After speculation the Edmonton Oilers were not going to qualify either Andreas Athanasiou or Matt Benning, news became official when the Oilers only qualified defensemen Ethan Bear and William Lagesson on Wednesday. In an official post on the Oilers social media account, the team excluded Athanasiou and Benning from their list of qualified players.
Related: Oilers Won’t Qualify Athanasiou or Benning, Both Become UFAs
They then noted, “The following players will become unrestricted free agents on Friday: Andreas Athanasiou, Matt Benning, Logan Day, Cameron Hebig, Ryan Kuffner, Ryan Mantha, Angus Redmond & Nolan Vesey.”
The big news here is that the Oilers are taking the first steps toward signing a new deal with blueliner Ethan Bear. Speculation is that the team would like to get Bear signed to a long term deal.
Bear played in 71 games for the Oilers in 2019-20 and really emerged as a future top-four defenseman (technically, he proved he was). Bear averaged 21:58 per game while mostly playing on the top pairing with Darnell Nurse. Bear scored 21 points (5 g, 16 a) and finished -4.
It’s more likely the team signs Bear to a bridge deal and depending on how the NHL rules signing certain RFA’s, a long-term deal could quickly follow. With the flat salary cap, William Lagesson’s qualifying offer shouldn’t be ignored. He could find himself on roster for a number of games in the some 2020-21 season. With Benning likely gone and a potentially serious injury to top-end blueliner Oscar Klefbom, the Oilers may call upon Lagesson.
Athanasiou and Benning to Say Goodbye
It’s possible that both players sign with the Oilers despite not being qualified on Wednesday, but it’s not likely. Only if they strike out in free agency will either Benning or Athanasiou circle back to the team.
It’s a tough day for the Oilers, specifically Ken Holland as he would have liked to have been able to keep both players but the qualifying offers being as high as they would have been, meant not being able to risk being stuck paying salaries that really would have hurt longer-term.
The Oilers also traded their 77th pick in this year’s draft to the San Jose Sharks for picks 100 and 126.
Next: Canadian Teams First Round Draft Recap – 2020 NHL Draft
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