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3 Ways Edmonton Oilers Could Replace Ryan McLeod – Hockey Writers – Edmonton Oilers

While the hockey world shares the consensus belief that the Edmonton Oilers won Matthew Savoie for the trade of Ryan McLeod and Tyler Tullio, the results of the deal should not be underestimated. By trading McLeod, the Oilers lost one of their best killers, penalty killers, top defenders, and young, speedy talent. McLeod played a minor role in the team’s success last season and his role needs to be replaced.

Why Is McLeod So Successful?

The difference between the 2023-24 Oilers compared to previous seasons was not only the impact of superstars Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evan Bouchard but also the depth of the team. Leading the bottom six throughout the 2023-24 season and playoffs, McLeod finished the season averaging just over 14 minutes a night while scoring 12 goals and 30 points in 81 regular season games. While his point production was average, his defensive presence flew under the radar.

McLeod dominated the neutral zone as a fast forward who rarely made mistakes. He behaved well, taking only 10 penalty minutes while he took 20 penalty minutes last season. Also, he had 66 takeaways, third most on the team, compared to 48 giveaways. Among regular lineup players, he finished with the eighth-highest expected goal percentage (xG%) at 57.6, according to MoneyPuck. However, he was one of the best athletes on the team with a 57.5 xG% and one of the best killers. At the age of 24, he was one of the team’s two best players and will be missed.

Replace McLeod with Exchange

The first option the Oilers could take to replace McLeod is a trade. This may make a lot of sense as free agent targets are depleted and the team has no cap space to bring in one of the few remaining free agents. While the team has enough forward centers on the roster to replace McLeod, bringing in a natural center is probably the best decision. One trade target that makes a lot of sense is Philadelphia Flyers center Morgan Frost.

Frost is only 25 years old and had 13 goals and 41 points in 71 games last season. He had a 61.4 xG% last season, better than McLeod, and made just $2.1 million this season before becoming a restricted free agent. It’s hard to gauge what the Flyers’ price would be, but something along the lines of a second- or third-round pick and a young player, like Raphael Lavoie, Matvei Petrov, or Brady Stonehouse, could get a deal.

Related: Edmonton Oilers Will Miss Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod

Other trade targets include Ryan Donato of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jake Evans of the Montreal Canadiens, Nick Bjugstad of the Utah Hockey Club, and Jack Drury of the Carolina Hurricanes. At this point in the offseason, most teams have settled their rosters and are no longer looking to make a trade, potentially forcing the Oilers to fill this void in free agency.

Replace McLeod In Free Agency

There aren’t many free agents left, and the Oilers would need to clear a lot of cap space to bring someone in, but it’s possible. With both Evander Kane and Cody Ceci potentially opting for a trade, the Oilers could have room to acquire a remaining free agent.

The first agent targeted is Tyler Johnson. The 5-foot-8 forward can play center or wing. He has a career win rate of 49.6%, slightly higher than McLeod’s 49%. Similar to McLeod, Johnson is fast and had an impressive total last season. The two-time Stanley Cup winner scored 17 goals and 31 points in 67 games for a weak Blackhawks team. He also had a 51 xG%, second highest behind only Connor Bedard. Since Johnson will be 34 years old at the start of the season, he should not be called up, likely to receive an annual contract of less than $1.5 million, proving to be the ideal player to replace McLeod.

Tyler Johnson of the Chicago Blackhawks and Scott Laughton of the Philadelphia Flyers face off (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although he is not a center, Nick Cousins ​​can be a replacement. A member of the Florida Panthers last season, Cousins ​​scored just seven goals and 15 points in 69 games. However, he provided impressive defense, finishing the regular season with eight more tackles than he took. He would likely be willing to sign a cheap contract, possibly under $1 million, proving to be a low-risk, mid-range goal for the Oilers.

The Oilers should be careful in their pursuit of Jakub Vrana, but he could be a good fit. The 28-year-old is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and 20-goal scorer. Despite only playing 72 NHL games over the past three seasons, he still has the ability to compete in the NHL. He may be signed to the league minimum due to his inability to stay in the NHL, but he’ll be a low-risk, high-reward move for the Oilers, providing upside to a position the team wouldn’t otherwise get.

Replace McLeod Inside

The third and most likely option to replace McLeod is to look inward. Assuming Dylan Holloway returns and no other significant roster changes are made, the Oilers won’t need to replace McLeod- at least not yet. Adam Henrique has spent most of his career as a center and could transition back into the role this season. Also, Holloway has experience in the middle, and moving him downfield would help jump-start his offensive production.

The Oilers also don’t need to make a move right now. The roster is improved from last season and under head coach Kris Knoblauch, the team has been on a roll. If there is a need to improve the core going forward, the team has the assets to make a mid-season trade, whether it is on or before the 2025 trade deadline. Also, Savoie could be a candidate for a midseason call-up if he plays a solid two-way game to stay in the NHL.

The Oilers’ 2024-25 season opener is about three months away, giving plenty of time for another move if the team decides it’s necessary. However, it is important to note that making another move is not a requirement. Interim general manager Jeff Jackson has performed admirably in his short tenure, instilling confidence in fans that any decision he makes will be in the best interest of the team.

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