As wild as things have been since April 18 and the pure rush of the lottery win, this next six weeks promise to be absolutely insane. Let’s begin with a preview of coming attractions:
- May 31: NHL Draft Combine
- 48 hours after Stanley Cup Final (or June 15, whichever later): Deadline for first club-elected salary arbitration
- June 25: Window for teams to meet with UFA’s opens
- June 26 & 27 NHL draft
- June 30: Deadline for buyouts
- June 30: Deadline for qualifying offers to RFA’s
- July 1: Free Agency begins
- July 5: Deadline for player-elected salary arbitration
- July 6: Deadline for final club-elected salary arbitration
That’s a busy and fascinating time for hockey fans in a normal season, but for the Oilers this summer? Hang on to your hat! Consider some of the possible outcomes.
NHL DRAFT COMBINE
The Oilers know who they’re taking No. 1 overall but this gives them a chance to touch base with the rest of their list and move players up and down based on medical issues great and small. The interview process may or may not have a major benefit but I’ve yet to read a hockey exec call the combine a waste of time. We’ll get a chance to see video too, although the days of interviewing Taylor Hall in the hallway during and after his chat with the Oilers appear gone forever (Oil Change should be brought back, but how? Oil Changement?).
CLUB-ELECTED SALARY ARBITRATION
This might be the last chance Texaco for Justin Schultz as an Oilers player. If Edmonton can get him into a contract more reflective of his talent and the risk involved, then maybe there’s a future for him. As it is, the chaos and the wobble aren’t worth close to his anticipated salary and everyone outside Craig MacTavish has to know it.
UFA WINDOW OPENS
This should give us our first major look at Peter Chiarelli as GM. If he’s calling Antti Niemi and Mike Green, we can expect he’ll be keeping all the gifted kids while buying out Nikitin/walking from Schultz. If we don’t hear those names, then it’s more likely Edmonton is interested in Jimmy Howard or Corey Crawford, Jared Spurgeon or Brent Seabrook.
JUNE 26: NHL DRAFT
It’s possible the Oilers could walk out of this year’s draft with Connor McDavid, Jeremy Roy, Zach Senyshyn, Noah Juulsen, Tyler Soy, Kyle Capobianco. That would represent an amazing haul for one draft and could set the organization up for a monster decade the likes we haven’t seen in, well, you know. I do think Edmonton will move the No. 33 overall selection and wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in the moments leading up to the selection.
DEADLINE FOR BUYOUTS
If Edmonton plans on fixing only one thing, it’ll be goaltending and they won’t need to buy anyone out. If they want to go get a veteran goalie and a No. 1 defenseman, then someone has to go and my choice is the Russian. It’s important to remember that Edmonton has three interesting and fairly inexpensive defensive options—Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and Darnell Nurse—so it’s at least possible to argue they could make do with those three and Mark Fayne, Brent Seabrook, Justin Schultz and Andrew Ference. They need the extra cash a Nikitin buyout brings.
DEADLINE FOR QUALIFYING RFA’S
This will be fun because there are some bubble guys. My guess is Chiarelli qualifies Martin Marincin, Andrew Miller, Brad Hunt, Brandon Davidson. I think he walks Matt Fraser, Tyler Pitlick, Keith Aulie, Kellen Lain, Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Bunz. Frans Tuohimaa is aaaaalllready gone.
I think we’re going to see two major names coming in. One will be a goalie, suspect Chiarelli will go with an established veteran. That means Antti Niemi, Craig Anderson, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard in goal and (if they trade) assets going out for a well paid goaler. I also think we’ll see a defender added, and again it’ll likely be a grizzled veteran like Mike Green, Paul Martin, Francois Beauchemin, Fedor Tyutin, Dennis Seidenberg.
I know we’d all like Peter Chiarelli to keep the draft picks AND sign the players we see as being the best, but the chances of Edmonton getting everything done in one summer is not high and we’re not certain how Chiarelli uses innovative evaluations and what he likes (beyond his own track record).
Faced with a large roster problem, Chiarelli preferred veteran options all down the line in Boston. In the last five years, with a contender, he overpaid for Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Tomas Kaberle, Joe Corvo, Brian Rolston, Loui Eriksson, Andrej Meszaros, Brett Connolly. While it’s true he was looking to remain a Stanley Cup contender, it’s also true he liked veterans long before the Bruins were winning.
I believe he’ll keep the golden kids but we’re going to see picks and lesser prospects sent away this summer. The Oilers will be better in goal, on defense and more veteran up front in that middle area, in that 3line slot. Candidates to satisfy the incoming assets include Martin Marincin (poor bugger), the pick at No. 33 and cap room.
It’s been a wild five weeks, and the next six may be just as crazy. The summer of Connor is non-stop action. As they used to say in the old monster-truck radio commercials, they’ll sell you the whole seat but you’ll only need the edge.
(My thanks to Brad McLeod, aka Broiler, for the story idea).