Connor McDavid said the Edmonton Oilers must take advantage of the depth and experience added during the offseason if they hope to potentially make a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Defenseman Tyson Barrie and forwards Kyle Turris and Dominik Kahun signed as free agents after the Oilers finished fifth in the Western Conference last season (37-25-9, .585 points percentage) but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
“What (general manger) Kenny (Holland) and the whole staff have done over the offseason has been amazing,” McDavid said after the Oilers opened training camp on Sunday. “They don’t have much [salary cap] room to work with, [but] they were able to add a bunch of good pieces; a bunch of really good players, but people as well.
“We’ve been able to add some pieces and I think Kenny and the whole staff have done great job. It’s up to us as players now.”
Edmonton was trending in the right direction under Holland and coach Dave Tippett, each hired prior to last season; its power play led the NHL (29.5 percent) and the penalty kill was second (84.4 percent) behind the San Jose Sharks (85.7 percent) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. But the Oilers were 15th in the NHL with 3.30 goals-against per game in the regular season, then allowed 16 goals in four games against the Blackhawks.
Offense isn’t expected to be an issue for Edmonton, which had the NHL’s top two scorers last season; McDavid finished second with 97 points (34 goals, 63 assists) in 64 games and forward Leon Draisaitl scored 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games and won the Hart Trophy, the annual award given to the player judged most valuable to his team.
The Oilers will play this season in the realigned North Division, joining the six other teams based in Canada (Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets).
“I don’t think we have a problem scoring goals, it’s keeping the puck out of our net,” McDavid said. “A lot’s been made about that. No one’s putting their head in the sand here. Everyone understands where we’re at, and we’ve got to keep the puck out of our net if we want to be successful.”
But Edmonton will be without defenseman Oscar Klefbom, who is expected to miss the season due to a chronic shoulder injury. Klefbom scored 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 62 games last season and led the Oilers in average time on ice per game (25:25).
It’s a tremendous opportunity for Barrie, who had 57- and 59-point seasons for the Colorado Avalanche before he was traded to the Maple Leafs on July 1, 2019. Barrie scored 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games for Toronto last season and became an unrestricted free agent.
“I think it’s probably no secret without even talking to the staff [yet] or anything of what this team’s goal should be, and that’s to take the next step and contend for a Stanley Cup,” said Barrie, who agreed to a one-year contract Oct. 10. “We’ve got a Canadian division we’ve got to get through first and make the playoffs first and foremost, but the goal for this team is obviously a lot grander than that.”
Turris agreed to a two-year contract with the Oilers on Oct. 9, two days after the 31-year-old had the final four seasons of his six-year contract bought out by the Nashville Predators. He scored 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 62 games last season and no points in four postseason games.
“I’m really excited,” Turris said. “The team had a really good year last year, and then with the acquisitions that Mr. Holland made this offseason, I feel like it’s going to be a real good year and something I’m real excited to be a part of.”
Kahun agreed to a one-year contract with the Oilers on Nov. 2; the 25-year-old, who was an unrestricted free agent after he did not receive a qualifying offer from the Buffalo Sabres, scored 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 56 games for the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins last season, including four points (two goals, two assists) in six games after he was traded to Buffalo on Feb 24.
Jesse Puljujarvi has also returned to Edmonton; the No. 4 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft signed a two-year contract Oct. 7 after the forward previously asked to be traded and played the 2019-20 season in Finland.
“It’s hard to just dismiss the 70 [regular-season] games that we played or however many games we played before [the pause], but obviously you remember the season based on what we did last,” McDavid said. “We didn’t play very good, obviously. I think we build on what we worked on all season long, continue to build on that.
“We’ve added some new pieces here, which are exciting. Coming into camp day one here, [we’ve got to be] ready to go.”