Oscar Klefbom is out for the season because of a chronic shoulder injury, Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland told 630 CHED-AM on Monday.
The Oilers' No. 1 defenseman is aiming to return fully healthy in time for the 2021-22 season, Holland said.
"Certainly losing Klefbom is a massive loss," the GM said.
Klefbom missed nine games with a shoulder injury Feb. 19-March 5, returning to play three games before the NHL paused its season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He scored 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 62 regular-season games and had two assists in four games in the Oilers' loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Klefbom missed 21 games in 2018-19 with a broken hand, and shoulder problems caused him to miss 16 games in 2017-18. He was shut down early that season because of shoulder surgery in March 2018.
The 27-year-old averaged 25:25 of ice time per game last season, tied with Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks for fifth among NHL defensemen. Replacing those minutes could be difficult for Edmonton.
"He means so much to this team, each and every night he comes out and he makes an impact on this game," Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse said in February.
Video: NHL Tonight discusses Klefbom injury news
Edmonton likely will rely on Tyson Barrie to help replace Klefbom, after the 29-year-old defenseman agreed to a one-year, $3.75 million contract Oct. 10 after one season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Barrie has scored 346 points (80 goals, 266 assists) in 554 regular-season games with the Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche, including 129 points (21 goals, 108 assists) on the power play, and 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 26 postseason games.
"We knew we needed to get another defenseman, and I'm excited we got Tyson Barrie," Holland said. "He was a really good player in Colorado, and played good in Toronto but obviously hit the market, and we've got him."
Edmonton expects Ethan Bear to play on the top pair with Nurse, but he remains an unrestricted free agent. The 23-year-old led NHL rookies with an average of 21:58 of ice time per game last season and scored 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 71 games.
Holland said ongoing talks with Bear are becoming urgent with training camp set to start Jan. 3. The NHL and NHL Players' Association formally reached agreement Sunday to play a 56-game regular season starting Jan. 13, 2021, and ending May 8.
"We've got to get it now," Holland said. "Certainly Ethan's not in Edmonton, [from] my understanding. Certainly in order to be ready for Day One of camp, on the ice, you've got to be in Edmonton on the 26th of December and then you've got eight days of quarantining, then Day One, Three, Five and Seven you've got to get tested and have four negative tests into Day Eight.
"I would like him in camp. I would like him signed. I'm sure the player and the agent want the same thing. We've got to find something that works for the player and works for the club. I'm prepared to do one year, two years, three years. We haven't talked anything other than one or two or three years. So hopefully we can find a solution and get him into camp. He's an important part of our team."
There are young defensemen in the Oilers system who may have to step up this season. Evan Bouchard, 21, was the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Edmonton chose Philip Broberg, 19, at No. 8 in the 2019 NHL Draft. Caleb Jones, 23, has played 60 NHL games the past two seasons and shown signs he is ready for full-time NHL duty. William Lagesson, 24, who played eight NHL games last season, and Dmitri Samorukov, 21, are other possibilities.