Is a bird in the hand worth 2 in the bush for the Edmonton Oilers: 9 Things

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As Jay Woodcroft sorts out the sordid defensive issues that plagued Saturday’s loss in Calgary, lets gaze a little further into the Oilers future.

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Some key decisions lay ahead for players currently on this roster. And how some of these guys perform down the stretch will help dictate how General Manager plays his hand at the poker table.

That and more is this week’s edition of…

9 Things

9. Whose heart did not swell for 5-year-olds Ben Stelter, the Scotiabank Skater prior to the Oilers-Sharks game Thursday. Ben is bravely battling brain cancer. It was great to see fans, the organization and its players put their collective arms around him. The highlights were prominent during ESPN’s intermission of Saturday’s Chicago-Vegas national broadcast. We are all cheering for you, Ben.

8. Oilers prospect Carter Savoie scored the winner as the University of Denver posted a 2-1 victory in the NCAA West Regional Final. The Pioneers are now off to the Frozen Four. That kicks off in Boston April 7th. Edmonton’s 100th selection in the 2020 draft has gone 22-22-44 in just 37 games this season. Will Savoie ultimately be able to overcome his 5’9 frame and be an NHLer? Early returns are positive.

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7. The Oilers are down draft picks, ahead of Summer’s 2022. But many NHL teams feel this draft is relatively shallow. Edmonton’s amateur scouting staff has been an organizational strength since Ken Holland took over. I would not be surprised if the club supplemented its sparse draft cupboard with a series of college signings. Speaking of which…

6. I’ve mentioned previously that University of Alberta Golden Bears F noah philp has attracted the eyes of NHL executives. Both Calgary and Edmonton scouts have looked in on Philp. But so have some members of the Philadelphia and Boston organizations. Philp is a better than a point a game performer the last 2 seasons and has scored 8 goals in 8 games this year. He at 6’3, 200 lbs. and a right-handed shot Center, he has attributes many organizations would covet.

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5. First Oilers broadcaster Bob Stauffer was stranded south of the US border. Now, popular play-by-play guy Cam Moon is also stuck in the same protocol hell. when jack michaels has been needed for TV duties, it has fallen to Stauffer to handle the radio play-by-play duties (with Rob Brown at his side) until Moon can return. The Oilers are lucky. Few organizations would be blessed with 3 guys on staff who have experience calling NHL games. It is after all a tough job in the best league in the world.

4. The last Edmonton-Colorado matchup is the best game I have seen this year. The degree of skill and speed on display was thrilling. like a big hit and a good scrap. But at the end of the day, I love hockey mostly because of the skill. It also didn’t hurt that the afore-mentioned jack michaels called one of the best games I’ve heard him do on television. There are many good play-by-play guys. But Jack is among a smaller crowd who has that extra gear. When a game elevates like the Edmonton-Colorado one did, the guy behind the mic also needs the ability to rise to the moment.

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3. I liked the deadline acquisition of Brett Kulack for 2 main reasons: One, I believe he ultimately becomes the 5th or 6th best Defenseman on this team. That should help the club get into the playoffs. But if they do and a D-man gets hurt (and hey, it happens), then Jay Woodcroft could call on dependable Chris Russell and his 905 regular season games of experience instead of only having the option of a D-man with 22 or fewer games under his belt. And that is no disrespect at all to Philip Broberg or Marcus Niemelenen who have NHL careers in front of them. Important depth. You can never have too many D.

2. After Saturday’s hat trick, Leon Draisaitl is sitting on 47 goals with 16 games left to play. If he hits 50 for the 2na time does Draisaitl automatically become one of the greatest Edmonton Oilers of all time? Leon is already in a very select company. Wayne Gretzky scored 50+ 8 times in franchise history. Jari Kurry did it 4 times. But Draisaitl would pull into a tie with Glenn Anderson as the only other 2 Oilers to have done it twice. Mark Messier did it once in 1981-82, Craig Simpson in 1987-88 and Leon Draisaitl (so far) eleven in 2018-19. That’s it. That’s the list. Some may say that Draisaitl couldn’t be considered among the best unless he wins. That’s familiar criticism. but are Marcel Dione, Brad Park, Henrik Lundqvist, Eric Lindros & the Sedin brothers not considered among the best NHL players of all time. I would argue they are. Yet none of the have a cup. At 26 Leon has lots of time still to heist Lord Stanley’s mug. And while he has yet to reach 50 this year just yet, 3 goals in 16 games would seem (if he stays injury-free) well within Draisaitl’s reach.

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1.A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush. And as I watch Evander Kane star for the Edmonton Oilers, I have begun to wonder if that old proverb applies to Kane’s future in Oil Country? Right now, Kane is under a 1-year, $1.375m deal. He is an expiring UFA. Given his production of him since arriving in Edmonton there will be NHL teams willing to offer him a deal with dollars and term. But should the Oilers step up and keep that from happening? I’m far from a cap expert, and area better left to those much smarter than me in that area. But what I do know is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. And that Kane is a proven, tool-sy and tough, 7-time 20 goal scoring power forward. For all the off-ice distractions in his past, we know what Kane can do on the ice. And just letting him skate out the door should not be allowed to happen without considerable thought.

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But how could Ken Holland go about hanging onto this impact player? There are precious few combinations available to make that happen without making a hard decision on one or more of Edmonton’s other good younger players. Pick just 2 examples: Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto. Both are expiring RFA’s. Yamamoto has 18 goals in 64 games this season. Puljujarvi has 12 in 51. Both are on a pace just below or just above 20-goals. Yet both have also experienced highs and lows this season. Has Ken Holland had a clear and long enough glimpse into their futures to sign them long term? Bridge them? Both? Just one? hmm.

Here is another vital calculation in all of this: Evander Kane is 7 years older than both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto. Most NHL forwards approach their offensive peak at 24 or so. Forwards also tend to be able to maintain something close to their level of production through age 29-ish. Yet, when NHL players get “old,” they tend to do so fast. The well-established Kane will be 34 when Connor McDavid is in the last year of his current contract.

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As I mentioned, this decision does not have to come down to “either Puljujarvi or Yamamoto”. It’s just that those 2 salaries (which promise to be fairly substantial increases) aren’t locked in…yet. Meanwhile, at this very moment Evander Kane is a Top-6 player all day long. It’s a lock. But we do not know that for sure (yet) with the other 2.

Money and term will of course matter when it comes to Kane’s future. But so too will fit. And Kane’s chemistry with McDavid is palpable. In the end, if all other things are equal…

…might the wild card become how much weight Kane puts in an organization who gave him a chance when others were not willing to?

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

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