Oscar Klefbom injury adds another wrinkle to draft, free agency for Edmonton Oilers

Oscar Klefbom injury adds another wrinkle to draft, free agency for Edmonton Oilers

Ken Holland’s to-do list in a big week of NHL business is getting longer.

The Edmonton Oilers general manager expects top defenceman and power-play quarterback Oscar Klefbom to miss at least a chunk of the 2020-21 season because of a problematic shoulder.

“Based upon the information I got, I’m sort of leaning towards that either (the team) won’t have him or won’t have him to start with,” Holland said Monday on a conference call.

“He played last year with an aggravated shoulder. He’s waiting to see if his shoulder is going to get to the point where he doesn’t need surgery.

“I’m certainly waiting to be clear on what decision he makes. Does it impact our decision-making heading into this week? A little bit.”

The Oilers (37-25-9) fell short of the first round of the 2020 playoffs. The Western Conference’s fifth seed was ousted in the best-of-five qualifying round by the 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks.

A goalie and a third-line centre are other jobs requiring Holland’s attention in the off-season.

The GM could swing a trade during the NHL entry draft Tuesday and Wednesday, or backfill his roster via unrestricted free agency starting Friday.

The Oilers have the No. 14 pick in the draft’s first round Tuesday.

“I don’t see us moving up,” Holland said. “I expect that we’re going to pick it.

“If you had to handicap it today, I don’t see us drafting a defenceman given all the defencemen we’ve got.”

Three Oilers will be unrestricted free agents Friday: forwards Tyler Ennis and Riley Sheahan and goaltender Mike Smith.

Holland anticipates finding Smith’s replacement on the open market given the number of big names headed there.

Jacob Markstrom, Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin, Corey Crawford and Henrik Lundqvist are among them.

Smith and Mikko Koskinen were a tandem in 2019-20. Koskinen replaced Smith in the opening game of the Chicago series and continued as Edmonton’s post-season starter.

“I do think I want to get into Friday and look at the marketplace before I make a decision,” Holland said.

“It appears there’s going to be a lot of goalie movement between now and this time next week, and the next week. We are going to have a goalie in place in the next week. And maybe a number three as well.”

As of Monday, the Oilers had just under $9 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. The cap is projected to be $81.5 million.

“We’re tight, but there’s lots of teams like us,” Holland said.

Edmonton doesn’t have picks in either the second or fourth rounds Wednesday.

They were dealt to the Detroit Red Wings in February to acquire winger Andreas Athanasiou and now-retired defenceman Mike Green.

Edmonton can either hand over its third-round pick (76th overall) to the Calgary Flames as part of last summer’s trade to acquire James Neal in exchange for Milan Lucic, or defer until 2021.

Holland says he’s inclined to make the pick Wednesday, but he doesn’t have to make that call until then.

Conversations are underway with winger Jesse Puljujarvi and his agent to bring the No. 4 pick in the 2016 draft back to Edmonton.

After splitting each of his first NHL three seasons between the Oilers and their American Hockey League affiliate, Puljujarvi chose not to re-sign and played in Finland last season.

Both Holland and head coach Dave Tippett were hired by the Oilers last summer.

The duo is telling the 22-year-old Puljujarvi he’ll have a clean slate if he returns.

“Obviously it’s a new manager, a new coach, a new opportunity,” Holland said. “Part of it I guess would be what you would call relationship building.

“He should feel good about himself. He had a really good year. I know his goal is to get back to the National Hockey League and play in the best league in the world.

“We’re talking about the relationship, where we see him fit in, what’s his role? But certainly at the same time getting them to understand it’s pro hockey. We’re in no position to make guarantees.”

Both Athanasiou and defenceman Matt Benning are restricted free agents. Holland declined to say if they’ll receive qualifying offers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2020.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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