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What's next? Interesting off-season ahead for Oilers after Stanley Cup final loss


The Oilers could see the Panthers celebrating on the ice and hear them down the hallway.

Florida won its first Stanley Cup late Monday night, besting Edmonton 2-1 in Game 7 after blowing a 3-0 lead in the title series.

The Panthers will spend the summer sipping from hockey's holy grail. The Oilers, meanwhile, have plenty of questions about the future.

It no doubt will be a fascinating off-season in the Alberta capital.

Top of the list is the future of star centre Leon Draisaitl. The big German, who has one year left on his current contract that carries an average annual value of US$8.5 million, is eligible to sign an extension as of July 1.

Will he immediately put pen to paper, negotiate a new deal throughout the summer or inform the team he plans to move on?

If it's the third option — Matthew Tkachuk did the same with the Calgary Flames two summers ago before getting shipped to Florida — do the Oilers let him play out his contract in hopes of another long playoff run next spring and risk losing Draisaitl for nothing? Or does Edmonton make a trade?

In the job since May 2019, Edmonton general manager Ken Holland appears to be headed out the door after five seasons in charge. 

Who does Oilers CEO Jeff Jackson, the former agent for superstar captain Connor McDavid, choose as the veteran executive's replacement?

While some of Holland's moves have been questioned and the prospect pool is shallow after a number of trades involving draft picks to beef up the roster, there's no doubt he steadied the ship after a string of blunders by previous regimes.

The Oilers finished 23rd in the NHL in 2018 with 78 points and followed that up with a 25th-place finish in 2019 with 79 points before he took over. Edmonton made the Western Conference final in 2022 and the second round the following spring — both times losing out to the eventual Cup winners.

In 2024, the Oilers fell one win short in the 1,400th game of the NHL season.

Apart from Draisaitl's situation, whoever is in the GM's chair will also have to make decisions on a host of pending unrestricted free agents, including forwards Connor Brown, Adam Henrique, Mattias Janmark, Corey Perry, Warren Foegele and Sam Carrick. 

Vincent Desharnais is also in need of a new contract on defence, while backup goaltender Calvin Pickard sits in the same boat.

The Oilers have to decide what to do with Jack Campbell, who represents what was perhaps Holland's biggest gaffe. 

The goaltender signed a five-year, $25-million contract in July 2022 to be Edmonton's No. 1 crease option, but never found traction with his new team after leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs. Campbell lost the starting job to Stuart Skinner and was eventually put on waivers before being demoted to the American Hockey League.

With three seasons left on his deal, the 32-year-old could be bought out.

The elephant in the Oilers' room will be what McDavid thinks about how all of this plays out. Only he knows the answer.

The 27-year-old has two seasons left on his current deal that pays him $12.5 million annually.

If Draisaitl leaves, does McDavid eventually follow him out the door?

Or does the band — as much of it that can fit under the salary cap — stay together in hopes of more success down the road?

The answers to the long list of questions will start to come soon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2024. Top Stories

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