The Edmonton Oilers have been one of the NHL’s more interesting teams to watch over the past decade, finally overcoming years of what could best be described as dysfunctionality to once again become yearly postseason contenders on the backs of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. That’s not to say it hasn’t been a rough-and-tumble road for the team since making their first playoff appearance with this core in 2017 – there’s still the sense this core hasn’t lived up to expectations without a Stanley Cup Final appearance to show for their rather electrifying success at times. Today, David Staples of the Edmonton Journal argued that, for whatever reason you choose to believe, the Oilers’ rather stagnant offseason is a sign of better things to come.
It didn’t really matter this summer if the Oilers and general manager Ken Holland wanted to make a big splash – they simply couldn’t make anything work with an airtight salary cap situation and RFAs Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod to re-sign. Staples illustrates this example with past Oilers teams of the 1980s glory days, but championship-caliber teams are rarely built through major free agency additions. Keeping a similar core intact and nurturing it, giving it time to grow while continuing to develop chemistry, has led to positive results in the past.
Despite the mounting pressure to perform in Edmonton, the sky isn’t falling – they’ve lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion in back-to-back seasons and have put up good performances against great teams in both runs, especially during their Battle of Alberta win against the Calgary Flames in 2022. Consistency between the pipes remains an issue, though, perhaps the most impossible problem to solve for any team in the league.
More tidbits to end this Saturday night from around the Western Conference:
- While forward Oskar Sundqvist was visibly elated to return to the St. Louis Blues this offseason in free agency, the club with which he won a Stanley Cup championship in 2019, it wasn’t the only option for his future he had in mind. In an interview with The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford earlier this week, Sundqvist revealed he greatly enjoyed his post-trade deadline stint with the Minnesota Wild, and there was mutual interest in an extension to keep him in the State of Hockey. However, there wasn’t a feasible way to keep him around with a heavy salary cap crunch on Minnesota’s end, thanks to nearly $15MM in dead cap caused by the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts. Sundqvist did end up signing a league-minimum one-way contract with the Blues, however, who were also in a tight financial situation after acquiring center Kevin Hayes at a reduced price from the Philadelphia Flyers. Sundqvist did well in Minnesota, posting seven points in 15 games down the stretch before injuries kept him out of most of their First Round playoff loss against the Dallas Stars.
- The Chicago Blackhawks’ ownership is adding a junior hockey powerhouse to their portfolio in the USHL’s Chicago Steel, according to a report from The Athletic’s Scott Powers. The Steel are arguably the most recognizable franchise in American top-flight junior hockey, capturing the league’s regular-season title four seasons in a row and churning out high-end NHL prospects such as projected 2024 first-overall pick Macklin Celebrini and Columbus Blue Jackets star center prospect Adam Fantilli in the process. It’s a major move for the Blackhawks’ parent, the Wirtz Corporation, just days after principal owner and chairman Rocky Wirtz passed away unexpectedly at the age of 70.