No GM had a worse offseason than Ken Holland of the Oilers. He traded legitimate assets for a deflated Duncan Keith at a full salary. He brought in a ton of risk with the signings of Zach Hyman and Cody Ceci. Then, he extended Darnell Nurse for $9 million a season! He’s at best a $6.5 million defender. The worst part? There is no doubt that Holland thinks he did a good job. Yikes.
Offseason additions: F Zach Hyman, D Duncan Keith, F Warren Foegele, F Derek Ryan, D Cody Ceci, F Brendan Perlini, F Colton Sceviour.
Offseason subtractions: D Adam Larsson, D Ethan Bear, F Dominik Kahun, F Alex Chiasson, F James Neal, F Jujhar Khaira, D Caleb Jones, F Tyler Ennis.
No matter what the team around him looks like, Connor McDavid will be amazing. The team did not win a postseason game, which overshadowed just how incredible his regular season accomplishments were. Not only did he score 33 goals in 56 games. He partnered that with 72 assists for 105 points (!!). He almost scored two points per game! He had the league point lead by 21. The guy who was closest? His teammate, Leon Draisaitl. Away from McDavid, Draisaitl scored 31 goals, including leading the team with 15 on the man advantage. He took more face-offs than any Oiler, winning a pristine 55.7 percent of the time. He has proved that he is not just a McDavid product. Coming in on a seven-year deal is Zach Hyman, who will be a gritty left-wing for McDavid who can score goals and be physical. Sound familiar, Oilers fans? Yeah, that was said about Milan Lucic. Hyman is smaller and less physical and also not as slow as Lucic was. But there is a ton of risk involved for a guy with some injury problems. He scored 15 goals with 33 points in 43 games for Toronto last year. In his return to North American hockey, former fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi had a career season. He scored 15 goals with 25 points, and reached 101 hits. While it may not be something that you would have wanted from him back when he was drafted in 2016, this is positive progress. The first big move that the Oilers made was extended Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for eight seasons. He is definitely not good enough for a contract that long, but it was necessary to keep his cap hit down. His 16 goals last year was his lowest since 2015-16, but it should be noted that Nugent-Hopkins scored to a 25-goal pace. The last big thing that Edmonton did was extend restricted free agent Kailer Yamamoto. He scored 11 goals with 26 points in 27 games in 2019-20, then did not reach either mark in 52 games. He scored eight goals with 21 points, marking a disappointing follow-up for the young forward. Gone is promising young defenseman Ethan Bear, and in his place comes Warren Foegele. The 25-year-old is a solid two-way, checking third liner. He scored 10 goals last year with an equal amount of assists. Trying to win the third-line center job is 2018 second-rounder Ryan McLeod. He played better than his one point in 10 NHL games suggests last year. He scored 14 goals with 14 assists in 28 AHL games, earning his promotion. The alternative at that role is Derek Ryan, who could easily drop to the line below. The Oilers saw Ryan on the other side of the Battle of Alberta for the past three seasons as a capable two-way center on the Flames. He was a good scorer for the first of the two seasons, but that changed last year. He had just 37 shots in 43 games, scoring twice with 13 points. His defensive skill does make that offensive production manageable. Veteran Zack Kassian is back for his seventh season in Edmonton. The gruff forward played in just 27 games last year, but that did not stop him from racking up 73 hits. The problem is that Kassian is not a great defender, and he had just five points with 18 shots on goal. The Oilers hoped that Kyle Turris could be their third center last year and he just could not be. Just like Kassian, he scored two goals with three assists in 27 games. He is the opposite of a physical player, although he does have a lot more skill. Turris can earn a right-wing spot. Speaking of right-wing, Josh Archibald has a better scoring touch than most of the other bottom-six options. He has scored 19 goals over his two seasons in Edmonton. Granted, his 15.1 percent shooting rate was a huge reason way. After scoring nine goals with 16 points in 21 games last year in Sweden, Brendan Perlini has made his way back to the NHL. He was last seen in 2019-20, with four points in 40 games. For depth purposes, Devin Shore was brought back. He scored five goals with nine points in 38 games last year, which is fine for a 13th forward. He also had 26 blocked shots and 73 hits.
The pressure is on for Darnell Nurse, even before his big contract kicks-off. He has been a very good, but not great offensive defenseman in his time with the Oilers, and that has been aided by time with McDavid and Draisaitl. Nurse rode a 10.4 shooting percentage, something unheard of for a defenseman, to a 16 goal season, along with 20 assists in 56 games. Nurse does not lack grit; he has reached at least 100 blocked shots and hits in each of the past four seasons. There are some defensive issues with Nurse, but it does not compare to Tyson Barrie. Barrie became the first player ever to lead defensemen in points and not receive a single Norris vote. He made a living on the power play, the source of 23 of his 48 points. Still, his defense is a big question mark. He is not just a bad defender, he has become a defensive liability. If the analytics community did not like Nurse and Barrie enough, then wait to see what they would say about the Oilers’ second-pairing. Duncan Keith is a Blackhawk legend and could very well be a Hall-of-Famer one day. But his play has deteriorated very rapidly over the past two seasons to a scary point. Keith had just 15 points and for the first time since 2013-14, failed to reach the 100 blocked shots mark. Cody Ceci was often criticized in Ottawa and Toronto. He now has made his way back to Canada after building up his stock with Pittsburgh last year. Ceci had 17 points with 70 blocked shots and 74 hits in a small, third-pairing role. Still, he was an average defender at best, which worked for his role with the Penguins. But the Oilers will need better than that. After scoring 17 points in 23 games in Sweden, Evan Bouchard came back to North America when the season started. He spent the entire season with the NHL club, but the bad news is that he got into just 14 games, with three points. The tenth overall pick in 2018, there is hope Bouchard can be a top-four defenseman by the end of the year. While he may not always be the most popular player, Kris Russell has been a good defensive third-pairing player. The blocked shot king had 75 in 35 games last year, along with nine assists. Barring a major injury early on in the season, he will reach 2000 blocks in his career next season. Formerly a top-four defenseman, Oscar Klefbom may not play again, or at least this season, as he battles back from major shoulder surgery. Coming back as a depth option is Slater Koekkoek. He was a bit disappointing last year, with just one point in 18 games. However, he did have 31 blocked shots. A fourth-round pick all the way back in 2014, William Lagesson got into 19 games last season. He had two assists with 15 hits, putting himself in the mix for 2021-22.
This is really where the question marks are for this team. Mike Smith was undoubtedly great last season. He posted a .923 save percentage with a 2.31 GAA. But he is simply not that kind of goalie. The only season where he had numbers as good or better than last season was back in 2011-12. He was an unrestricted free agent, and the Oilers brought him back for two seasons. The concerning factor is that he is 39-years-old, turning 40 in March. The best backup the Oilers have to offer is Mikko Koskinen, who was awful last year. Koskinen had a 3.17 GAA with a .899 save percentage in 26 games. He did post a .917 the season before, so there is hope. The Oilers brought in Alex Stalock to be a veteran third option. He had a .910 save percentage in 38 games for the Wild in 2019-20.
Zach Hyman – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Warren Foegele – Ryan McLeod – Kyle Turris
Josh Archibald – Derek Ryan – Zack Kassian
Extras: Devin Shore, Brendan Perlini
Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie
Duncan Keith – Cody Ceci
Kris Russell – Evan Bouchard
Extras: William Lagesson, Slater Koekkoek
Extras: Alex Stalock
The Oilers play in a very weak Pacific Division. Every spot except for Vegas’ is seemingly up for grabs. Defense and goaltending is going to be a major question mark for Edmonton all season. But that offense is scary. The depth may not be there, but McDavid and Draisaitl are the one duo in hockey who can carry a team. They will be the reasons this is a playoff team, not the additions that were made in the offseason.