It turns out that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn’t the only notable Oilers player to enter COVID protocol today as the team announced that defenseman Duncan Keith has also been placed there. That triggered a series of moves with Kris Russell being transferred to LTIR retroactive to December 9th, Markus Niemelainen was moved to injured reserve, and Cooper Marody and Seth Griffith were recalled from Bakersfield of the AHL.
Keith is in his first season with Edmonton and it has been a relatively quiet one. He had just come back from an upper-body injury that caused him to miss seven games and he has been fairly quiet offensively with just five points in 20 games although he is still logging a little over 20 minutes a night in a top-four role.
Between his placement in protocol and Niemelainen (who has averaged 14 minutes a game in his first seven NHL contests) moving to IR, they’re down to just five defensemen on the active roster which makes it a bit puzzling that two forwards were brought up. However, both Griffith and Marody have been productive with the Condors this season as they sit first and second respectively in team scoring. Edmonton has had secondary scoring issues pretty much all season long and it appears those two will get a chance to try to contribute.
To make that happen from a cap perspective, Russell had to be shifted to LTIR, giving Edmonton the cap space to afford to bring two players up from the minors instead of just one. He had been listed as questionable to play in Tuesday’s game but now will miss 10 games and 24 days, pushing his return into January at the earliest. Given that designation from earlier this week though, he could be ready to return as soon as that time is up.