- Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom has been ruled out for the 2020-21 NHL season likely due to shoulder injury
- Klefbom enjoyed a career-year in 2019-20
- Klefbom’s absence is devastating to the value of Oilers Stanley Cup futures
Hockey fans around the world can rejoice as the league and the Players’ Association announced an agreement on many items surrounding what their 2020-21 season is going to look like.
However, it didn’t take long for at least one fanbase to lose its buzz as some devastating injury news has hit a club north of the border.
Klefbom Out for 2020-21 Season
After officially finding out they will play within the all-Canadian Division next season, the Edmonton Oilers were on the wrong end of some injury news on Monday afternoon.
As per general manager Ken Holland, No. 1 defenseman Oscar Klefbom has officially been ruled out for the 2020-21 season and is hoping to be ready for the beginning of the 2021-22 season, which the league hopes will begin on time in October.
#Oilers GM & President of Hockey Ops Ken Holland tells @Bob_Stauffer on @OilersNow defenceman Oscar Klefbom is officially out for the 2020-21 season & is hoping to be ready for the start of the 2021-22 campaign.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 21, 2020
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in September that Klefbom was considering options on how to deal with injuries from last season, including undergoing surgery that could keep him out long-term. Klefbom missed time in late February/early March with a shoulder injury, the same ailment that is likely the culprit again this time around, although unconfirmed at this point.
“I’m planning for 2020-21 that Oscar is not playing and anything other than that will be a surprise. A pleasant surprise,” said Holland at the time.
As a result, Klefbom’s $4.167 million cap hit will hit Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), allowing the team to exceed the salary cap by that amount.
Coming Off Career-Year
While it appears the club expected such news, it doesn’t make it any easier of a pill to swallow, especially with what the team received from the 27-year-old last season.
Klefbom’s 34 points in 62 games narrowly missed his career-high of 38 points from the 2016-17 season, however they also had him on pace for 45 points over a full 82-game season. He also matched a career-high of 18 power play points on a unit that led the NHL with a 29.5% clip.
The team signed Tyson Barrie to a one-year deal to replace Klefbom on that power play unit, but offensive numbers aside, Klefbom is bar-none the team’s best overall defenseman.
Despite missing nine games with that shoulder injury, Klefbom also led the NHL with 180 blocked shots last season.
As an all-round contributor that logs significant ice on both sides of their special teams, it’s not hard to envision the Oilers missing Klefbom in a big way this upcoming season.
Huge Blow to Futures’ Value
Of course, many of the headlines out of Edmonton revolve around the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as the best one-two punch in the sport, but as noted above, the loss of Klefbom cannot be overstated.
Bad news bears for #Oilers. Other than 97 and 29, this is the guy they could least afford to lose. Massive blow. https://t.co/yt5v2mNdbe
— Brenton Kemp (@BKemp17) November 6, 2020
The team will now be leaning heavily on the likes of Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson, Barrie and Kris Russell next season, but will also need to have Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones take on larger roles as well. The 23-year-old Bear stepped up in Klefbom’s absence last season, but as far as replacing the 25:25 Klefbom averaged per night last season, the Oilers may struggle.
Bovada has the Oilers listed at +1800 to win the 2021 Stanley Cup, alongside the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. Even with the best player in the world (McDavid) and 2019 points leader and MVP (Draisaitl) in tow, I’m not seeing any value in those odds at this point.
I was already bearish on their chances in my Oilers Season Preview piece given their uninspiring advanced data on both sides of the puck, but most notably defensively where they were a bottom-10 team in many categories. Add in a questionable goaltending duo of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith and I’be surprised to see them improve defensively next season.
After all, despite owning the league’s top-ranked power play and second-ranked penalty kill, they tied for 14th on offense and 17th on defense. At 5v5, they ranked 18th in goals/60 minutes and 25th in goals against/60. Additionally, they ranked 21st in expected goals/60 and 22nd in expected goals against/60 at 5v5, as per Natural Stat Trick.
At 5v5, the Oilers were a bottom-10 team last season, and given the likelihood of at least some regression in their elite special teams from last season, I’m avoiding the Oilers completely at prevailing odds.