- Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal pegs Ryan McLeod’s next contract as a potentially tricky negotiation for the Oilers. The 23-year-old had a decent showing in Edmonton’s bottom six this season, setting new career highs in goals (11) and points (23) despite only playing in 57 games. McLeod is now arbitration-eligible this summer and with 138 career NHL regular season appearances under his belt, has enough of a track record to land a decent-sized raise on the $798K he made in 2022-23. Cap space is once again limited for the Oilers this summer so it might take some time for both sides to find the sweet spot on what’s likely to be another short-term agreement.
Free Agent Focus: Edmonton Oilers
Free agency is a month away and teams are looking ahead to when it opens. There will be several impact players set to hit the open market in July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. We continue our look around the NHL with an overview of the free agent situation for the Edmonton Oilers.
Key Restricted Free Agents
D Evan Bouchard – Bouchard is coming off back-to-back 40+ point seasons and was an absolute wrecking ball on the powerplay in the playoffs for the Oilers as he put up four goals and 13 assists in just 12 games. Now those numbers are staggering, however all but two of those points came with the man advantage.
If the Oilers had infinite cap space, they would likely prefer to get their budding offensive defenseman on a long-term contract, however given their cap constraints they will likely need to look at a bridge deal for 2-3 years. There are plenty of recent comparables for Bouchard with Noah Dobson being the most recent. A two-year deal with an average annual value around $4MM appears like the likeliest of outcomes for Bouchard this summer.
F Klim Kostin – Kostin was finally able to make an impact at the NHL level after several years of struggling to break through from the AHL. The former first round pick had never topped nine points in any NHL season prior to this past year with Edmonton, he settled into a bottom-6 role after coming over in a trade from the St. Louis Blues and was able to post 11 goals and 10 assists in 57 games. The intriguing thing about Kostin is his skill set, he is better suited for a role on a skill line but saw very little of that this year as he rarely played with Connor McDavid and saw just 17 minutes with Leon Draisaitl (in which he scored twice). Edmonton will have a full training camp with Kostin and could have an opportunity to try him on a skill line to see if they can find a fit for a player who will be on a miniscule cap number. Edmonton was apprehensive to try Kostin on the top lines this season due to his struggles away from the puck, but with nothing on the line to start the year, it’ll be an experiment worth conducting. Kostin is likely due for a one-year contract that will be around $1MM.
C Ryan McLeod – McLeod has topped 20 points in back-to-back seasons while toiling away in the Oilers bottom six. He is a former second-round pick who was one of the few Oilers in the bottom six who could move the puck with both speed and purpose. While he is strong with the puck his defensive metrics leave a bit to be desired. McLeod is young and is likely just scratching the surface of what he could be for Edmonton long term. He is arbitration eligible this summer meaning that McLeod will have some leverage when it comes to his contract negotiations. He is coming off a season in which he posted 11 goals and 12 assists in 57 games so he won’t break the bank, however his next contract could eat into 1/3 of Edmonton’s remaining cap space.
Other RFAs: F Raphael Lavoie, F Noah Philp, G Olivier Rodrigue
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
F Nick Bjugstad – Bjugstad came over to the Oilers before the trade deadline and was just okay. He put up six points in 18 regular season games with the club and followed it up with three goals in 12 playoff games as the Oilers were dropped in the second round. This is the third time Bjugstad will test free agency in the past three years, but the first time he will do so coming off a season in which he topped 20 points. Bjugstad once looked like he would develop into a power forward but has never been able to assert himself in that way. He is a good bottom six option at this point in his career but likely one that has priced himself out of Edmonton’s plans.
C Derek Ryan – Ryan played admirably for the Oilers this season as their fourth line center putting up 13 goals and seven assists in 80 games. While it was a drop off in numbers from the year prior, Ryan was still a big part of a much-improved bottom six for Edmonton. Ryan is undersized and at 36 years old his best games are likely behind him, however if he’s willing to come back at a cap hit that is comparable to the $1.25MM he made last season, it is something the Oilers should explore. Ryan can still kill penalties and take a lot of the defensive zone draws, and if he can continue to chip in the odd goal it would be worth the minimal investment.
F Mattias Janmark – It feels like Janmark has been in the league forever but the Stockholm, Sweden native is just 30 years old. Janmark signed a one-year deal with Edmonton last summer and provided decent value on a $1.25MM AAV as he put up 10 goals and 15 assists in 66 games. Those kinds of numbers have been typical for Janmark as he has put up between 21-25 points in five straight seasons. At this point Janmark is what he is, a depth forward who can chip in offence from time to time. Janmark will likely seek a comparable contract this offseason but given Edmonton’s cap constraints they may look elsewhere to see if they can find better value.
Other UFAs: F Justin Bailey, F Tyler Benson, D Jason Demers, D Slater Koekkoek, D Oscar Klefbom, F Devin Shore, D Ryan Murray, G Mike Smith
Projected Cap Space
Edmonton has precious little cap room to fill out their roster as they currently have just under $6MM in space and 17 players signed for next season. Filling out their roster with quality players is going to be difficult and as evidenced in the playoffs, this is a flawed hockey team that needs to upgrade in several key positions. Ken Holland has said he will return to the helm for their final season of his contract, and it may be his final kick at the can since he has been unable to get the Oilers over the hump and they have many of the same shortcomings they had when he took over the club four years ago.
The club has committed big money to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl but both men are still playing on favorable contracts given their talent level. The Oilers have them locked up for a few more seasons but they are running out of time to build a Stanley Cup contender despite having two of the best players in the world. The Oilers will need to make good use of their limited cap space and in a perfect world would be able to shed a bad contract or two. It’s going to be a busy summer in Edmonton as they look to regroup after another disappointing playoff exit.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.
Oilers Notes: Yamamoto, Bouchard, Ryan, Free Agency
After a disappointingly early playoff exit, the Edmonton Oilers are headed into another pivotal offseason. Desperate to build a Stanley Cup contender around the team’s two all-world talents, the Oilers don’t have a ton of cap space to add reinforcements to their roster, so they’ll need to get creative in finding ways to support their existing stars. One avenue the team could go down is moving a player taking up a decent amount of cap space, namely 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto. The 24-year-old is set to make $3.1MM against the cap next season yet provided the Oilers with just 25 points in 58 games this season.
The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman reports that the Oilers are “leaning toward moving” Yamamoto and are hoping they can find a team willing to acquire the player “without the Oilers having to retain salary or offer a sweetener.” (subscription link) Yamamoto did manage 20 goals and 41 points last season, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a team would have interest in him as a bounce-back candidate. In the case that trade interest does not materialize, though, Nugent-Bowman does note that the Oilers “appear open to buying out Yamamoto,” a move that would save them $2.6MM this season at the cost of $533k in dead cap next summer.
Some other notes regarding the Oilers:
- One of the significant reasons the team would likely hope to create some cap space via a Yamamoto departure would be to clear room for contract extensions for the Oilers’ top restricted free agent: defenseman Evan Bouchard. The 23-year-old 2018 10th overall pick has hit 40 points in each of the last two seasons and is coming off of an extremely productive playoff run that saw him post 17 points in just 12 games. Nugent-Bowman writes that the Oilers are likely to pursue a bridge contract with Bouchard, as “anything more than two years appears unlikely.” Noah Dobson, another 2018 top pick, had comparable scoring numbers to Bouchard last summer and secured a three-year, $4MM AAV pact. That could be a deal used as a reference point for these negotiations.
- 36-year-old veteran center Derek Ryan performed admirably as the Oilers’ fourth-line center this past season, scoring 13 goals and 20 points in 80 games while contributing to his team’s penalty kill. Nugent-Bowman reports that “there is mutual interest in Ryan returning to the Oilers,” and that “it’s hard to see how something isn’t figured out there” to bring the 500-game NHL veteran back to Edmonton. Such a move would provide valuable continuity to the Oilers’ bottom-six, while also serving as a nice reward for Ryan’s hard work.
- While the Oilers have made significant early free-agency investments in recent years, specifically in the signings of Jack Campbell and Zach Hyman, don’t expect a similar move by the time the free agent frenzy comes around later this summer. Nugent-Bowman reports that there will “be no Zach Hyman-type offer issued to anyone” at the start of free agency and that it’s far more likely that the Oilers will target an “undervalued or underperforming young player” who they can add on a cheap contract, or a “bargain bin” veteran talent who can be the right fit for a specific role in head coach Jay Woodcroft’s plans at an affordable cap hit.
Oilers Won't Sign Patrik Puistola
- The Oilers are not expected to sign prospect Patrik Puistola in advance of tomorrow’s deadline, reports Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal (Twitter link). The 22-year-old was acquired as part of the Jesse Puljujarvi deal back in February and had a strong season with Jukurit in Finland’s top division, notching 40 points in 60 games. However, Puistola is already under contract overseas through next season meaning Edmonton would have had to wait even longer to get him in North America.
Edmonton Oilers Acquire; Sign Jayden Grubbe
3:07 PM: Shortly thereafter, the Oilers announced that Grubbe has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the organization. The deal will run until the end of the 2025-26 NHL season. The contract will also carry an AAV of $925K in the NHL, and an AAV of $80K in the AHL.
12:04 PM: With tomorrow’s deadline approaching for many expiring draft rights, a few last-minute dealings may be made. The Edmonton Oilers have done just that, acquiring Jayden Grubbe from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round pick. If not signed by tomorrow evening, Grubbe’s rights would no longer belong to the Oilers.
The fact that they made this trade suggests that an entry-level contract will soon follow, though it has not yet been announced. Grubbe, 20, was a third-round pick of the Rangers in 2021 but still hasn’t taken the jump to elite production in the junior level, despite his NHL size.
In 2021-22 he had just 14 goals and 35 points in 68 games, and while this year was better—18 goals and 67 points in 64 games—it may still not have been enough to make the Rangers interested in offering him a deal.
That, or perhaps the Alberta native didn’t see a future for himself in the Rangers organization. He’ll now get a chance to sign closer to home, and start his professional career with the Oilers minor league system.
Standing 6’3″, Grubbe has shown some flashes, but has a long way to go before making an impact at the NHL level. The fact that the Rangers landed a fifth-round pick for him is rather impressive, given how close they were to losing him for nothing.
From the Oilers perspective, this may have been their best chance at landing the young forward. Should Grubbe’s rights expire, he could re-enter the draft. If they were willing to spend a fifth (or higher) on him anyway, it makes sense to do the deal ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.
Edmonton Oilers Sign Philip Kemp To Extension
The Edmonton Oilers have signed defenseman Philip Kemp to a two-year, two-way contract extension with an average annual value of $775,000, the team announced Tuesday morning.
Kemp, 24, was a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights after the conclusion of his entry-level deal. During the three seasons of his entry-level contract, the Connecticut-born defender spent all his time with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, save for a loan to Väsby IK of the Swedish Allsvenskan due to COVID in 2020-21.
In the recently concluded 2022-23 season, Kemp showcased his development by setting career highs in multiple categories. He appeared in 71 games, recording six goals and 15 assists while also leading the team with a +12 rating. His contributions placed him third among his fellow Condors defensemen in goals, assists, and games played.
Selected by the Oilers in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft, Kemp’s journey to a second NHL deal has been winding. He spent the first three seasons after his draft year playing collegiate hockey at Yale before turning pro in 2020. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 202 pounds, Kemp is growing into a physically capable and defensively inclined blueliner who’s comfortable in a top-four role in the minors.
At 24, there may not be much of an NHL future for Kemp, but he’s checked off all the boxes that you’d expect from someone in his draft position. If nothing else, he’s set to continue his development into a solid farmhand player, still bringing value to the organization even outside of an NHL role.
Moving Cody Ceci To Free Up Cap Space Might Not Be Edmonton's Best Option
- While the Oilers will need to free up some cap space to re-sign Evan Bouchard and round out their roster this summer, David Staples of the Edmonton Journal argues that one of those money-saving moves shouldn’t involve moving defenseman Cody Ceci. The 29-year-old still has two years left on a contract that carries a $3.25MM price tag and saw his output dip from 28 to 15 points this season while seeing his playing time go down slightly as well. However, the fact that he can still handle second-pairing minutes remains valuable on a team that has some unproven defenders and others that are best served with limited ice time so if they can find a way to cut costs elsewhere, that might be a better way for them to go.
List Of NHL Prospects Attending 2023 Memorial Cup
After the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and the QMJHL’s Québec Remparts took home their respective league championships yesterday, the field for the 2023 Memorial Cup is set. They’ll be joined by two WHL teams – the league champion Seattle Thunderbirds and the host team Kamloops Blazers – on their quest to capture the pinnacle of North American junior hockey.
Pitting best against best at the U21 level from across the continent, the tournament also gives NHL-drafted prospects an early taste of high-pressure hockey on a larger stage than regular junior play. If you’re looking to see your favorite team’s prospects have big performances at this tournament, which runs from May 26 to June 4, we’re providing a comprehensive list of NHL-affiliated prospects attending the tournament.
There will be a new champion this year after last year’s winner, the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, lost to the Gatineau Olympiques in five games in their first-round series in the QMJHL playoffs. Chicago and Dallas lead the way with three representatives at the tournament, while nine teams (Boston, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Tampa Bay) don’t have any prospects playing this year.
C Nathan Gaucher (Québec, 2022 22nd overall)
LD Olen Zellweger (Kamloops, 2021 34th overall)
RW Dylan Guenther (Seattle, 2021 9th overall)
LD Jérémy Langlois (Québec, 2022 94th overall)
RD Vsevolod Komarov (Québec, 2022 134th overall)
LW Lucas Ciona (Seattle, 2021 173rd overall)
C Justin Robidas (Québec, 2021 147th overall)
LD Kevin Korchinski (Seattle, 2022 7th overall)
LD Nolan Allan (Seattle, 2021 32nd overall)
C Colton Dach (Seattle, 2021 62nd overall)
Columbus Blue Jackets
LW James Malatesta (Québec, 2021 133rd overall)
C Logan Stankoven (Kamloops, 2021 47th overall)
RD Gavin White (Peterborough, 2022 115th overall)
RW Matthew Seminoff (Kamloops, 2022 179th overall)
Detroit Red Wings
LD Evan Nause (Québec, 2021 56th overall)
Los Angeles Kings
C Caedan Bankier (Kamloops, 2021 86th overall)
RD Kyle Masters (Kamloops, 2021 118th overall)
C Owen Beck (Peterborough, 2022 33rd overall)
C Jared Davidson (Seattle, 2022 130th overall)
LW Reid Schaefer (Seattle, 2022 32nd overall)
RD Luke Prokop (Seattle, 2020 73rd overall)
New Jersey Devils
RW Chase Stillman (Peterborough, 2021 29th overall)
New York Islanders
LW Daylan Kuefler (Kamloops, 2022 174th overall)
New York Rangers
LW Brennan Othmann (Peterborough, 2021 16th overall)
LD Brian Zanetti (Peterborough, 2021 110th overall)
C Jon-Randall Avon (Peterborough, undrafted)
San Jose Sharks
C Tucker Robertson (Peterborough, 2022 123rd overall)
St. Louis Blues
C Zachary Bolduc (Québec, 2021 17th overall)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
C Fraser Minten (Kamloops, 2022 38th overall)
C Connor Lockhart (Peterborough, 2021 178th overall)
Vegas Golden Knights
C Jordan Gustafson (Seattle, 2022 79th overall)
RW Jakub Demek (Kamloops, 2021 128th overall)
C Ryan Hofer (Kamloops, 2022 181st overall)
C Brad Lambert (Seattle, 2022 30th overall)
Ken Holland To Honor Final Season Of Contract
Sportsnet is reporting that Edmonton Oilers president of hockey ops and general manager Ken Holland told the media that the long-time NHL executive intends to honor the final season of his five-year contract. Holland added that he isn’t sure how long he will stay in the role but he has unfinished business.
Edmonton has been a disappointment in each of the four seasons that Holland has been at the helm, they’ve qualified for the post season all four years, however they’ve only advanced past the second round once. The Oilers had another strong regular season this year going 50-23-9, however they were ousted by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round in six games.
Holland came into the organization with a lot of fanfare after leading the Detroit Red Wings to multiple Stanley Cups in his time in the motor city. However, in Edmonton he has been unable to build around the two best players in the game in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Holland has never been able to solidify Edmonton’s goaltending which was once again a big part of their undoing in the playoffs. Jack Campbell was brought in from the Toronto Maple Leafs on a five year $25MM contract, but he failed to live up to expectations. Stuart Skinner was fine in the regular season but the young netminder crumbled under the postseason pressure and was yanked several times after putting up an .883 save percentage.
Edmonton has also struggled to build up depth scoring beyond their top six. McDavid, Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did the heavy lifting this year, but the bottom six was a black hole. Warren Foegele but up 28 points in 67 games but beyond that there wasn’t much.
Holland will have his work cut out for him as he tries to give Edmonton another kick at the can. But given their lack of success in the postseason, fans are getting antsy as the Oilers enter the last couple years of McDavid and Draisaitl’s current contracts.
Warren Foegele Played Through Wrist Injury
- TSN 1260’s Jason Gregor tweeted today that Edmonton Oilers Warren Foegele played through an apparent wrist injury since February. Gregor goes on to say that it limited the forwards mobility and impacted his shooting. Foegele struggled early in the playoffs but was one of the best Oilers forwards in the series against the Vegas Golden Knights as he had two goals in Edmonton’s six game series loss. The former Carolina Hurricane had an MRI today and it will determined in the coming days whether surgery will be required.