Enough Bitching…Let’s Talk About How to Fix It
Did someone say 8,500 word blog?!? Because that’s what you’re getting today! Seeing it’s Family Day, I figured it would be best to keep you reading this shit all day rather than having to spend time with your families, you’re welcome! I’m going to tell you right now, don’t read this if you don’t want to read extensively about what the team can do to fix some of their issues here at the trade deadine, at the draft, on July 1st, and later in the summer. If you DO want to dig into that, read on!
Any other Oilers fans had enough of the bitching? I have. Analytics guys going on and on and on and on and on and on…and on and on and on some more about how Peter Chiarelli has fucked this thing up. And I totally agree…obviously. Peter Chiarelli had a gold mine of elite talent and assets when he first came onto the scene. He has completely pissed at least 1/3 of it away, has the team in cap trouble thanks to careless contracts and buyouts, and has turned what was seemingly a home run situation when arriving in April of 2015 into a sinking ship. It’s not the Titanic, it doesn’t have to sink. They can hit this bitch with a ton of Flex Seal and it’ll be floating better then that truck on the ad’s. But as of now, this season has been one big shit storm of hell for Oilers fans who were thought to be at least done with being a contender for the number one pick in the draft. Most knew that the Reinhart and Larsson deals were absolutely disgusting over payments, and the Lucic contract was going to be a boat anchor, but did a team with more than enough talent to at worse still make the playoffs have to completely crumble while we saw these things occur?!
At some point here, we need to stop dwelling on what’s been done. And hey, that very much so includes me. I don’t know if I’ll ever let the Reinhart for 16 and 33 trade die. At least Hall brought back Larsson who we all now know why he struggled this season and when he’s on, he’s a top pairing defenceman. I don’t care if the Oilers were going to take Eriksson Ek had they kept the picks. If you’re using that as the excuse for doing the deal you’re a moron. Eriksson Ek is likely going to be a very good two way centre in this league, and oh yeah they would have got Brandon Carlo at 33 who is in the league….unlike Griffin Reinhart. See, I need to stop dwelling on things like this! Let’s focus on what needs to be done.
Now, let’s just get the obvious out of the way, yes. Yes, they need to clean house. Peter Chiarelli needs to go, Todd McLellan and his staff need to go. I’ve tried to make the case for continuity within the organization being important, but the job Chiarelli has done to this point has been horrific, and the job McLellan has done this season has been as bad if not worse. I love the idea of continuity, who doesn’t crave that? But hell man, how do you in anyway believe these two are ever going to figure it out when you look at the jobs both have done, not just in Edmonton but throughout their careers?
I can say for me, I was never that high on McLellan as a hire. I was basically Babcock or bust in the spring of 2015 and kind of got talked into McLellan as being a great fit by the media whom as I do this more and more realize that most of them are normally talking out their ass, and that aside from a few of them, really don’t know what they’re talking about. The Sharks never improved much from Ron Wilson (who is looked at as a joke of a coach) to McLellan, and then from McLellan to DeBoer the Sharks went to the Cup final the next season. Albeit, DeBoer had a goaltender McLellan never had in Martin Jones, but it’s not as though McLellan didn’t have a pretty good guy in Evgeny Nabokov for two years. And I gave this guy a true chance. I felt good in 2016 despite the team not improving in the standings (they had an insane amount of injuries that season). Obviously last season the coaching looked solid (though not terrific despite the great year). But this season, oh man. No idea when to push any of the right buttons. He’s been far too soft on his team, he’s seemingly never had his teams back publicly when they’ve been screwed, and he either refuses to adjust or refuses to give anything a chance (Darnell Nurse on the top unit PP is the perfect example). Then of course we all know about the nightmarish special teams. It’s just become painfully obvious that while Peter Chiarelli hurt this teams chances to be a Cup contender like they should have been this season, he’s still given McLellan a squad capable of making the playoffs and they aren’t going to come anywhere close to it. In the words of Mike Commordore, pack your shit.
So if you’re going to gut the GM and coaching staff, who do you bring in? I’ll start with upstairs, and there are a lot of ways this could go. One guy who I would look to bring in at all costs is Tampa’s director of amateur scouting Al Murray. Give him a new title so it’s a promotion, and back the Brinks truck up to his door. Before going to the Lightning, his boss was Bob Nicholson, so that’s a pretty strong tie to the organization. But I wouldn’t name Murray GM. Perhaps a title of assistant GM, or Vice President of Hockey Operations, but ensure that he’ll still be overseeing the scouting and running the draft.
You still need a GM. My guy would be wunderkind Kyle Dubas. Whether you like them or not, analytics are here to stay. And while I don’t want someone in charge who lives and dies by them, I want someone in charge who has big respect for them…unlike Chiarelli. But will the Leafs let him go? You have to assume they won’t considering he wasn’t given permission last summer to speak to the Avalanche.
So next on my list would be Paul Fenton from the Predators. Fenton is a major part of the Preds front office who have performed flat out heists in the last three seasons. Jones for Johansen was a great trade from the Preds POV. Weber for Subban was ballsy considering how big of a piece Weber was to that organization, but was also a total steal. And then the Turris trade this season….how they gave up so little compared to what Ottawa did in that trade I’ll never understand. So Fenton has been a big part of that, not to mention has also seen the Preds do tremendous on draft day just like Murray has done with the Lightning, and he seems like a tremendous candidate. The key here though is Fenton would have to be ok working with Murray and vice versa. Also, Fenton is next on MY list. I don’t trust Bob Nicholson to even bother looking at a guy he doesn’t know. Go listen to Nicholson do an interview on Prime Time Sports sometime. He has that country club/old boys club mentality that is terrifying to hear as an Oilers fan. “I don’t need to look at other people, I know people who can do the job”. Yikes.
I fear “his guy” would be Ken Holland who has an expiring contract with the Red Wings. Holland has done some good things over the years, but not in the last six or seven. He seems to be stuck in the pre cap world where he just waits for UFA’s to hit the market and then sell them on playing for his squad. In today’s NHL you absolutely have to do two things: draft extremely well and find value. He hasn’t done either for a long time now.
Next up we have the coach. Most Oilers fans would likely say to bring back Todd Nelson. And guess what? I agree. You look at how well the team responded when he stepped into the role in 2015, so many players began to play to their potential. Yakupov, Lander, Schultz played much better, Petry if you recall looked phenomenal, Eberle, so much talent was being elevated. That was the best hockey Nail Yakupov or Anton Lander ever played. I would also give Nelson the resources to ensure he can put together the best staff possible. There is no cap restrictions on coaching staffs, front offices, or scouting, so if Katz is going to give you the green light on spending, then spend big on those areas.
Another possibility is Dave Tippett who I would be real good with, but the one thing with Tippett is that you aren’t going to see an exciting team. He would get the most out of Cam Talbot for sure, as that’s what his system does is builds up the goaltenders confidence by really limiting scoring chances. Would he be different coaching a player like McDavid? Tough to say. Darryl Sutter would definitely be tougher on these guys and demand excellence, but the way the Kings couldn’t score was troubling and the way the Oilers do things offensively under McLellan with a lot of point shots and not much creativity offensively is really similar to how the Kings were under Sutter. Barry Trotz currently is coaching without a contract for next season. Much like Tippett, Trotz has a system built around ensuring his goaltneders confidence is sky high. One thing that worries me with Trotz however is the whole theory of jamming all your top end talent into your top six. When he spread out his fire power once down 3-1 to Pittsburgh last season, they thrived. He just seems to hate doing this, despite it proving to be the best way to deploy a lineup.
Onto the changes that need to happen on the ice, and they are plenty.
First of all, they MUST do something about the three bloated contracts which are Lucic, and to a lesser extent Sekera and Russell. The biggest reason at this moment I would like to see Chiarelli shown the door is because I don’t believe he can bring himself to go to any of these players he signed and ask them to waive their NMC. A new GM who didn’t sign any of them to those deals would have a much easier time doing it.
Despite the tough season, I believe Andrej Sekera might be the easiest of the three to move out. I could see him after three seasons in Edmonton, two of them being so miserable, being open to moving on. Maybe I’m nuts, but I believe there might be a trade to be made with him between the Avs and the Oilers (I believe there might be a ton of moves to be made between these two as you’ll read). The Oilers badly need a RH shooting puck mover who can also play on the top unit PP, and the Avs seem willing to part with Barrie so they’d get a guy like Sekera who has the exact same cap hit as Barrie. The Avs get a much more trustworthy/stable defencemen that they need (not to mention make room for Cale Makar), and the Oilers get the type of guy that they need. It’s a win/win deal, as long as Sekera would waive, and I think he would to go to the Avs. They’re in the playoff hunt, Denver is an unreal city, the trade deadline could be a great time to inquire about this type of deal.
If something like that can’t be done for Sekera, then perhaps you go bigger? I’ve thought about a deal between the Oilers and Sabres seeing Klefbom go to Buffalo for Rasmus Ristolainen might make sense for both? I don’t love it, but I believe Sekera will be back strong next season, so would be a fine number three, and Nurse has emerged as a top pairing guy meaning the Oilers could afford to part with Klefbom (though again, I’m not in love with this idea). Ristolainen is the type of D-man who the Oilers really need (big, mobile, RH shot, puckmover with a big shot too). Essentially he’s a bigger version of Tyson Barrie. I know his possession numbers haven’t been great, but playing second pair with Andrej Sekera would be a whole hell of a lot different than first pair in Buffalo. It’s very similar to the Justin Schultz situation two years ago. What shelter has Ristolainen had? He’d look damn good as the point man on the Oilers PP.
But a move like that obviously isn’t going to clear up any cap, just improve the team. They need to dump Kris Russell. The irony here is that if he didn’t have a NMC (and for the record, I’m still unsure about his NMC because he has both an NMC and a modified NTC in the last two years of his deal, so why would he need both unless the NMC in the deal is strictly to ensure he is not put in the minors?) he would fetch the Oilers something decent, he’s had a decent season! But they now need this money to go to Darnell Nurse who they seem destined to also royally fuck up his contract extension just like they did with Leon Draisaitl. Right now, I believe you’d be looking at 8 years, 5.5 mil per season for Nurse which with how he’s played and how he’s trending looks like a great deal moving forward. But there is no talk of an extension….and he’s an RFA this summer….with the Oilers rubbing right against the cap already….anyway, I wouldn’t be shocked if Russell could fetch them one of the Islanders first round picks IF he’d waive (if he has to). They’re desperate for some help on defence, and Garth Snow has said he won’t move either of those picks for a rental, where Russell has three years left on the deal. Having said this, if he has to waive, I can’t see him being willing to waive for a team out East. It would likely have to be a Calgary or Winnipeg in my mind AKA still close to home and in the hunt.
But much like Sekera, Russell going isn’t saving money. The reason being that they need to now get Darnell Nurse locked down. And I’m not moving off the point I’ve been making for two months or so now: Nurse is going to get a massive pay day. Seven or eight years, and 5-5.5 per season. Mike Matheson got eight years, 4.875 per. Jacob Slavin got seven years, 5.3 per. Nurse has very comparable numbers to those two, and will be the same age when signing.
So they need to shed those two big contracts possibly just to make the blueline fit together better. Which brings us to the albatross deal, Lucic. I’m a massive Lucic fan, but it’s been clear in the last month and a half that it just ain’t working. Even when he’s been scoring, he’s not creating much. It’s no surprise the physicality isn’t what it was (in part because he can’t get to guys, in part because he’s likely too beat up from playing that style despite the fact that he has stayed in the lineup since 2010). More so than that, his contract isn’t going to work. And we all knew it was too long to begin with. Even at five years (which is likely all it will be thanks to the CBA expiring in three more years), it was at best a four year contract. He was thought to be a guy who would work well with McDavid, and he really hasn’t.
So how do you ditch the big man? It won’t be easy at all. In my mind you have to A) find a place who would take him. B) be willing to waive his NMC for. C) add a valuable asset to him. D) take back a contract that isn’t as bad. I got a couple of places in mind that MIGHT work.
The first is Boston. He was beloved in Boston, the organization moved him out of fear they couldn’t re-sign him, they aren’t the fastest team which could really help him out, it wasn’t ever his choice to leave, and they (somehow) are a legitimate threat to win it all this season. The contract the Oilers would need to take back is Matt Belesky. The asset the Oilers would have to add in my mind would be either Caleb Jones or Ethan Bear. So…would you do this? For Boston you turn a guy who is just three million of dead cap space into a guy who is six million, but can play, along with a real good prospect on the blueline. For the Oilers, you open up 2.2 mil on the cap for next season, but more likely they could then buy out Belesky, which isn’t ideal, but buying him out would then save over five million on Lucic for next season, four million in 2020, and back up to five million for the last two years.
Then the other team I had in mind was Vancouver. The Sedin’s will get new, more team friendly contracts next season and will have well over 30 million in cap space. Jim Benning had him in Boston (obviously with Chiarelli). As most of you know, Lucic is from Vancouver. They had interest in him in the summer of 2016. And they probably would like an enforcer to play with their kids, as we saw with the Oilers from 2010-2015 they were badly bullied by teams (which is what led to Chiarelli over doing it/overpaying while adding toughness and character). The bad contract to take back would be Sam Gagner. Now I was NEVER a big Sam Gagner guy past about 2009. It became clear to me early on that he didn’t have the speed or strength to ever be the second line player the Oilers needed. However, as a very expensive fourth line centre who could go in the bumper role on the top PP unit as he was in Columbus last season (look at the difference this season to last for them on the PP) and also play up in the lineup if/when injuries occur. Again, you’d have to attach one of Jones or Bear in my mind to get the Canucks attention, but the Oilers look pretty set on D in the system and could afford to move out one of them. The Oilers would be saving nearly three million on Lucic in this deal. If the Oilers were to then buy out Gagner, it would be approximately one million a year against the cap for the next four years, so it opens up five million a year much like Belesky would in all but one season.
You have other options that are perhaps less likely, but possible. If the Coyotes had a “hockey guy” as their GM, they’d perhaps be a pretty good target. However I can’t see John Chayka doing it (even with a prospect like Bear or Jones attached), and Lucic likely wouldn’t accept a deal to one of the worst teams in the league. Colorado maybe works? The Oilers would need to take back Colin Wilson who is nearly a four million cap hit for next year….but only next year….or maybe Carl Soderberg who has two years left at 4.75 million along with a past relationship with Peter Chiarelli. But that front office just ditched their slow guys, so would they go back to that well with Lucic? I can’t see it. Vegas will have something like 35 million in cap space, it remains to be seen if they’ll re-sign James Neal, and could really use some prospects who are close to playing. The biggest flaw in that plan I see is that they play much quicker than Lucic is right now. San Jose is one I looked at, and that one feels like it’s workable for the Sharks, but the scenarios I came up with probably wouldn’t work for the Oilers unless Doug Wilson was willing to simply do Boedker for Lucic straight up which saves the Oilers two million a year, Boedker’s deal is done in two years, and he brings a lot more speed to the table. Minnesota could give the Oilers Tyler Ennis. Hometown kid, only a year left on his deal, but it’s a 4.6 cap hit, and while he’s undersized and skilled, he isn’t that fast. Would Lucic go to Minny? Would the Oilers be willing to eat 4.6 million for one more season on a guy who is essentially producing like Mike Cammalleri?
You aren’t getting out from under the Lucic deal without some kind of penalty. But I actually feel a lot more confident after taking a long look at this that the Oilers can work around the Lucic deal, especially if they are willing to attach a piece that they can afford to part with. And one of Bear or Jones, it hurts…a lot…but if you look at their prospect pool and look at the depth they currently have on D, the organization can afford to lose one of them. Adding a guy like Lucic and a good prospect or draft pick for two to three million on a rising cap I believe would be very attractive for a team looking to make a deep run this spring.
Now, assuming they can move that albatross contract out, it will obviously be a big help. But it’s still likely not going to be enough. I love Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that they’ll need to buy down on him. It SUCKS, but it’s the reality of the situation. But just because you have to buy down, doesn’t mean you can’t get a centre who is still a great guy to have as your third line centre.
The team to look at is the Hurricanes. Their interest in Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t exactly been a secret. Apparently Rod Brind’Amour is a massive fan and knows Nugent-Hopkins very well, and the Hurricanes really need to improve on what they have down the middle. They got two guys I would be heavily interested in. One is Elias Lindholm. Now you might look at the stats on the season and say “why would the Canes do that, Lindholm has one more point”. Well, yes, but he’s played in 11 more games than RNH this season, and RNH has put up his points while not playing on the top PP unit in Edmonton, nor is he playing with the top wingers (not that the Oilers have a lot of good wingers). Lindholm is also an RFA, so a lot of this depends on what Lindholm would cost. If you can do a two or three year bridge with Lindholm at 3.75-4.5 per, then it makes sense for the Oilers. If it’s going to be more rich than that, then you have to look elsewhere. But it’s an interesting deal for both if the numbers will work, and even at only 1.5 mil in savings for the Oilers, you’re saving while maintaining tremendous depth down the middle.
The other, might be a little more far fetched, but could they possibly get Martin Necas? And some of you might be asking “who?” Martin Necas is one of the best prospects not in the NHL right now. The Hurricanes got him 12th in the draft last year, and the kid just has tremendous skill. Getting a kid like Necas would be a home run for the Oilers. You would have him on an ELC, and it would really open things up for whoever the GM might be to upgrade on the wings. In my opinion, he’d be the guy I’d chase, and if I had to add to the deal to land him I would. Not a lot, but something.
Another one I actually have been thinking of is the Avs. And you might say “why would the Avs want Nuge? They just dealt Duchene and have been better.” Yep, they sure have. But they have over 25 million in cap space for next season (probably over 30 million once we find out what the cap will be), no vital players to re-sign, and they have a kid in Tyson Jost who has yet to take off. It’s not just point totals, he doesn’t have good possession numbers either. So straight up, this would be viewed as a huge gamble by a lot of people. But for me, I was sky high on Jost going into the 2016 draft, and really believe he is going to really pop sooner rather than later. You get a third line centre who has elite second line centre upside with two years left on his ELC, that’s a gamble I’m willing to take.
Don’t sleep on the Blues in a potential deal for RNH. They got Paul Stastny’s seven mil coming off the books this summer and really could use a centre if they’re going to contend. They got Robert Thomas who I believe would be a perfect compliment to McDavid and Draisaitl. They also have Robby Fabbri who has been injured now for the last two seasons, but still shouldn’t be slept on as a kid with big potential. I would ask for both, as neither is a sure thing. Now I don’t know if you can get both if you’re Peter Chiarelli, I don’t know if you can simply add a piece to that to make the deal work, I don’t know if the Blues want to add another big ticket once they shed one in Stastny. But I would target the Blues and see if you couldn’t make something work. Like Jost, I was sky high on Thomas last year leading into the draft and believe he has enormous potential.
Other teams with possible interest in my mind would be Montreal, but I just don’t know what they could offer (and PLEASE don’t say Max Pacioretty, one year left on his deal and you’re going to have to give him a gross extension). They don’t have much in the system, and don’t have a cheaper centre option who would fit. Columbus is another team that hasn’t really been quiet about wanting to improve down the middle in a hurry, but would they possibly give up a kid like Pierre-Luc Dubois? I doubt it, not without the Oilers adding to the deal with perhaps as much as a 2019 first rounder. Then the next best option would be Boone Jenner, who has completely fallen apart the last two seasons. Jenner could be a guy a team can land this summer without having to give too much seeing he’s an RFA who’ll get over three million on a QO and he’s only got 16 points this season. Would the Minnesota Wild part with Charlie Coyle? I can’t see it, plus adding nearly three million to their cap probably isn’t feasible without dumping a guy like Ennis who I spoke of already, or Marcus Foligno.
Of course when speaking of RNH, everyone believes you need to use him to land a high end winger. And that could easily be done, no doubt. You use him for that, and you still have a kid in Ryan Strome who would probably be ok as your third line centre. He’s got good possession numbers, and next season with an upgrade on his wings like a Yamamoto or Puljujarvi as well as a knowledge both in the off-season and to start next season that he’s set in stone as a centre could see increased production. For me, I don’t like Strome much and would prefer RNH be used to land a centre with a cheaper deal, then use that money to land a winger in another way, but both are good options to have. If they decide to go my way, I do have a list of guys to target for the wings. They aren’t sure things, and they aren’t big money guys. But I believe they’d work.
Max Domi – Best of this bunch for sure. He’s a winger who they’ve attempted to convert into a centre. It’s not as though Domi is incapable to play centre, but he is just plain as day a winger. A winger with a ton of skill. The Oilers have to take a run at Domi. What could they offer? Well let’s assume for a minute that the Oilers get a centre in return for RNH. Would a package built around Ryan Strome get it done? At first blush you’re likely the same as me, thinking “hell no, not even close”. But look deeper at it. Strome has only four less points (26-22) as of writing this. Strome has more size. Strome is much more so a natural centre. Both are RFA’s after the season and I believe you could argue that Domi will be looking for more money than Strome. Could there be an attraction/desire from the Coyotes to pair the Strome brothers together? And remember, I said Strome package, not straight up. Ryan Strome and….Matt Benning for Domi? Maybe a prospect like Cam Dineen comes back with Domi in that scenario? I believe the Oilers have the pieces to give for Domi, and it shouldn’t have to be (notice I didn’t say doesn’t have to be…) big pieces.
Brett Connolly – I’ve been fascinated by Connolly as a potential fit for the Oilers for a year and a half now. A pure shooter with size and underrated wheels. He’d be an answer to that RH shooting bullet they crave on the off wing on the PP, and I also believe he could potentially be a terrific fit with McDavid five on five. He has 14 goals as of writing this for the Caps this season playing mostly in the Caps bottom six, and only seeing time with the second PP unit. Why Barry Trotz doesn’t look to use him more with Backstrom and put Ovechkin elsewhere five on five is completely lost on me. But he’s having a good season, so he wouldn’t cost nothing, however he wouldn’t cost a lot either and he has one more year at just 1.5 million next season. I believe you’d be look at two pieces, perhaps an Anton Slepyshev (even though I don’t like the idea of dealing him) and maybe a 3rd round pick or so. Connolly doesn’t drive offence, so his cost might come down a bit from now until the draft (which is when you’d look to acquire him, this wouldn’t be a trade deadline move) should he cool off a bit.
Andreas Athanasiou – He had a long, drawn out contract squabble with the Wings last season, and he was recently a healthy scratch. But this kid is one of the fastest skaters in the league, with real good size to go with it. And on top of this, the Wings are in cap hell still and could stand to buy down on him. So perhaps a flip of Athanasiou for Caggiula would work? I like Caggiula, but he’s had trouble getting it going here and is still a bit of a mess in his own zone. Athanasiou would be looking for a long term deal, but I could see something like 5 years/18 million (3.6 cap hit) getting it done. I could see him working tremendous with Draisaitl more so than McDavid. I know the theory is that they need speed to play with McDavid but I believe while they need more speed to play with McDavid, having a guy who can stay with him isn’t essential. But having that speed with Draisaitl, that could be REAL good.
Nic Petan – I have to throw this in off the top, and even though I’ve been writing this piece since last Thursday and had Petan in mind, Lowetide came out with a piece for the Athletic yesterday which featured (I guess you could say) Petan as a potential get for the Oilers. So while I’m not just taking what he said and making it my own, we definitely agree on the idea. This is a kid who has never got a real opportunity in Winnipeg. There was never a great spot to fit him in. I have no doubt that Petan can thrive in today’s NHL. He was the same type of player and a better player than Brayden Point was in the WHL, and I’m not knocking Point, I’m praising Petan. The only thing with Petan that worries me is if the wheels are good enough for his size. He’s not a poor skater, but at 5’9 you need a guy to be close to an elite skater. He’s a guy who I wouldn’t pay a lot to get, but definitely have interest in for the right price.
Arturri Lehkonen – He only has 11 points on the season in 41 games, so you might think he’s useless. He is playing with no centre, and his CF% is the best on the Habs (minimum 400 minutes) at 54.88%. I’ve followed Lehkonen since his draft year, this is a HIGHLY skilled and speedy kid. We know Marc Bergevin isn’t a big analytics guy, so could you perhaps get Lehkonen on the cheap? Another bonus is he’s got another season on his ELC. As much as I believe Bergevin would move him, I’m not sure he’d move him for real cheap seeing he does have a season left on his ELC. Caggiula and a future pick get it done? Maybe Caggiula and Benning for Lehkonen and a D prospect like Noah Juulsen? Josh Brook? You could do a deal. It’s risky. Hell, any of these guys I’m talking about trading for are risky to roll with, but you have to find guys like this.
Denis Gurianov – Drafted just three years ago mainly because of a terrific shot. Gurianov was viewed as a better version of Brock Boeser when he was taken. Today, he’s been struggling in the minors. You wouldn’t want to pay much, and it’s suspect that the Stars would give up on him while he still has two years remaining on his ELC. But he’s interesting, because snipers need guys to get them the puck. I’d want to really dig into the film on Gurianov to determine whether his lack of production has been a lack of playing with guys who can get him the puck, or if he’s just yet another in a long line of underachieving Russian players. Like with Petan, I’d want Gurianov on the cheap. I think of guys like Curtis Lazar and Sven Baertschi who netted second round picks when they were in similar situations. I’d maybe do a 2019 or 2020 second for him, not a 2018 second, even if they land an extra one at the deadline as I believe they really need to look to keep their picks this year and stock the cupboard, especially seeing that I have them moving three or four prospects to load up the system.
Sam Bennett – I just can’t see the Flames letting this kid get to the Oilers, so don’t get me wrong here. If he finally popped and was wearing an Oilers jersey while doing so, that would be a nightmare for the Flames brass. BUT….Bennett’s time with the Flames does appear to be coming to an end as he just can’t gain much traction. It’s well known that he’s close with Connor McDavid, and the Oilers need help on the wing (left side specifically) or possibly a third line centre. Again, I HIGHLY doubt the Flames would allow him the Oilers to take a chance on him, and the other thing is the only guy the Oilers would have who possibly would interest the Flames is Patrick Maroon, so I doubt there is a fit. Still….my guess is they’d have a lot of interest if Bennett could now be made available. Maybe if Chiarelli was shrewd enough to orchestrate a three way deal it could be done?
Of course in a few of these deals, I’ve suggested dealing away Matt Benning. I don’t have anything against Benning by any means, but he’d have decent value on the trade market, and feels to me like one of the odd men out if they’re looking to change the look of their blueline and add more pure puck movers to the fold. So with him out, who do you then go get? I got one guy I really like the idea of:
Tim Heed – I don’t know if the Sharks would be too eager to part with a puck moving defenceman who will go into next season with a cap hit of 650K. But they haven’t used him as I suspected they would this season. When he is up with the big club, he does see quite a bit of PP time, and his analytics look good to my eye (though despite constantly looking at them I can never tell if I’m reading them properly). If the Sharks were willing to move him, I have a tough time figuring out what he would even cost. But I do know this: in today’s NHL, this guy should be on some teams bottom pairing.
Ok, you had enough yet? Well I’m probably only about half done….time to move onto the first round pick.
Obviously we are a LONG ways off, but the more I give this thought, the more I feel that it’s vital they be in a spot to get one of the two top LW’s in this draft. I wouldn’t be against trading back in pretty much any situation because of how well this organization has started to draft. But in my mind it’s just vital that they win a top three pick. If you win a top three pick, you’re guaranteed one of Filip Zadina or Brady Tkachuk. Either player will be able to step into the Oilers lineup next fall and produce. Maybe not on the top line, but definitely in the top nine. My preference is Zadina because he’s going to tilt the ice similar to how Taylor Hall does. Similar size, doesn’t quite have Hall’s North/South speed, but brings more pure skill to the table then Hall did. Zadina with McDavid, Draisaitl, and Puljujarvi moving forward I believe would be insanely difficult to handle. However, Tkachuk would bring the size and toughness that they will lose with Maroon, and lose with Lucic if they are sharp enough to attempt to unload him, while being a solid skater (not great, but much better than either of them) and also being more of an instigator which the Oilers badly need more of in their lineup. As for Andrei Svechnikov, I admit that with the Oilers that idea is intriguing. But if you read my prospect rankings last week you’ll know I’m not as intrigued by the kid. Russian kids taken high in the draft have busted a lot in the last ten years, and he gets a ton of goals thanks to his physical maturity. Doesn’t have to think the game too much. Having said all that, I get the intrigue with him.
Of course winning Rasmus Dahlin would change so much of this blog. It’s highly unlikely as much as everyone loves to joke about the Oilers winning the lottery, but it is possible. You would need to make sure a spot on your bottom pairing is open, and you let him get his feet wet there. You don’t put him in your top four until year two, and by year three you possibly are putting him on your top pair. But it’s so tough to say because a generational defencemen is so extremely rare. He might be ready to be a teams number three guy next season, and a number one by year two. But obviously, nobody will be crying if the Oilers win the Swedish defenceman.
Of course I have yet to touch on what the deadline could bring. First off….PLEASE Peter Chiarelli, DO NOT RE-SIGN PATRICK MAROON PRIOR TO THE TRADE DEADLINE!!!!!!!!!!! And I am such a massive Patrick Maroon fan, but this is a business, especially in the cap world, and he is not worth what he’s going to command at the moment. Trade him. Second off (is that a thing? Second off?), DO NOT DO WHAT YOU DID WITH HALL!!!!!!!!!!!! What does that mean exactly? It means that he better not go in with a plan to simply add any guy who fits his bill no matter how badly he loses in value. And it wasn’t just Hall. He did that with Davidson and Eberle also, it’s ridiculous! For example, on Insider Trading last week they spoke of the possibility of Maroon possibly fetching the Oilers a first round pick. If you can get that, you absolutely must take that deal. But they also talked about Chiarelli wanting a prospect who is close to playing, and the popular theory is that he has eyes for Adam Erne. 23 year old prospect from the Lightning who is close to playing to the league and not close to being worth your time. He’s a lot more of a heavy player than quick, and it would just be more Chiarelli bull shit that’s gotten him into trouble in past deals he’s done. Take the first if you can get it, and go from there. If you can’t get a first, then a second and a prospect would still be a good haul, and if you can then get say Adam Erne as the prospect with that second, then ok. And that’s more so what I’m expecting for Maroon. Second rounder and a B type of prospect or young player. Maybe a second round pick and a guy like Ivan Barbashev (ironically drafted using the Oilers draft pick in 2014) if the Blues are in it. But don’t FUCKING settle!!!
Mark Letestu is really the only other piece who is sure to go. You may ask “what about Mike Cammalleri?” Well, yeah, if anyone wants him. But someone will want Letestu (suckers). Letestu is done. He was a damn good signing, played tremendous last season, but he’s shot. He doesn’t have the speed to make up for his lack of size anymore. So he’ll go, and I would be looking for a 3rd and a 5th round pick for him. It could even be a 2019 3rd. But why the added 5th? Because it recoups what they lost for Al Montoya. So if you can get a team to pay that price, and I really believe someone would pay that for a perceived elite 4th line centre. Last year Brian Boyle was that guy, and Boyle fetched the Lightning a 2nd round pick. Weaker draft, so you must keep that in mind, but I believe a 3rd and a 5th is possible for Letestu.
Of course this summer they will still need to look at the UFA market to plug a few holes. Even if you clear up a lot of space, you can’t go pissing that cap space away. I already talked about Nurse, already talked about upgrading on the wings and with a top four RH shooting defenceman, you got Jesse Puljujarvi as a candidate to get a long term deal on an extension (which I would look to do this summer), and you can’t assume the cap will continue to rise…even though it should.
Derek Ryan – Love him, but so will a lot of teams. I worry that he could get a big pay day. He’s got real good numbers across the board. But he will be 32, and he is a bit of an unknown still. If you could get him in to be your fourth line centre for three years and two million per, I’d do it. And that might seem like a gross pay day for your fourth line centre, but looking at the needs of this team (especially the PK), I believe Ryan would be a major asset much the way Letestu was last season.
Tyler Bozak – Similar theory to Ryan, and I wonder if Bozak won’t be cheaper than Ryan. He’s looked at as declining where Ryan is looked at as rising, even though they are as similar as can be! Age, size, shot, position, point totals, etc. I have to assume that both Ryan and Bozak are getting more money than I’m hopeful the Oilers can get them at, but I wouldn’t rule it out. The NHL world can be so odd in the way they under and overvalue players, and it wouldn’t shock me if one of Ryan or Bozak look for home run deals and if they don’t get it, they’re left out in the cold much the way Kris Russell was in the summer of 2016.
Marcus Kruger – This one is pending, but the belief is that the Hurricanes are going to buy him out this summer. Darcy McLeod had some good stuff on him last week showing that he’s really been hurt playing with Joakim Nordstrom this season. Away from Nordstrom, the guy has really tilted the ice! So as a fourth line centre/13th forward possibility he could be a tremendous option.
Greg McKegg – I actually didn’t know where to put McKegg, because this isn’t a guy who would cost much at all via trade, nor in free agency if the Pens don’t give him a qualifying offer. But the point here is to land a 13th forward who plays the middle. There are a lot of guys like McKegg, but I’m using him as the example of this. I told you this was extensive…
Michael Grabner – I don’t know. He’s going to get a big pay day. Maybe the same type of deal that we saw Benoit Pouliot and Michael Frolik get. But no doubt he would be a terrific get for the Oilers if they can afford him. Speed to burn and a total sniper who creates a ton of his scoring chances on his own. I love the guys game, and have since the Islanders first plucked him off waivers years ago thinking “why in the hell did the Canucks let this kid go on waivers?!” But again, a 4×4 type of deal is what I think he’s looking at.
Patrick Maroon – YEP! I just talked about trading him, now I’m talking about signing him! But some ground rules here. No more than a two year deal, no more than 2.5 million a season, and you sign him to be in a bottom six role. If he works his way back up the lineup next season, then awesome! But otherwise, he’s still a perfect guy to have in the bottom six for the right price. As of now, I believe that Maroon isn’t going to get the pay day that most thought he would get about four months ago. Now, he’ll likely need a big playoff run to get that, so he’s another guy I could see getting left out in the cold on July 1st and if that’s the case then whoever the Oilers GM is could swoop in and grab him on the cheap.
Yohan Auvitu – Obviously this one would be a re-signing, but I really want to see him back as the seventh D-man. When given the chance, he’s played ok. And he can make the jump up front if need be.
Ok, I think I’m on the home stretch now!
When all this is said and done, something like this would be completely ideal going into next season for the Oilers:
Max Domi – McDavid – Brett Connolly
Andreas Athanisiou – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
Khaira – Elias Lindholm – Yamamoto
Maroon – Marcus Kruger – Kassian
Nurse – Larsson
Klefbom – Tyson Barrie
Davidson – Tim Heed
I can’t wait to see who is the bigger schmuck, Chiarelli or Darren Dreger. Because either Chiarelli is going to get a goaltender to “push Cam Talbot” right after he went out and acquired Al Montoya, or else Dreger is once again caught talking out his ass. I would say it’s a complete coin flip at the moment, either man could win. Both of their reputations are pretty terrible at this time. Of course, who the hell knows if it’ll be Chiarelli making any trades. Anyway…this would be a massive overhaul, and I’m not saying that all this is necessary. The three reasons this team is in the spot their in are the PP, the PK, and the goaltender. So it’s tough to say how anyone, no matter who the GM is will view this. I’m sure there are an insane amount of options out there that I didn’t even hit on. But the point is that they have to clear out the shitty contracts, they have to get a lot faster, and they have to get more skilled on the wings. Now with that last one, let’s keep in mind that they will have an even better Puljujarvi next season along with Yamamoto coming up. They SHOULD be better just with that (though they SHOULD have been a playoff team this season…). But more is needed without a doubt.
After doing this, and going through things with a fine tooth comb as I did, I do feel confident that with the right management in place that this thing is very salvageable. But I don’t trust Peter Chiarelli in the least. The man doesn’t know how to make deals, that is CRYSTAL CLEAR now. He’s a poor negotiator whether he’s negotiating with a fellow GM, or if he’s negotiating with an agent. He caves easily. Leon Draisaitl should have been signed in early October to a deal worth 1-1.5 million a year less than what it was. Nope, he gave in. Just like he did with Reinhart, Larsson, Desharnais, Strome, etc. It’s not just a new GM that’s needed, it’s the right GM that’s needed. Along with not just a new coach, but the right coach.
The biggest issue of all though is that this organization very literally has one of the worst owners in pro sports who is much more worried about getting his buddies jobs than he is with winning hockey games. He is an absolute DISGRACE to this fan base who have supported this team more than any other fan base would over the last eleven seasons, and of course that ineptitude has trickle down throughout the organization. Like for example, leave your fucking kid at home when you go to Dallas this year would you?!?! Or if he HAS to come, then he can sit his ass down at the table!!! He doesn’t need to be up there with management and scouts who while might be inept because you won’t find competent people, still do all the work and your son does none of it…you jack ass. Maybe you could at the very least shell out for Harrison to get an adult hair cut? Hell, even the teams daily radio show has become a complete joke and not worth anyone’s time to hear Bob Stauffer attempt to spin things as if they aren’t as bad as we can all see they are and hint at sweetheart trade possibilities which are purely wishful thinking on his part. Even Stauffer is a guy who has gone from respected voice calling it like it is, to coming off as being overzealous with his social standing in the city and the league thanks to being given a job by a DISGRACE of an owner (tell us more about Pub 1905 and how your boys with Dan Baker, I don’t think people have heard that before, and fuck do we ever care).
Woah. I kind of went off the rails in this last part. And didn’t I say to stop bitching about things in the title?! Shit.
Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups