Edmonton Oilers: Where does Ken Holland go from here?

Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With free agency moves mostly done for the Edmonton Oilers, the task now moves to trades and freeing up cap space

Now we know that Klefbom will likely be out for the season, and that will have an impact on things.  He’ll likely be out for the entire season, seeing as how it could heavily impact his life if he doesn’t. I get why Holland is waiting, but if he does the expected and goes ahead and puts Klefbom on IR for the season, that’s an easy move to make and automatically gives the Edmonton Oilers $4.167 million of cap space, assuming Klef is out for the entire season.

Now the Oilers have about $4,899,509 of cap space. But what about after that?  Holland will focus on trade to free up cap space, as the Oilers could obviously use it if he pulls it off.

Let’s see where he goes from here.

Clear up the backlog of players in the bottom 6

By my count, we have 10 bottom 6 forwards signed.  Now one of those at LW will go play on the 1st or 2nd line because we’re one winger short in the top 6.  If Jesse Puljujarvi makes it into the top 6 at some point that only bumps Kassian down to the bottom 6 so that’s a wash.

That still leaves 9 players for 6 regular spots and one extra spot.  That means at least one player has to go.  Personally, my vote would be for Alex Chiasson to go, he’s a bit overpriced and his $2.15 million is best spent elsewhere on the roster.  If all we ask for is a 5th round pick in return to replenish the one we traded away to Ottawa in the Ennis trade, that would be sufficient value.

Of course, going strictly by the numbers James Neal would be the one to go but good luck getting rid of that contract in trade in this cap climate.  Chiasson’s contract is the next worst one to go.

Re-sign Ethan Bear and William Lagesson

Right now with only $732, 509 in cap space at the time of this writing, both d-men were issued QO’s but neither player has been signed yet.  Bear definitely needs to be re-signed but there’s no hurry as the season isn’t projected to start for at least 1.5 months, and likely 2.5.

Of course, putting Klef on IR would be enough cap space to sign both of them, but that’s something for another day.  If I had to guess I’d say Bear gets re-signed for 3 years at $2 million per, while Laggeson could be had for probably $850K for 2 seasons.  Mind you if we did trade Chiasson in a trade dump that would almost pay for both of these contracts right there.

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Decide what to do with Kris Russell

Holland will have to make a decision this offseason:  Is Russell a 2nd pairing d-man or a 3rd pairing d-man?  If Russell is a 2nd pairing d-man he’ll form a shutdown duo with Adam Larssen on the 2nd pairing, while also insulating Caleb Jones and giving him a chance to be at left side 3rd pairing full time.

However, if Russell is a 3rd pairing d-man then Caleb Jones is a 2nd pairing d-man with Larssen, putting the traditional puck mover with a stay at home guy to mop up.

That’s a risky move, though, as it remains to be seen whether Jones can handle the tougher competition and additional minutes of the 2nd pairing when he hasn’t even played full time in the 3rd pairing yet.

That then leaves Russell on the left side with Barrie on the 3rd pairing and creating a very expensive bottom pairing d-man on the left side.  If he could manage to unload Russell in trade – easier said than done considering the cap climate and the fact Russell has an NTC – then he could replace him with an outside hire for less than half the cap hit of Russell.  Tough call for Holland to make – there are pros and cons no matter which way he goes.  But he’ll have to decide as it doesn’t really make sense to play Russell on the 3rd pairing from a cap standpoint.

Start looking at targets in goal for 2 seasons from now

Re-signing Smith was a really dumb move, one that chances are we will live to regret.  At some point, we will have to jettison Smith and bring in someone younger.  Holland could start that process now and perhaps trade or sign a player next offseason.

Find a LWer to play with Connor McDavid, if you can afford to pay him

Right now the one hole in the top 6 is 1st line LW.  Connor McDavid tag teams with Zack Kassian on the right side, well he has for most of the time Kassian’s been here.  It was hoped that James Neal could take that spot, but he’s been tried there before and so far proven ineffective at even strength.  Tyler Ennis and Josh Archibald played there last season, but those 2 guys aren’t full time top 6 forwards.

Ideally, we should get a legit top 6 winger to play with Mcdavid.  Whether we have the cap space for him is another issue altogether.  If we can get rid of Neal this offseason we could potentially get that player but we definitely need cap space first – and again that’s easier said than done.

Starting thinking about Nuge’s extension

Nuge will get re-signed, it’s just a matter of how much.  I’ve heard figures of anywhere from $6.5 million a season to $8 million a season.  But he’ll have to start putting together something so he can talk to his agent during the season.