3 reasons Edmonton Oilers shouldn’t re-sign Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson has been a good Edmonton oiler for a long time. His type of player, as a hard-hitting and intelligent defender whose first instinct is to prevent goals against rather than trade chances with opposing teams, is an important part of any league roster. Edmonton is expected to look to make several strong attempts to win the Stanley Cup over the next few years, which suggests it will need depth at the back to lead them through four marathon series.
There is no sense at this point to go back and dispute the value of the trade that brought it further, but the question now for Oilers general manager Ken Holland is whether it will continue to add value to a new agreement. The price will be higher and, depending on the length of the transaction, the player may decline during the term of the contract. So, should the Oilers sign another contract with Larsson?
There is a strategic angle to consider
Whether or not Larsson remains an oiler in the coming seasons depends on a number of factors. The most unique of these is the addition, made official on April 30, of a 32nd NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken. Many teams have structured contracts with their unrestricted free agents (UFAs) pending so that they expire this summer, forcing the Kraken to decide whether the bet on selecting a player in the expansion project, which does not don’t have to sign with them, worth the bet. Larsson is one of those players, as is compatriot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and if Holland is convinced the Swedish defender wants to sign in Edmonton, he could just wait until after July 1.
There are risks, and potentially costs, associated with such a strategy. Any player who achieves free agency has to test the waters, exploring the term and dollars available in other cities, and there may be a rival GM making an offer that the UFA player cannot do everything to. just don’t resist.
Conversely, allowing his current squad to benefit from their UFA status could also be worth a certain amount on a new deal with the Oilers. Larsson, at the right price, would be a great addition to any club in the NHL, and for some clubs, could be the fourth stabilizing defenseman to put them in contention for the Stanley Cup. Losing him for nothing would be painful for the Oilers, but not unbearable, given the strong pipeline of defensive prospects in their system, so the risk could be well worth it.
A logical blockage of defenders in the system
The names are well known to Oiler fans: Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg and others. All these players could turn into first 4 legitimate defenders, and some of them have an even higher cap. We’ve seen the difficulty the young prospects have in making their way into Dave Tippett’s roster this season, with the talented but inexperienced Bouchard sitting idle on the taxi squad for long stretches of time. This will only continue if Holland doesn’t move some of the older players, forcing his coach’s hand.
It makes sense for a manager to go with guys he trusts, especially in a shortened season like this where every point is even more important than usual. However, there is a timeline in which a team has full control over their prospects, while they are both affordable and waiver-free, and by choosing not to play young for long periods of time, Tippett is sacrificing the an opportunity to really judge their capabilities, in favor of known products that they might otherwise put aside if given the chance.
Age, capacity and cost
The hard facts suggest that an NHL player peaks between the ages of 25 and 28. Adam Larsson has been an oiler throughout this period of his career, and a good one. The best general managers in the NHL don’t pay players for their past performance, but rather on an educated estimate of their future performance. Larsson isn’t going to fall off a cliff in terms of play, but his foot speed, already a question mark, will likely decrease. He will be 29 in November, and while he could certainly play another five or ten seasons, it is likely that his value for the contract he signs will be less than the last few years at Edmonton.
The Oilers have plenty of cap space coming in for free this summer as bad bets and buyouts from previous plans finally disappear from the books. There will certainly be room to sign Larsson with some of those dollars, but with other players on the roster who are restricted or UFA, that might not be the best use of that money. The team still have holes on the offensive side of the ice, potentially fixed by off-season signings, which, again, will use up precious and limited ceiling space.
Holland must decide if the team’s best chance at building a Stanley Cup roster during Connor McDavid’s glory years includes Larsson. The answer is far from clear anyway, but that’s why he’s one of the Highest Paid NHL GMs, and it’s time to prove your own worth.
Canadian, hockey fan since birth, husband, father and fan of all things Oilers and Kraken.