Oilers mailbag: What will the offseason bring to Edmonton?


EDMONTON  — We haven’t done a lot of mailbags, but now is as good a time as any. 

As Edmonton shops for a goalie, looks to move two of four players listed below, and waits for the puff of white smoke on Evander Kane, let’s answer a few questions from Oiler fans on what the summer may bring. 

From the hashtag #mailmanspec, we bring you a late June mailbag. Enjoy. 

Well, Ash, let’s look at Holland’s history with goalies. And, sorry, we can’t ignore cap space. 

In Detroit, Holland allocated big money to Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph, and tried to do the same with UFA’s Jacob Markstrom and Darcy Kuemper here in Edmonton but could not land either one. With no big UFA names available this season, history tells us that Holland will choose a cheaper, less proven goalie over paying big money for a free agent question mark. 

Marc-Andre Fleury, we continue to hear, chooses not to play in Edmonton. John Gibson almost certainly has Edmonton on his no trade list, and American players in coastal locations almost never opt for an Edmonton or Winnipeg. If Gibson is willing, however, we’d bet Holland is all over that trade and willing to trade a top prospect, Puljujarvi and this year’s first in the deal. 

Edmonton’s two primary UFA targets are Ville Husso and Jack Campbell

We predict the market will drive Husso’s price tag too high — he is 27 and has just 64 NHL games played — while Campbell is more of a known commodity. Zach Hyman will know Campbell well, while he pressure coming from Toronto is down-sized compared to Husso coming from St. Louis. By all accounts Campbell is a person who would work well with Stuart Skinner, who should get 25 starts this season. 

My bold prediction: Holland gives Skinner every chance to become Jordan Binnington or Tristan Jarry. And in the meantime, Campbell comes to Edmonton for stability. 

Well Matt, I’m not sure “the media” views Puljujarvi as the odd man out, as much as the one player who could go to arbitration and earn a salary that far exceeds his level of production. He had 14-22-36 in 65 games last season. That pro rates to 18-27-45 in a full 82-game season. 

And arbitrator could award a salary of $3.5-$4 million, too much for Puljujarvi’s level of production, IMO. 

To be clear, I see Puljujarvi as an analytics fail, the same way Mark Fayne, Benoit Pouliot, Martin Marincin and (if I recall correctly) Dominik Kahun had analytics that far exceeded their actual value as a player. We know that both the eye test and analytics get to wrong sometimes. I believe this is one of those times. 

That’s not Puljujarvi’s fault, all it means is those numbers could produce a player who is paid more than his worth to the team, a crucial moment for Holland. 

The stats you list beg a couple of questions: How much is due to playing much of the season next to Connor McDavid? (Very much.) Who replaced Puljujarvi on right wing, when we reference his centre’s stats with/without him? (Most often Zack Kassian.) 

At age 24, we are still projecting on Puljujarvi. Wherever he’s going to end up, he’s not there yet. 

His Qualifying Offer is $1.4 million. Ken Holland can live with the hope that he will still progress if the cost is around $2.25 million. But if the GM does not see growth on the horizon, there are cheaper, harder to play against third-liners on the market, if that’s what he’s signing. 

And what about this? What if Puljujarvi is ready to move on to a new environment, as he was two years ago? We’ve approached his agent, Markus Lehto, who politely declined to speak. But if acceptance from his teammates was an issue two years ago for Puljujarvi, will that have changed enough for him to be happy as an Oiler? 

Or will he want to find new teammates, and a fresh start? 

The best way to identify who the GM is looking at here, Jeff, is to assess the players who have not lived up to their current cap hit. That puts Kassian ($3.2 M) and Warren Foegele ($2.75 M) at the front of the line, while I believe Tyson Barrie ($4.5 M) has played to his AAV but is highly tradeable, if you count up the number of NHL teams that lack a powerplay quarterback. 

Toss Puljujarvi’s name on to that list, depending on his pending pay raise, and you have a pool of four players from which Holland will try to gain some cap relief. 

All four of those players will not return to Edmonton. I’d bet you a pitcher of beer at the Commercial Hotel on that. 

Mike, I have a theory on this. 

When NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that Kane arbitrator is busy until well into July, I called, er, no chance. I think it is a quiet instruction for the San Jose Sharks, who still owe Kane almost $22 million on his voided contract, to make a trade and move the contract along without voiding it. 

The NHL would rather avoid a precedent being set here, yet can not force Kane to go back and play for the Sharks. A trade would solve both of these issues. 

Kane and agent Dan Millstein would dispute this, as they believe their arbitration case is rock solid. They want a settlement from San Jose and a chance to sign a big UFA deal — who wouldn’t? 

I suspect Edmonton’s only chance of retaining Kane is to make a trade with the Sharks. San Jose could possibly retain some salary, or relieve the Oilers of some money, and in the end realize a return for a player that would have reaped nothing other than the cap hit for whatever the arbitrator decided. 

Edmonton would send the Sharks players from the list in the previous question, and have Kane for three more seasons. 

It’s a theory. That’s all it is. 

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