Recapping Edmonton Oilers Free Agency- Week One

We're now into the first week of the offseason and the Oilers turned out to be very active in free agency, signing no less than 15 players.
Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers
Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers / Lawrence Scott/GettyImages
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The Oilers made 15 signings some of them re-signings, some of them minor league signings, and two of them key new additions. After this time I don't think it's a stretch to say the Oilers now boast one of the best top nine forward groups in the NHL. Anyone who says the team suffers from a lack of depth now is out of their mind. CEO Jeff Jackson has done such a great job some are saying that he should remove the interim tag from his job title and assume the GM job full time, although that's unlikely to happen as he's publicly stated he doesn't want the job on a permanent basis.

Let's start with one of the more mundane pieces of news from free agency - the RFAs. The Oilers issued qualifying offers to five of their RFAs - Philip Broberg, Noel Hoffenmeyer, James Hamblin, Dylan Holloway, and Raphael Lavoie. Two RFAs were not issued qualifying offers and thus became UFAs - prospect forward Carter Savoie, a move that was a little surprising seeing as how his games played totals increased by 19 and his point totals doubled from 11 to 22 the last two seasons. However, it's worth noting that Savoie has suffered injury issues in the three seasons he's donned the Condors uniform and between this and the fact that (according to word on the street from folks connected to Oilers player development anyway) he was progressing slower than they wanted him to, so he's now cut loose.

Less surprising is the other name not issued a QO - goalie Ryan Fanti. See his numbers for yourself - the best he was able to do was be an average the ECHL. The guy proved he doesn't really have NHL potential right now, which explains why the Oilers drafted Finnish goalie Eemil Vinni in the second round of the 2024 NHL entry draft. Fanti was only ever a college free agent signing anyway, so we didn't even waste draft capital on him. Good luck to Savoie and Fanti moving forward, maybe they can play in Europe or something.

And we get to the good part....

And now we get to all the free agent signings that took place prior to free agency and on July 1.

June 28

Oilers re-sign goalie G Calvin Pickard for two years and $2,000,000 ($1 million AAV).

Did Calvin Pickard catch lightning in a bottle last season or at 32 years old is he the real deal? We're about to find out. After Jack Campbell was sent down to resurrect his play down in Bakersfield last season, Pickard came up to take his place. The plan was always for Campbell to come back up again and although Campbell did eventually get his game back on the Condors, at that point it was too little, too late. Pickard had already established himself as a reliable option to caddy next to Stuart Skinner, and at a fraction of the price of Campbell at that.

Pickard still has yet to capture the elite numbers he put up early on in his career with the Colorado Avalanche, but he saw his NHL career rebound in a big way last season as he earned a promotion to tandem in the NHL from AHL bubble player and has now earned some latitude in terms of the length of his contract, still of course at a nice discount so he can prove to the Oilers that last season wasn't a fluke but a new normal. A .909 sv% and a 2.45 GAA looks rather average, but the stats don't really tell the whole story - especially when he earned two starts against the Canucks in the playoffs and elevated his numbers in those two games to a .915 sv% and 2.21 GAA. I don't think you'll find anyone who will disagree with this signing at this price.

July 1

Oilers sign R\LW Connor Brown to a one year contract for $1,000,000

It took Connor Brown over 50 games in the regular season to completely heal from last year's injury and score his first goal as an Oiler but once he did he finished the regular season strong, at 4-8-12 and then went on to score 2-4-6 in 19 playoff games, pretty good for a bottom six forward. Brown formed a formidable third line with Adam Henrique and Mattias Janmark who no doubt will get a lot of time with each other next season. Brown can now come into this season 100% healthy to prove the full capabilities of what he can do. Cracking a regular spot in the top six will be tough to do, especially with the signings of Jeff Skinner and Viktor Arvidssen, but there is potential for him to get that. He did show flashes of what he can do in the top six in the regular season once he was healed, so we'll see what this season brings. He should give the Oilers a break for his encore considering that we're giving him over $3 million in bonus money this season, part of the previous contract he signed with Ken Holland.

Oilers sign C/RW James Hamblin to a two way, two year deal worth $1,550,000 ($775,000 AAV)

Hamblin is a great story for the Oilers. Originally signed as an undrafted WHL free agent, expectations were low for him. He then went on to establish himself as a scorer in the AHL, cracking the 20 goal mark two seasons ago and although injuries derailed his season last year he did 10 goals and 28 points for Bakersfield while also earning himself an extended callup with the Oilers, 31 games to be exact. He only put up 2-1-3 for the Oilers during that time but he did score his first NHL goal during this callup which he dedicated to his deceased mother. He was part of the Oilers taxi squad for the playoffs but didn't get into a game. If he's adapted his skills to make the jump to the NHL, which he's in the conversation for, we might see him in the lineup later on in the season. He'll likely go back to Bakersfield to start the season but a callup is possible for this prospect before next season's end, and he may pull a Vincent Desharnais and stay up for good after that. Definitely a player to watch for the bottom six.

Oilers sign R/LW Viktor Arvidsson to two year, $8 million contract ($4 million AAV)

One of the two prized free agents signed on July 1, Arvidsson brings some veteran jam and scoring ability to stabilize the top six forward group. Between Brown not taking advantage of his chances last season and a spot that we essentially rotated multiple guys in and out of, Arvidssen was brought in to stabilize one side of Leon Draisaitl's wing. Limited by injury to only 18 games last season for the LA Kings and then five more in the playoffs, this is why Arvidsson is able to be signed at a more modest rate and term. If he were 100% healthy last season it's doubtful I'd be writing about this. It also certainly didn't hurt that Arvidsson's best friend is Swedish countryman Mattias Ekholm, who has enjoyed life in Edmonton on and off the ice since being traded here last season from Nashville, where he and Arvidsson were also teammates for many years for the Predators. LA Is a decent team but taking passes from Connor McDavid or Draisaitl will likely only help Arvidsson's career. Great signing by Jackson.

Oilers re-sign RD Troy Stetcher to a two year contract worth $1,575,000 ($787,500 AAV)

I wasn't sure the Oilers were going to re-up Stetcher after he had a major injury flare up before the start of the playoffs (an infected cyst on his ankle) requiring surgery to remove. But, in a short seven game look after the Oilers traded a middling draft pick for him at last season's trade deadline, he showed fairly well, putting up two assists in those seven games. Short sample size to be sure, but seeing as how he was a top four blueliner in Arizona prior to the trade. Stetcher coming back will likely cement the fact that Cody Ceci is as good as gone before next season in trade and he and Josh Brown will battle it out for bottom pairing d-man spot. This is a nice low risk signing by the Oilers - if his injury proves to be lingering they've got LTIR cap space. If he works out they've got a guy making must closer to bottom pairing money playing in the bottom pairing. If he doesn't work out, his entire cap hit can be stashed in the minors. I like it, there is risk in this contract but not much.

Oilers sign RD Josh Brown to a three year $3,000,000 contract ($1 million AAV)

We can assume that Josh Brown will pencil in as the seventh blueliner, but that will depend in part on Troy Stecher's health. Brown doesn't produce a lot of offence - he set a new career high in points last season for Arizona with 10 points in 51 games, but he was eighth on the Coyotes in Hits/60 with 8.93 and sixth in total hits with 112. He was also fifth on the Coyotes in BS/60 with 6.77 and fourth on the Coyotes with 85 blocked shots, numbers that certainly indicate his ability to play physically, not to mention he greatly improved his defensive play from a career low of -18 two seasons ago to +2 last season. He's also had 70+ PIMs the last two seasons in a row. Brown is a solid depth piece that will certainly come in handy for some of the teams that will play the Oilers more physically, like the Flames or the Kings. It gives Kris Knoblauch a great option, and I wonder if he'll find a way to get both Stetcher and Brown into the lineup if he can at some point. Both were teammates at Arizona last season and will be reunited this season.

Oilers sign RD Connor Carrick to a one year contract worth $775,000

Depth for Bakersfield, just take a look at his numbers to see why. A callup is not out of the realm of possibility, but his shot as a permanent NHL player has likely come and gone. CONSPIRACY THEORY - are the Oilers in the business of collecting guys named Connor? Asking for a friend.

Oilers sign G Colin Delia to a two way, one year contract worth $775,000

Taking the Pickard/Campbell spot on the Condors this upcoming season will be Colin Delia. He has 52 games of NHL experience and thus will be a potential callup in case of injury in the big leagues. He'll battle it out with prospect Olivier Rodrigue for the #3 spot in the organization's depth chart. Rodrigue is knocking on the door of the NHL and is looking to take the next step. Word on the street was they wanted to give him a callup last season but Skinner and Pickard were working so well as a tandem there was no opportunity to call him up.

Oilers re-sign LD Noel Hoeffenmeyer to a two way, one year contract worth $775,000

Not much to say here, basically Delia at another position - farm team depth and that's about it.

Oilers re-sign RW Corey Perry to a one year contract worth $1,400,000 ($1,150,000 base salary plus $250,000 in performance bonuses - $150,000 if he plays 15 games in the regular season then three chunks of $50,000 each if he plays 50% of the games in any given playoff round, each bonus will be doled out after the Oilers move onto each subsequent round).

So Corey Perry will be back with the Oilers after they brought him in following a long tradition of the team bringing in reclamation projects to bring them either a Stanley Cup or to help them resurrect their career. I'm fine with Perry being brought in but the money is a bit of a head scratcher on the part of interim GM Jackson. I mean, didn't the team have heavy leverage over the guy and he didn't have to sign for more than the minimum salary of $775,000? Why all the performance bonuses? They can't have been necessary. While Perry's skills as a pest and a bottom six forward are still fine, He's going to be 40 by next May, so it's not surprising he's lost a step. Perry is no longer the league's premier power forward, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have his uses still. It may only be an additional $650,000, but it's not a great use of cap space. This was a black cloud on an otherwise great day by Jackson.

Oilers re-sign C Noah Philp to a two way, one year contract at $775,000

Philp comes back to the Condors after spending last season out of hockey to deal with an unnamed personal issue. Last season Ken Holland smartly issued him a QO just to retain his rights. In a full season in the AHL two seasons ago Philp put up 19-18-37 in 70 games - not bad for a rando who wasn't drafted that the Oilers signed after playing two years for the U of A Golden Bears. It remains to be seen what we have here with Philp, he likely needs at least one more healthy season in Bakersfield before we know what we have with him. There certainly looks like there's potential there. Due to the fact that the AHL doesn't publish line combos, we have no idea where he played when he last played for the Condors.

Oilers re-sign L/RW Mattias Janmark to a three year contract worth $4,350,000 ($1,450,000 AAV).

This is a bit of an inflated price for a bottom six forward, but I'm willing to bet a lot of teams saw how Janmark played during the playoffs and that drove his price up. In the playoffs he finished just shy of the two minute mark per game (1:59 to be exact) and scored two shorthanded goals for the team in the playoffs, leading the team in that regard as the only other player to get a shorthanded goal in the playoffs was Brown, no surprise as they were linemates on the third line in the latter portion of the playoffs. Thus, I cannot fault Jackson for paying the piper for an in-demand player, even if he is a bottom six forward.

Janmark can also do spot duty in the top six and not look out of place, a great thing to have in a bottom six forward. His defensive acumen shone brightly in the playoffs since he elevated his numbers from a 0 to a +6 in the playoffs. That PK and defensive ability will be key to the Oilers fortunes next season. He does show some ability to put up offense too, putting up 12 points in the regular season and eight in the playoffs for a combined total of 20 - not bad for a bottom six forward. Also important to Janmark is he's been playing under one year contracts most of his career, so giving him term was important to him - and let's face it, he's earned it.

Oilers re-sign C/LW Adam Henrique to a two year, $6,000,000 contract ($3,000,000 AAV)

Henrique beat out Ryan Mcleod for the third line center spot post-trade deadline. He also had time in the top six with both McDavid and Draisaitl but Knoblauch determined he seemed to be better at center, and so the third line was really the only place he could go on this team for that, and he accepted. He did a great job centering a fantastic third line flaked by Janmark and Brown. This is again more than I'd like to pay a bottom six forward, however, since the Jets were offering Henrique $3.5 million a year the Oilers didn't have much of a choice but to color outside the lines a bit here, and appreciating the fact that Henrique took a slight paycut to sign here. He was making his first trip to the playoffs in six years and wants to help this team win.

Oilers sign L/RW Jeff Skinner to a one year, $3,000,000 contract

And now we see the fruits of going to the Stanley Cup final, even if you don't win it in your first kick at the can. Edmonton becomes a destination for the Oilers as players want to play here. We've seen this play out now with Skinner. I was always hoping that the Oilers could sign him once I heard the Sabres had bought him out, and I was so happy when he did sign here. Apparently,Skinner turned down an offer from his hometown Toronto team to accept the Oilers offer - that's huge, and really who can blame him? I mean, if you're looking to win your next cup which team would be the logical destination, a perennial playoff choker or the team that just lost out in the finals a week before? Obviously the latter.

Much like Jack Eichel prior to 2023, Skinner has had the misfortune of playing on terrible teams in Carolina and Buffalo, so he has yet to play a playoff game. I'd be surprised if that streak continues here in Edmonton. Skinner took a huge step back in money to sign here, with one purpose - to win the Cup with us and then sign for a big money contract somewhere else. Skinner has spent the past six seasons being a featured scoring forward for the Sabres, putting up 30 goals in two of the last three seasons and 24 in the other one. To say this is a coup at $3 million a season is an understatement.