- Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft issued a few injury updates today. Per Woodcroft, as covered by The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman, defenseman Vincent Desharnais sustained a “minor injury,” winger Carter Savoie was injured during the team’s prospect tournament and is “out long-term,” and prospect forward Raphael Lavoie “won’t participate” in training camp after finishing last season injured. These updates do have implications for the Oilers’ roster, as Desharnais was expected to compete for a depth role on the team’s blueline, and Lavoie was seemingly entering a do-or-die training camp battle to impress Oilers brass after two straight up-and-down seasons at the AHL level.
As expected, the Edmonton Oilers have worked out a deal with restricted free agent Ryan McLeod, agreeing to a one-year, $798K contract. It should come as no surprise, given that McLeod was at the facility yesterday to do his medical testing and general manager Ken Holland explained that he would be on the ice today.
McLeod, 23, had little leverage in negotiations as an RFA without arbitration rights, and will end up accepting a deal lower than his qualifying offer. That was always the risk of pushing talks this late into the summer with a team that has very little cap room, but it appears as though McLeod has decided missing training camp or the first part of the season isn’t worth it in this case.
It’s probably a good move in the long run, given the opportunity that McLeod has in front of him. As the most obvious candidate for the third-line center role, he should be able to carve out a place for himself this season and become indispensable to head coach Jay Woodcroft. If he can play solid defense while improving on the nine goals and 21 points his scored as a rookie, there will be plenty of time to work out a more lucrative contract down the road.
By keeping his cap hit low, he can guarantee his spot on the roster as an everyday player and provide some surplus value to a team that has its eye on the Stanley Cup. When more money is available down the road, the young forward (who only turned 23 yesterday), should be able to capitalize.
There are only a handful of restricted free agents left to sign and it appears as though at least one will come off the board rather soon. Ryan McLeod was at the Edmonton Oilers practice facility to undergo his preseason medical testing, and general manager Ken Holland told reporters including Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic that he hopes the young forward will be on the ice tomorrow.
McLeod, 23, scored 21 points in 71 games as a rookie last season and was a strong defensive presence in the playoffs, averaging more than 14 minutes a night and adding four points. Selected 40th overall in 2018, his emergence as a legitimate option down the middle of the ice is a huge reason why the Oilers lineup looks deeper than it has in years. Holland expects to sign McLeod to a one-year deal because of cap restraints.
- The team is currently over the salary cap, but as expected, Mike Smith will join Oscar Klefbom on long-term injured reserve to start the year. Smith took his physical this week and failed, according to Holland, and has now returned to his home in Kelowna. Smith, 40, is heading into the final year of his contract and is not expected to play professional hockey again.
- Slater Koekkoek, meanwhile, has left the Oilers for a different reason. The 28-year-old defenseman has left the team for the time being to work on his mental health but still has the goal of returning at some point. Holland and the entire organization are in full support of Koekkoek’s decision. In his absence – and that of Cody Ceci, who will miss the first few days with a hamstring strain – the team brought in Jason Demers on a professional tryout.
While it appeared as though the Edmonton Oilers had moved on from Jake Virtanen, that isn’t the case. The team has announced that the former Vancouver Canucks forward will join them in training camp on a professional tryout, along with Jason Demers, whose PTO was reported previously.
Virtanen, 26, is actually skating with the group today, according to Mark Spector of Sportsnet.
Selected sixth overall in 2014, Virtanen had a tumultuous career with the Canucks, scoring 55 goals in 317 games, and never turning into the top-line power forward that they had hoped for. His play on the ice, however, was completely overshadowed in 2021 when he was placed on leave from the Canucks after “concerning allegations” were made regarding a sexual assault that allegedly took place in 2017.
His contract was eventually bought out after the Canucks tried to trade him, and following a civil lawsuit filed last summer, he signed in the KHL. Earlier this year, the Vancouver Police Department charged Virtanen with sexual assault, and he underwent a trial this summer.
On July 26, a jury found Virtanen not guilty after a week-long trial.
He’ll now receive another chance in the NHL, at least for the preseason. His play in the KHL didn’t really deserve it – Virtanen had nine goals and 16 points in 36 games – but there have been tantalizing flashes of upside in the past for the former Calgary Hitmen star. The Oilers will give him an opportunity to show that skill, though a PTO does not guarantee an NHL contract of any sort.
The Edmonton Oilers have had a busy offseason, signing Jack Campbell, Evander Kane, and Brett Kulak in an attempt to shore up their roster after a promising run to the Western Conference Final. One of the natural consequences of that spending has been that the team will rely on placing Oscar Klefbom and Mike Smith on long-term injured reserve in order to remain cap compliant. Today, Thomas Drance of The Athletic released an interview he conducted with Oilers GM Ken Holland, and in it, Holland spoke on the team’s cap situation as well as the state of their blueline. (subscription link)
When asked about the LTIR situation and how it relates to training camp battles, Holland said that top prospect Dylan Holloway is “probably going to have to be on the opening night roster” in order to maximize the benefit the team receives from those LTIR placements. He didn’t commit to keeping Holloway beyond that point, though, and did state that he’d rather Holloway play “20 minutes a night” in the AHL rather than play in a limited role in the NHL.
Now, for some other notes from across the Western Conference:
- One other topic Holland touched on in his interview was the team’s defense. While Holland did state that he didn’t think the team would be able to carry 23 players on its roster, he did touch on the upcoming battle for spots on the Oilers’ blueline. Holland said that he wanted “one of” the group of Vincent Desharnais, Dmitri Samorukov, Markus Niemelainen, Philip Broberg, and Mike Kesselring “to make the team.” Of note here is that all but Samorukov on that list are waivers-exempt per CapFriendly, so that factor alone may give Samorukov the leg up in the battle for a spot on that defense.
- While Karel Vejmelka impressed at times last season, describing the Arizona Coyotes’ goaltending situation as anything but wide-open would be a mistake. The team didn’t make major additions in their crease this summer, adding Jon Gilles on a minimum deal and Christopher Gibson on a PTO, but that wasn’t for a lack of trying. Craig Morgan of PHNX.com cites sources to report that the Coyotes “targeted” goalie Charlie Lindgren on the open market before he ended up signing with the Washington Capitals. Lindgren earned a three-year $1.1MM deal, a contract that surprised some in both its cost and length due to the fact that Lindgren was an AHL goalie last year, albeit a brilliant one. That contract should be less of a surprise now though as its clear there was competition to secure Lindgren’s services.
11:55 AM: Seravalli has elaborated on the specific nature of the settlement. He reports that Kane will receive a “one-time payment” from San Jose, and as a result, a “cap penalty” will be retroactively applied to last season’s salary cap calculation for the Sharks, who finished last season with just under $5MM in space.
Presumably, the nature of this settlement means the cap implications of the agreement are entirely in the past and will not have an impact on GM Mike Grier’s roster-building decisions moving forward.
11:04 AM: One of the oddities of this NHL offseason was the cloud of a grievance hanging over Evander Kane, the San Jose Sharks, and the Edmonton Oilers. Kane had filed for wrongful termination of his previous contract with the Sharks, while the Oilers had signed him anyway, with the hope that things could be settled and Kane could continue to play in Edmonton.
It appears as though that will be the case, as Kevin Weekes of ESPN reports that a verbal settlement has been reached between the Sharks and Kane. Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff expands on the details, explaining that the Sharks are expected to face a salary cap charge because of the settlement, though are mitigating the risk that an arbitration decision could have brought.
When his contract was terminated, Kane had three years and $19MM in salary remaining. His new four-year contract with Edmonton is worth $16.5MM over those same three seasons, leaving a disparity of $2.5MM. Darren Dreger of TSN tweets that the settlement is expected to “come close” to making up that difference, though it is not clear how the cap charge will be applied at this point.
Even if it is just $2.5MM spread over three seasons, it is meaningful. The Sharks currently have less than $250K left under the cap ceiling with a projected 23-man roster, meaning any additional penalties will make things tight for this season. Of course, that is the much-preferred option to having Kane’s entire contract on the books, which would have been possible if he won the grievance and was reinstated.
The Sharks moved on from Kane quite some time ago, stashing him in the minor leagues for the start of last season until they could terminate the contract. He then joined the Oilers on a one-year deal and scored 22 goals and 39 points in 43 games down the stretch. He re-signed with Edmonton and now carries a cap hit of $5.125MM through 2025-26.
- Per Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, legendary defenseman Duncan Keith is joining the Oilers’ hockey operations department in a player development role. Keith recently ended his NHL career and will bring his over 1,200 games of NHL experience to the table as he helps develop the Oilers’ promising crop of young players.
The Edmonton Oilers will be bringing some veteran depth to training camp, signing Jason Demers to a professional tryout according to Daniel Nugent-Bowman. The team is also “discussing the idea” of offering Brett Ritchie a PTO, while they are no longer in on Jake Virtanen, according to Nugent-Bowman.
Demers, 34, played a handful of games in the KHL last season and played for Canada at the Olympics, but hasn’t been a regular in the NHL in over a year. His last action at that level was with the Arizona Coyotes in 2020-21, when he registered just four points in 41 games.
Overall, the veteran defenseman has had quite an effective career, racking up 214 points in 699 regular season games while averaging just over 19 minutes a night. The right-shot option has played for the Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, and Florida Panthers over his 12-year career, filling in on both the powerplay and penalty kill at various points.
After the Oilers brought in Ryan Murray on a one-year deal recently, there isn’t much room left on the blueline for a player like Demers, though camp injuries are always a possibility. More likely, he is taking an opportunity to showcase himself for the whole league to try and land one last NHL deal before his career comes to an end. So far removed from the league, there’s no telling how effective Demers could be, though his experience and previous success may lead to a team giving him a chance if he’s healthy enough to compete.
The development of young goaltender Colton Point hasn’t gone to plan so far, and after going unqualified by the Dallas Stars this summer, he has now signed an AHL contract with the Bakersfield Condors.
Selected in the fifth round in 2016, Point would go on to star at Colgate University, winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Juniors along the way and appearing to be a rising prospect in the Stars system. Unfortunately, the 6’5″ goaltender didn’t make a very smooth transition to professional hockey and to this point carries an .882 save percentage through 29 appearances in the AHL.
After spending most of last year in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads, it made sense when Point wasn’t issued a qualifying offer and became an unrestricted free agent. Still, adding a 24-year-old netminder on a minor league deal is a worthwhile gamble for an organization like the Edmonton Oilers, who have struggled to develop young netminders over the past several years. While a minor league contract does not officially make him a member of the Oilers, the team will have control of his development and usage while in the system.
Point, a finalist for the Hobey Baker in 2018 after posting a .944 save percentage as a sophomore, has a long road ahead of him if he is to ever get to the NHL.
The Chicago Blackhawks will be retiring the No. 81 in honor of Marian Hossa this season, with a ceremony set for November 20 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hossa was a huge part of three Stanley Cup championships for the Blackhawks and recorded 415 points in 534 regular season games with the club. He also has a history with the Penguins, having joined them at the end of the 2007-08 season for a Stanley Cup run that ended unsuccessfully against the Detroit Red Wings.
One of the most dominant two-way players of his generation, Hossa was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2020 after a 19-year NHL career. He sits 59th all-time in points with 1,134, 61st in games played with 1,309, and received Selke Trophy votes in 13 different seasons, despite being a winger. Hossa is the eighth player in franchise history to receive this honor, following Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote, Keith Magnuson, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Stan Mikita, and Tony Esposito.
- It appears as though Andrew Hammond might not be attending Florida Panthers camp on a PTO after all, as he has been linked to HC Traktor in the KHL. The 34-year-old netminder actually played 11 games in the NHL last season – his first action at that level since 2017-18 – posting an .879 save percentage. In his career, Hammond holds a .916 save percentage mostly because of his incredible 20-1-2 record with the Ottawa Senators as a 26-year-old rookie in 2015.
- Jake Virtanen may be returning to an NHL rink in the next few weeks, as Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now reports Edmonton or Calgary are likely PTO destinations for the free agent forward. That follows Ryan Rishaug of TSN’s tweet earlier this week suggesting that the Oilers were waiting on Virtanen’s decision after extending a tryout offer. Virtanen, who spent last season playing in the KHL, was found not guilty of sexual assault in July following his trial regarding an incident in 2017.