Oilers confusing offseason includes Hyman, Ceci signings; Ethan Bear trade

Zach Hyman
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Ken Holland and the Oilers are making moves.

Are they the right moves? Probably not. But they are certainly making moves.

Their offseason reshuffling continued on Wednesday, the opening day of free agency, with a couple of major signings and a significant trade involving one of their best defenders from a year ago.

The moves in question:

  • Signing forward Zach Hyman to a seven-year, $38.7 million contract.
  • Signing veteran defenseman Cody Ceci to a four-year, $12 million contract.
  • Re-signing defenseman Tyson Barrie to a three-year, $13.5 million contract
  • Trading defenseman Ethan Bear to the Hurricanes in exchange for forward Warren Foegele.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

All of those moves came after the Oilers already made a couple of other significant moves this offseason by trading Caleb Jones to the Blackhawks for Duncan Keith, losing Adam Larsson to Seattle, buying out the remainder of James Neal‘s contract, and re-signing veteran goalie Mike Smith to a multi-year deal.

There is a lot to unpack here.

It is a lot of bold moves for a franchise that was hesitant to make any bold moves at the trade deadline this past year (Holland said you have to pick and chose what seasons you go all in on), but has to be feeling immense pressure to finally build something around its two MVPs, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Despite having two players that have combined to win three of the past five Hart Trophies, the Oilers have qualified for the playoffs just two times during that stretch, winning just a single playoff round in the process. They are coming off a brutal playoff showing this past season where they did not even win a single game against the Jets.

They responded by doing all of this.

All of these moves carry a pretty significant level of risk.

Hyman is a very good player. He will score 20-25 goals this year and is a very good all-around player. There is nothing wrong with adding him to your roster. But signing a 29-year-old, non-superstar player, to a seven-year contract with a no-movement clause for the first five years and a modified no-trade clause after that is a game of free agency roulette you do not want to be playing. That is the kind of move that ends in a buyout or a salary retained trade in three or four years.

Keith is a Hall of Famer and was probably the best of the 2010s Blackhawks. But he is 38 years old and a fraction of what he used to be and he is not going to get back to that level.

Ceci was very solid in Pittsburgh last season, but part of what made him so useful was that he cost almost nothing against the salary cap, had a contract that carried no risk, and was playing in a third-pairing role. The Oilers are either going to pay him $3 million year per year to be a third-pairing defender, or play him more than they should.

Barrie can rack up on points on the power play, but he is not going to do much for you defensively.

The Oilers are prepared to go into this season with a defense led by Darnell Nurse and a bunch of significant question marks after him, while they hope a 39-year-old Smith can repeat his 2020-21 performance in net. It was a performance that was his best in years. You should not be counting on that, especially behind this defense.

Is this really the best you can do for your two MVPs? It just seems like there is not much of a plan in place except to haphazardly move pieces in and out and hoping for the best.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.