The Edmonton Oilers are a far different team than they were a year ago, but are they better? The team has more balance—and that is a good thing—but suggesting this team is closer to the playoffs is a tricky case to make. I like Milan Lucic and Adam Larsson, but the Oilers lost Taylor Hall and $4 million in cap room to make this happen. What’s more, the team now has one forward who can push the river, and a plethora of well paid complementary (but effective) offensive wingers and pivots. Put another way, the thing that always made the Chicago Blackhawks special—Patrick Kane on one line and Marian Hossa on another—no longer applies in our city. It is a real concern.
Peter Chiarelli’s Oilers are going to be more physical, win more battles and score more ugly goals than the previous Oilers. Will they score enough? Well, the one thing we know about the Hall Oilers: They could not outscore the defensive mistakes, and Chiarelli is addressing the defense. Damn shame previous management could not get it done, but the future is now. You should expect the addition of a puck-moving defenseman before October.
THE CHIARELLI LIST
Top-pairing RHD(Two-way skills—Adam Larsson) Find a replacement for Taylor Hall(Milan Lucic)
- Second-pairing RHD (Offensive defenseman)
- Acquire RHC with some skill
Backup goalie(Jonas Gustavsson)
Lucic is clearly an asset for next season (and beyond), but I do wonder about the team’s ability to post two fantastic offensive lines now—something they could do with Hall. Again, lots of talent, but it might be tempting to run Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov (a line that worked) and then use Lucic with the Nuge, Eberle, Draisaitl et cetera.
A lot of upset about the Gustavsson signing, for me this is the kind of addition one should expect from a team that likes their young AHL goalie. By this time next year, Brossoit will be the backup (and expansion eligible, I believe).
One final thing: As much as Chiarelli gave back to the pack in the Hall trade, there is balance (finally!) coming into view. If the Oilers can get a puck-moving defender who can play top four minutes without sacrificing the Nuge, we can talk about that balance photo coming out of moth balls.
Looking back on the week, and examining the back story via Elliotte Friedman’s excellent 30 Thoughts, I think the error was in not getting P.K. Subban. I understand the cap number was fierce, but that doesn’t make it impossible. There would certainly be pressure on the value end—more Brandon Davidson style roster players—but he did a nice job with Patrick Maroon and this Drake Caggiula fellow could fit the description. Opportunity missed, and you can only trade Taylor Hall once. You can tell me the ask was too much, and that may be true, but the trade happened at the eleventh hour, not at five minutes to midnight. For me, we can make an argument that PC pulled the trigger on the Larsson deal too soon.
THE CHIARELLI EXTENDED PLAY LIST
- Add a “Pisani” who can mentor, score 15, and play a two-way role up and down the lineup.
Re-stock the shelves via the draft(Puljujarvi and the entire draft) Improve overall team speed(Puljujarvi) Offload Lauri Korpikoski(Bought out) Improve goaltending depth(added Nick Ellis, Gustavsson). Improve AHL quality(Caggiula, Russell, Ellis, Gustavsson, Fraser).
- Cull the LHD herd (have, in fact, added to the LHD group).
The secondary list is basically complete, and it looks like Edmonton has their 14Fs for next season: Lucic, Pouliot, Maroon, Hendricks, McDavid, Nuge, Draisaitl, Letestu, Lander, Eberle, Puljujarvi (not yet signed), Yakupov, Kassian, Pakarinen. I wonder if the team plans on using Nuge in that mentor role. He is a pivot, but Marty Reasoner did a dandy job in the Pisani role for a time. If the Oilers are going to be bringing in a bunch of young wingers (Caggiula, Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, etc), using RNH as a guide is a pretty nice place for them to start. That could happen if Leon develops, but for the coming season I suspect Nuge will be facing tougher competition.
THE ASSETS LIST
- Cap space*
- Benoit Pouliot
- Nail Yakupov
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- Jordan Eberle
- Mark Fayne
- Griffin Reinhart
- 2017 1st round selection
Cap space can be used as a real weapon now, offer sheets are in the air. Edmonton stepping away from Jason Demers is a real curio, would love to know what backed them off. I can think of only two things: Demers wants the moon in cap and term, or the Oilers have another (trade) option available to them.
The Oilers do have two areas of depth: LHD and LH wingers. Could the Oilers offload Benoit Pouliot or Nail Yakupov in a deal for a RHD?
Ducks and Oilers working a trade?
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) July 2, 2016
John Hoven is a very good source, runs one of the best hockey blogs in captivity and routinely delivers newsworthy items. If you don’t read him regularly, I would suggest following on twitter or bookmarking his site.
Hoven recently wrote about the possibility of Los Angeles making a Brayden McNabb style trade—acquiring a player who is a fringe NHL-player and not yet emerging as a complete player—and specifically mentioned Griffin Reinhart:
- Hoven: The former fourth-overall pick was traded to Edmonton, where he spent his entire junior career, after failing to crack the Islander’s roster. The expectations were that Reinhart would have a better chance at securing an NHL spot on an Oilers squad in desperate need for defenseman. Instead, he spent the year shuttling back-and-forth between Edmonton and Bakersfield. A team desperate to win, the Oilers’ may look to put Reinhart in play, as they continue to try and find players to shore up their blueline. Source
Anaheim spent zero dollars in free agency yesterday. The Ottawa Senators are jealous!
FREE AGENTS STILL AVAILABLE
Here is a list of players I think Edmonton might be wise to consider signing today. Expect no signings by the way, but there is real value out there.
- RD Jason Demers, Dallas Stars. Why did he go unsigned?
- R P.A. Parenteau, Toronto Maple Leafs. Scoring W, plug-and-play.
- RD Jakub Nakladal, Calgary Flames. Big defender, surprised he is UFA.
- R Kris Versteeg, Los Angeles Kings. Small, skilled and gritty.
- RD Eric Gryba, Edmonton Oilers. It isn’t over until it is over.
- R Justin Fontaine, Minnesota Wild. Under the radar option.
- LD Adam Pardy, Edmonton Oilers. He has talent.
- R Adam Cracknell, Edmonton Oilers. Big, named Adam.
I wrote a rather long item about it yesterday over at Oilers Nation. Among the things that should interest us:
- Jesse Puljujarvi. RW who recently had knee surgery (minor) so very unlikely he will be seen flying down this ice this week in Jasper.
- Filip Berglund. RHD who has size and puck moving ability. That is a perfect fit for this organization, and he is 19. The man who will forever be known as the return for Justin Schultz could be a year away from entering the system in North America.
- Markus Niemelainen. LHD with size and good speed. It will be interesting to see just how fast he is—the shutdown side of his game is promising, but a fast big man is a far more substantial prospect than an average one.
- Drake Caggiula. He should stand out for his skill at this camp, I think he has a chance to play 40 NHL games this coming season.
- Jaedon Descheneau is a very skilled (small) scorer who might be looking for an AHL deal. Interesting addition.
- Tyler Benson will make everyone happy if he can skate around the ice at normal speed. That was the only real downside of that selection.
- Aapeli Rasanen. My pick for most interesting late pick at the recent draft, Rasanen should stand out for all the skill reasons at this camp.
- Ethan Bear was noticeable a year ago, we should hear more good things this time, including (hopefully) a contract.
- Caleb Jones is a player I watched closely at Rexall last season. I felt he had good speed a year ago, he clearly had more skill than implied in the scouting reports.
Finally, I attended the Billy Moores Cup a year ago, here are my notes on the players who return this season:
- D William Lagesson. Taller and bigger than I thought he’d be, wiry kid, smooth skater. I like him.
- D Caleb Jones. Has a better shot than I’d read, needs to fix the sights though. Mobile player, I think his no fuss style probably fits better in a more traditional setting.
- D Ethan Bear. One of the players I was looking forward to watching, liked his skating and passing. He was a hair reckless with the puck a time or two and lost a physical battle down low (don’t remember opponent) but it was a nice showing.
- D John Marino: Showed some nice flashes offensively, good speed and a nice shot. Got involved physically, too. You could see his age being a slight issue, but overall a nice job.
- F Tyler Vesel. Nice passer, very creative.
- F Luke Esposito. He was involved a lot. Like a whole lot. Drove to the net, passed well. Showed up offensively.