The Edmonton Oilers made the worst kept secret official on Friday during a press conference announcing they had signed Evander Kane to a one-year deal.
The Oilers and Kane had been linked since January 11th, just days after the San Jose Sharks terminated his contract. During an impromptu press conference, Oilers general manager Ken Holland said he believes in giving second chances and that in fact, he had spoken with Kane’s agent Dan Milstein. But at that time Holland repeated nothing was imminent and they were still going through the process.
The process was complete Thursday night after the NHL concluded its investigation into the allegations against Evander Kane that he breached his NHL contract by violating AHL COVID-19 protocols, following a holiday-time, cross-border trip to his hometown of Vancouver. Though he was suspended earlier in the year for 21 games for violating the league’s COVID protocol, the NHL could not find any evidence to suspend him this time.
As Holland stated during the press conference, Kane will be suiting for the Oilers against the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night. It is unclear whether he will play alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, but as Kane stated “who wouldn’t want to play alongside one of those guys.”
The Oilers were struggling with a record of 4-11-2 since December 3rd. There was talk of head coach Dave Tippett being let go if something did not change. However, Holland was reluctant to do so. The Oilers have won two games in a row right before the signing of Evander Kane. And while he is an excellent player when he is on his game, is he what the Oilers needed right now?
The Oilers are ranked 11th overall in offence in the NHL averaging 3.21 goals per game. So they did not have trouble scoring goals. The issue is that had issues scoring beyond Connor and Leon. Therefore Ken Holland wanted to add another player that could add offence.
“He’s a top-six forward, big strong and can skate, is going to give us a lot of different dimensions and can fight, can score and makes us deeper up front,” Ken Holland said of Evander Kane during a press conference on Friday.”
And as Holland reiterated this was a collective process between the locker room and coaching staff, head coach Dave Tippett felt they could add to their forward group. Especially at the left wing position. As the team is trying to find balance with McDavid and Draisaitl split up.
“We’re looking to add to our forward group and he’s a big strong player,” said head coach Dave Tippett during Friday’s press conference. “I’ve watched a lot of video on him. He touches both sides of special teams, is a real competitor in the guts of the game and those are elements we think we need with our team and I think it’s going to be a really good situation for him coming in here and we’re just very happy to have him join our team.”
Having a player like Kane makes your offence better given the team’s circumstances recently. The Oilers had issues scoring five-on-five with 29 goals over the last 17 games. So on the surface it makes sense to add Kane. Considering he can play up and down the lineup. Depends on where Tippett wants to put him. But the underbelly tells a different story.
The Oilers defensively have given up the 11th most goals per game averaging 3.33. If they are averaging 3.21 goals per game and giving up more, offence was not a problem. The Oilers have a negative goal differential of -5. They have scored 125 goals, but have given up 130 goals.
Defensively is where the Oilers are struggling. Most important in between the pipes. This is not the 1980s, the Oilers just cannot outscore their defensive woes. The Pittsburgh Penguins tried that recently, it did not work out well for them. Right now, the Oilers need to play better defence and get better goaltending.
We all knew Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen were not going to cut it this season. And Ken Holland put himself and the team in this position. With so many other options out there during the offseason it was a bit of a head-scratcher, the Oilers went back to the same combination as the year before.
The issue for the Oilers now is going to be cap space. According to CapFriendly, they have about $1.7 million in cap space now that they have added Kane to the roster. They will have to move a piece or two at the deadline if they want to upgrade their defence or goaltending. Holland back in early January said there was not much a trade market and they would have to look in house.
However, Smith remains on IR and will be out at least until February. While the Oilers have two in a row, they need to upgrade the position. They need to get a quality goaltender that can lead them to the playoffs. But also figure out a way to shed cap space as well.
That is where the attention should have been on. Offence was an area of strength. Yes, the Oilers were not getting the depth scoring that had earlier on, but goaltending and defence was the areas of weakness the Oilers needed to address. Let’s see if the move for Evander Kane pays off and if Holland has another move or two up his sleeve come the trade deadline.
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