While the long-term injury to Evander Kane dealt a big blow to Edmonton’s offense, it also took away a big part of their physical play up front with the veteran averaging over 3.6 hits per game. While his LTIR placement allowed them to bring up some extra players to round out their roster, none of those players are particularly gritty.
To that end, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested in a recent 32 Thoughts segment (video link) that the Oilers could be looking around the league for affordable grit up front.
The key word is affordable. As Kane is set to return before the end of the season, Edmonton has to get back to cap compliance to be able to activate him. Accordingly, they will need to be targeting a player who either replaces someone at the bottom of their roster or whose cap hit is low enough that it can come off the books entirely with an AHL assignment; the threshold for that is $1.125MM.
With someone in that particular price range, they’ll almost certainly be looking for someone that would play on the fourth line. Right now, Derek Ryan is a fixture on that fourth trio despite struggling mightily offensively this season and veteran farmhand Brad Malone is getting a look on that group as well in the hopes that he can make a difference on the physical side of things. Accordingly, there certainly are spots that could be up for grabs if they find a way to add another depth forward or two.
With cap space at a premium for most teams, Edmonton included, the trade market is still likely a little while away from truly picking up with the exception of affordable depth players. It appears the Oilers will be keeping an eye on that portion of the market over the coming weeks to see if they can make their fourth line a little tougher to play against.