How has the Edmonton Oilers' roster changed from last year?

Jonathan Willis
July 31 2013 09:18AM

While Craig MacTavish may have failed to make all the bold moves he wanted to get done, he has been very active in his first summer as the Oilers’ general manager. How does the roster he’s assembled compare with the one Steve Tambellini put together for the start of last season?

Forwards

Players in grey represent players in Edmonton to start the 2013 season; rather than going off the opening night lineup I’ve ranked them according to their ice-time over the year. This has resulted in the odd positional liberty – Magnus Paajarvi as the third line right wing stands out – but for the most part these players should be more or less in the role they played on balance over the course of last season.

Players in white are this year’s group. Players in red are ones I perceive as clear upgrades over their equivalent from the year before.

The top line is young, and certainly it would be unsurprising if a 21-year old Taylor Hall found another gear. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who just turned 20 in April, is so early in his career that he seems likely to be improved, particularly with surgery taking care of the shoulder problems he had last season.

On the second line, an established David Perron seems a clear upgrade over last season’s version of Nail Yakupov. Some might argue that Yakupov in 2013-14 is likely to be better than Hemsky was last year; that’s certainly possible but I don’t think it’s completely certain.

The third line is a different group, but expectations should be similar. The wild card is Hemsky; I expect he’ll offer more than Paajarvi did last year.

Beyond that group, I see Smyth as a better player than Lennart Petrell, who seemed totally lost when not killing penalties; beyond that I don’t see a whole lot to choose between the Tambellini group and the MacTavish group.

Defence & Goal

On defence, three of the presumed top-four are holdovers from those roles last season. Justin Schultz, off a whirlwind rookie campaign, should be better while Andrew Ference is coming off a stint as a top-four defender with one of the best teams in the league and can in my view be reasonably seen as an improvement on Nick Schultz.

The third pairing, likely comprised of Denis Grebeshkov and Nick Schultz, seems obviously better than Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter. Whitney was a disaster for the Oilers last season and if Grebeshkov’s anywhere near the form he left the NHL in he’ll be an upgrade. While I have time for Corey Potter, Nick Schultz is a bona fide NHL defender and Potter’s a ‘tweener.

On the third pair, I prefer Anton Belov and Philip Larsen to Mark Fistric and Theo Peckham overall, but they’re obviously different layer-types. Fistric did solid work in the number seven role and might be better or worse than Belov, a top KHL defenceman who at this point has serious potential but is also a significant question mark. Peckham and Larsen are both flawed in different ways.

In net, Devan Dubnyk returns as starter. I like Jason LaBarbera the player over Nikolai Khabibulin by a significant amount, but Khabibulin’s coming off a superb season as backup so I don’t see this as a big upgrade over what was accomplished last season.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Jets Nation, Kevin McCartney breaks down Zach Bogosian's seven-year, $36 million extension:

Again - Bogosian has all the tools to be a top-pairing defenceman within a few short years. Right now, he helps the Jets win and that can't be denied. Nevertheless, he's being paid to be a Top-4 (though not elite) level defenceman after a very short audition in that role, and without the kind of success to show he can do it for the next 7 years. At best, we can hope that he lives up to his cap hit.

Click the link above to read more. Otherwise, feel free to read some of my recent pieces:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#52 Lloyd B.
July 31 2013, 02:26PM
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One area that seems to have been completely overlooked by all us arm chair Gms is the change in mood and attitude these changes may bring to the team. I've read from numerous NHL players that the difference between a winning team and a losing team is very slim. Perhaps, given MacTs comments about the gong show dressing room that the guys that left and the guys that replaced them will change that. We can debate whether or not the talent has been upgraded til training camp but only playing the games will determine if there has been significant upgrades. To me it would have been nice to have added at least one if not two more guys with Stanley Cup winning experience ala Ference. Who... not so much.

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#53 book¡e
July 31 2013, 02:42PM
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With all of this concern over size and toughness, why don't we just give the Edmonton Eskimos skates and send them out there?

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#54 Ron Burgundy
July 31 2013, 04:05PM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

If MacT isn't done then we are 8 yrs out as mentioned above....I heard Franson is looking for more cash than TO is willing to dole out....he would be perfect here...get him Craig!!

Get Clifford from LA and now we have a slim chance.....otherwise I don't like our chances.

Man I would love to get Franson but I'm not sure we can.

Franson made $1.2MM last year, so say you can get him at just over double that ($2.5MM, though that seems unlikely for a 6'5 D-man who was 6th in the NHL in points last year...) on an offer sheet. That doesn't work as the comp is a 2nd round pick and we do not have ours due to the Perron deal. If he's more than $3.3MM it turns into a first and a third, which seems like too much (both in picks and dollars). So, offer sheet out.

On the trade side, there are also no clear answers. T.O. has no need for Hemsky and most of our D options are too expensive for them. Petry works salary-wise, but is that a move up for us, or sideways? Could keep some salary for NSchultz maybe. We have 1.3MM of room, if we add 2MM by trading Nick but keeping $1.5 of his salary that gives us $3.3MM to sign Franson, and gives the Leaves a top-6er for $2MM. Maybe they do it but that only leaves them $2.9 to sign Kadri, which wouldn't appear to be enough. They could bury Ranger's million in the AHL and maybe get there though.

In any case, I love that the Leaves have screwed themselves royally here. There is no clear way they can sign both these kids. If they don't sign one though, does he at some point become a UFA?

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#55 Spydyr
July 31 2013, 04:05PM
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@book¡e

Have you seen the Esks play this year?

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#56 magisterrex
July 31 2013, 04:49PM
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We've done toughness. I'd rather have skill.

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#57 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
July 31 2013, 05:05PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

See my response in the other thread.

ditto

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#58 Fresh Mess
July 31 2013, 06:59PM
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I don't see Grebeshkov in the top 6 d. He is likely 7, 8, or back in the KHL.

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#59 Racki
July 31 2013, 09:07PM
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I expect Belov to surprise in TC and win himself a job on the 3rd pairing. Not sure what options we have on the 3rd pairing that can play RHD, but I would like to see Belov in the lineup as on paper he brings a little bit of everything.

At any rate, it's nice to have some good defensive options, even if it is mostly bottom pairing depth.

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#60 nuge2nail
July 31 2013, 09:11PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

Richard Cloutier says we would have 14 mil in cap space if we traded Hemsky and N Shultz. His calculation is based on the fact that bonuses do not count against the cap until the following year.

Is this correct?

I've been asking this question for awhile. Would appreciate one of the experts on this site to respond if no one else knows.

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#61 bulldog12
July 31 2013, 09:53PM
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It all comes down to compete level now. If the team doesn't want to show up for 60 minutes some guys can sit in the press box. Petry Smyth Jones Hemsky Schulz It wouldn't hurt any of them to get a wake up call.

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#62 Oilcruzer
August 01 2013, 06:54AM
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Manfly wrote:

FIST!! i've said it before, i think the Oilers have only made marginal improvements....hopefully the kids will show more development this coming year and help us move up the standings.

So what you're saying is, the Oilers lineup has improved though.

I think most would agree. MacT should get some credit, he's improved the team and the Oil haven't played one game under his watch as GM.

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