The narrative around the Oilers off-season plans is focused on the acquisition of high end wingers and defensemen. Unfortunately the issues with the on ice talent extends much farther than the more prolific positions.
Acquiring and having cheap talent to plug and play is a practice that every NHL team incorporates. It becomes even more essential when a large amount of cap space is tied up in a small group of players as it is in Edmonton. A team like Edmonton cannot afford to lose cheap options but that is what we have seen over the past couple weeks.
Though not official it looks that Anton Slephyshev will be signing with CKSA Moscow. Iiro Pakarinen has signed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL and Yohann Auvitu is heading to Finland's MTV.
At first glance none of these seem like a big deal but together this represents 3 solid depth options that should have been able to be signed for a total of less than 2 million for all three.
Pakarinen was a strong PK option on a team that desperately needs penalty killers. Yohann Auivitu was a 7th D man but especially later in the season his puck moving abilities were shown better and I would have liked to see him in that spot once again more than say an Eric Gryba.
Perhaps the biggest loss is Anton Slepyshev. This was supposed to be Slepyshev's breakout season as it originally looked like the coaching staff wanted to play him on the right wing with Leon Draisiatl. Pre-season injuries forced him out of that spot and he never seemed to earn the trust of the coaching staff after that. Slepyshev ranked second last amongst all skaters in average TOI with 11:48 (Kassian was last with 11:40). Slepyshev also received basically no PP or PK time as well.
Despite minimal ice time, Slepyshev still managed to produce all 12 of his points at even strength... let's compare that to a random player... say... Drake Caggiula who averaged almost 2 minutes more a game with higher quality linemates and played 17 games more than Slepyshev and managed only 16 points at even strength.
Many fans might want to pass off Slepyshev as a player who was never going to figure things out but let's not forget many of these same people sad the same about Khaira, who is the same age as Slepyshev and had a very successful campaign. I was looking forward to seeing Slepyshev back in the fall and garner a longer look in the top 9.
I view Ryan Strome, Drake Caggiula, Jujhar Khaira,and Zach Kassian as locks for the bottom 6 next season. The Oilers need 3 players to round out this group (including 13th foward). Slepyshev and Pakarinen would have been cheap options to add to this group. Yamamoto and Benson may be able to step into these spots as cheap replacements but neither has shown they are ready for full time NHL duty.
The Oilers already have too many holes to address in one summer and not being able to sign inexpensive options such as Slepyshev, Pakarinen and Auvitu represent another failing of this management group.
Thanks for reading!