Colin McDonald’s 2010-11 contract was an AHL level deal. His AHL resume (and cup of coffee in the show) weren’t enough to warrant a two-way deal and no other NHL team was willing to spend a contract on him, so he returned to Edmonton’s AHL team (moving from Oklahoma City to Bakersfield for the 2010-11 season).
In a very real way, the Oilers said goodbye to the 2003 entry draft with that AHL signing. The architect of that draft (Kevin Prendergast) was gone from the scouting department by 2008, and his three highest picks in 2003 (Marc Pouliot, McDonald and Jean-Francois Jacques) were setting their hockey course in other organizations.
The Oilers did find useful pieces later in the draft (Stortini, Brodziak) but traded Brodziak too soon because they made the wrong decision (Pouliot over Brodziak).
We used to rage about the big spending teams like Detroit because all the good free agents landed there and that did contribute to the frustration of the 1990s and early 2000s.
It’s also true that getting less than share from the annual draft was a gigantic anvil through the brain for Edmonton in most Junes. Drafting wasn’t great, and then sending away Brodziak, Cogliano, Petry and others before their prime also hurt deeply. Have the Oilers turned the corner on this or are we in a cool down phase before ramping up again?
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: Which late-value or tryout players should the Oilers invite to camp?
- Lowetide: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
- Lowetide: Projected training camp roster for the 2020-21 Oilers.
- Jonathan Willis: Will the Oilers repeat their power play magic in 2021?
- Lowetide: Why Dmitri Samorukov is an Oilers prospect with a big future
- Lowetide: Why hasn’t Ken Holland pursued college free agents for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Increase in skill wingers adds mystery to Oilers preseason
- Lowetide: How many ‘peak seasons’ can Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ increased focus on drafting skill is key to future success
- Lowetide: A short history of Oilers’ impact prospects at the world juniors
- Lowetide: Why Dave Tippett’s training camp with Oilers will be so compelling
- Lowetide: Oilers first-round pick Dylan Holloway’s fast start has fans buzzing
- Jonathan Willis: A brief history of Oilers teams with goalie problems, and how they overcame them
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
Between RFA and UFA, Ken Holland will need to make some decisions about 21 names on the current 50-man list. That’s a lot of bother. Here’s the list.
- LC Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Oilers fans as a group consider Nuge the golden child they’ve been saving the university money for, so not signing him would have consequences. I think it’s Job 1 for Holland as it pertains to the free agent list.
- RW Kailer Yamamoto. Injuries and a quiet series against Chicago aside, Yamamoto would seem to be a part of the future on Edmonton’s skill lines. He’ll never be in the back row of a team photo but he’s a brave winger and has real skill and anticipates very well.
- LW Dominik Kahun. I try not to get ahead of myself here but this looks like one of those moments where a franchise gets a free player just because they were on the crosstown bus on the right morning. I think he’s going to have a solid year and get a long-term deal.
- LW Tyler Ennis. He was faster last year than in previous seasons and scored well in his late-season audition. If he can post 15 goals and outscore five on five while moving up and down the lineup I think he’ll be a strong candidate for another deal.
- RC Gaetan Haas. I have him ahead of Khaira because he’s faster and also suspect he’ll take a step forward offensively in the coming season (he and Khaira were a match five on five). I love his forechecking.
- LC Jujhar Khaira. RFA this coming season and I’ll guess it’s about 50/50 on a re-signing with this player. If he scores 10 goals this year (7 in 56 games) I expect they’ll sign him but the big man has to show some five on five acumen.
- LW Joakim Nygard. He’s in a group who are going to need to get the lead out in order to find a role. Ennis is in the same price range and there are talented wingers who are a year or two away. Oilers need to see him for an entire year.
- RD Tyson Barrie. Barrie’s future in Edmonton depends on performance. If he has a big season without going super nova, Holland may be able to afford him. I think he could hit 30+ points in a 56-game season and that would bring a desire to bring him back for another year.
- RW Alex Chiasson. I think we’ll see Edmonton move on from Chiasson. The Kassian contract added to Kailer Yamamoto’s second half and the return of Jesse Puljujarvi means too many right wingers and Chiasson could be the odd man out.
- RD Adam Larsson. When healthy he’s easily Edmonton’s best shutdown defender. Last year, his injury early and then against Chicago had a major impact on fortunes. I don’t know that Edmonton will sign him but will miss Larsson when he’s gone.
- G Mike Smith. He is unlikely to return but I said that before the Oilers signed him this time. Holland is a unique GM in that he opens the talent pool available to him by trusting old players longer than anyone. He’s been successful but I think this is the last chance Texaco.
Cooper Marody is at a crossroads, where injury meets opportunity. This is a pressure point for franchise and team, Marody might want to get a second opinion. I will tell you his first AHL season was fantastic but there’s no way to know if he can come all the way back.
Tyler Benson will go as far as his legs take him. He’s great in the corners, is physical, can pass well enough to play on a skill line and has great offensive instincts. This is the kind of player (Tyler Pitlick, etc) Edmonton flushes too soon, so I hope (and believe) Holland will make sure before moving on.
Theodor Lennstrom is an intriguing player and a Holland acquisition. I expect he’ll get every opportunity to show he can play and that means at least one more contract.
Stuart Skinner has the confidence of the organization, they are all in on this young man. His first two pro seasons were not strong, so he’ll need to show well in the coming year. I have zero doubt they’ll extend him if he can post a reasonable number in the AHL. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see him get into an NHL game in the coming season. Holland does listen to his hockey people based on some signings (mentioned Scott Howson when signing Phil Kemp) and Bob Green is in Skinner’s corner I expect. Stuart Skinner is more highly regarded than his numbers imply. Pretty sure.
Dylan Wells had the disadvantage of running his entry deal with Skinner, and his performance hasn’t been strong enough to receive great notice.
The AHL UFA’s next year are Anton Forsberg, Alan Quine, Joe Gambardella, Adam Cracknell and Patrick Russell. All but Gambardella were signed by Holland and all could return. As for Gambardella, he got lost a little last year (Russell ate his lunch) so he’ll need to show something when the Condors get back in action.