The 2021 off-season for the Edmonton Oilers has certainly been one of the more interesting ones in franchise history.
This has been the first year where Ken Holland had the ability to make more moves in the off-season to improve this franchise going into this October. It's been a summer that you certainly could say has received a mixed reception.
To start with the positives, credit is due when it comes to improving the forward core. As much as the contract length and term on the Zach Hyman deal might be tough to handle, he's a player that will have a positive impact on the top six and will thrive playing on a line with Connor McDavid.
Hyman is a player that would have hit the 30-goal mark if not for the COVID-19 pandemic during his time in Toronto. That level of potential offensive production will be a welcome addition.
Holland also re-signed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins long term to an eight-year extension worth $41 million that avoided. Nugent-Hopkins, the longest tenured Oiler, will be on a second line with Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto, who'll want to bounce back after having a challenging 2020-21 campaign.
Jesse Puljujarvi should also have an impact. In a year that saw him return to NHL after spending 2019-20 in Finland, he was able to record a respectable 25 points in 55 games.
When it comes to depth forwards, getting Derek Ryan over to Edmonton was one of Holland's better moves this summer. Ryan is a solid depth scoring addition that can be relied on in his own zone.
Warren Foegele also comes over as another depth addition to the Oilers in the deal for Ethan Bear. Foegele is coming off a third straight season of double digit goals in Carolina and even-strength shot generation will be a strength of his - something the Oilers have lacked in the bottom-six over the past few years.
But what about Zack Kassian? Will he be in orange and blue this fall?
Kassian played in only 27 games this past season, recording five points while battling injuries. When he was healthy, he simply wasn't that good. The four-year extension to sign Kassian in early 2020 is not aging very well.
Edmonton's defense was a part of this team that attracted the most headlines this summer. Duncan Keith, Cody Ceci and the moves to bring back Tyson Barrie, Slater Koekkoek we're notable, as was shipping out Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear. The Oilers also lost Adam Larsson to the Seattle Kraken.
With the changes to the Oilers defensive unit, it will be interesting to see if names like Evan Bouchard and Phillip Broberg will be able to get a chance to not only crack into the pairings but maintain a place this year. Both are apart of the Oilers future and it would be a good sign if both can make another jump as pros this season.
In net, we know that Mike Smith is locked up for the next two seasons, The team has yet to find a taker for Mikko Koskinen, nor an improvement over him, either. In a year in which the goalie market was rich with options, it's a bit surprising to see the Oilers facing the possibility of having the exact same tandem of last season.
Koskinen struggled mightily last year, so it's odd to see the team go status quo again. If the Oilers don't make a move for a goalie, it would be interesting to see if the team gives another look at Stuart Skinner. In the AHL last year Skinner went 20-9-2 with a GAA of 2.38 and a .914 save percentage with the Bakersfield Condors. Skinner did get one start last year with the Oilers, in an 8-5 win over Ottawa.
I wouldn't entirely rule out the idea of him in Edmonton, although it's not a perfect solution.
We're still in August and the team may not be done yet with the roster tinkering. It still looks like Edmonton is a playoff team, but is it enough to go far?
That's the million dollar question nobody knows the answer to.