Another Thursday means another opportunity for me to scour the web in search of the hottest rumours from around the hockey world and put them all neatly into one nice block of words.
Of course, we saw the Oilers make a big splash last Friday, but are they done? Nobody knows the answer to that but fans sure hope they aren’t and the fact a free agent like Jake Gardiner has some dreaming about the possibility of him becoming an Oiler and the team going all in next season. That’s where I’m going to start.
GARDINER ON A SHORT TERM DEAL?
Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet 590 the other day and was talking about the different possibilities for free-agent defenseman Jake Gardiner, who is no doubt the best of the available UFA’s. When the summer started, the word was that Gardiner was in search of a long-term deal worth between $6-7 million. Obviously, that isn’t going to happen at this stage of the offseason and Friedman suggested that Gardiner might be forced to take a short-term deal to reestablish his value and then try to get a long-term deal next summer.
The Oilers would benefit from an addition like that, but there are a few problems. The first is that the team lacks cap space. The only way for this to work would be for them to deal off a player like Kris Russell and attach his entire $4 million contract, then sign Gardiner to a one-year deal worth between $4-5.5 million.
I would say that’s not going to happen for one very simple reason. If a team was willing to take on the $4 million cap hit of Kris Russell, why would they not just pony up the extra $1 million and go sign Gardiner, a better defenseman, instead?
Also, Gardiner is a left-handed defenseman so unless he’s going to play his offside, he’d be playing behind Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. I just don’t see how this is a fit.
If Toronto could make the money work, I’m sure the two sides would love to reunite. If Winnipeg could get their big-name RFA’s done, they’d probably like to take a shot at him, but I also think that is unlikely. I honestly don’t see a perfect fit out there for Gardiner and I’d expect that this is going to go on for another few weeks.
WINNIPEG OPENS UP A SECOND BUYOUT WINDOW
With Andrew Copp’s new contract being decided by an arbitrator, the Winnipeg Jets have opened up a second buyout window which they could use to buyout Dmitri Kulikov. If they went that route, they would have around $20.3 million to sign Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor.
I’m expecting those two to get around $15-16 million in free agency so they still wouldn’t have enough to go out and get a top-four defenseman, which I believe they need considering they lost Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. Kevin Cheveldayoff might be looking to get rid of one of his big forward contracts and the name I think that could likely go is Mathieu Perrault.
He can play centre or left-wing, is good at both ends of the rink, and has scored at a 15 goal pace in each of the last three seasons. He’d be a perfect fit for the Oilers, but his contract is a massive problem. He has a cap hit of $4.125 million for the next two seasons and the only way the Oilers could afford it is if they sent back one of Kris Russell, Brandon Manning, or Sam Gagner. I could see Winnipeg taking back Russell in a deal, but that would mean the Oilers have lost two veteran blueliners in one summer and barely have any cap relief to show for it.
Like the Gardiner situation, I would love to see the Oilers get in on this situation, but I don’t think it’s very likely. I’d rather see them target a team like Pittsburgh or the New York Rangers. Which brings me to my next point.
PENGUINS TRYING TO MOVE CAP SPACE
Jim Rutherford is in a bit of a pickle right now. He has just over 150k in cap space and he still needs to sign defenseman Marcus Pettersson. There are three contracts he is reportedly looking at moving. Nick Bjugstad (two years at $4.1 million), Bryan Rust (three years at $3.5 million), and Jack Johnson (four years at $3.25 million) are on the block and while the Oilers wouldn’t have any interest in Jack Johnson, I could see why they would want Bryan Rust or Nick Bjugstad.
The only problem here, once again, is that they don’t have money to blow.
If they could find a way to get rid of one of Sam Gagner or Kris Russell, then sure, they could go out a grab a good third-line centre like Bjugstad or a middle-six winger like Bryan Rust.
The bottom line is that there are plenty of players available that would improve the Oilers roster but Ken Holland is simply handcuffed by some bad contracts that he inherited.