The Edmonton Oilers are bound to make a shake up on July 1st.
The Oilers had a rough season and with interim general manager Keith Gretzky (brother of Wayne Gretzky) running the show, it’s likely that he’ll want to make a number of changes before next season.
In this post, I’ll identify some free agents that Gretzky should have on his radar as free agency approaches. So, without further adieu, let’s jump right in.
It’s no secret that the Edmonton Oilers have struggled in net. This past season, the Oilers have had a few different goalies start in net including Mikko Koskinen, Anthony Stolarz and Cam Talbot. Unfortunately, no goaltender has looked too impressive in net. So, adding a star caliber goaltender like Bobrovsky makes a lot of sense.
If the Oilers choose to target Bobrovsky, they’ll have to cough up quite a bit of their free cap space. But, the bigger elephant in the room will be convincing Bobrovsky to sign in Edmonton. Bobrovsky had a great year in Columbus in which he posted a 2.58 goals against average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage (SV%). His performance will make him a hot commodity and Edmonton might be a tough sell given their lack of success over the last few years. Nonetheless, Gretzky should still try to land the Novokuznetsk, Russia native.
In a post in early March, I suggested that the Oilers should sign Jordan Eberle. As I mentioned in the post, there has been a hole at right-wing and Eberle could fill that void.
Also, there are rumours that McDavid isn’t happy in Edmonton and could potentially ask for a trade to get out of Northern Alberta. If the Oilers can bring back Eberle, it could potentially bring McDavid’s happiness back to life. There is a lot of chemistry between him and Connor McDavid. Eberle and McDavid could be a solid duo once again and could resurrect the Oilers’ successful power play unit from a few years back.
If the Oilers can’t land Eberle, the next winger that they should be working on luring to Edmonton is Panarin.
Panarin is easily the best winger on the market. Since making his NHL debut in 2015, he’s played in four seasons (two in Columbus and two in Chicago) and he’s managed to tally at least 74 points in each season.
Panarin’s skill-set is reminiscent of former Oilers winger Taylor Hall. Panarin is flashy with his speed and is a true play-making winger, just like Hall.
Jeff Skinner has been quite the addition to the Buffalo Sabres’ roster this season. He quickly found chemistry with Jack Eichel and the two forwards were inseparable this season. But, Skinner hasn’t signed a contract extension. Unless something changes, he’ll hit the market on July 1st.
While he wasn’t seen as a top-line winger in Carolina, he clearly was one in Buffalo. If he can replicate the same success that he had with Eichel in Edmonton, you’d have to expect that he would be able to top his performance from his year with the Sabres. McDavid averaged roughly 22 minutes a night, while Eichel and Skinner averaged 20 minutes a night. With more minutes, Skinner could be due for a monster campaign if he signs in Edmonton.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs cap crunch, it is more than likely that Gardiner will be a free agent on July 1st. The Maple Leafs have yet to re-sign Mitch Marner and have a few other contracts that they’ll have to attend to.
Gardiner could pack his bags and head to Edmonton. Similarly to Toronto, there is a lot of youth in Edmonton and the Oilers can replicate the success that the Maple Leafs have had. They just need to start adding some new faces to their locker room.
This season, Gardiner missed some time as he had a back injury, but when he was in the lineup, he was outstanding for the Leafs. In 62 games played, he tallied 3 goals, 27 assists, a 21:13 ATOI, 53 give-aways and a 52.2 corsi-for percentage (CF%). While his offensive numbers took a little bit of a dip, Gardiner was more efficient at possessing the puck and not coughing it up. The season before this last one, he had 105 give-aways. Even though he missed 20 games, it’s still impressive that he was able to lower his give-away numbers to 53.
Benn had an outstanding season with the Montréal Canadiens. In 81 games played, he tallied 5 goals, 17 assists, an 18:12 ATOI, 71 give-aways and a 53.4 CF%. All-in-all, he’s a solid depth defenseman who is quite good at puck possession. If you take a look at the below visual from CJ Turtoro, you’ll see that he was the second best Canadiens defenseman at exits per 60. His exit passes/60 and clears/60 are really impressive.
visual by CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder
In addition to his possession numbers, Benn is quite physical and isn’t a afraid to use his body to block shots. This season, Benn had a total of 128 blocks and 124 hits. The Oilers should definitely look to add someone like Benn who can lay out a hit and block shots.
All-in-all, there are a number of solid free agents that the Oilers should have on their radar. Hopefully for Oilers fans, they’ll sign a few and be a more explosive team next season.
stats from Corey Sznajder, hockey-reference.com and NHL.com
visual from CJ Turtoro
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals