Skip to main content

NHL Off-Season Outlook: Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers weren't far off from a Stanley Cup final appearance, but what does the off-season have in store for the club?
USATSI_15921264

Here’s the latest in THN.com’s breakdown of off-season plans for all NHL teams. Today we’re analyzing the Edmonton Oilers.

2021-22 Record: 49-27-6
Finish In The Pacific Division: 2nd
Salary Cap Space Available (As Per CapFriendly.com): $15.8 million
Restricted Free Agents: Ryan Mcleod, F; Jesse Puljujarvi, F; Kailer Yamamoto, F;
Unrestricted Free Agents: Josh Archibald, F; Derick Brassard, F; Evander Kane, F; Colton Sceviour, F; Kyle Turris, F; Brett Kulak, D; Kris Russell, D

What Edmonton Has: A terrific head coach in Jay Woodcroft; arguably the best player on the planet in Connor McDavid; another absolute superstar in Leon Draisaitl; two very smart, well-above-average forwards in Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; three solid blueliners in Darnell Nurse, Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci

What Edmonton Needs: Two new goaltenders; depth on defense, and on the fourth line of forwards; a contract extension for Evander Kane

What’s Realistic For Edmonton Next Season: The Oilers were a different team after Jay Woodcroft took over for the fired Dave Tippett in early February. Immediately, Woodcroft led them to a five-game win streak, and made them better and better as the season continued, posting a 26-9-3 record in his first year as an NHL head coach, and taking them to the Western Conference Final before being swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Oilers fans should be confident in the direction of the team, but the loss to the Avs should be a sobering note of how much improvement Edmonton still requires if they’re to win a Cup.

The start of that improvement has to come in net. Mike Smith is under contract for the 2022-23 season, but he’s 40 years old and is expected to retire. If he doesn’t, he can’t be the guy the Oilers depend on to be their starter in net, so GM Ken Holland is on the hunt for a new No. 1. That may turn out to be Leafs unrestricted free agent netminder Jack Campbell, but it’s not as if Edmonton can break the bank and outbid everyone else, especially if they’re intent on re-signing winger Evander Kane, who fit in very well after signing a one-year deal for the 2021-22 campaign. They’ve also got restricted free agent Kailer Yamamoto to sign, and they need to bulk up their defense corps either via free agency or trade, particularly now that veteran D-man Duncan Keith is retiring. It won’t be easy to replace what Keith brought to the table, but that’s the challenge for Holland.

The Oilers’ biggest trade chip is forward Jesse Puljujarvi, but Holland will be looking at a buyer’s market for the 24-year-old, who fizzled out in the playoffs and who is looking for a change of employer. There are teams interested in him, but they know Holland has little leverage, so the return on Puljujarvi won’t be spectacular.

The other thing to consider for Edmonton is the fact they narrowly got past the Los Angeles Kings in Round One this spring, needing seven games to beat L.A. That would’ve been a sour end to the year for them, but McDavid and Draisailt stepped up and pushed them through to the second round. Kane, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were very good for them as well, but they need assistance in their bottom-six group of forwards.

All in all, the Oilers are going to be one of the best teams in the relatively weak Pacific Division, but they’ll have to contend with their arch-rival Calgary Flames, the Kings, the always-competitive Vegas Golden Knights and the improved Vancouver Canucks in 2022-23. The 12-point gap between second-place Edmonton and the fifth-place Canucks will likely be shortened this coming season, and that means whoever is in net for the Oilers will be facing immediate pressure to thrive between the pipes.

Nothing less than another return to the Western Final will keep fans, ownership and management happy. The unbelievable skill of McDavid and Draisaitl will always give them a head start over their opponents, but they need more production from throughout the lineup if they’re to make it to the Cup Final.

TOP HEADLINES

Mason McTavish
Play

Top 20 Players to Watch at the 2022 World Junior Championship

The revived 2022 World Junior Championship is set to get underway this week. Here's a look at 20 players to watch in Edmonton.

David Krejci
Play

David Krejci Returns to Bruins on One-Year Deal

After spending the past year back home in Czechia, David Krejci has signed a one-year deal to return to the Boston Bruins.

USATSI_17903264

Coyotes Sign Crouse to Five-Year Extension

The Arizona Coyotes have agreed to terms with forward Lawson Crouse on a five-year contract extension.