Top News

Oilers only want Anton Slepyshev back at right price

Edmonton's Anton Slepyshev (58) battles Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog (92) during the first period of a NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.
Edmonton's Anton Slepyshev (58) battles Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog (92) during the first period of a NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

The Edmonton Oilers want to start over with winger Anton Slepyshev after he went home two years ago, but right now it’s From Russia With Like, with the team fully aware he can be a bottom six NHL forward but they’re not coming at him on bended knee with an open cheque book.

True, they only have his NHL rights for one more year and then he’s an unrestricted free-agent, so Slepyshev’s agent Dan Milstein, who also represents Slepyshev’s teammate and Minnesota Wild’s top prospect Kirill Kaprizov, has some leverage here in terms of negotiations, but Oilers general manager Ken Holland won’t bend much to bring him back from Moscow.

As much as Slepyshev had a breakout season with CSKA in the KHL, with 45 points in 54 games, it’s unlikely Holland would pay him what winger Josh Archibald just got, $1.5 million a season.

Not with Archibald scoring 12 goals last year in Arizona and at 12 this season when the NHL stopped their season, not when Slepyshev’s NHL high is six goals. We’re probably talking somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 for one season.

Again, they know he would help because he’s only 26 in May and he’s 220 pounds. He can work the boards, he was a net-front presence on the power play in Russia, and he can move up with better players. But, it’s all about the money, and the Oilers might not have a lot to spend with next year’s salary cap if it stays where it was last year at $81.5 million.

“I met with Sleppy just before Christmas, watched him play in a tournament and I do have interest in bringing him over,” said Holland. “He had a good season in Russia, what did he have, a 20-game point-streak? I haven’t talked to his agent in two or three weeks but now that the KHL season is shut down, I’ll see what they’re thinking.

“My position is there’s a great opportunity here, come on over, it’s the best league in the world, and if he can re-establish himself and score 15 or 20 goals and then be an unrestricted free-agent in the summer of 2021, it’s a good place to be. Obviously, I’m not negotiating against the KHL, I’m in no position to do that.”

Slepyshev feels he’s a seven to No. 12 NHL forward, maybe feeling he’s more a third-liner than a fourth. And he may be right. Holland likes his work ethic, how he competes. His foot-speed is good, but it’s not his best attribute. Holland feels he’s an NHLer, but at what price? He may feel Slepyshev is more in Jujhar Khaira’s $1.2 million range, maybe a little higher.

But, Archibald’s $1.5 million is probably a non-starter. Archibald is on the NHL’s second-best penalty-kill, sent out with linemate Riley Sheahan on the first unit, never mind his 12 goals.

Slepyshev was third in scoring at CSKA, behind Kaprizov and Linden Vey. He can stay in the KHL for one more year and walk (UFA) if he feels like it, but Holland has a hunch he wants to give the Oilers another try. He was unhappy with his playing time under former coach Todd McLellan, although he was also inconsistent when he did play, and couldn’t get any traction.

If he decides to stay in Russia for another year and then goes UFA, so be it.

“If anybody wants to give him $2.5 million to $3 million, we’re not in the game anyways,” he said.

And he’s not trading his rights for a pittance. He has no interest in somebody throwing him a seventh-round draft pick bone.

JURY IS STILL OUT ON DRAFT PICKS

Holland affirmed the team is deciding on whether to sign 2016 third-round defencemen Markus Niemelainen (63rd overall), who was with Assat Pori in Finland last season and Filip Berglund (91st), who played with Philip Broberg in Skelleftea last year but has moved to Linkoping in the Swedish Hockey League. The Oilers have two months to sign them or they’re free.

Berglund has a higher ceiling, somebody who could be a right-shot defenceman in Bakersfield if Evan Bouchard moves up to the Oilers. Niemelainanen looked at a dead-end had a good season in Finland, although he has negligible offensive ability. The Oilers organizational depth is young defensemen, but Holland said; “I don’t know if you ever have enough prospects.”

Both players could decide to stay in Europe but the Oilers could also sign them and leave them there.

“We lose their rights June 1 if we don’t sign them. They’ve gotten better, they’ve improved. They do play regular in Sweden and Finland,” said Holland.

“We feel Berglund can play in the American League now if he wants to come over. I know Niemelainen from junior in Saginaw when I was with the Red Wings. He’s six-foot-six, takes up a lot of space, he’s a good skater. There is room on a team for defencemen who defend and kill penalties.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Recent Stories