Last week, I wrote about some of the pieces that I think the Oilers could afford to give up in a potential trade. The natural follow-up to that article would be for me to look at which players that the Oilers could be targeting this summer.
The Oilers need wingers. They need at least one top 6 winger, and they need an improvement in their depth scoring from their wingers. The Oilers also need an upgrade at centre, specifically on the 3rd line. The idea of Jujhar Khaira, Sam Gagner, Colby Cave, or Kyle Brodziak playing 3C just doesn’t inspire any confidence. We can certainly expect some kind of change to the forward group this summer.
On defence, the Oilers are still aching for an offensive right-handed defenceman. The defence badly needs an infusion of mobility and puck movement. The left side is quite strong, but the right side is lacking. Nicholson suggested that the team would be looking for a player of that description this summer prior to the end of the season.
These players could all be available for varying reasons ranging anywhere from possibly becoming cap casualties to a team wanting to capitalize on moving players with expiring contracts to a falling out of some kind. Without further adieu, here’s the list:
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning had an incredible regular season, which was what made the Jackets’ sweep of the Lightning incredible as well. RFA Brayden Point will be getting a big new contract this summer, which has the Lightning in a bit of cap trouble. They are also rumoured to be interested in UFA Erik Karlsson. They will have to move some money out, regardless of whether Karlsson signs with them or not. The good news for teams like the Oilers is that Tampa Bay will likely have to part with a good player that may be a luxury they can no longer afford.
Years until UFA: 5
29 G – 18 A – 47 pts in 80 GP
Cap Hit: $5M (NTC)
Johnson hasn’t been able to repeat his 72-point performance from 2014-15, but he is good for 45-50 points in a season. Johnson has one thing that the Oilers need desperately: speed. He can also play any of the forward positions, which is a huge plus for a team as thin up front as the Oilers are. Johnson can definitely put the puck in the net. He scored 29 goals for the 2nd time in his career last season. He is a sure bet for 20+ goals if healthy. Johnson is also from the same hometown as Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane, WA). Johnson’s mom taught Kailer how to skate, and Kailer views Tyler as a role model. Having Johnson here could be good for Yamamoto whenever he makes the jump to the NHL. He has cost certainty for 5 more years at a reasonable $5 million hit. He checks a lot of boxes for the Oilers.
Years until UFA: 3
8 G – 26 A – 34 pts in 64 GP
Cap Hit: $5.3M (NTC)
Like Johnson, Palat brings speed to the table. Palat is also good defensively. He has fought injuries over the past few seasons, but he still get a point total in the mid-40s or more if he is healthy. He is also on a reasonable cap hit at $5.3 million. He would be a great addition here in Edmonton.
Years until UFA: 4
13 G – 34 A – 47 pts in 75 GP
Cap Hit: $5.25M (M-NTC)
Miller had a hot start in TB after being traded there at the 2018 trade deadline, but this past season wasn’t nearly as good for him. His 47 points is likely representative of the type of production we can expect from Miller over the remaining term on his deal. He doesn’t have the same type of speed that Johnson and Palat do, but Miller competes hard every night. He would also be a useful addition in Edmonton.
Assuming that NTCs would be waived, I would expect the price to be similar for all three of these guys given that they are all close in age, term, and production. TB would be doing this as a cap dump, so a package of prospects and picks would likely be enough to get a deal done with TB. Their need is on defence, specifically on the left side. I would anticipate Caleb Jones and a 3rd round pick would be enough to get one of these top 6 forwards in orange and blue next season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Like their divisional foes in Tampa Bay, Toronto has to give a big new contract to a young star RFA. The impending Mitch Marner contract means that the Leafs are going to have to move some money out this summer.
Years until UFA: 5
7 G – 20 A – 27 pts in 54 GP
Previous Year’s Cap Hit: $6.96M
Oof. This was a rough season for Nylander. He had put up 61 points in each of the last two seasons before holding out this season. The holdout clearly had an effect on his play, because he was brutal. The Leafs have two RFA RWs in Marner and Kapanen that were both able to produce more than him this past season. The Leafs will have other options besides trading Nylander, but that is a move that would create a lot of cap space and it’s one that they could afford to do based on their RW depth chart.
Years until UFA: 3
16 G – 28 A – 44 pts in 73 GP
Cap Hit: $4.5M (M-NTC)
Kadri is one hell of a 3rd line centre. He has been playing behind Matthews and Tavares on the depth chart, and he has also been useful on the powerplay for the Leafs. 44 points is on the low end of what he can produce offensively. He has evolved into an effective defender as well, as Connor McDavid would likely tell you. His role in Edmonton likely wouldn’t be all that much different because he would definitely be 3rd on the depth chart at centre when Draisaitl plays the wing. Kadri might even be able to play on the wing on a 2nd line with Nugent-Hopkins. Kadri’s issue is the fact that he has been suspended in each of the last 2 playoff series that he has played, both losses to the Bruins. Maturity has always been an issue with Kadri, which is one big reason why the Leafs might make him a cap casualty this summer.
Years until RFA: 1
8 G – 21 A – 29 pts in 82 GP
Cap Hit: $2.1M
Brown would be more of an addition for the 3rd line than for the top 6, but he would bring speed and determination to the Oilers forward ranks at a reasonable cap hit. No, the fact that he played on McDavid’s team in Eerie does not mean that he can play in the top 6 in the NHL. I like Brown, but I feel like there is too much excitement surrounding the possibility of his coming here. He’s an effective role player, but nothing more than that.
Dealing with the Leafs to find an impact forward will likely be costly. The Leafs would likely want a roster player back in exchange for Nylander or Kadri. Moving either of those players would be a cap dump for Toronto, so it would have to be a cheaper roster player, and the Oilers would have to supplement with picks and prospects. They have lost to the big bad Bruins in the first round two years in a row. They could use a bit of toughness in their lineup… the Oilers have some of that! The Leafs would probably want either Nurse or Larsson in return, and the Oilers would probably have to add another piece. Nylander would be more expensive than Kadri, but both would likely be too rich for Holland’s blood.
New GM Paul Fenton hasn’t been shy about making changes in Minnesota since he was hired. He traded Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle prior to February’s trade deadline. If I were a betting man, I would bet that he isn’t done re-shaping the Wild roster just yet.
Years until UFA: 4
21 G – 21 A – 42 pts in 81 GP
Cap Hit: $5.5M (M-NTC)
Zucker regressed a little bit last season compared to his 64-point 2017-18 season, which may have had something to do with him nearly being traded at the deadline. Zucker isn’t a big guy, but he plays like he is. He’s tenacious, he can skate, and he can produce. The Oilers need what Zucker brings.
Years until UFA: 1
14 G – 29 A – 43 pts in 82 GP
Cap Hit: $5,187,500 (M-NTC)
Spurgeon doesn’t receive the same amount of attention that Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba do, but he is a really good defenceman. He fits the bill for what the Oilers are looking for on defence. He’s a right-handed shot that can produce and play on the powerplay. The fact that he only has one year left on his deal could mean that he is available.
Keep in mind that both of these Wild players have NTCs, so they would have to agree to come here. Zucker has some term left, so I would imagine that the Wild would want a roster player back for him. My guess would be the Wild would ask for Puljujarvi and a mid-round pick for Zucker. They would probably want a younger replacement for Spurgeon if they are going to give him up. I would anticipate them asking for Bear and a 2nd rounder for Spurgeon.
The Jets are another team that have to dish out big contracts to young stars this summer. Both Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are due for new deals this summer. Jacob Trouba is coming off of a career-year and he is need of a raise as well. The Jets are definitely going to need to shed some money prior to next season.
Years until UFA: 6
21 G – 16 A – 37 pts in 62 GP
Cap Hit: $6M
Ehlers can straight up fly! He still managed to surpass the 20-goal mark despite only playing in 62 games. However, he still has not been able to score a goal in the playoffs. Despite his obvious skill, he could end up being a cap casualty in Winnipeg.
8 G – 42 A – 50 pts in 82 GP
Previous Year’s Cap Hit: $5.5M
Trouba found another gear this season, posting a career-high 50 points. The right side in Winnipeg is interesting. They have Byfuglien signed long-term, and they have Sami Niku that appears ready for full-time NHL duty now. They also have Trouba as an RFA and Tyler Myers as an UFA. They will likely only be able to keep one of Trouba or Myers. The only reason to move Trouba would be because of his previous contract dispute with the team. It doesn’t seem like he wants to be in Winnipeg long-term, so they could opt to move him now.
The price of Ehlers or Trouba would likely start with the 8th overall pick. The Oilers would also likely have to add a piece or two, depending on the quality of said pieces. I would imagine Winnipeg would ask for a quality prospect like Benson, Jones, or Bear as well in exchange for either player.
Vegas Golden Knights
If you would’ve told me that the Vegas Golden Knights would be in cap trouble heading into their 3rd year of existence at the 2017 expansion draft, I’d have said you were nuts; but here we are! They are already projected to be over next season’s cap, and they haven’t even re-signed William Karlsson yet. They are definitely going to have to move some money out this summer.
Years until UFA: 1
2 G – 5 A – 7 pts in 15 GP
Cap Hit: $2.75M
Haula missed most of this season with a knee injury, but he was quite productive in the games that he did play. He got 55 points in Vegas’s inaugural season. I think it would be foolish to expect a repeat of that performance, but I see no reason to think that Haula couldn’t get 35-40 points as a 3C for the Oilers. He has one year left on his deal, and VGK has Karlsson, Stastny, and Eakin as their top 3 centres. Haula is entirely expendable.
Years until UFA: 3
3 G – 26 A – 29 pts in 65 GP
Cap Hit: $3.875M
Miller provides decent value as a 2nd pairing RH defenceman. He has averaged close to 0.5 points/game over the course of the last two seasons, and he plays on the Golden Knights’ powerplay. There seems to be a bit of a rift between Miller and the coaching staff in Vegas, and they need to shed some dollars, so moving Miller may be in the cards. However, I am inclined to believe that Vegas will be more likely to move forwards out than defencemen because they don’t have anther option to replace Miller with on the 2nd pairing.
Vegas needs to improve the depth of their prospect pool in addition to needing to shed money, so they would likely be seeking picks and prospects in return for roster players. For Haula, I would anticipate the ask being for a mid-round pick or a prospect like Marody. For Miller, I would expect them to ask for a 2nd round pick or an RHD prospect like Bear.
The Hurricanes are in a pretty damn good spot right now. They just made the Eastern Conference Finals and they have oodles of cap space. They have a lot of young and talented pieces locked up long term on team friendly deals, and they have more young talent coming. The Hurricanes have no reason to do anything but add this summer, but the rumours surrounding a couple of their right-handed defencemen won’t seem to go away.
Years until UFA: 2
18 G – 21 A – 39 pts in 82 GP
Cap Hit: $5.75M
Calgary felt that moving on from a young RHD that put up 50 and 44 points in the previous two seasons was the right thing to do last summer. There were all sorts of rumours that Hamilton wasn’t good in the room, but that is all speculation. His production regressed even more in Carolina this season, and there were rumours suggesting that the Hurricanes were shopping him during the season. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire… I wouldn’t rule out Hamilton being available.
Years until UFA: 1
11 G – 24 A – 35 pts in 82 GP
Cap Hit: $4,833,333 (M-NTC)
The rumours surrounding Faulk have been around for a few years now. He got 49 points in the 2014-15 season, and he hasn’t been able to repeat that performance ever since. Critics have suggested that he isn’t a good enough skater and that he is poor in his own end, but he can consistently get around 35 points and he can play on the powerplay. That is exactly what the Oilers need right now. He’s only got one year left on his deal, which could mean that he is available.
Hamilton will certainly be the more expensive of the two. He was a part of the deal that sent Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to Calgary in exchange for Hamilton, Michael Ferland, and the rights to Adam Fox. Calgary acquired Hamilton from Boston in exchange for a 2015 1st round pick, and two 2nd round picks. Acquiring Hamilton would take a significant package. It would likely start with the 8th pick. They would probably ask for Puljujarvi and another pick or prospect as well. Hamilton just doesn’t make sense at the expected price.
Faulk would likely be cheaper since his production is lower than Hamilton’s and he is one year away from UFA status. I still think it would take some combination of Puljujarvi, Bear, and a high pick (2nd rounder) to get a deal for Faulk done.
Carolina doesn’t have to make a move here, so they will likely drive a hard bargain. I’m not optimistic about the Oilers making a deal with Carolina.
New York Rangers
The rebuild continues in New York. It’s going to get a real shot in the arm with the likely addition of Kaapo Kakko with the 2nd overall pick in June. They have some pieces there now, and they have multiple picks in this year’s first round. They may not be in a hurry to trade any more veterans for picks after their impending haul in Vancouver, but you never know.
Years until UFA: 1
28 G – 24 A – 52 pts in 79 GP
Cap Hit: $4.63M (M-NTC)
Kreider is big and fast. He can also score. At 6’3” and 220 lbs, he brings everything a team would need for playoff hockey. If the Rangers make him available, he will get a lot of interest from teams.
Given the fact that the Rangers are rebuilding, the return would need to involve a high pick or a top prospect. It would either be a 1st round pick or Puljujarvi plus something else.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets will be a wild card this summer. They are going to lose Panarin and Bobrovsky to free agency, and Duchene seems a likely bet to join the UFA exodus. There will be change in Columbus this summer, but we don’t know how significant that change will be. They do have one young forward with a history of success that appears to be on the outside looking in at the moment.
Years until UFA: 4
2 G – 23 A – 25 pts in 75 GP
Cap Hit: $4.9M
Wennberg got 59 points in 2016-17. It appears as if that season was an anomaly because he is lightyears away from being that player now. He was a healthy scratch for Columbus at times this season and during the playoffs. He’s 24 years old. This isn’t an aging veteran at the end of his career. He’s still in his prime years. He is a gifted playmaker. I don’t see a reason that he can’t be a productive 3rd line centre in the NHL, and he has top 6 potential as well.
This is a kid with a big contract that needs a fresh start. I don’t see Wennberg having an expensive price tag. Columbus would probably want a roster player back. A deal with Wennberg and Lucic as the centerpieces is probably a bit of a dream, but its worth exploring. The Oilers would certainly have to give something else up given Lucic’s age and higher cap hit, but it wouldn’t be a significant piece. They need a 3LD, so someone like Lagesson might be a fit. If not Lucic, then possibly a player like Kassian or Khaira would go the other way.
These aren’t the only rumours out there, these are just the ones that would make the most sense for the Oilers. Phil Kessel and PK Subban have had their names come up in rumours, but I think both would be too expensive for the Oilers to even think about. Rasmus Ristolainen was in the rumour mill, but he has struggled defensively in Buffalo (no reason to think that would change here), and the Sabres are weak on the right side beyond him. Colton Parayko’s name has been out there since last summer, but I really don’t think the Blues will be eager to make a move of that significance after this playoff run.
There are certainly a lot of options out there for Holland and the Oilers, but there is certainly no rule that says that any of the suggested trades has to be made. The Oilers could also look to the UFA market to fill some of their needs. My focus for next week will be potential UFA targets for the Oilers.