NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2019
Check out the latest Oilers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman took note of the frustration expressed by Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid after his club was once again eliminated from playoff contention. McDavid noted it was an “insane season” with coaching and management changes and inconsistent play. “We have a lot of crap to figure out. I hope we can put the right man in the spot and can put together a good team. We let (losing) streaks drag on, we let times were we weren’t able to find wins drag on. You have to find a way to stop the bleeding, quick,” said McDavid.
Friedman doesn’t believe McDavid is looking to leave the Oilers, believing he wants to be part of the solution. However, he feels the club could have a serious problem with their captain if they fail to properly address their issues.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Robert Tychkowski feels the Oilers upper-management must pay attention to the warning signs coming from frustrated stars like McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He points out Nugent-Hopkins, 26, has only been the postseason once since joining the Oilers in 2011 and is watching his career pass by without getting a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.
“It’s my eighth year and I’ve only been in it once. At this point in my career, it’s about making the playoffs and pushing for the end result. Right now, it’s tough to swallow,” said Nugent-Hopkins. Tychkowski also points out Oilers management has done a poor job surrounding their best players with a solid supporting cast.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No one is saying McDavid, Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins want out of Edmonton. Not yet, anyway. However, several pundits have already wondered (especially about McDavid) how much more they’re willing to put up with before their patience is exhausted. If things don’t change under the next GM over the next two or three years, that issue could come to a head.
Nugent-Hopkins could be the first out the door. He’s got two more seasons left on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $6 million and he lacks no-trade protection. He’s popped up in trade rumors several times since 2016 and that speculation could grow if nothing improves. At the very least, they risk making it easy for him to depart via free agency in 2021.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters believe hiring the right general manager and head coach, addressing the organizational rot, and improving the forward depth is among the offseason keys for the Oilers. The “old boys network” remains largely intact in upper management and that has to change. They also noted the Oilers offensive production drops sharply beyond Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Wyshynski and Peters believe the next GM must find a way to shed some salary. Trading Milan Lucic and his hefty contract would be difficult and buying him out wouldn’t free up much cap space. Defensemen Andrej Sekera ($5.5 million annually, no-movement clause) and Kris Russell ($4 million per season, NMC) are often mentioned as trade or buyout candidates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could take at two or three years for the next GM to untangle this mess and reverse the Oilers’ long-sagging fortunes. Shedding Lucic’s contract will be very difficult and could involve packaging him with a top draft pick or prospect plus picking up a sizeable chunk of his annual cap hit. That’s assuming he’s willing to waive his no-movement.
Sekera’s missed most of this season and last season to injuries but when healthy he’s a solid addition to their blueline. I expect they’ll keep him for next season and see how things unfold. Russell’s full no-trade clause becomes a modified no-trade this summer so perhaps there’s a chance of moving him via trade. A buyout would give them over $3 million in savings for 2019-20 but the cap hit jumps up to $3.4 million for 2020-21 before falling off again over the final two seasons.
EDMONTON JOURNAL’s Jim Matheson recently tweeted he feels the Oilers must sign some forwards this summer. “They need a second-line winger to play with Nuge, a third-line C, and two other bottom-six forwards. Speed with all 4.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: To do that, the Oilers must shed salary. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $71 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Fortunately, their only free agents of note are Alex Chiasson and Jesse Puljujarvi and both should be affordable re-signings. Nevertheless, they must find a way to free up cap room to add a second-line winger, a third-line center and two bottom-six forwards.
I would also suggest they bring in an experienced goaltender as I lack confidence in Mikko Koskinen as a starter. Either that or hire a goalie coach who can turn him into a reliable one.