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Oilers seek another goal-scorer through trade, not free agency

Salary cap limits options to find player to join McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, GM says

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers added forward depth and shored up their goaltending on the first day of NHL free agency Monday, and they will likely need to address their most glaring need through a trade.

"Certainly, we'd like to add another player that has the potential to score 20 goals," Edmonton general manager Ken Holland said. "We'll see if we can make that happen."

The Oilers signed forwards Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco and Gaetan Haas each to a one-year contract, and forwards Alex Chiasson and Jujhar Khaira each to a two-year contract. They also signed goalie Mike Smith to a one-year contract.

 

[RELATED: 2019-20 NHL Trade TrackerNHL Free Agent Tracker]

 

Bringing in a big-time scorer via free agency was not a realistic option because of the NHL salary cap, Hollland said.

"It's cap-related, it's about how much cap space you've got," said Holland, who was hired May 7. "Those teams today that made a lot of noise had a ton of cap space, and it goes in cycles.

"Right now, we don't have a ton of cap space and we're going to bring in [bottom-six] players."

But it's clear a top-six forward is needed.

Edmonton scored 229 goals last season, which was 20th in the NHL, and 62 percent of those goals were scored by four players: Leon Draisaitl (50), Connor McDavid (41), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (28) and Chiasson (22). Other than forward Zack Kassian, who scored 15 goals, the Oilers had no other forward who scored 10. Granlund scored 12 goals in 77 games for the Vancouver Canucks last season.

It's one of the reasons the Oilers finished 11 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

The Oilers may have one in-house candidate to step up and provide depth scoring, but forward Jesse Puljujarvi, the No. 4 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft who scored four goals last season, has asked to be traded. The 21-year-old restricted free agent said if he's not traded, he'll play in Europe this season.

Video: STL@EDM: Puljujarvi one-times a shot past Allen

Holland, the GM of the Detroit Red Wings for 22 seasons before coming to Edmonton, said he's keeping all options open with Puljujarvi.

"I've had players tell me that in Detroit and they did play for Detroit," Holland said. "We've talked to a lot of teams. I'm not sure where I'm at. I'm not sure where it's going to go."

Though trading or re-signing Puljujarvi is an option, for the Oilers to add a legitimate scoring threat they will likely have to trade players to create salary cap space. But their options at forward are limited with forward Milan Lucic, who scored six goals in 79 games, signed through 2022-23.

They do have attractive candidates at defenseman with Oscar Klefbom, who is signed through 2022-23; Matt Benning, who can become a restricted free agent after this season; and Adam Larsson, who can become an unrestricted free agent after 2020-21, but Holland said any decision will be based on what's good for Edmonton, not just next season, but in the long run.

"Until there's something that I think makes really good sense to our team, I won't pull the trigger," he said. "On the short term, we want to compete for the playoffs in '19-20, but on the longer term ... I'm trying to oversee and build this team to be a really good, elite team in the Western Conference. We made decisions today based on those plans."

It doesn't appear the Oilers want to consider trading some of their defenseman prospects, but they may have to include them in potential deals to get the scorer they need. In the system they have Philip Broberg, the No. 8 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft; Evan Bouchard, the No. 10 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft; Dmitri Samorukov, the No. 84 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft; and Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and William Lagesson, who each played for Bakersfield in the American Hockey League last season. Holland referred to the group as potential top-four defensemen.

"There are some young players that are going to need some time, but I think they can be real important players to this team going forward," Holland said.

And though the Oilers were quiet Monday, Holland said they will eventually have the chance to add free agents.

"Somewhere down the road we're going to have a ton of cap space and we're going to make noise," he said.

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