Building

Jonathan Willis
April 07 2014 10:47AM

Kid Line-1

The Edmonton Oilers are a team with many problems, but there are some good things there, too. Number one with a bullet on that list is the line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

The Kids & the Hall

4-Hall-15

Hall’s a monster with any linemates, and watching him put the rest of his game together is incredible. He’s always been a hard-driving offensive difference-maker, but during the last lockout he added in a gift for playmaking that hadn’t really been part of his NHL skillset; we’re now at the point where he’s a first-rate setup man.

More than that, though, is his defensive game. I’ve always felt Hall got shortchanged reputation-wise because he drives results, but watching him the last month blocking shots and backchecking, it feels like there’s a dimension there that I hadn’t seen before, too. I’m not supporting this with numbers, but by eye it feels like somewhere around midseason he just found another level of defensive commitment.

Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle aren’t on the same level as Hall, but as a trio they’ve done some exceptional things together, both in the past and in this late season. Together, they’re a legitimate No. 1 line in the NHL.

The Rest of the Forwards

57-Perron-9

The Oilers, as they have for so many years, now need to find a way to support that top unit with 10-11 competent forwards behind them. Today, a healthy Oilers team looks something like this in those roles:

  • David Perron – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov
  • Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Ryan Jones
  • Luke Gazdic – Ryan Smyth – Jesse Joensuu
  • Anton Lander – Mark Arcobello – Tyler Pitlick

The second line is both awfully close and a mile off. An optimist sees a keeper on a great contract (Perron), a reliable scorer coming on after a terrible start (Gagner) and a potentially elite goal-scorer (Yakupov). The pessimist sees the same keeper, a black hole up the middle with awfully limited replacement options, and a winger who probably shouldn’t have spent the last two years in the NHL and has awfully high bust potential.

The rest doesn’t look much better than the Steve Tambellini editions of the team, and that (along with the defence) is a job for the general manager to tackle this summer. Gordon’s been very good, Hendricks was a nice addition, Arcobello’s done good things and one imagines they’ll hang on to Gazdic for pugilism.

89-Gagner-8

What represents enough improvement? Would moving Gagner for a third-line wing and adding a couple of free agent veterans do the trick? Is a depth chart that looks like the following good enough behind that top line?

  • David Perron – Mark Arcobello – Nail Yakupov
  • [Viktor Stalberg] – Boyd Gordon – [David Moss]
  • Matt Hendricks – Anton Lander – [Blake Comeau]
  • Two of: Luke Gazdic, Jesse Joensuu, Tyler Pitlick and Ryan Smyth

It’s a scenario that nicely highlights, for me, the difficult choices that need to be made on the second line next year. Yakupov’s a gamble – a gamble worth making, certainly, but a gamble all the same. At centre, the choice is even tougher, because finding an external candidate for the role is going to be very difficult, very expensive, or both, and the internal options are Gagner and Arcobello. It shouldn't be too difficult to fill out the roster but that No. 2 line is going to be tough.

There’s also this summer’s draft, where the Oilers will likely hold the No. 3 overall selection. The idea of Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett or Leon Draisaitl starting next year between Perron and Yakupov is a little scary, but long-term might be the best solution. It’s also the kind of move that retaining Arcobello (a pretty good fallback option in the event of struggles) might hint at.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#51 Randaman
April 07 2014, 02:33PM
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mesa wrote:

number 2c and 1D ,got those in the summer and 10 games in the season will have good idea about the team .but my worry is to get those MAC T had to give away a good piece.

Of course he will have to move a good piece. You don't get something of value for nothing.

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#52 Taylor Gang
April 07 2014, 02:36PM
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@Jack

I have a good feeling you'll be moderated

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#53 mlcselli
April 07 2014, 02:38PM
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jonny94 wrote:

What exactly do we know? Tyler Seguin has been playing lights out just as much as Hall. They both have lived up to the hype if you ask me... So what we do know is regardless of who we drafted they both panned out.

I would never argue with the success that Tyler Sequin is having. There is no doubt that he is a phenomenal player, and anywhere in the league he will play, that team just got better. The challenge on the draft year of choosing Tyler or Taylor is one that everyone will always wonder about. The reason for my comment is that the Oilers have fought an uphill battle all season, and are once again hanging around the cellar despite the talent on the team. With Hall being where he is in the leagues' scoring race, and in the company he's with, he gives the Oilers some bragging rights. With so few reasons to celebrate this year, Hall gave us something. Now if we could have both Taylor and Tyler………..

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#55 Total Points
April 07 2014, 03:30PM
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Oilers need to ride the first line next year - Hall, RNK, Eberle; Perron, Arco and somebody on the second line and trade Yak, Gagner and 1st overall this year for DEFENSE help.

Third and 4th lines are coming together, Gordon, Smyth, Hendricks, Gazig, Jones, Joensuu, Pitlick, etc

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#56 The Last Big Bear
April 07 2014, 03:31PM
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@geoilersgist

Sean Monahan started the season as the only rookie in the Flames top-9. Monahan had two defensive centres to take the tough minutes for him, in Stajan and Backlund. He started the season between Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross, a pair of physical veteran wingers. He was not expected to play beyond his 9 game cup of coffee. He subsequently forced his way onto the permanent roster, by scoring a point-per-game during his cup of coffee, and putting up 20+ goals over the season.

That is exactly how you bring a kid into the NHL. With easy minutes, surrounded by veterans, and where the default position is that he will be returned to a lower league unless he can prove beyond all doubts that he is ready for the NHL.

The new Oilers draftee will start in a top-6 where Perron is the only guy over 22. Instead of having veteran wingers to watch out for him, he'll have to babysit the worst minus player in the NHL. Instead of having to prove he's ready for the NHL, he'll be expected to learn on the job.

There is a very large difference between the situation Monahan stepped into, and the situation next yesr's Oilers draft pick would step into.

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#57 Ed in Edmonton
April 07 2014, 03:34PM
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Will wrote:

A few other good things to note are that Eberle could again crack the 70 point plateau. Hopefully that would silence all the people saying he would never get to that level again due to an unsustainable shooting percentage.

Mac T seems committed to making this team better. At times you had to wonder with Tambi, but Mac T really wants this team to win.

Yak's numbers this year were actually kind of impressive. There is a great article that breaks down the positives and negatives of Yak's play. All said, he looks more like a legit player than a bust.

Our defensive prospect pool just seems to get deeper. This team is going to have an endless line of good D prospects for a lot of years.

Do you have a reference for this "great article"

I don't think the Oil have missed Yak at all since he has been out.

I got a chuckle about the TSN guys last night comparing the race between Ovy and Yak to get the "green jacket" this year with the upcoming Masters.

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#58 Will
April 07 2014, 03:46PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

Do you have a reference for this "great article"

I don't think the Oil have missed Yak at all since he has been out.

I got a chuckle about the TSN guys last night comparing the race between Ovy and Yak to get the "green jacket" this year with the upcoming Masters.

Perhaps great was the wrong word, how about fascinating or thought provoking.

http://www.coppernblue.com/2014/4/7/5587734/3-nail-yakupov

Speaking of Ovi, I know us Oiler fans have had it tough, but there are teams out there with people like Ovechkin who are hitting the 50 goal mark again, who might not make the playoffs. Point being, there does not seem to be one magical ingredient that can make a team successful. Which, might be good or bad depending on your perspective.

As for Yak, I think he will live up to his billing as a first overall selection.

For those that want to make the case we should have taken Murray, well ask yourselves what is better, Murray or Yak and J Schultz. Because had they picked Murray, J Schultz likely would have signed somewhere else.

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#59 rickithebear
April 07 2014, 03:47PM
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We need to be in the top 6 of our conference in Even Goal SCORING. Not EVEN Pointing.

Even Goals ANA 188 CHI 181 COL 171 STL 166 SJS 166 DAL 161 WPG 161

EDM 139

the east BOS 180 OTT 162 PIT 160 TMP 158 TOR 155 DET 150 NYI 149 CBJ 146

We are 139G Hall 20 ESG Eberle 20 Perron 19 -------------------- Top 30 RNH 12 --------------------top 140 Schultz 10 -------------------- Top 170 Gagner 9 -------------------- top 200 Yak 7 Gordon 6 ------------------- Top 270 Smyth 5 Hendricks 4

A good team should have 8-10 FWD top 200 in ESG with 3 in the top 40.

15G Hendricks-Gordon-Smyth for a 4th with bad ZS is real good.

We lack 3 larger pocession forwards with good EVG production.

Chicago has 4 in top 30. 6 in the top 90 8 in the top 150

Stahlberg 8 EVG David Moss 7 EVG Blake Comeau 4 EVG

Not Quite Johnathan

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#60 Will
April 07 2014, 03:49PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

Sean Monahan started the season as the only rookie in the Flames top-9. Monahan had two defensive centres to take the tough minutes for him, in Stajan and Backlund. He started the season between Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross, a pair of physical veteran wingers. He was not expected to play beyond his 9 game cup of coffee. He subsequently forced his way onto the permanent roster, by scoring a point-per-game during his cup of coffee, and putting up 20+ goals over the season.

That is exactly how you bring a kid into the NHL. With easy minutes, surrounded by veterans, and where the default position is that he will be returned to a lower league unless he can prove beyond all doubts that he is ready for the NHL.

The new Oilers draftee will start in a top-6 where Perron is the only guy over 22. Instead of having veteran wingers to watch out for him, he'll have to babysit the worst minus player in the NHL. Instead of having to prove he's ready for the NHL, he'll be expected to learn on the job.

There is a very large difference between the situation Monahan stepped into, and the situation next yesr's Oilers draft pick would step into.

By Worst minus player in the NHL do you mean Yak? Because Ovi is actually at minus 35. The guy that has scored nearly 50 goals is at a league worst -35, not Yak. I suppose that should tell you how misleading a stat like plus minus is, since I don't think there is a team out there that wouldn't instantly be made better by the addition of Ovechkin.

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#61 The Soup Fascist
April 07 2014, 03:59PM
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Total Points wrote:

Oilers need to ride the first line next year - Hall, RNK, Eberle; Perron, Arco and somebody on the second line and trade Yak, Gagner and 1st overall this year for DEFENSE help.

Third and 4th lines are coming together, Gordon, Smyth, Hendricks, Gazig, Jones, Joensuu, Pitlick, etc

I respectfully disagree. The Oilers got virtually zero run support from their 3rd line, other than Gordon's hot, but brief start.

Gordon, Hendricks and one of the above make a very good (but expensive 4th line). What is required is Mact needs to pull a couple rabbits out of his hat and try to put together a good value contract 3rd line that is effective.

Sorry I would have Arco as a 3C and try to find a couple of reasonably priced veterans and / or hope one of the kids develops. Easier said than done.

Jones is gone. Joensuu seems destined to be in the press box or buried in OKC unless he gets his game together. Gadzic is OK as a part timer dependant on the opposition. Smyth (if he comes back) needs to be platooned sparingly.

LOTS of holes to fill.

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#62 Randaman
April 07 2014, 04:01PM
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Total Points wrote:

Oilers need to ride the first line next year - Hall, RNK, Eberle; Perron, Arco and somebody on the second line and trade Yak, Gagner and 1st overall this year for DEFENSE help.

Third and 4th lines are coming together, Gordon, Smyth, Hendricks, Gazig, Jones, Joensuu, Pitlick, etc

Remove Joensuu, Jones and possibly Smyth and add Pinzotto. With Pinzotto Gazdic is probably expendable as well. Arco should be on the fourth line with some toughness to compliment. He is not our 2C answer long term.

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#63 City of Champignons
April 07 2014, 04:03PM
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I really like the idea of getting #1 and #3 d-men. That way we can move a couple guys down the depth chart and likely hold onto both Marincin and Klefbom full time. A few of our d-men this year were asked to play above their ability and it cost us.

I also think we gotta bring in 2 - 3 bona fide NHL wingers to play in the bottom 6. Our top 6 as is seems ok.

And of course we need that #2 center.

But, what do we have to give up to get this shopping list? And will it nullify the little bit of stability we currently have? I feel like we can't afford to hold onto our first round pick this year. We need some trade bait and don't have much right now.

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#64 Randaman
April 07 2014, 04:06PM
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Will wrote:

Perhaps great was the wrong word, how about fascinating or thought provoking.

http://www.coppernblue.com/2014/4/7/5587734/3-nail-yakupov

Speaking of Ovi, I know us Oiler fans have had it tough, but there are teams out there with people like Ovechkin who are hitting the 50 goal mark again, who might not make the playoffs. Point being, there does not seem to be one magical ingredient that can make a team successful. Which, might be good or bad depending on your perspective.

As for Yak, I think he will live up to his billing as a first overall selection.

For those that want to make the case we should have taken Murray, well ask yourselves what is better, Murray or Yak and J Schultz. Because had they picked Murray, J Schultz likely would have signed somewhere else.

So are you saying that Murray would have been a mistake? I don't agree. Yak has a huge problem. EAKINS!! I really don't know if that hurdle will be overcome. I see him being moved this summer. Not that I want that but MacT is not going to move Eberle and break up the only dynamic line we really have. My thoughts...

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#65 The Last Big Bear
April 07 2014, 04:08PM
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@Will

Yakupov is -33 (ie only two events behind OV), but has played 11 fewer games, and with only 12 mins or so per game at even strength.

And as you said, OV is a 50+ goal scorer to offset that. Yakupov... Not so much...

Anyways, I agree +/- is a generally crappy stat. Thats a fair point. All I was trying to get at is that Yakupov is absolutely brutal defensively, and he bleeds goals against like nobody's business.

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#66 City of Champignons
April 07 2014, 04:12PM
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Thanks for your time and good luck elsewhere:

Ryan Jones Sam Gagner Anton Lander Jesse Joensuu Philip Larsen Mark Fraser Anton Belov Will Acton

At this point I'd say all prospects are tradeable. Even the high profile ones.

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#67 Oliveoiler
April 07 2014, 04:13PM
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1 - give Eakins the start next season and see how he does the first month or so 2 - have Lowe "step down", he has been a cancer to the team 3 - let MacT actually BE the GM without Lowe breathing down his neck 4 - bring back #94 for another year 5 - keep Pinizzotto - he seems like a good fit 6 - trade Yak and a high pick for a tough centre 7 - trade #89 and 2 high picks for a tough D man 8 - stop bringing up players who aren't NHL ready 9 - dump associate, assistant, goalie coaches AND amateur and professional scouts for new blood 10 - DO NOT MESS WITH THE TOP LINE. PERIOD.

Here endeth my shot at armchair coach for today.

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#68 Dog Train
April 07 2014, 04:14PM
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I have no doubt that Mactavish will be aggressive in looking to upgrade the D. My concern is those tough decisions on the second line. Gagner seems like a certainty to be gone but a line of Perron-Arcobello-Yakupov doesn't do it for me. There's lots of roster turnover needed, perhaps too much for one off-season. Still, I see Arcobello as more of a reserve/bottom six guy who can fill in higher in the lineup when injuries inevitably hit. If Yakupov is back next season, his game needs to improve big time.

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#69 cccsberg
April 07 2014, 04:25PM
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mlcselli wrote:

Taylor vs. Tyler ?? Now we know.

yup, Seguin by a country mile...

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#70 cccsberg
April 07 2014, 04:46PM
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Fuhr4Life wrote:

Totally agree. 1LD - Trade for Sekera, Volchenkov, or Free Agent Stuart, Hainsey 2C - Trade for either Anisomov, Couterier, Dubinsky or Stastny Also need a Powerforward Winger who can hit, score and pay both ends (Iginla, Stalberg, Simmonds, C.Stewart) And another top 4 RD ( cause we'll have traded Petry). My ideal line up would be:

Hall-Nuge-Ebs Perron-Anisomov-Yakcity Stalberg-Gordon-Iginla/Simmonds Smitty-Lander-Gadzic/Joensuu

Sekera/Volchenkov-Shultz Ference-Boychuck? Marincin/Klefbom-Ekblad/Belov

So obviously very active in trading and would be willing to move Gags, Petry, Fedun, Khaira, Roy, 2014&2015 1st Rounder, Gernat, Arcobello, Horak and Marincin

Some interesting ideas, and definitely something significant needed. But, Iginla on the third line (or Simmonds for that matter...) ? That's a joke, Iginla would be that line-up's best RW by far.

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#71 Sevenseven
April 07 2014, 04:57PM
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@Oliveoiler

I agree with you, except on scouting. Please hear me out. Id like to see how the scouting pans out with the Oilers owning an AHL team now. Remember only 5 years ago, we didnt have that. Scouting may not have been the best, but the development in the orginization wasnt there. I think they got some good finds coming up. And with an improving development system, including a really great okc coach, more prospects will pan out as NHLers

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#72 Al Low
April 07 2014, 05:27PM
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They need somebody with size as the 2C. It could work with Perron and Yakupov as the wingers but Gagner's not the the guy for that role.

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#73 billythebullet
April 07 2014, 07:56PM
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Dumb idea of the day...if Edmonton doesn't like yakipov, and Winnipeg doesn't like kane, maybe there is a fit? Who cares if the guy is an egomaniac or not. I'm not sure what kind of cap space we will have to go shopping for a 2c or who will come, but maybe a legwand or statsny??

Hall rnh ebs kane legwand perron stalberg gordon moss Hendricks arco gazdik lander smyth pitlick.

Have I run out of money for d yet lol? I am some happy I am not mact that's fer certain! J.shultz Ference Marincin Petry Klefbom Nikitin or a niskenen?? belov Larsen

Anyways just my thoughts.

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#74 Brian
April 07 2014, 08:05PM
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My question to you, JW (or anyone else):

After 7 years in the league, why is Gagner such a train wreck in the D-Zone? It can't be that complicated for him to learn his responsibilities after all this time.

And, no, I don't want to hear about his broken jaw.

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#75 toprightcorner
April 07 2014, 09:21PM
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JW

Stalberg - Gordon - Moss

thats a $9 mill 3rd line with a total of only 23 goals. That little offense has no hope of coming close to breaking even playing the toughs.

The 3rd line needs to score a min of 35-40 goals to improve the Oilers. Setoguchi or Kulimen would be a better fit with more offensive histories as well as solid defensively.

Add Brian Boyle to the 4th line with Hendricks (both can play centre or wing and kill penalties) will give you toughness as well as solid defense that can share some toughs as well.

On top of greatly reducing goals against, the Oilers need to score at least 230 goals to be middle of the pack, If you can jump to 40 goals from defense (29 this year) 20 goals from the 4th line and 40 goals from the 3rd line, that still leaves 130 goals from the top 6. Yes we need to improve two-way play of forwards, but MacT cant sacrifice offence to accomplish that.

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#76 719
April 07 2014, 09:22PM
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I think if the Oil pick up Niskanen as a UFA (with the obligatory overypay), the Oilers do not need to trade for a defenceman.

Gagner for a 3rd line rightwinger (Clarkson, Horqvist, Stafford, Stewart, Setoguchi, Brunner, Fotaine, Parenteau, Ben Smith?)

Hall-RNH-Eberle

Yak-Draisatl-Perron

Smyth-Arcobello-xxx(Gagner Trade)

Hendricks-Gordon-Pitlick/Larsen

Extras: Lander, Gazdic

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#77 toprightcorner
April 07 2014, 09:33PM
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Brian wrote:

My question to you, JW (or anyone else):

After 7 years in the league, why is Gagner such a train wreck in the D-Zone? It can't be that complicated for him to learn his responsibilities after all this time.

And, no, I don't want to hear about his broken jaw.

Simple, he never grew up having to even consider 2-way play so he only knows how to play and think offense, he should have never played in the NHL the year he was drafted so he never matured or developed his game, with so many coaches he was never really held accountable for his defensive play, he has always cheated for offense in junior's and NHL and Gagner has always had a low hockey IQ.

All of those add up to a player who doesn't know, can't learn and is too selfish to play a 2-way game.

He duped MacT by having a 35 game hot streak in a 48 game schedule in a contract year.

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#78 toprightcorner
April 07 2014, 09:47PM
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719 wrote:

I think if the Oil pick up Niskanen as a UFA (with the obligatory overypay), the Oilers do not need to trade for a defenceman.

Gagner for a 3rd line rightwinger (Clarkson, Horqvist, Stafford, Stewart, Setoguchi, Brunner, Fotaine, Parenteau, Ben Smith?)

Hall-RNH-Eberle

Yak-Draisatl-Perron

Smyth-Arcobello-xxx(Gagner Trade)

Hendricks-Gordon-Pitlick/Larsen

Extras: Lander, Gazdic

PIT will sign their only other offensive dman witj Letang's health questions, he wont be available.

Gagner will not get you a sniff of Clarkson, Stewart, Stafford or Hornqvist

Draiati (if picked) will get destroyed as a 2C in his rookie year, especially with Yak trying to find a 2-way game. He needs to go back to junior to develop, should have learned from Gagner mistake

Smyth barely benefits the team on the 4th line, cant be on 3rd line

Arcobello ahead of Gordon on the bottom 6 depth chart? Not a chance. If Arco isnt traded and Gagner is AND a 2C with size isnt added, Arco will play 2C until a proper replacement is found.

Also, the Oilers need to add more than 1 dman to achieve an NHL quality backend

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#79 Fresh Mess
April 08 2014, 11:58AM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

Do you have a reference for this "great article"

I don't think the Oil have missed Yak at all since he has been out.

I got a chuckle about the TSN guys last night comparing the race between Ovy and Yak to get the "green jacket" this year with the upcoming Masters.

I believe the article in question is in the spring edition of Delusionals Quarterly.

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#80 Tommy
April 08 2014, 12:05PM
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Bob Cob wrote:

Hey Willis, what about the idea of making a deal for O'Reilly out of Colorado for your 2nd line center? What do you think it would take? I'd say a pick, a prospect, and a player. Would Yakimov, Gagner, and this years 1st be too much? They aren't giving McKinnon or Duchene up and O'Reilly wasn't prepared to sign, it's just a thought, plus we could stick it to Calgary if the Oilers managed to trade for him.

I would say that is more then an overpay for O'reilly. He might be good, but thats a lot of potential going the other way. Maybe I have been sold too much BS from the management group, but I don't think you can give up that much potential unless it is a legit #1 centre or d-man coming back. I say this because 1) I think Yakimov should hopefully be a decent depth scorer at the NHL level 2) for all his defensive warts Gags is a 40-50 point guy with mediocre second line players. Give him wing and a good centre like O'reilly and Perron on the other wing and that's a very good line 3) the first this year will either be a second line centre or a #2 or 3 defender right away. That's too much for just getting one good centre. That being said I would give that up in a heartbeat and maybe a little more for either McKinnon or Tavares from the Islanders. Just my thoughts

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