The happiest man in the Oilers organization on the day the team drafted Darnell Nurse was general manager Craig MacTavish: “He gives us an element we’re sorely lacking. He’s a guy who, over time, if we’re patient with him, is going to provide us with toughness. He’s a guy that will ride shotgun for a lot of our first overall picks and our skilled players for a lot of years. But our overriding draft philosophy is still to draft the player who is going to have the greatest impact on our team over time. Based on that philosophy, I still thought Darnell was the player who is going to have the greatest impact on our team.”
These years later, new management signed Nurse to a contract that could see him spend the entirety of his career in the organization. Management has constructed the roster we’ll see for the next four seasons. What general manager Ken Holland needs to do, has room to do, is find players who can help an NHL team win for less than $1 million a year. Is there anybody out there?
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’s the latest!
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50-MAN LIST (41)
Aside from these 41 men, the Bakersfield Condors signed a rather large group of players to AHL deals. They include defensemen Vincent Desharnais, Yanni Kaldis, plus forwards Adam Cracknell, Brad Malone, Devin Brosseau, Luke Esposito, James Hamblin, Matteo Gennaro and Dino Kambeitz.
Last season at this time, Edmonton had 26 forwards on the 50-man, currently it’s at 21. Perhaps those AHL deals are going to take the place of four or five NHL deals, or maybe Holland plans on signing a bunch of college men next spring. It’s weird though, we’re pretty much through signing season. I would expect Slater Koekkoek and not much else from the NHL side.
Edmonton’s cap situation is fine for this year, the roster is set. Next year? If there’s a plan to sign Jesse Puljujarvi and get an upgrade in net, there’s going to be some offloading of overpriced veterans. Zack Kassian would be the logical candidate, maybe Klefbom’s contract gets dealt. If we assume Yamamoto is signed for $2 million this summer and everyone else gets $1 million or less, there will be room for extensions next summer.
Last season, Edmonton used 10 defensemen. If the club repeats that number in 2021-22, we’ll see the NHL debuts of Dmitri Samorukov, Philip Broberg and one of Markus Niemelainen or Filip Berglund.
Aside from Koekkoek, players who remain free agents and could be considered for No. 3 LHD, 7D or lower are Zdeno Chara (dare to dream, he would be a fantastic addition) or Jordie Benn.
Among remaining forwards, I’d like to see Edmonton take a shot at Evgeny Svechnikov, Jayce Hawryluk, Josh Williams, Nathan Dunkley.
The Oilers are about five signings behind. I’ve been waiting for activity. Suspect we’ll see Slater Koekkoek, uncertain after that addition. Holland used to be aggressive with college recruitment, and maybe there’s a Euro out there who will get a late summer contract. The cupboard is a little bare at forward.