Edmonton Oilers depth chart: June 2013

If we were to draw up what the Oilers look like right now, before the draft and free agency and the trades of summer, what would it look like? What would represent “mission accomplished” for the Oilers’ brain trust?

As It Stands

The following depth charts are meant only to give an idea of depth at each position, not to mimic line combinations. An asterisk indicates a defenceman who can play either side, UFA and RFA indicate that a player’s contract expires this summer, while BO has nothing to do with a lack of deodorant and everything to do with the player being a possible candidate for a compliance buyout.

Forwards

Defence

Projection

This is where things get a little more interesting. I have axed what strike me as the likely names at each position, and indicated positions that need to be addressed over the summer in red.

Forwards

The changes here include the following:

Unrestricted free agents Lennart Petrell, Jerred Smithson, Ryan Jones, Chris VandeVelde, Tanner House and Darcy Hordichuk are all released. Restricted free agent Antti Tyrvainen have also been let go. Eric Belanger is the subject of a compliance buyout. Ales Hemsky is assumed to have been traded elsewhere.

Retained are restricted free agents Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, Teemu Hartikainen, Philippe Cornet and Mark Arcobello. Buyout candidates Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff are both retained for the major league roster, while Ben Eager remains buried in the minor leagues.

There were a number of coin flip calls made here. Jerred Smithson is a viable candidate for the fifth centre slot on the NHL roster, though I have indicated him walking. Philippe Cornet is a player who may not be re-signed to a deal with an NHL component; I have kept him in the scenario above on the basis of age (23) and a strong second half but it’s entirely possible the Oilers send him down the line or sign him to an AHL-only deal (and if they choose to do so, that will be completely understandable).

Assuming no trades other than Hemsky, the Oilers have four slots to fill on the major league roster. The bottom three should be easy to fill via free agency; a second line winger in a power forward mould is the toughest of these to fill. Additionally, the Oklahoma City Barons employed a pair of veteran forwards (Josh Green and Jonathan Cheechoo) on AHL-only contracts; it seems sensible to assume that the Oilers will want at least one veteran forward with an NHL deal to help mentor and also to serve as a recall option should the need arise (while Anton Lander is a fine first call-up option, injury or uneven performance could rob the Oilers of recallable depth in a hurry).

Total contract count: 28.

Defence

Unrestricted free agents Ryan Whitney, Mark Fistric, Nikolai Khabibulin, Yann Danis and Garrett Stafford are all released. Restricted free agents Theo Peckham, Colten Teubert, Alex Plante and Niko Hovinen have also been let go.

The sole remaining free agent in this scenario is restricted free agent Taylor Fedun.

Again, I’ve exercised some discretion here. Mark Fistric and Corey Potter are both fine candidates for the six/seven role, but Potter is under contract at a cheap price-point while Fistric seems to be looking for significant dollars in a weak free agent market; hence I’ve opted to keep Potter. Yann Danis is a legitimate candidate for the number three role but is coming off a difficult season; presumably the Oilers would prefer a European free agent with more potential in that slot. Colten Teubert may yet be retained, but given his struggles to crack the Barons’ defence of late and the incoming class, he seems a good bet for departure. I should also note that RFA’s like Peckham and Teubert may have enough value for a trade at the draft.

The Oilers have three slots to fill on the depth chart above. They need to add a top-four defenceman, ideally a top-pairing defenceman, and that’s going to be very difficult indeed. Additionally, they need to overhaul their goaltending behind Devan Dubnyk. Finally, at the AHL level they have a good group of young defenders that are also legitimate recall candidates (I count Klefbom, Fedun and Marincin) so they may not need another defenceman on a two-way deal, but it seems likely that a veteran on an AHL contract could be brought in to stabilize a young defence corps. Both current UFA Garrett Stafford and Randy Jones (on an AHL contract) might fit the bill there.

Total contract count: 19, meaning that at all positions the Oilers would have used 47 of the 50 slots they have on their reserve list. 

Recently around the Nation Network

There are lots of interesting names on Justin Azevedo’s Eastern Conference Compliance Buyout Candidates, including veteran Albertan Scottie Upshall:

Upshall was signed after a 34-point season, so it’s unlikely Dale Tallon had any thoughts that he’d be an "offensive" contributor. Even so, the 10 points he’s put up in Florida since signing there suggests to me that his tenure in Sunrise may be ending. Add to that his less-than-stellar underlying numbers and the Panthers’ need for a top-9 roster spot and I don’t see a way he isn’t a UFA come July 5th.

Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • John Chambers

    Washington might also need a centre, assuming they can’t get Ribeiro under contract.

    I can’t see the Caps moving Alzner and certainly not Carlson, but I wonder if a Gagner for Mike Green deal, perhaps with a swap of draft picks, would address some major issues for both teams.

  • vetinari

    Nice joke, Jonathon! The Oilers GM Playbook clearly says that we have to bring almost all the same players back to the team year after year, otherwise bad things (like playoffs cutting into spring golf season) may happen — at least that’s what this copy that I found in the dumpster behind RX1 and signed “S. Tambellini” says…

    Seriously, I think your analysis is pretty spot on and likely is the bare minimum that MacT has to do this offseason. In fact, if more than two to three spots go to first time NHL players (and Belov already has one of them), we are likely in trouble. What we need are senior RFA’s with NHL experience and junior UFA’s (ages 27 to 33) to fill out those positions.

  • Truth

    Potter is an AHL level defenseman, which is the entire reason he is cheap. Renney viewed him as a PP option and therefore a “skilled” defenseman. These are traits that Belov apparently employs. Send Potter through waivers, if he gets picked up, good, if not, good. They must sign Fistric or someone like Fistric. The current defense corps has zero intimidation factor, especially with Peckham’s upcoming exit (although Belov can help here).

    I could see a scenario where Horcoff gets traded. He was always MacT’s golden boy (laughable) and some of the interviews MacT has done hint that Horcoff would be happy to be part of another team. His cap hit is high ($5.5M) and salary is less ($4M this year, $3M next) so he could be valuable to a team looking to reach the cap floor. MacT could do him a favor and get him out of town. This could obviously only happen if he is to be replaced, so it would have be done before or after another trade or later in the summer as I would not trade him and then count on replacing a center in FA.

    Hemsky is as good as gone, IMO. He should not be re-signed and his value will only diminish as time goes on. I would work on trading Hemsky and a pick/propect for a better 2/3 C and trade Horcoff for the best D-man (4/5/6) you can get. Time for the kids to take over this team.

    Pick BPA no matter what. Only if it’s Nichushkin would I consider playing him in the NHL next year.

  • DSF

    I think the only way the Oilers get a top Dman is if they are willing to deal their 1st round pick or one of their young top 4 stars. Everybody is begging

    Mark Streit sounds like he’ll be expensive and for that kinda money, I’d rather chase after Tyler Bozak to line up in the #2 centre position and move Horc to the #3 hole. Now there’s some decent centre depth with a righty and lefty that can win draws.

    Swing a deal to land a top 4 dman with Sam Gagner.

  • OilersBrass

    Very good info and read today JW,

    I do think that, concerning forwards, the Oilers have to make trades now of Hemsky, Gagner, and Horcoff….in addition to releasing Belanger, Eager, letting go of Petrell, Smithson, and Jones.

    With adding either or both, draft round picks in 2014 and prospects such as Omark, Rajala into a trade deal package, the Oilers can find good depth there. Then, through all the buyouts, UFA’s upcoming this will make it even more interesting.

    There should be 3 – 4 excellent forward draft choices the Oilers must be very strongly looking at for #7…those being Barkov, Monahan, Lindholm, Nichuskin for 2nd line projections.

    For 3rd or 4th line needs at centre the Oil can surely make offers to guys like Chipchura, Malholtra, Adam hall….etc.

    There are good winger UFA’s such as Stalberg, Gordon, Horton to go for…I think Bickell in staying with the Hawks.

  • OilersBrass

    The D pairings you have listed for the AHL next season are looking pretty deadly! If those were actually the pairings next year, everyone in this forum should be excited about that, even if it is in the AHL.

  • Center depth reminds me of that road trip when we only had two healthy centers.

    With or without Horcoff (my money’s on a trade or buyout) we are adding a pick, an AHL player and at least two UFAs to the training camp mix if MacTs comments have some truth in them.

  • Center depth reminds me of that road trip when we only had two healthy centers.

    With or without Horcoff (my money’s on a trade or buyout) we are adding a pick, an AHL player and at least two UFAs to the training camp mix if MacTs comments have some truth in them.

  • For the roster that you have listed, there is already approximately $50.5 million spoken for leaving $13.5 million to acquire a #2 G, a top pairing D and 3 F.

    Assuming $1.5M for a backup goalie and $6M for a Dman, that leaves $2M per forward for the 3 F needed. And that leaves no wiggle room at the cap.

    Thus, as you have pointed out moving one of the big tickets is essential (ie: Hemsky) and having one or two tweeners step up would be very helpful. Fedun instead of N Schultz (for example) would save more than $2.5M to spend elsewhere. An Arcobello or other kid being able to step in for cheap would allow for more money to be spent on a better UFA elsewhere on the roster.

    Final thought – when looking at the forwards list, might it make any sense to keep Hemsky (low trade value, slight $ savings, adequate offense) and trade Eberle (higher trade value, higher cap hit)?

  • Ducey

    That AHL defence next year looks to be a real quality group. They might struggle a bit at first due to inexperience but its nice to have 6 D prospects on the farm.

  • horndog77

    Jonathan

    I was doing this exact same exercise yesterday but not considering too much the AHL component of things. If the Oilers can hold MacT to his word than there are three main areas that will cost major bucks. The resigning of Sam Gagner, a second winger that has some grit and scoring ability(yesterday the name Hartnell was being thrown around) and a first pairing defense(Mark Streit). I was doing an exercise keeping the 64.3 million cap in mind and unless the Oilers can shed the Hemsky contract in full and replace it with something at half the rate and shed Belangers contract expectations may have to be tempered. Were you considering the cap in your scenario’s?

  • The thing that bugs me is when filling those red spots in the lineup we know we are going to be creating others. To fill that D spot we might then end up covering over Gagner’s name in red. How do we fill all the roster spots into a competitive roster that can make the playoffs without decimating our prospect pool? The FA market is fine for filling one or two spots but cant do all of them that way.

    Signings like Belov if they work out could go a long way to achieving this goal but we’re going to need more than that.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Smithson didn’t really do anything for me when i saw him play this year….i don’t really care one way or the other if the Oilers keep him or not.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    yup, there could be significant player movement on the NHL as well as the AHL roster. would not be against seeing Hemsky, Gagner, Jones, Fistric and Peckham all gone from the NHL roster and Eager, Plante, Tuebert and Hovinen gone from the AHL roster.

  • Spydyr

    Good article lots of food for thought.

    I hope even a couple other moves are made beyond the ones you have suggested.Gagner getting moved and replaced with a larger more capable center .Someone with the ability of going head to head in all three zones, with the big centers soon to be in the Oilers division.Ranks as the biggest move outside your suggestions.Another would be a 1B goalie to push Dubbie not just a older back up.Even one more top four defensemen would be nice.Pushing everyone else down the depth chart and creating some depth on the back end.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I think it’s a mistake to let Smithson walk or at the very least not replace him. We should be using one PB spot on a center. Especially with RNH coming of surgery, and Horcoff being a guy that has problems staying healthy.

    Team has been crippled at center for years now. Now is the time to take a page out of the Bruins or Kings book and employee more than 4 centers.

    Edit: I know faceoffs isn’t the end all, but when you are a young inexperienced team like the Oilers it sure wouldn’t help to start with the puck instead of chasing it.

    • I do agree the Oilers should have a PB spot reserved for a centre; Smithson’s fine in the role but I wonder if there isn’t someone else who would be a better fit. If Manny Malhotra struggles to find NHL employment, for instance, he’s a guy that could be signed on a one-year with some possibility of a positive bounce.

      I haven’t been through all the UFA centres yet, though; Smithson just strikes me as very vanilla.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I thought Malhotra was done as a player? But whatever, there are numerous guys every year that can sit in the PB and be a real good fill in. We just need to make sure we have one.

        As for being vanilla, it’s a PB player if the guy wasn’t vanilla he’d be an everyday #4 center.

        • No, Malhotra’s done in Vancouver; he’s very interested in resuming his playing career.

          Like I said, Smithson’s a coin toss. It all depends how you rate him at centre vs. guys like Santorelli and Reasoner and Malhotra and Halpern and Adam Hall and Euros like Thoresen. There are just one or two guys I like better who I think you can get on a cheap contract as the 13th forward.

          • Vaclav

            I’m not sure I would offer Malhotra a contract but I would most certainly give him a training camp invite if no one else signs him. Brian Berard had a fairly productive career post eye-injury. Perhaps Malhotra could as well.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I like Adam Hall, but that might just be to mess with commentators. I am curious on Thoresen though, whether or not he’d come back and can he be a viable option.

            That defense is just plain scary. Unless that red is someone very special.

          • Agreed. I’m not sure what the answer is, though – basically, the team’s waiting on Justin Schultz to grow into a top-pairing role. In a perfect world they’d add two top-pairing defencemen but I just don’t see how that could happen.

          • DSF

            They are going to be forced to move one of the first overall picks to eventually solve this issue.

            Waiting on Justin Schultz to morph from Jack Johnson into Drew Doughty is not a viable strategy since it has an excellent chance of failing.

          • I don’t think the Oilers do it, but I definitely see the appeal. Hanging on to Hemsky for one more year and swapping out one of Eberle/Yakupov is a painful thought but might be in the team’s best interest long-term.

            The only trouble is who the target should be – there aren’t a lot of guys likely to be traded who I’d be willing to give up Eberle or Yakupov for in MacTavish’s shoes.

            I think it might be more realistic to target a sub-number one guy (Kulikov in Florida is one I’d keep in mind) this summer with something built around one of Gagner, Paajarvi or the number seven – though then you’re banking on being able to replace Gagner with a UFA (assuming he’s the piece sent out).

            Hypothetically, something roughly along the lines of Hemsky for Umberger, Gagner for Kulikov, signing a Zubrus-class winger and someone in the Ribeiro/Filpulla/Weiss family seems more doable to me than Eberle for a number one ‘D’. Of course, I’m not convinced that’s enough help on the blue-line either.

            Adding a UFA like Ian White and bumping Potter into the AHL vet role might be another possibility to shore up the bottom end of the defence corps.

          • DSF

            Florida is not likely to trade a potential #1D for a flawed centre like Gagner.

            Their centre depth is already very good and they have more on the way.

            Stephen Weiss (UFA)

            Jonathan Huberdeau

            Peter Mueller (RFA)

            Marcel Goc

            Shawn Matthias (RFA)

            Drew Shore

            Nick Bjugstad

            Quinton Howden

            If they decide to take MacKinnon over Drouin, they would be set at centre for a decade.

            I think it’s more likely the Oilers would acquire a centre from Florida than ship Gagner there.

          • Peter Mueller is a winger. Jonathan Huberdeau played wing this season. Marcel Goc was the team’s second-line centre in 2013 and their first-line centre (Weiss) is walking out the door.

            Florida is a wasteland up the middle; they can address that long-term by shifting Huberdeau over and drafting MacKinnon but it’s going to be a brutal mess next year, too – maybe the worst in the NHL.

            Edmonton’s not adding a centre from Florida; Florida is screaming for help down the middle.

          • DSF

            Actually, Mueller centred Huberdeau for most of the season.

            Goc was drafted to second line duty when Weiss went down.

            With Huberdeau, Mueller (if retained), Goc, Shore, Matthias, Bjugstad and Howden all on the roster at the end of the season, calling their centre depth a “wasteland” is nothing short of ridiculous.

            Ignoring their veterans for a moment:

            J. Huberdeau – 3rd overall 2011

            Nick Bjugstad – 19th overall 2010, 6’6″ 215, 42P in 40GP U of Minn

            Drew Shore – 44th overall 2009, 6’3″ 200, 53P in 43GP U of Denver

            Quinton Howden – 25th overall 2010, 6’2″ 190, had 30 and 40 goals seasons in the WHL.

            Tallon has been heavily drafting centres and defensemen since he took over in Florida and, while they haven’t all reached their potential yet, they are absolutely loaded at centre.

            It’s far more likely that Tallon trades a centre for help elsewhere than to acquire Gagner.

          • Really? How is that Mueller took 104 faceoffs this season, than? That’s half the number of Ryan Smyth, who spent less than half of the season as a fourth-line centre. Did Kevin Dineen only use the line on shifts that didn’t include faceoffs?

            The depth chart at centre for much of this year was Goc, Shore, Matthias, Smithson (with Weiss out). Bjugstad got 11 games in the role, and Mueller (judging by faceoffs) probably played 5-6 games up the middle.

            Now, let’s talk prospects:

            Jonathan Huberdeau is a sophomore NHL’er who has never played centre at the NHL level. Nick Bjugstad had one point and went minus-8 over 11 games (along with a 40% win rate in the circle); the Panthers were out-shot by an average of 32-22 with him on the ice over an average hour of 5v5 play. I like Shore and Howden both, but it’s probably also worth noting that Howden was pointless and went minus-11 in 18 games in Florida. It’s also worth noting Howden’s a winger.

            So, yeah. They’re in a terrible short-term position at centre. If they re-sign Weiss and draft MacKinnon, they can run Weiss/MacKinnon/Shore, and that still won’t be as good next year as RNH/Gagner/Horcoff (though long-term MacKinnon is going to be brilliant).

          • DSF

            It’s worth nothing that Mueller and Howden are both listed as centres on Florida’s depth chart.

            Due to organizational depth at centre, Mueller has been alternately used a a centre or winger in Phoenix, Colorado and Florida.

            So, let me get this straight…in your short term scenario Goc and Matthias just vanish?

            If they re-sign Weiss, draft MacKinnon and keep Goc and Matthias, their centre depth would be:

            Weiss
            McKinnon
            Shore
            Goc
            Matthias
            Huberdeau (if required)
            Bjugstad
            Howden

            And, suggesting you can draw any conclusions about players who played a handful of games at the end of a season when their team was devastated by injury at forward, defense and in goal is hardly convincing.

            While it’s likely Hopkins should be better than MacKinnon in year one, I certainly don’t think that’s guaranteed.

            And I don’t think it’s likely that Tallon would give up a potential #1D to acquire a second line centre with warts considering he already has a plethora of other options.

          • OilClog

            McKinnon is going to be very good, but to say that he’ll be close to as good or better then Nuge even in year one.. you’re straight talking out your brown eye.. Have you not seen Hopkins play what so ever??? Hopkins gets completely overlooked for his defensive game, and superb back checking puck stealing skills.. why you ask.. because he’s such a offensive wonder on the power play. So DSF for you to try and even remotely downgrade Nugent Hopkins in any sort of fashion, and suggest that McKinnon is going to walk in a be immediately more dominate then what Nuge has already banked.. you’re talking out your brown eye.

            When Nate has his 1st 5 point game.. lets talk about this alil more.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            Anyone else noticing how DSF seems to be “propping himself”…….

            He only ever gets one prop and its almost always when someone calls him out on his BS and he’s feeling insecure.

            Just sayin….

          • OilClog

            I do believe you believe in the situation up the middle in Florida is better off then what they’re own GM believes.

            Florida does not have Center depth, UFA, Overachievers, and a bunch of prospects.. Gagner would be their #1C.. BY A COUNTRY MILE!

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            BOLD moves I guess.

            Best option outside of getting a true #1 is getting rid of the traditional bottom pairing and using 3 equal pairings that could be considered 2nd pairings. Would probably result in more moves, but should be easier to upgrade that bottom pairing to a 2nd pairing.

          • Vaclav

            Ryan Smyth and Eric Belanger wouldn’t be candidates for compliance buyouts because they don’t earn $3.0M+ per season. I would assume that barring some miracle trade Eric Belanger will leave under a traditional buyout where he would be paid $833K and have a cap hit of $916K in 2013/14 and $416K in 2014/15.

          • Vaclav

            Interesting. I wonder if it would be worth using one of the two compliance buyouts on Belanger though given the relatively low cap hits this year and next with a traditional buyout. ie should they maintain those two compliance buyouts for Horcoff and someone earning more than Belanger if need be.