So What’s The Game Plan?
Ok, so the Oilers got Connor McDavid. That is unreal they got so lucky to win that pick. But the crowd that brought so much vitriol to twitter on Saturday night after the Oilers won weren’t all wrong. The Oilers are a very flawed team still and have a lot of holes to fill. What this pick does, is free’s them up to do that. Management better be ready to get their act together.
Let’s start with the head coach. I said it in a piece on Mike Babcock back on January 8th that IF he does in fact look to move on from the Red Wings that the Oilers would be a great spot to land him as head coach. Bob Nicholson and Babcock are very familiar with each other from the Olympic teams, Connor McDavid will now be an Oiler, they are a year away from moving into a state of the art facility, and Edmonton is a 5 hour drive from Babcock’s home town of Saskatoon.
That’s a pretty intriguing spot for him to turn down you would think. His entry point would be incredible as we all know the Oilers franchise has never been lower. You always want to be the guy who follows about 12 guys who failed in the same spot.
But if not Babcock, maybe Ken Hitchcock? Edmonton guy, ties to the organization, and could be on his way out of St.Louis should the Blues get bounced in the 1st round of the playoffs. Hitch is a little different case. He’s never really taken over such a young team. But the Blues in late 2011 were very similar to the Oilers now. An organization spinning their wheels, Hitch walked in the door and the Blues instantly became contenders. In fact, the last game the Blues played without Hitch behind the bench, they got dominated by the Oilers.
Then Todd Nelson. This makes it tough on Nelson to get the gig. But while Nelson isn’t flashy, you can’t deny how great of a job he did and I believe would continue to do for this team. Players seem to love him, and he knows the players in this organization very well. That’s how he gets a guy like Anton Lander to go from prospect/suspect to penned into the 3rd line center role next season. He’s not the flashy hire, but can do the job.
That would be my personal order.
I would guess with Boston University goaltender Matt O’Connor already apparently having the Oilers high on his list of teams to go to that the McDavid factor guarantees he now will be. And while he had a horrible moment in the Frozen 4 final, this kid does have all the tools to be a starter in the NHL, and the Oilers desperately need not just a number 1 on the big club, they desperately need depth in the organization which O’Connor would supply.
Then the draft. If they do draft McDavid 1st…
But seriously, the Penguins pick is interesting. Knowing these guys running this show, I think it’ll be difficult for them to part with that pick. And honestly I don’t really blame them. It’s a DEEP draft. The 16th pick would give them a damn good defenseman. Or a kid like Lawson Crouse or Travis Konecny could be there and while we all know a winger is far from what they need, the heart, grit and speed both of those kids provide is a lot of what this Oilers franchise really needs.
They don’t just have the 16th pick to dangle though. Yakupov’s improvement to me makes Jordan Eberle an elite trade chip to play. Despite Justin Schultz having a rocky couple seasons since a great rookie year in 2013 if a trade comes along that upgrades the team over him then he can be in play. Also, with Klefbom emerging and Darnell Nurse maybe half a season in the AHL away, Martin Marincin has some value and would be a piece who could be moved.
I personally wouldn’t move Nugent-Hopkins because he still has incredible potential, character, and is developing a great 200 foot game, and top line center’s are nearly impossible to find. I also wouldn’t move Hall. No doubt Hall would bring back more than anyone else, but the game is getting faster and faster, and so I would think the Oilers would want a team that can put blueline’s on their heels all game. McDavid, Hall, Yakupov all do that and the team needs more of that. Which again, might be had at pick 16.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t move it though. I just wouldn’t give it away. I think it should be packaged along with Leon Draisaitl who is still an awesome prospect but would be wasted on either the Oilers 3rd line center spot or on the wing, and one of the kids (in this scenario likely Justin Schultz). I would dangle that package for a D-man and I’m looking at you David Poile in Nashville.
You might have to pry one of Seth Jones or Shea Weber from Poile’s dead hands, but it does make a lot of sense for the Preds to jump all over a package like this and use one of the studs on D to do it. Nashville is terrible up the middle, and have never had a real stud center to build around. Weber is a huge ticket and will be starting the back 9 of his career, so I would THINK he would be the one to go. But Poile seemingly gets very annoyed when Weber is brought up as a trade candidate, and while it might be juvenile on my part to suggest he would do it out of spite, I’m going to suggest that he rather trade Seth Jones out of spite.
Another possibility is the Arizona Coyotes. 16 and Draisaitl, does that fetch Oliver Ekman-Larsson? You get the big center, then can use the 3rd pick to take Noah Hanifin (or MAYBE Ivan Provorov with the way he is shooting up draft boards), and you collect an extra 1st rounder. Oh yeah, and Ekman-Larsson has a deal that next season sees him making more (6 mil) than his cap hit of 5.5 per season. So for a cash strapped franchise like the Yotes, does it make sense?
Also I’ve said it before and will say it again: Dion Phaneuf. He would be massive upgrade for the Oilers and wouldn’t cost much in terms of assets. Is he a number 1? No. Does he bring a lot of what the Oilers need to the table? Hell yes he does.
But then you still need a goaltender Oilers fans. I like a few guys, but none of them are sure fire things.
Cam Ward. He would be like Phaneuf in that he would really only cost money, and he would be playing for a contract. He’s used to not having a good defensive squad in front of him too, and still has tread left on his tires.
Jonathan Bernier. He would cost assets for sure, but he was amazing for the Leafs in 2014, and while 2015 didn’t go well for him, it didn’t go well for any of the Leafs! I believe you’re buying low with Bernier, even though he still wouldn’t be out and out cheap.
Antti Niemi. He’s won a Cup! He’s never really been BAD in San Jose, took them to the conference final in 2011. And he literally only costs money as he’s a UFA. But is he a legit number 1? I’m torn on him to be honest. I think he’s good, but the upside on others intrigues me more.
Craig Anderson. Speaking of upside, he’s on the decline. But he is a lot like Cujo was in Edmonton in that the more work he sees, the better he is. As soon as you gave Cujo 2 way forwards and steady D playing in front of him, he went from Terry Sawchuk to Dominic Roussel. Injuries have bit him hard lately though so he is a risk. Still, has a great track record of late and might be perfect for the situation. Would Jordan Eberle get them Curtis Lazar and Craig Anderson? I really don’t know, but if it did then from an Oilers POV I would be all over that (meaning Ottawa likely says hell no).
And finally….Devan Dubnyk. Would they really do it? Would Devan seriously go back to Edmonton?! I highly doubt it, BUT I would say that McDavid gets him thinking about it. I’m guessing though he wouldn’t sign with MacTavish seeing how MacTavish pretty openly shopped around for his replacement in the summer of 2013.
You can’t walk out of this off season without a major upgrade both on the blueline and in net. Absolute MUSTS for the Oilers.
Next up? Buyouts. Andrew Ference? MAYBE. But I have a tough time buying him out. I do believe he’s a great guy to have in the room and can influence these kids off the ice with how hard he works and the charitable work he does. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a sucker but I still think you need guys like him and Scrivens around such a young group.
But definitely Nikita Nikitn and definitely Teddy Purcell. 4.5 for each guy with 1 year left on their deals. That would make each a cap hit of 1.5 million for the next 2 seasons. I would rather go that route than have them take up 9 million again this season. Maybe you get lucky and someone takes a 1 year chance on one of them. I almost typed that without laughing…
What about UFA’s you ask? Well, it isn’t a great pool this summer. One guy that would intrigue me if I’m in Oilers management is Mike Green. As my buddy Jonas said to me last night, Green is what the Oilers want Justin Schultz to be. If you end up dealing Schultz and bringing in Green, that’s a win in my mind (depending on the cost of course).
Another guy I believe they’ll have interest in is Jeff Petry. MacTavish basically said so on trade deadline day that he would be making an offer on Petry if he gets to July 1st. Petry has all the tools to be a top pairing guy (not to be confused with a number 1 or even number 2 D-man). He was becoming that guy under Todd Nelson and perhaps with McDavid added to the fold (getting sick of that yet?), it will help lure Petry back into the fold.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of different ways this could go. I personally don’t care which direction is taken, just as long as a f***ing direction is finally taken. It is time to put the accelerator down. You have your stud to build around, you have an over abundance of talent that you can wheel and deal for the D and goaltending you desperately need. Craig MacTavish has to finally deliver as a GM. Oilers management was out of excuses going into THIS season. Next season, if you miss the playoffs with a phenom in the fold…I don’t know if a word exists that could describe the incompetence that would be.
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