Free agency is the empty calories of the hockey experience. It’s like dessert at a fancy restaurant. You’ve had wine, a fine meal, good company, and more wine. You’re content, this is good, we should do this more often. Suddenly, the dessert tray rolls by and your date notices a chocolate something-or-other.
That’s free agency day. Hard to say no to those empty calories.
The shopping and trading we see in the coming hours will inform us about the future, and about individual members of the department of youth. Some young prospects are going to get great news, others will see roadblocks appear that make NHL time next season difficult or impossible. Today, more than anything, is Ken Holland’s report card on his roster. What does he consider a priority? What impact will that have on the kids in the pipeline?
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Ken Holland will need to be creative in free agency
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi signing overshadows a strong day for Oilers at draft
- Lowetide: Oilers draft Dylan Holloway on Day 1, with trades possible Wednesday
- Lisa Dillman: Dylan Holloway could be a ‘difference-maker’ for the Oilers
- Eric Duhatschek: Connor McDavid’s positive COVID-19 test stirs debate about the next NHL season
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers could benefit both now and in the future by adding a right-shot defender
- Lowetide: As Oilers exit the system, the situation is fluid
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What’s in a name? For NHL players, deciding on pronunciation can be a challenge
- Lowetide: Reconsidering Oilers’ offseason in light of Oscar Klefbom injury news
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s work week: Get good players, keep good players
- Lowetide: Oilers’ defence prospects are pushing, and changes are coming
- Lowetide: European leagues are open, and Oilers prospects are everywhere
- Lowetide: Ken Holland and Dave Tippett’s past players: Can any help the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Roster projections for Oilers, including trade and free agent targets
- Jonathan Willis: Why the Oilers should buy out James Neal
- Lowetide: Potential trades and partners for the Oilers’ offseason
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers third-line centre search should include other teams’ cap casualties
- Lowetide: Dealing a defenceman? Taking stock of Oilers’ blueline assets
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Oilers GM Ken Holland on improving internally, the flat cap and goaltending
- Lowetide: 10 free agent targets for the Oilers this offseason
- Lowetide: What if the Oilers went scorched earth in front of 2020 free agency?
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 Prospects, Summer 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Unqualified RFAs could be top offseason targets for the Oilers
RW Jesse Puljujarvi has a new contract and the Oilers will make room for him in the coming days by trading a veteran. This is a good time for him to return to the NHL. He has man strength (22 now), over a season of successful play in the Liiga and an organization that can use his range of skills. For those who have forgotten, he is 6.04, 201, skates well and drives to the net with abandon. Needs to make quicker decisions, learn to find quiet spaces in the offensive end and work on consistency. A lot of those words are a match for every kid at 22 who entered the NHL. Puljujarvi has real talent, he could be here for a decade if things rhyme.
RD Evan Bouchard got some good news this week, as the organization has cleared the way for him to begin his NHL career. Matt Benning’s exit means there’s an opening on RH side (third pair) for 2020-21. He will have competition, including Kris Russell and Caleb Jones, but Edmonton wants to add puck movers and Bouchard’s ability to pass the puck is exceptional.
LD William Lagesson is still hanging by a thread as a roster player for next season (I have him No. 8 on the depth chart) but the team qualified him so the two-way defender will get a second contract. We’re just beginning the roster tweaks, only Puljujarvi’s addition and the exits of Andreas Athanasiou and Benning represent significant change. Today and this coming month will tell us much about Lagesson’s future.
50-MAN LIST (38)
LW Tyler Benson sits No. 4 on the current depth chart and that’s good. What is bad? Edmonton is likely to add a left winger (maybe more) in the coming days. Benson’s final entry-level season is coming, I’m going to bet he plays in both the AHL and NHL this year.
LC Ryan McLeod sits No. 5 or 6 as we begin the process, but one of the priorities for Holland is a No. 3 center. Like Benson, he’ll likely split time between AHL and NHL in 2020-21.
Kris Russell is the only Oilers player on the list (No. 34), but I have heard Koskinen, Larsson, Neal, Khaira, Kassian and Chiasson mentioned in recent days.
As for possible acquisitions on the list, there are plenty who fit but I’m not sure if any are real options. Andreas Johnsson seems attainable, Jake DeBrusk would be ideal. Darcy Kuemper remains an option, although I had heard he was heading east before the draft.
I think the play here is to use some of Klefbom’s cap to address needs in free agency. I did some ciphering in my piece for The Athletic above and Holland may need it to make things go in free agency. Nurse-Jones-Russell on the LH side with Larsson-Bear-Bouchard (Lagesson No. 7) will definitely need some help, but the Klefbom status makes it impossible to throw any dollars at the problem. Maybe Philip Broberg saves the world.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we kickstart the long weekend with a grand show! Free agency 2020 in the NHL begins right at 10 and we have you covered. Guests include Steve Lansky from Inside the Truck Podcast and BigMouthSports, we’ll chat about the NHL draft and free agency (coverage) and MLB playoffs. Corey Graham, Edmonton Oil Kings play by play man will pop by to talk about Jake Neighbours going in the first round of the 2020 draft and when we’ll hear his voice calling OK games. Matt Iwanyk will pop in at 11, we’ll talk about the Lakers winning another championship, and comparing this team to great LA basketball clubs of the past. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Hang on man, this free agency day is going to be wild!