The summer’s work is done, we’ll have a fireworks event on the weekend but sometimes those old rockets don’t go off so be sure to have a backup plan. The Oilers enter every summer with some ridiculous number of needs (“well, we need a No. 1D, No. 2L and a No. 3C. Then on day TWO….”) but the difference these days is we know the names that answer the questions that have dashed our time. Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Cam Talbot—some will be here in the fall, others are a down the road apiece.
PETER CHIARELLI’S LIST
Draft McDavid and sign him(Done)
Find a quality goalie option(Cam Talbot)
Acquire a legit top pairing blue(Andrej Sekera) Sign a two-way F(Lauri Korpikoski) Ignore MacT re: Marincin (Or trade Marincin for real value)(Eric Gryba)
Veteran two-way center(Mark Letestu)
Some of these moves look like home runs (McDavid, Talbot, Sekera) and others look like reasonable bets (Korpikoski, Gryba, Letestu) but are not 100% home runs. Here’s some news: Sam Pollock is dead and the league doesn’t let the Habs re-write the rule book every summer, so the bets overall are satisfactory. Taking those moves (plus the Reinhart add), Edmonton appears to have better depth and quality up the middle and that was a dire need entering draft week. No grand claims today, though. Words of praise written in July can bite you in the ass when the skies of November turn gloomy. The one claim I will make today: The Edmonton Oilers will be an improved team in 2015-16—more wins, better goal differential, visually and certifiably better.
- Cap is $71.4 million, Oilers have $2,183,000 in cap room.
- I don’t have Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart or Leon Draisaitl on the opening night roster above. I do believe Nurse makes it but the other two have cap implications. Bonuses are more reachable if either or both play 82 games, so in my opinion the more likely and prudent decision is to have both start in the minors. It isn’t a reflection of either players ability, but rather a ‘numbers game’ as they used to say in the olden days. Speeds has more about the money here.
- If they plan on trading for Brent Seabrook just before the season, they need to buy out Nikitin. If they don’t have grand plans like that, there’s no pressure to do a thing.
- Chiarelli has significant depth compared to MacT’s rosters (or Tambellini’s) across the board. There are 4 goalies, 13 defensemen and 19 forwards with at least some NHL experience.
- Some legit names will be on the waiver wire from Edmonton to Bakersfield. I’ll guess Anders Nilsson, Brandon Davidson, Brad Hunt and Andrew Miller. There’s no Anton Lander there but you could see Niki Nikitin, Rob Klinkhammer and Luke Gazdic if the minor leaguers win jobs.
- Value contracts that are certain for NHL work? Cam Talbot, Oscar Klefbom, Connor McDavid, Anton Lander. Nail Yakupov could be one, Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart, too. Ben Scrivens believe it or not, could be one.
- Taylor Hall is a value contract and Nuge will be too. I’m prepared to argue this all day. ALL day.
- G Cam Talbot (Even a .915SP would move the needle. This guy is better than .915)
- G Ben Scrivens (Nothing lights a fire like career extinction as a possibility)
- G Anders Nilsson (Solid resume, probably just a curio but one never knows)
- G Laurent Brossoit (AHL starter could be future No. 1)
- G Eetu Laurikainen (Love this bet. Smart teams sign these guys)
- D Andrej Sekera (A major addition to the Oilers. Top drawer.)
- D Mark Fayne (Shutdown defender on a team that badly needs him)
- D Oscar Klefbom (McLellan is good at helping young blue progress)
- D Justin Schultz (Puck moving defender, regular)
- D Nikita Nikitin (Is Saturday just another day?)
- D Eric Gryba (Third pairing addition who can play, Yost said so)
- D Andrew Ference (Erosion looks nearly complete)
- D Brandon Davidson (Waiver eligible, this is going to be close)
- D Griffin Reinhart (It’s not a matter of if, only when)
- D Darnell Nurse (Say hello to the future)
- D Brad Hunt (Last chance Texaco? Or a new beginning?)
- D David Musil (Stay-at-home blue facing uphill battle)
- D Jordan Oesterle (He could flourish under McLellan)
- D Dillon Simpson (Still working, suspect he gets full entry-level deal in AHL)
- D Martin Gernat (In the worst spot of any roster player. Prospect orphan)
- D Ben Betker (He has a nice combination of skills)
- D Joey Laleggia (His skills are somewhat unique, could blossom in Bakersfield)
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Nuge is going to make them all pay)
- C Connor McDavid (Franchise)
- C Anton Lander (It’s vital he deliver at 2015 levels next season)
- C Mark Letestu (Strong option at C, he can play other positions)
- C Leon Draisaitl (Willing to play the wing, and that could get him to the NHL in the fall)
- C Bogdan Yakimov (Big man can play. Can he score?)
- C Jujhar Khaira (Big man needs to show offense or could be gone)
- C Kyle Platzer (New pro has two-way skills)
- L Taylor Hall (Just coming into his own, good health should mean major numbers)
- L Benoit Pouliot (Vital to the club’s overall look. Big, strong, good)
- L Lauri Korpikoski (Fast winger with experience, two-way skills. Mentor)
- L Matt Hendricks (May see minutes on skill line)
- L Luke Gazdic (McLellan uses this player type)
- L Ryan Hamilton (Chiarelli may prefer his own AHL mentor)
- L Anton Slepyshev (Big opportunity, coach has no memory of any of the bubbling under)
- L Mitch Moroz (McLellan will be impressed with size/speed combination)
- L Kale Kessy (If that speed spike last year was no fluke, he’ll be a factor)
- R Jordan Eberle (He’s going to play on a fabulous line)
- R Nail Yakupov (A big season for a big talent)
- R Teddy Purcell (Soft hands will get him all kinds of chances on top 2 lines)
- R Rob Klinkhammer (He’s in a little trouble for a roster spot, still has best chance for 4R)
- R Tyler Pitlick (Staying healthy is the biggest job)
- R Iiro Pakarinen (Big, strong, fast. He’ll get noticed)
- R Andrew Miller (Perhaps the most skill of the bubbling under RW’s)
- R Greg Chase (Physical, skilled, best agitator on the roster)
WHY DO YOU HATE NIKITIN?
I don’t hate Niki Nikitin but (from what we know) he had a back injury last season and those things are absolutely the devil. Back injuries come and go, and the poor bastard who has it can’t predict much beyond the weather. If we agree that Niki Nikitin had back issues last season, all of the following statements make sense:
- Craig MacTavish, March 2: “Nikita was playing better, he started off slowly, I don’t think he was in the best shape that he could have been, we have to get that rectified next year. But he was getting into shape and he’s a top-four NHL defenceman.” Source
- Niki Nikitin, March 11: “I don’t know, I was in shape. I was in good shape. That was never a problem.” Source
- Niki Nikitin, March 11: “Yeah, it has been frustrating for me. This is the first time in my career I’ve injured my shoulder. And then in the middle of the season, I hurt my back and it was the first time I did that. In the past all I’ve ever had was ankle injuries, blocking a shot or something like that. It’s been a tough year.” Source
- Niki Nikitin, March 11: “I was reaching for a puck and I slipped a disk. Then I got hit in Winnipeg by (Evander) Kane and I hurt it again.” Source
- Todd Nelson, March 11: “I think he’s better conditioned, I’m not saying he wasn’t in shape. The system that we want to play, you have to be conditioned in a way that is maybe different from playing in the other system. We’re very active, our D are very active getting in the forecheck. Before he got injured, I think he was playing the best hockey that I’ve seen him and we’re hoping that he comes back he can pick it up where he left off.” Source
I think it was the back injury and if he had it last season we can’t be sure it’s going to be fine. Todd Nelson’s comments are also very interesting, not sure how to filter that but we’ll see.
This weekend (not sure about the window open, might be today if we pace off 48 hours from Schultz’ signing) we may see a buyout from the Oilers. I’m less convinced today than I was when Edmonton took Schultz to arbitration but it’ll be a fun weekend all the same. Here are some things to ponder:
- Buying out Nikitin (or Ference, or Purcell) and keep the powder dry until the period where teams have to become cap compliant. We might call this the Leddy-Boychuk window, as the Islanders improved in a heartbeat due to other teams cap hell.
- Buying out Nikitin (or Ference, or Purcell) and keep the powder dry until the trade deadline. Peter Chiarelli acquired Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward and Dennis Wideman within a 21 day span at the 2006-07 trade deadline, effectively turning over his defense in three weeks.
- Buying out no one and waiting to see if Nikitin has trade value after the signings of Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Franson (this is the option Bob Stauffer has been touting).
I think we should be prepared for Peter Chiarelli to be aggressive and take what the market gives him. The lesson of Cam Talbot is this: Chiarelli may have something in mind, but he doesn’t rush in Friday night to make the deal, but rather waits until the price is more palatable to improve his team. A smart, measured approach is going to win over the long term.
We should be prepared for everything, including nothing.