Fans of the Edmonton Oilers have been hit by one bombshell and some shrapnel in recent days, which likely indicates a change in battle tactics is necessary for the coming 2020-21 season.
The bombshell? Elliotte Friedman’s report that top left shot d-man Oscar Klefbom may need major surgery.
The shrapnel? News out of Arizona from Darren Dreger that d-man Oliver Ekman-Larsson will not drop his no movement clause to come to Edmonton.
The change in tactics? If you listen to Oilers Now, you’ll note that the name of unrestricted free agent Tyson Barrie has only been mentioned 8.3 million times this week, which may mean a) host Bob Stauffer is stirring things up and keeping it interesting for listeners, or b) the Oilers are actually keen on signing this player and Barrie is also maybe keen on the Oilers or c) both.
My guess is that c) is the answer.
- I’d prefer the Oilers sign Tyson Barrie than trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Why? OEL has seven years left on a deal that pays him $8.2 million per year. He may well still be a No. 1 d-man, but he’s an awfully pricey one, both in terms of contract and term, as well as acquisition cost.
- The rumour is that Arizona was asking for Edmonton to take on OEL’s full contract, while also giving up Evan Bouchard and its first pick this year, 14th overall. I have no idea if this rumour has the air of reality to it — if it really was Arizona’s ask — but it’s an almost laughable request to make for OEL.
- OEL has been a great player, but he’s 29 now and he may have negative value over time because of his hefty contract. What I mean by that is that if he doesn’t play like a true No. 1 d-man over the next seven years, he represents an overpay, a weak use of cap space, hence negative value.
- Friedman said on Oilers Now today that he doubted the Oilers had offered the first round pick AND Bouchard for OEL. “I don’t believe that is what Edmonton was considering doing. I don’t think they were talking about Bouchard and a first rounder. Someone told me that was not what they were willing to do necessarily. So I don’t know if these reports about what Edmonton was offering are correct.”
- As for Barrie, Friedman said, “I think there are going to be a lot of teams that are going to be happy to gamble on Tyson Barrie. It just never worked out for him in Toronto. It got off to bad start and it never got better… I think he’s going to get some offers on one and two years deals and be able to pick where he wants to go.”
- Barrie is in a UFA market that for once may be tough on UFAs. The cap is static, not just for this year but likely for years to come. At the same time many owners are hurting for money, meaning the market could have a number of high cost players like OEL available. The number of owners willing to spend to the full cap may also be greatly reduced, meaning players won’t be able to get the dollars and the term they would have expected in a pre-COVID-19 world. With all this in mind, Barrie will definitely be a cheaper bet than OEL. Would he be a fit on the Oilers? If OEL could have been a fit here then Barrie can definitely be a fit, though it will mean moving out at least one right side d-man.
- I haven’t seen enough of OEL or Barrie to have a credible opinion on their value. I’d have had to see them play 20 or 30 times this past year, not just a handful of times, to form a sound and informed take. But I do put some stock in stats like time-on-ice, which is an excellent measure of a coach’s trust in a player, and in points scored at even strength and on the power play, which are strong measures of offensive ability. When you rank NHL d-men in these categories, as well as shots on net at even strength, over the last two seasons Klefbom ranks 14th, Darnell Nurse, 18th, Tyson Barrie, 32nd, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson 56th.
- When we look at the Oilers roster, with Klefbom out, the obvious move would be to trade for a left-shot d-man. But that’s if you think a) Klefbom will be out a long time, b) Caleb Jones isn’t ready to step up into the second-pairing, and c) Kris Russell simply must be moved, as he’s not capable of helping your team win. I don’t believe any of those things are necessarily true.
- On Oilers Now today, Friedman reported that part of the reason Klefbom didn’t play well in the playoffs is that he wasn’t feeling well, he was in some amount of pain, and he was discouraged with his play after the playoffs. It could be that Klefbom will miss most of the year, but if that’s the case I think Jones can fill in on the second-pairing and play well there. I think Jones is as good a player as Ethan Bear, which is saying a lot. But that’s my take.
- Kris Russell is also a useful NHLer right now, so I don’t personally dread the thought of going into next season with Nurse, Jones and Russell at the top of the left side depth chart.
- On the right side, Ethan Bear is a lock in the Top 4. Adam Larsson played great hockey in January and February, then was hurt and also played poorly in the playoffs. I’m not sure if Matt Benning will be back but if he’s not, Evan Bouchard is likely ready to play. But what about the Oilers going with Bear, Larsson and Barrie on the right side? This will give Bouchard one more year to get ready for the NHL at the AHL level.
- If Edmonton’s Top 6 next year is Nurse, Jones, Russell, Bear, Barrie and Larsson, I could live with that. You?