This in from NHL hockey insider Kevin Allen, formerly of USA Today, now the lead hockey writer for Detroit Hockey Now and hockeybuzz.com, with his things-to-do list for the Edmonton Oilers this summer, which includes three big moves, bringing in a goalie, moving out James Neal’s contract and signing d-man Tony DeAngelo:
1. Oilers acquire a credible goalie under age 39. Elvis Merzlikins? Joonas Korpisalo? Maybe put a call into the Islanders about Semyon Varlamov. Talk to UFA’s Linus Ullmark and Freddie Andersen.
2. Edmonton general manager Ken Holland should try to come up with enough assets for Detroit’s Steve Yzerman to take James Neal’s contract off his hands to open up more cap space. With his team still a couple of years away from competing, Yzerman will eat bad contracts in exchange for assets that will help him.
3. Oilers should re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson and then call the Rangers about Anthony DeAngelo. Fans want the Nugent-Hopkins cap money to be used for two players. I think the Oilers would miss Nugent-Hopkins contributions.
1. Let’s deal with these ideas in order. Allen is specific in the goalies he suggests, but the Oilers have all kinds of options should they decide to buy-out Mikko Koskinen. Merzlikins, 27, is in the final year of a deal that pays him $4 million, Korpisalo, 27, in the final year of a deal that pays him $2.8 million, with both UFAs afterwards.
Varlamov, 33, has two more years on a deal that pays him $5 million. The Oilers would have to trade something for each of these players, though if Ilya Sorokin keeps playing well for New York in the playoffs, the Islanders might simply look to dump Varlamov’s contract, even as he had a solid year, with a .929 save percentage in 36 games. If Sorokin wins big in the playoffs, he’s going to get paid big, with the Islanders having to find that cap space somewhere.
Merzlikins had a .916. save percentage and Korpisalo was at .894, so you’d be buying low on him.
But the fact is there are numerous free agent goalies for the Oilers to consider, both UFA and RFA. Edmonton may well have the money to spend on a No. 1. goalie, with Chris Driedger, Petr Mrazek, Philipp Grubauer and Linus Ullmark all options for now, along with Frederik Andersen, who had an off year in Toronto.
2. Allen’s second suggestion is promising. Would Yzerman bite on James Neal? He’s going to have all kinds of dead cap space. If so, what would it take to get him to bite?
Neal has two-years left on a deal that pays him $5,750,000 per. Would Edmonton be willing to give up its first round pick this year to move him out? It might take that to get Yzerman to budge, but I doubt the Oilers would do that.
Maybe Edmonton would take on the last year of 37-year-old Frans Nielsen’s $5.25 million per contract and pay a lesser price to move out Neal.
Detroit needs help at every position, so it’s possible Yzerman would be willing to take on Neal if Edmonton included one or two “B” level NHL prospects/players, such as William Lagesson, Caleb Jones, Cooper Marody, or Tyler Benson.
Does that make sense?
3. Yes, the Oilers should try to sign RNH and Larsson, but only if the price and term are right. Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now keeps saying six years at $6 million might be the price for RNH. If that is what RNH is asking, it would be wise to let him go test the market before paying it. I have a hard time seeing his value on the open market being that high, given his weak even strength scoring this year.
As for bringing in Anthony DeAngelo, the player was kicked off the New York Rangers this year under a cloud. Larry Brooks of the New York Post digs into these rumours in this piece from February 2021. The good news? Darnell Nurse was DeAngelo’s teammate for half a season in major junior hockey and would be able to rate DeAngelo as a teammate. But does DeAngelo, 25, make sense for the Oilers even if he passes an in-depth character check? He’s a strong passing and attacking right shot d-man. He put up 53 points in 68 games for the Rangers in 2019-20. He’d be an excellent on-ice replacement for Tyson Barrie, but the Oilers already have a solid prospect to replace Barrie in Evan Bouchard. It strikes me that some other team desperate for a right-shot attacking d-man would be willing to pay more with longer term for DeAngelo than the Oilers.