on a 40-goal pace and led the playoffs in scoring even after he was eliminated. In terms of results, the guy couldn’t have been better and, unfortunately, I think that means he may have priced himself out of town. Not to mention, the ‘thank you, Edmonton’ post he threw up on Instagram.
“Thank you to all the fans who supported me this year. To everyone who doubted me, I thank you as well. To my Oilers teammates, I appreciate each and every single one of you for welcoming me in and embracing me in such a genuine way. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play with such a committed, hardworking and loyal group of men. The Edmonton Oilers are a first class organization with such great staff from top to bottom and I thank them for giving me the opportunity to play for such a historic franchise. To the fans of Edmonton I thank you for treating my family and I with such kindness and respect.”
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Maybe this is just me overthinking it because I obviously don’t know the guy, but isn’t that the kind of thing you’d put out on social media if you already had an idea that you wouldn’t be back? Theories aside, the reality is that the year Kane put in will land him some sizeable offers in free agency and the Oilers don’t have the cap space needed to get into that kind of bidding war. As much as I’d love to have him back for the way he worked with Connor McDavid, I would honestly be stunned if #91 is back in blue and orange when the season kicks off in October.

GOALTENDING

May 18, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) on his bench as he was replaced by goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) during the first period against the Calgary Flames in game one of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome.
As of this writing, everyone knows that the Oilers have Mike Smith and Stuart Skinner signed for next season as their tandem between the pipes, but I’m starting to think that won’t be what things look like when all is said and done. In his season wrap up interview on Wednesday, Mike Smith didn’t exactly dispel the rumours that he’s considering retirement and that got Oilers fans thinking about what comes next if that is indeed his plan. When asked about coming back, Smith admitted that prepping to be a pro athlete isn’t quite the same at 40 years old:
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“Looking back on it, in the brief time I’ve had to decompress, it was challenging at times. Some good things obviously, but a grind — a grind of a season. It was fun to make the playoffs and go on a run like we did, but playing through injuries for the majority of the season is not easy. I don’t know where I’m going to be four months from now. I got a lot of stuff to deal with… I have no idea at this point. Like I said, it’s been a grind for sure. I’m not getting any younger. I don’t know where I’m going to be at. I know it’s been a lot more difficult this year than in years past. I don’t know at this point. It’s too early to tell.”
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At this point, I’m having a hard time with how much weight we should put in the guy’s words considering they came only a couple of days after getting bumped from the playoffs. I know that from my perspective, I’m still bummed about the Oilers getting knocked out and I don’t even play for the team so I can only imagine what it must be like for the guys that took us on this magical adventure. Either way, if Mike Smith does end up calling it quits and Mikko Koskinen is already moving on then that means another massive item on Ken Holland’s to-do list that is already stacking up.

HOW ARE THEY GOING TO CLEAR CAP SPACE

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I know this kinda feels like an evergreen problem these days, but a big thing I’m wondering about for the offseason is how Ken Holland will be able to clear the cap space he’ll need to re-sign RFAs while also finding a new goalie (maybe, see above) and replacing the offence Evander Kane will take with him if he leaves. As much as a bunch of us are wondering/waiting to see if @Duncan Keith will retire — Gord knows what a cap blessing that would be — my gut tells me that he’s going to be back for a second tour of duty, and while I fully admit to knowing nothing at all, that assumption has me looking at the rest of the group to see what I find. According to CapFriendly, the Oilers have about $7.130 million (before Klefbom to LTIR) to play with and I don’t think I have to tell anyone reading this that this is not a sizeable pool to play in considering the work that has to get done.
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With no shortage of sizeable contracts littering the roster, there are certainly candidates that could get moved for cap relief but the question I have is whether Ken Holland will be able to find a way to do it or if anyone’s even interested. As much as it’s easy for me to say that he should try and move Zack Kassian, would there be a market for a $3.25 million player that has missed time with injury and put up only 26 points in his last two seasons combined? With plenty of dead cap space already on the books, can you even think about the buyout road? Over at Daily Faceoff, Frank Seravalli mentioned Tyson Barrie as a potential trade piece that would clear $4.5 million off the books, but would we care about the return? Are we happy with a draft pick of some kind for Barrie? Who would you get to replace him?

BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER

Do me a favour and check out the latest episode of Better Lait Than Never! On this week’s show, Tyler Yaremchuk and I recapped what was an amazing playoff run for the Oilers and looked ahead at some of the most important items they have to get done over the next few months. This podcast is all about your feedback and input, so hit me up with a voicemail and say your piece. Subscribe to Better Lait Than Never for FREE on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and wherever else you get your podcasts from!
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