The Edmonton Oilers have a winning move this summer. Can you guess what it is?
It’s most likely more of the same, Ken Holland’s famous patience.
Not everyone is going to like that. For a good number of fans, the move Edmonton should make is obvious. Clear out as much salary as you can, moving out players like Kailer Yamamoto, Cody Ceci and Warren Foegele, for example, and bring in one more big name player, possibly with an Unrestricted Free Agent signing.
It makes perfect sense, right? Ceci and Yamamoto didn’t bring good value on their $3.2 million and $3.1 million deals respectively last summer, while Foegele was inconsistent on his $2.7 million deal. All three are good enough players, but you can maybe get draft picks for them, fill in the roster with big, skilled, mobile, younger and far cheaper players like Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie and Philip Broberg, then spend all that extra cap space on your one big UFA signing, one more $5 million-a-year man to fill out the roster.
What’s not to love? Who says it won’t work?
Such a plan might just be the best idea.
But, one thing, have you seen the prices that UFAs might well command this year?
Over at The Daily Faceoff, astute writer Frank Seravalli worked with AFP Analytics to take a stab at how much the top UFAs will make. Here are a few of their findings:
- Damon Severson, 28, right shot d-man, six years, $6.1 million per
- Tyler Bertuzzi, 28, left wing, six years, $5.25 million per
- Dmitry Orlov, 31, left defence, five years, $6.25 million per
- Alex Killorn, 33, right winger, four years at $5.25 million per
- Vlad Gavrikov, 27, left d-man, five years at $4.9 million per
- Tristan Jarry, 28, goalie, four years, $4.8 million per
- Ivan Barbashev, 27, forward, four years at $4.2 million per
- Scott Mayfield, 30, right d-man, three years at $3.75 million per
- Connor Brown, 29, right winger, four years at $3.3 million
Maybe there is a deal to be had. Move out Yamo and Ceci, bring in Mayfield at similar money to Ceci. Move out Yamo and Foegele, bring in Barbashev at similar enough money to Foegele.
You certainly explore this kind of upgrade. If it’s there, if it all falls together at the right moment, Holland may just pull the trigger on such a move.
But if he doesn’t, if he holds on to, say, Foegele and Ceci, while moving out Yamamoto and keeping a bit of cap space going into the year, I’m not going to be upset. Indeed, that is likely to be Holland’s best move by a long shot.
Edmonton will have Oscar Klefbom off the books this year, meaning the team can accumulate cap space as the season proceeds. If it has extra space at the 2024 trade deadline, it can then make a bigger deal to fulfill a key need. And with less time to pay that player, Edmonton will have the extra short-term cap space to be able to bring in a more expensive one for the playoff run than they could have for the full season.
Most crucially, Holland will also have extra knowledge.
By next February, the Oilers GM will know which of Holloway, Lavoie, Broberg or Noah Philp have stepped up for the Oilers. If Broberg is excelling, he won’t need another d-man. If Holloway is making an impact in the Top Six, or Lavoie or Philp on the bottom lines, it will shift his priority.
Holland will also know which veterans are good to go. Maybe there will be a major injury to a key player that he needs to address.
Maybe Ceci will bounce back strong. Or not.
Maybe Jack Campbell will bounce back strong. Or not.
Holland will know all this by next February and can make his big move then, when he’s much more certain of the state of his team, as opposed to this summer, when he’s guessing much more on all kinds of matters.
I see Edmonton having one big move in them in the 2023-24 season. The key is the timing of such a move, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the timing may be best if Holland is patient.
And we know he’s plenty patient.
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