Let’s say that Ken Holland targets Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mike Smith and Adam Larsson in free agency. Let’s say he gets all four and pays the low, low price of a little less than $19 million. Let’s say Oilers fans are clamoring for more help (No. 3 center, a 1A goaltender and other things) before training camp. What could he do?
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OILERS 2021-22 ROSTER (POSSIBLY)
In this scenario, fans would be aghast in finding five-year deals for Nuge and Hyman, a three-year deal for Armia and Larsson, and a one-year contract for Smith.
The real tragedy is the trade: Mikko Koskinen, the 2021 first-round selection and the rights to Matej Blumel sent to the Arizona Coyotes for one year of Darcy Kuemper and one year of Johan Larsson (plus the Coyotes second-round pick).
There’s about $1 million in cap room to start the season, and we’ll see about Klefbom, that may mean another free-agent addition.
That isn’t really the team I’d like to see in the fall. You’ve invested heavily in free agency with money and term, flattened your draft completely for one year of a goalie and No. 3 center. Basically going all-in but will glaring weaknesses that will get exposed over the long season and in the playoffs.
What is the alternative? Staying the course, buying a little higher on the free-agent food chain and adding at the deadline to areas of need.
- Mike Smith needs a 1A, Chris Dreidger and Linus Ullmark are quality options. I do like the idea (above) of acquiring Darcy Kuemper and offloading Mikko Koskinen in the same deal, but Edmonton’s first-round pick has exceptional value. If Holland is dealing it, the return has to have some term attached.
- Oscar Klefbom’s injury may mean Holland has to invest in a free-agent defenseman. Ian Cole, Jake McCabe (knee injury a worry) and even Dmitry Kulikov could be options that cost less than Klefbom’s contract and could get Edmonton to the deadline as a playoff team.
- Hyman and Nuge are fine players, but tying the organization to that kind of term times two is unwise. I think Holland might be wise to shop for names like Alexander Wennberg, Blake Coleman, Mikael Granlund. Good to great players who won’t break the bank and make a team regret the entire summer.
- Finally, I think Holland can reasonably count on contributions from several young players by the time the deadline arrives. Philip Broberg performed well in his North American audition in the bubble, he might be that rare player who flourishes with more structure. Dmitri Samorukov should be ahead of Broberg in development (he’s older), perhaps he’s an answer by the deadline. The same applies to Dylan Holloway among the forwards.
If I’m Ken Holland, it’s time to buyout James Neal if the money is needed, and trading Mikko Koskinen works if it can be done without bleeding major assets (and retaining money is an option).
My shopping list has the following names in bold: Alex Wennberg, Blake Coleman, Mikael Granlund, Chris Dreidger, Linus Ullmark, Jake McCabe if his rehab is coming along.
Nuge and Hyman? He needs to be in the conversation and can’t get shut out of free agency. However, if Wennberg is available for less term and money, and it means adding Coleman is also possible, then staying away from a $6 million times five contract makes the most sense from here.