Things are going well for the Edmonton Oilers this season. The team is in the thick of the Pacific Division race and the odds of a return to the postseason seem strong. The Oilers’ roster is far from perfect, still very reliant upon stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the group is getting the job done this season. As a result, the front office is hoping that they can keep much of their team together moving forward. A report has already emerged that Zack Kassian, the team’s top-performing impending free agent, is nearing an extension with Edmonton. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman echoes that sentiment in his recent “31 Thoughts” column, and he adds that the team is hoping to re-sign three fellow forwards: Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan, and Joakim Nygard.
In many cases, role players such as these, Kassian included in the opinion of many, do not garner in-season contract extensions or even public acknowledgement of extension interest. Archibald, Sheahan, and Nygard have combined for just 31 points on the year and Kassian has recorded 28 points thus far. These are not exactly stunning numbers – in fact they are replacement-level by any definition – but in Edmonton they carry greater weight. Secondary scoring is hard to come by for the Oilers and each of these four players are in fact top-nine scoring forwards for the team this season. Sheahan and Archibald also skate on the team’s top penalty killing unit, while Kassian and Archibald are also two of the Oilers’ most effective physical players and Sheahan is the team’s best player at the face-off dot. Not only are they contributing on offense as much as any other forward not named McDavid or Draisaitl, but they have been key two-way contributors as well.
These four have apparently done enough to prove themselves in Edmonton and the team would like to keep them beyond this season. None of the group stand a great chance of fixing the team’s secondary scoring problem, but Friedman notes that they will not be very expensive to retain. This would seemingly leave the Oilers with some cap space and roster spots to fill this summer. Even if the team does bring back these four impending UFA’s, there could still be plenty of turnover in the off-season. Sam Gagner, the buried contracts of Markus Granlund and Brandon Manning, and the unofficially retired Kyle Brodziak will all come off the books after this season, opening up some cap flexibility for the team, while other forwards like Gaetan Haas and Patrick Russell could also depart as free agents. If the Oilers want to keep these four key role players beyond this season, they can do so without sacrificing their ability to make other changes to broaden their offensive contributions next year.