Anyone not familiar with the Edmonton Oilers might look at the last 3 seasons and expect a large overhaul of staff this summer. The more discerning fan will know it’s all part of the plan, and in fact (for once) there are very few job openings. Edmonton will add players this summer, but in many cases will need to find a way to offload a current roster player in order to do so. How many expendable Oilers have good value? Tradeable value? Any value at all?
Edmonton has changed a lot over the years, and the Oilers have been in a state of constant motion since 2006 summer. This season, the changes are unlikely to be as severe for two reasons: first, the club has 1 goalie, 6 defenders and 11 forwards under contract plus four rfa’s (Gagner, Petry, Dubnyk and Peckham) who are slated to return. That’s an entire NHL roster if you add UFA Ryan Smyth and the rumors suggest EDM will do that soon.
So, what will the team do?
The Oilers own the #1 overall pick and Nail Yakupov is the top player in the draft according to everyone who makes a list. Should the club choose him, the depth chart might look like this:
- Center (5): Nuge, Gagner, Horcoff, Belanger, Lander
- Left (5): Hall, Smyth, Paajarvi, Jones, Eager
- Right (4): Hemsky, Eberle, Yakupov, Jones, Hartikainen
- Left D (3): Smid, Schultz, Whitney, Peckham
- Right D (4): Petry, Potter, Sutton, Teubert
- Goal (2) Dubnyk, Khabibulin
That’s a tremendous future, a chaotic current and a lot of counting on Ryan Whitney. I would think Edmonton would at least ponder an upgrade at the following positions:
- backup goalie behind Dubnyk
- left wing
- right defense
Goaltending is a problem based on Khabibulin’s very poor Nov-Mar performance; left wing has Hall, a young and promising Paajarvi, the veteran Smyth to play the toughs (when he signs) and then a veteran in Eager who is not a two-way type and had a very poor time playing with skill. If you’re breaking in Yakupov and Paajarvi, one would think a veteran mentor with good defensive instincts would be a better plan. Edmonton should look long and hard at acquiring a "Pisani" who could spell Smyth when he’s struggling, or Paajarvi when he’s down a quart of confidence.
Right defense? The hole created by Tom Gilbert’s exit is still there.
WHAT DOES EDMONTON HAVE TO OFFER?
There are some obvious assets Edmonton might be able to offload in order to add a defenseman (still say they need two in order to cover for Whitney’s injury worry), the goalie and the vet winger.
- Sam Gagner: Young C entering RFA summer and is arbitration eligible. Fine young player, I hope they keep him and suspect they will. I’m listing him on the off chance a team offers a clear top 4D already at the NHl level with a bright future
- Oscar Klefbom: Edmonton still hasn’t signed the young man despite earlier reports that it was imminent. I think there’s a chance the club attempts to package Klefbom and others in order to move up at the draft or add a solid NHL defender.
- Linus Omark: Oilers won’t bring him back and he may not have much current value (Omark might have to spend more time in Europe regaining his career) but he’s not expensive and did have a solid rookie year.
- Ben Eager: I think the next coach might want to keep him, but if not Eager should be a guy they can deal. Players of his type always have value to another team.
- Ryan Jones: There’s something to that old saying about "sell high, buy low." Jones has been riffing like a maniac for two seasons over, Edmonton may want to cash their chips when they’re flush.
- Theo Peckham: Tough as nails blueliner had a difficult season and may need a change of scenery. He’s famous enough as a player to have value.
- Magnus Paajarvi: Edmonton surely likes him, but if they need to offload a young forward for a defenseman of similar age and value, the former top 10 pick might end up leaving town.
- 2nd round pick: Those early picks on day two seem to have exceptional value since the NHL placed round one on the Friday. Another team re-setting the board after round one may overpay for the opportunity to select that high.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The defense is the area of primary need, but this club is at least five additions away from a full deck. Add a solid goaltender who could tandem with Dubnyk, two veteran defensmen, Ryan Smyth and a Smyth-type on LW at 3line and we can start talking about the playoffs.
Adding those items without creating massive holes in other areas is the sticky wicket. Steve Tambellini will have a hard time addressing these areas of need, and as we’ve heard over the last few weeks Edmonton’s management feels the goaltending is fine.
That alone should give us pause when it comes to hopeful thoughts for 12-13.