The Edmonton Oilers have a long list of off-season needs to fulfill including potential free agents to go after this summer. The roster changes officially started last week. General manager Ken Holland inked highly coveted Swedish free agent Joakim Nygård. The 26-year-old signed a one-year entry-level deal worth a maximum of $925,000.
This signing appears to address some needs up front, as the Oilers are in desperate need of some speed in their top-nine. Overall this appears to be a low-risk deal, and could potentially turn out better than the Tobias Rieder signing a summer ago.
Aside from that, we can expect Holland to continue to retool his roster. Here is a closer look at the Oilers needs and off-season priorities this summer. Then we look at some potential Oilers free agent signings.
Secondary Scorers Upfront
Outside of McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers had only two other forwards (Alex Chiasson, Zack Kassian) who scored more than ten goals last year. The Oilers are very strong down the middle, but as a group, they have one of the weakest collections of wingers in the NHL. This has meant that one of Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins has often lined up with McDavid. Getting wingers who can play in the top nine and better utilize the Oilers centre depth to give them three strong lines should be a top priority.
Add a Puck-Moving Defenceman in the Top Four
Another need is a puck-moving defenceman that can play heavy minutes in the top-two pairings. The Oilers have been trying to find one for a while but nothing has come into fruition.
Although, many people feel that Evan Bouchard has the potential to become their number one defenceman. It is uncertain if the Oilers want to rush him into that role as early as next season.
As a result, the Oilers might need to look for improvements through the free-agent market.
Here is a look at a few potential free agent targets that might be on the Oilers wish list.
Gustav Nyquist Could Help
Gustav Nyquist is a proven scorer in the NHL with four 20-goal-seasons.
At 29, Nyquist looks like he should have a few more prime years left and would be a solid secondary scoring option for the Oilers. He has also played under Holland for a number of years in Detroit, so perhaps there is some interest there.
Nyquist made $4,750,000 last year and might ask for a modest raise.
Given the Oilers tight budget, they might have to do some work fit him into the roster.
It might be a decent signing if they are able to get him in the $4,800,000 to $5,100,000 range. This would be a fair price to pay to sign a proven 20-goal and 50+ point player in their lineup.
Brett Connolly an Affordable Signing?
Brett Connolly might be another free agent target the Oilers want to sign this summer.
He is coming off a career season with 22 goals and 24 assists for the Washington Capitals last year. Connolly has the size, skill and hockey IQ to play up and down the lineup. This makes him a versatile player for the Oilers to have in their top-six or top-nine.
At 27-years-old Connolly might be just entering his prime. He is coming off a two-year deal that saw him make $1.5 million last year.
Financially, he should be an affordable option for an Edmonton team looking to add secondary scoring.
Realistically, Connolly might be an ideal free agent target for the Oilers if they are able to get him around the $2.6 million to $3.3 million range.
A Top-Four Defenceman
Swing Big for Tyler Myers?
Tyler Myers may not be your typical number one defenseman but signing him would significantly improve the Oilers blue-line.
He is also a solid power-play option and is a decent free-agent target for an Oilers team looking to improve their defensive depth on the right side.
Needless to say, Myers should have plenty of suitors and at 29 he is likely looking for a long term deal. Aside from Erik Karlsson, Myers might be the biggest fish on the market so any team that gets him will likely have to pay up.
He made $5.5 million last year and seeing how the market isn’t saturated with right-shot defenders, there may be a huge bidding war for his services.
If the Oilers were all-in on signing him, they might be able to make things happen.
Jake Gardiner a Potential Signing on Defence?
Gardiner is due for a pay raise and might be a solid free agent target for the Oilers to go after. He is coming off four conservative 30-point seasons along with a career-high 52 points in 2017-18.
Gardiner is one of the top producing defencemen in the open market this summer.
Obviously many are aware of his defensive struggles, which was evident in the last two postseasons. But all-in-all, Gardiner is a legit top-four defenceman, who is capable of running a powerplay and chipping in offensively.
He made just over $4 million last year, and his subpar playoff performances might decrease his bargaining power a bit this summer. Perhaps a multi-year deal somewhere in the $6.0 – $6.5 million range might work for both sides.
Gardiner would give the Oilers a huge upgrade on their top-four if they decide to sign him.
Main Photo: DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 11: Jake Gardiner #51 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on October 11, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)