Plenty of Options
Let’s use our imaginations today boys and girls. I know I hit on this a few weeks back but I’m going to again. Let’s imagine Connor McDavid missed only 7 games, not 37. And let’s imagine Oscar Klefbom only missed 12 games, not 52. That still leaves Eberle missing 13, RNH missing 25, Pouliot missing 27, Davidson missing 22, etc. Still a ton of injuries, but let’s just say McDavid and Klefbom play most of the season. Is McDavid worth another 8 points in those 30 games? Probably. Is Klefbom worth another 8 points in those 40 games? Probably. 16 more points right there. That puts them at 86 points. Now let’s add another point because they win that game on Saturday in Vancouver if it means something. They also don’t lay an egg against the Flames on that dreadful Saturday night, so that’s likely 89 points. They’re playing Dallas tomorrow with 89 points.
Now why am I starting with this you might ask? Not because I don’t think changes are needed. I’m starting with this to establish that while 29th is unacceptable and things desperately need to change in Edmonton, the standings don’t reflect the fact that the Oilers were decimated by key injuries this season. Fourth in man games lost, second in what could be described as key players man games lost (the website mangameslost.com has a metric they use called IIT). Toronto leads the league in man games lost, Vancouver leads in ITT for skaters (obviously Montreal had the most crippling injury of any team this season with Price). Notice the trend here that these are the 3 worst teams in the league? The Oilers had a better team this season then what the standings showed. So the key is to not overreact.
But the fact is that this club still has major holes. Namely on the blueline, but also the backup goaltender, still could use a bit more size, and then in whatever trades will be made you need to find replacements for the players on the move. Yakupov is essentially gone, and for Oiler fans it’s just better if you assume they’ll get nothing more than a 2nd round pick for him. If they get something better than that, call it a win. You also have to accept the fact that one of Hall, Eberle and RNH will be gone. I would say it’s 50/50 that second of those three could be gone, and I would also say it’s at least a possibility all three could be gone. Nobody thinks they are bad hockey players, but it is very clearly not working. So beyond the fact that they can be used to help plug some holes on the roster, getting some of the losing mentality which has clearly set in with these three needs to be gone from that dressing room. None of them will be dealt just to be dealt. It will be in a deal or deals which will improve the team.
Now I can’t have a four part series on different possibilities for what could happen this offseason, I only get a blog a week to write on here. So I’m going to attempt to knock out the options that could be available to the Oilers this summer in one write up, so settle in.
We’ll start by looking at Peter Chiarelli’s most vital need, the backup goaltender (if you thought I was serious right there, please quit reading, we won’t be friends).
He might be the most obvious target for Oiler fans. Can you get him for Eberle? I don’t think so, but Eberle packaged with something might fetch you Hamonic. They are also a little handcuffed here in that the Islanders obviously won’t want Griffin Reinhart and he might be the best chip the Oilers have to play on the blueline. I know the analytics guys still like Mark Fayne a lot, does eating half of Fayne’s salary intrigue Garth Snow? That would still mean the Islanders are taking on nearly four mil in salary. Then again, they look like they’re about to lose Kyle Okposo. You also could dangle Hall, but you would need more than just Hamonic coming back. Maybe Hamonic and Michael Dal Colle? It might be a real tough deal to make, but it does feel like a deal can be made.
A perfect fit for the Oilers if they can get him. Why the Avs seemingly want to run off their top guys I don’t know, but Barrie’s name has been out there for a few months now. Quietly the Avs have been one of the worst run franchises in the league the last seven seasons. You would think they would want defencemen for Barrie should they move him. They are pretty good on the wings, centre will be sketchy if they part with Matt Duchene, but if Chiarelli were to give up RNH for Barrie it would have to be a lot more than Barrie coming back (and even then I highly doubt he would do that). Like the Islanders, it doesn’t seem to me like the teams fit well as trade partners, but he is a guy the Oilers will take a serious look at if he is in fact available.
This is also a tricky situation because why would the Ducks want to improve a team in their own division? I don’t think Vatanen would cost as much as some people are claiming he would because every GM in the league knows they need to move someone out on the blueline. Yakupov, a 2nd this year (32nd) and a 3rd next year? I don’t know if that gets it done, but that’s the type of deal I believe Vatanen would cost, but again it might cost the Oilers more seeing that the Ducks would be moving him in division.
The fit is there a lot more than it is for the previous three mentioned. The Jets can use help up front, and a kid like Reinhart would fit the Jets mold of a player and is a LH shot that they can use. Reinhart won’t get the Oilers Trouba by any means, but Reinhart packaged with Jordan Eberle might get Chiarelli Trouba and maybe a kid like Joel Armia. I’m spit balling here but if the Jets are still worried about what Trouba might want for his new contract and look to move on from him the Oilers might be the perfect trade partner.
This one is different because Faulk’s name isn’t out there (not from any of the legit insiders, maybe some of the rumour mongers have him out there). But Carolina is a perfect trade partner for the Oilers because they have an overabundance of puck movers and they need wingers. So there is a trade to be made here. Is it a guy like Yakupov for a prospect like Trevor Carrick? Or is it bigger names like Faulk for again…Eberle? That to me feels like a very even swap. I’m not the biggest Justin Faulk fan, but a RH shot puck mover like him is the need. Maybe Carolina is a third team in a deal for some of those guys I mentioned earlier?
Don’t sleep on this happening. It was rumoured at the deadline that the Wild weren’t so much shopping him, but open to dealing him. I’m not his biggest fan, he reminds me a lot of Nick Schultz who got wildly (see what I did there?!) overrated in Minny. And as much as the Oilers need to be better in their own zone, the lack of offence coming from the blueline is just as embarrassing. Brodin’s career high is 19 points and this season only had 7 in 68 games. BUT…he has one of the best sticks in the game, moves the puck extremely well, and is very familiar with Klefbom as the 2 were partners during the 2012 WJC. He’s far from my first choice, but I believe the option will be there if the Oilers want to pursue it.
Now we get into the long shots. I am far from an insider so please don’t take this with much legitimacy, but I did hear a rumour that the Preds would still like out from under Weber’s contract which I don’t think is farfetched because that is an awful contract and he is entering the back 9 of his career. Bob Stauffer has also hinted at this still being a possibility this summer. I also don’t think he would cost as much as you’d think. But still, it’s a long shot in my mind because the Preds are pretty close to being a serious contender and with Seth Jones now gone, dealing Weber would leave a pretty massive hole. Add to all this, if you haven’t noticed David Poile is a petty guy and he gets cranky when he hasn’t had his juice or when people suggest he move Shea Weber.
In division is the big problem here. It isn’t that I can’t see it happening, I can. Just not to Edmonton. But Burns is a UFA after next season, and with the Sharks trending down I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t want to sign an extension there, and if he doesn’t then I’m guessing Doug Wilson moves him while he still has value. But Wilson would need a lot from the Oilers to deal him in division. I mean that’s the type of deal that might put the Oilers ahead of the Sharks in the division. So if I were Wilson, Edmonton’s offer would have to be something big compared to an offer from perhaps the Red Wings, Flyers, or Leafs.
Keith Yandle, Alex Goligoski, Brian Campbell
These three are in the same category for me because they’re all kind of the same guy. All UFA’s, all LH shooting, none are that good in their own zone, but any of them would improve the Oilers blueline. Still, these are weak options. The Oilers need high end RH shooting guys. I know Yandle’s numbers on the PP look impressive, but he’s sheltered in New York. I’ve never been a Keith Yandle fan. I think all three are soft and very average in his own zone and the Oilers have had too much of that here the last 7 years or so.
His name has been mentioned, and he did play for Todd McLellan in San Jose, and he has been solid in Dallas. But doesn’t he feel like another Mark Fayne? Moves the puck better than Fayne, but a guy who doesn’t do anything special. He’s just a guy, and the Oilers have wasted far too much time signing players like this. Could be a great get for another team, but the Oilers need more.
I’m a big Hamhuis guy. But he’s a LH shot, he’s 34 in December, and he doesn’t bring a lot of offense. It’s a lot like Demers. I probably like the idea of Hamhuis better than Demers even though Demers is a RH shot, but the thought of Hamhuis doesn’t thrill me UNLESS they end up moving Klefbom, Nurse or Davidson which I really highly doubt will happen.
To sum up the defence, they need two guys, I think we all agree with that. For me, one of Hamonic or Trouba and one of Barrie, Vatanen or Faulk would be ideal, but maybe unrealistic. Obviously one of Weber or Burns would be amazing but as I said, those are more pie in the sky scenarios.
To get two of those guys, you’re looking at Eberle for sure going and probably Hall. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but look at the upcoming UFA class. If you can fix your blueline to that extent with wingers, you can replace those wingers through free agency. I’m only going to focus on top 6 guys for now, there are others who I believe they could have interest in, but in a bottom 6 role.
Without a doubt in my mind Chiarelli is going to make a big push to bring in Lucic. They were together the entire time in Boston, he is the type of player Chiarelli loves, Edmonton is close to home for Lucic, and I think the Oilers are a strong candidate to get him. But, he’ll be coveted by most teams, especially by the team to the South.
Not as scary of a guy as Lucic is, but as you all know Ladd is a heart and soul type guy who is in his prime. He’s also a better skater than Lucic. The issue with Ladd is the way he plays, he runs the risk of the same career path as Brendan Morrow. Morrow was one of the top power forwards in the game and then his body broke down. This also happened to Trevor Linden. The price tag is likely going to be five or six years and 5-6 mil per. I know he wanted 6×6 from the Jets, but even on the open market I don’t think anyone is going to go that high for him. The cap has flatlined and David Clarkson is still fresh in most GM’s mind.
This is the guy who is never talked about for the Oilers, perhaps because people believe he’ll want nothing to do with a Canadian market. Maybe people see him as a centre and the Oilers don’t need centres. But Backes could be a great fit for the Oilers. Remember, he had a 30 goal season playing the wing in 2009. He would be another big body that Chiarelli craves. And he’s another centre that Todd McLellan craves. I don’t know what kind of contract Backes would want, but if he is interested in the Oilers, I would think the Oilers would have big interest in him.
A lot like Backes. A natural centre who has played a lot of LW and while playing LW he’s never had an elite centre to play with. Can still skate, has size, has experience, and like Backes if you need him to move to the middle because of injuries or matchups he can. I have a feeling he will stay in the East, maybe simply re-signing with the Rangers. But I do think Chiarelli will have interest in him.
This is one is right up there with Lucic due to Chiarelli’s history with Eriksson. Also Eriksson is still one of the top 2 way wingers in the league. He isn’t the thickest guy in the league but he’s 6’2. He wouldn’t be one of my top choices, but should a guy like Hall be moved, Eriksson would be a nice short term replacement for the right price.
Interesting one here. Okposo is much more of a playmaker than a finisher. I believe the Oilers need guys who can finish for McDavid, Draisaitl, or should he stay RNH. But Okposo is thick and plays a power game. Isn’t overly physical but is tough to move off the puck and goes to all the tough areas on the ice. It’s a bit like Eriksson for me in that I would be interested, but he’s not at the top of the list.
Would he possibly return? He seemed to like the city quite a bit, and with the change in management, behind the bench and likely the roster (not to mention the move to the new rink) he might have some interest in coming back. Then again, maybe he hated it here and just put on a good act while he was here? I don’t know, but he’s well worth inquiring about. I don’t need to sell you on the player as I never talked to an Oiler fan who disliked Perron’s game.
He had a nice season as a dirt cheap pickup for the Devils (who of course dealt him at the deadline to the Bruins). Experienced, good wheels, plays with some grit, responsible defensively, and can put the puck in the net. If you’re moving Eberle, this is the kind of guy who could be a solid replacement and even though he had a good season I still can’t see him getting more than 2 years/2.5 mil per season.
I’m in no way suggesting this be a guy you target. What Vrbata could be is a real cheap signing after a brutal season. 63 GP, only 27 points on the season (13 goals, 14 assists) and a horrific -30. He’s also 36. But he can still skate, and will likely only cost 800-900k. Just an idea.
Same thing as Vrbata. And he is coming off his cheap season where he had a chance to get his career going again in Anaheim and it didn’t happen for him. But I put him on this list because when he was in Buffalo Chiarelli reportedly wanted him pretty bad, and he’s a Chiarelli type of guy. We saw Maroon come from Anaheim and impress, so perhaps Stewart could do the same, and he would be cheap. But, he would be a late July-early September type of signing.
So if both Hall and Eberle are gone, and we can pretty much assume Yakupov will be gone, that’s three spots open up front. As always with UFA’s, it completely depends on what you can get these guys at. What the cap hit will be and how many years you have to give them. I believe Chiarelli will get one of Lucic, Ladd or Backes, and then look to bring in one of Perron or Okposo should both Hall and Eberle be dealt, but I say this without knowing what these guys will command and it isn’t as though the Oilers have an insane amount of cap space.
This is getting LONG, I hope it hasn’t bored you to death quite yet!
Another possibility is trading RNH. It doesn’t sound like they have interest in playing that card, but it is a possibility. I’m ok with that for the right deal. If he goes though, you need to get a centre to fill that 2nd/3rd line role. I just discussed 2 guys in Backes and Staal who are possibilities, but there are a couple others.
There is definitely word out there that the Coyotes would possibly move this guy, but was that more of a Don Maloney possibility? Should RNH go he would fit the bill for a Chiarelli type guy. 6’6, 230, decent skater, experienced, in his prime, only a 3.1 mil cap hit for next season. Durability is a concern though as he has not played more than 65 games since the 2010 season.
Some of my friends hate this idea, I personally think he’s a great fit. Bozak got a little overrated at times in Toronto, but as a second or third line role I think he would be one of the best in the league. RH shot, great skater, he is great in his own zone, he’s 53.1% for his career in the dot (a career best 56.37% this season), he’s not a great playmaker but he can create offence by putting pucks on and driving the net. I’ve said this a lot, he’s a lot like Shawn Horcoff in his prime. What would the Leafs want for him if they dealt him? I really don’t know. But I do like the idea should Peter Chiarelli move RNH.
As for the backup goaltender issue, I really don’t know where that could go. Nobody could have guessed Anders Nilsson would be brought in last offseason. The only guy I see as a good replacement for Brossoit is James Reimer, and I can’t see him taking a one year deal or being that cheap. This might come via a small trade with a target perhaps being Michael Hutchinson?
Then of course you have the draft.
I would be open to moving the pick as long as it’s not the 2nd pick. I would be willing to move Auston Matthews, but that would be a massive deal, something that would set the franchise up for a decade. But that second pick, Patrik Laine couldn’t be a better fit for the Oilers on McDavid’s wing and on his off wing on the power play. The perfect draft lottery scenario for the Oilers in my opinion would be to win yet again, with the Coytoes winning the second pick. The return Chiarelli could get for moving back one spot and still getting Laine…WOW! But that’s a pipe dream.
Let me say first that other than winning and keeping Matthews, I wouldn’t put anyone in the league to start next season. Laine and Puljujarvi either can either play another year in Finland or go to the AHL. Matthew Tkachuk can use another season in London where he would run the show so to speak a lot more than he has this season with Dvorak and Marner gone. No need for any of the high end defencemen to make the jump, especially with the Oilers situation.
I did the piece about a month ago about how I would rank the top five of the draft specifically for the Oilers. I haven’t changed that stance. I still got it Matthews, Laine, Chychrun, Tkachuk and Puljujarvi.
I love Jesse Puljujarvi’s game, but I just see him as more of what the Oilers already have. He’s without a doubt the third best prospect in this draft, but he’s not physical, he doesn’t have a big shot, and he loves to carry the puck and create which I don’t think would work playing with McDavid the same way Hall doesn’t work with McDavid.
As for those of you screaming at your phone or lap top right now saying “YOU HAVE TO GO BPA!!!” You’re a dinosaur. It is so tough to make trades in this league anymore and part of the reason the Oilers are where they are is because they always simply went BPA rather than attempting to build a team. Of course you could look to trade down from three to four or five and I believe it would be a pretty nice return. I won’t be pissed if the Oilers pick third and take Puljujarvi, but for me I would look to trade down or out of the pick.
I’m as big of a Jakob Chychrun guy as you’ll find and really believe he is dropping because scouts are getting fatigue from seeing him so much. I’m bigger on IQ than most around hockey seem to be, especially when it comes to defencemen, so the interview would be a big part of the process for a kid like Chychrun. But for me, if the interview were to check out, he’s going to become a number one in this league. His skating is phenomenal, he has great size, is physical, and has a bullet of a shot and LOVES to shoot it (third in the OHL for SOG by a defenceman). The kid had eight points in seven games for Sarnia in the playoffs. Add to all this…value. While people are quick to point out how D-men are more of a crap shoot in the top five, the value that kid has in a trade is amazing. Look at Yakupov, you can’t get anything for him right now. Where you look at a kid like Luke Schenn and while he was in the midst of busting the Leafs still got James Van Riemsdyk for him. The Oilers cupboard is actually pretty full after the season they had with D-men developing, but you can never have enough and while I say you can’t trade in this league anymore, you can if you have D-men.
Tkachuk ahead of Pulijarvi is a lot more self-explanatory. Obviously it’s to do with the grit. Matt isn’t going to beat the piss out of guys like his old man did early in his career, and he doesn’t quite have the same size (though he’s not small). It’s that grit he has along the boards, in the corners and in front of the net. And I think he could work well with McDavid down the line.
Make no mistake in this draft, picking top five as the Oilers are guaranteed to do is pretty sweet. Top three would be even sweeter, second would be amazing, and first again would not only be hilarious to watch the Eastern media throw a fit but would have this squad loaded for a very long time.
I try when writing about the Oilers to be a realist, not a homer. Obviously it’s tough to not be a little bit of a homer watching the team on a nightly basis. But I really believe all the pieces are in place for Peter Chiarelli to turn this into a playoff team next season. The right guys are going to be available, he’s had a season to examine the club, he has the balls the previous GM’s seemingly never had, and third place in the Pacific division is going to be up for grabs next season. A lot of the recent offseason’s I’ve hoped they could get it turned around. This offseason I actually believe it’ll happen.
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