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Edmonton Oilers

Who Wins the Final Forward Spot On the Oilers 2023-24 Roster?

The Oilers have 11 spots filled in their forward group for this season. One spot is still up for grabs. Who wins it?

Due to salary cap constraints, the Edmonton Oilers are expected to maintain a 21-man roster when the regular season begins, leaving room for only 12 forwards. The top six is set and is one of the deepest in the NHL. The bottom six includes a mix of size and speed, with veterans and more inexperienced players, the hope being that the promising Dylan Holloway can take another step in his progression.

Currently, 11 of these spots are already allocated: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Derek Ryan, Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod, Mattias Janmark, and Holloway.

In an effort to both stay under the salary cap and hopefully find a golden ticket to help answer their depth questions — the Oilers lost Kailer Yamamoto, Nick Bjugstad, and Klim Kostin this off-season — GM Ken Holland went out and signed a number of veterans to PTOs (professional tryouts). Among them, Sam Gagner, Brandon Sutter, and Adam Erne are at camp.

Sam Gagner Edmonton Oilers
Sam Gagner Edmonton Oilers

According to Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, in terms of immediate necessity, Sutter holds an advantage as the Oilers lack a fourth center after Bjugstad’s departure. However, Sutter has been sidelined for the past two seasons due to lingering symptoms of long COVID. That means there’s no telling what the Oilers will get.

Nugent-Bowman believes Gagner has the edge when it comes to meshing with this current Oilers group and finding early team chemistry. He’s versatile and there’s a strong likelihood that Gagner will secure his third stint with the franchise that initially drafted him.

Additionally, Adam Erne, another invitee, can contribute in terms of physicality to compensate for Kostin’s absence. Erne demonstrated his talent during his tenure with the Detroit Red Wings, making contributions with eight goals, 10 assists, and a total of 18 points in 61 games played. His career statistics are a testament to his unwavering performance and dependability, amassing a combined 40 goals, 49 assists, and a total of 89 points throughout his seven-season career, which spanned two teams—Detroit and Tampa Bay—across 335 games.

Other considerations, ones who were signed most likely to play roles in the AHL, include former Oiler Drake Caggiula, along with prospects like Brad Malone and standout from the 2022 camp, James Hamblin. Alternatively, Lane Pederson, acquired on July 1, could potentially be used.

Finally, there is always the option of a guaranteed contract for a veteran like Phil Kessel or Paul Stastny. These are two players that can help the team, but aren’t interested in PTOs and want to lock in somewhere. Are they safer bets than the PTO invites that the Oilers have already extended?

What About the Youth on the Team?

On the other hand, the youth and potential of Raphael Lavoie, a 2019 second-round pick, who impressed in the latter half of the AHL season. If he needs to be placed on waivers to be sent back down, the Oilers might be hesitant to risk him getting grabbed by another team. There is pressure on the team to create a spot for this emerging sharpshooter and many believe he’s ready for the NHL. Lavoie’s stock is certainly on the rise, and he’s poised to make a significant impact.

Next: Holland Hints at Big Trade With Oilers’ “Cup or Bust” Mentality

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