Dallas Eakins spells out the Oilers’ off-season plans

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Dallas Eakins’ press availabilities are almost always worth watching, and in a nearly 20-minute session yesterday he hit on a lot of things, including the type of players Edmonton needs to add in the off-season.

Supplementing the Core

The future up front

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Asked about where the team was in the process of turning things around, Eakins talked about the improving habits of the team’s core, but also identified the need for external improvements:

We still have a lot of work to do around [the team’s core players]. We need to supplement this group with probably some veteran leadership, some guys who can make plays, and not so much a toughness aspect but guys who are going to win battles in this conference… During the summer Craig [MacTavish] and I have got to sit down and make the right decisions for our hockey club, to add and subtract what we need to move up in our conference.

It’s been a difficult eight years in Edmonton, and since the fall of 2006 the Oilers’ primary weakness has been both readily apparent and all too frequently ignored. Given that history, it’s nice to have Eakins identify it so clearly. The team needs real NHL players, guys who have the ability to win battles and take and make a pass. It’s that simple; there aren’t enough of them on the roster.

The Same Page

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Eakins manner in that answer might have been a little presumptuous, in that general manager Craig MacTavish is the guy in charge of the player personnel, but given that both coach and manager are clearly on the same page it likely isn’t a problem.

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Leaving aside the bit players, the list of MacTavish additions to the Oilers roster reads pretty much exactly as the kind of player that Eakins described. David Perron, Boyd Gordon, Matt Hendricks and Andrew Ference are all NHL veterans, all people who can take and make a pass, and all players who are known for their willingness to engage. They’re all greasy players, the kind of secondary support types that the rebuild stripped away from the Oilers organization. The contracts aren’t all ideal (except for Perron’s, which is fantastic) but there’s a definite theme in those acquisitions and it’s exactly the one that Eakins expressed in his presser.

The Summer


MacTavish’s first season hasn’t been perfect. If the rumours about Edmonton’s ardent pursuit of David Clarkson last summer are accurate, the team most certainly dodged a bullet when he moved on to Toronto. A lot of the ‘flyer’ type deals (most prominently Denis Grebeshkov) didn’t work out either.

But we can probably expect more of the same general approach to improving the team. One hopes the Clarkson experience has left the team a little gun-shy when it comes to signing the overrated tough guy who can play, and overhauling the defence is going to take some creativity and will be a tough job, but on the whole the players are going to be from the Perron/Gordon/Hendricks/Ference family.

Now it’s just a matter of getting it right. The team can pursue the right kind of player and still get things very wrong – as they would have with Clarkson – if the money is stupid. As a for-instance:

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But there are doubtless still solid additions out there via trade or free agency, players like Perron or Gordon that can be added without compromising the team’s ability to compete in a salary cap world. The Oilers may or may not be able to find them, but unlike in some recent summers there can be no doubt they’re actively looking.

  • Zarny

    You can’t trade Gagner for Clarkson and get money held back. EX. Gagner for Clarkson, plus the Leafs hold back say 1.5 mill. That effectively makes Gagners salary 4.8 + 1.5 = 6.3 from a cap perspective. Not going to happen. Personally I wouldn’t take Clarkson unless they held back 2.0 million. But if they did, this would make the Leafs CAP hit more or less equal to what their buyout cost would be. We throw in some assets like Gernat, Arco, and a second; and the Leafs have effectively bought out Clarkson (which they may do anyways), plus they get the benefit of some prospects/picks.

    • Zarny

      Actually the only way you could trade Gagner for Clarkson would be if Tor held money back.

      Gagner is off the books in 2 years. Clarkson is signed for another 6.

  • Zarny

    Lets say the Oioers win the draft lottery, could a combination of Eberle plus the first overall get you a Shea Weber? Nashville has never effectively had a number one center and a scoring forward. You trade the first overall which is used for Draisatl and you have Eberle who can ride shotgun. Trade Gagner to a team like the Sharks or Kings for a big body. Maybe to Winnipeg for Buff?

  • Zarny

    @Walter Sobchak

    I can’t see NYI handing over a guaranteed top 5 picks for what would likely be a 1-5% shot at McDavid or less. Of course Snow basically traded Mouslon, a 1st and 2nd round pick for Sebastian Collberg a sh*ttier 2nd round pick so anything is possible.

    100% MacT should try to trade this year’s pick for whatever Ekblad or Bennett will be in 5+ years. Drafting another 18 y/o should be plan B.

    If you’re going for a kid in CBJ the real prize is Johansen.

    • Problem is do you think NYI are a bottom 3 team next year?

      I think they are, after Tavares it’s pretty bleak, week all over, will Snow gives the Sabres a double shot at McDavid?

      Johansen goes without saying, if the rumors were true that Tambellini balked at a chance to trade for Johansen then Tambo reached a level of suck no GM has ever experienced…..except maybe Snow.

      Would like any of the three in Jenner, Johansen or Dubinsky, sadly no way CBJ trades Johansen and Dubinsky only has a year left, leaving Jenner as a possible fit.

      • Zarny

        No I don’t think NYI are a bottom 3 team next year but it’s not impossible. Okposo is in beast mode since Tavares got injured. A lot depends on their G. Anything is possible with Snow.

        Never say never. I suspect many said that last year about Bos trading Seguin. Johansen wouldn’t be cheap but a package including Yak could get it done and would be worth it.

        I like both Dubinsky and Jenner though. Chris Kreider in NYR is another PF I’d like to see the Oilers go after.

  • Zarny

    Hmmmm – when DE and MacT sit down in the off season? We shall see. MacT has made some good and bad choices – his worst choice was DE. Let’s hope the “sit down” chat is the same one Ralph Krueger was given last year – “you’re done coaching the Oilers.” It’s a true sign of strength when you admit and correct your mistakes – I hope MacT realizes that.

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

    Or maybe the draft strategy is simply to win the lottery….after all…Mr Six Rings knows a thing or two about winning…..draft lotteries.

    *opens page 4 pandering for cheap props

  • Admiral Ackbar

    MacT said a lot of good things last summer. Look what we got.

    Last year the Oilers had a CF% of 44.3% and a FF% of 44.70%.

    This year against the west prior to San Jose the team had a CF% of 43.64% and a FF% of 42.53%.

    Since January 1st, this drops to 42.57% and 41.37% against the west.

    MacT and Eakins actually found a way to make this team worse than last year. Since January, much worse.

    And so we are supposed to get excited about something Eakins says? Not bloody likely.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      MacT did well, got rid of some players that had to go then added a few solid goaltenders and Perron.

      Eakins on the other hand has turned a team that was looking Ok last year back to a basement team. He has a much better group of guys then Kruger did last year and has done significantly worse.

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

    I believe both gagner, and yakupov should both be involved in a trade. I am sure there is a couple teams interested in these young men, and it could perhaps bring some veteran experience. As for ryan smith, he surely needs to retire or go because his game is not nhl ready no-more. I believe these three trades are very key, as a fan they were so weak this season and in hockey size does matter.

    • Zarny

      I would agree with you, except for Yak. He has been defensively lacking and he must work on that side of his game, but all in all, it’s not THAT bad. I believe Ovie was a -31 last time I looked. Not to mention Edler, Ott, and a handful of players who have been in the league long enough to know better. Seth Jones is -23 and he is a Defenseman by trade.

      There is too much upside to Yakupov to throw it away without even attempting to develop him, imo.

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

    Snow is probably quite embarrased because he has to give Buffalo his first round pick either this year or next due to the crappy trade he made. He can’t take a chance that the Islander’s first rounder in 2015 is not McDavid so he will have to give Buffalo this year’s first rounder. Maybe Edmonton could convince him to trade Hamonic for our first rounder(Ekblad) and Gagner ,who is good buddies with Traveres. He might feel he could save face by getting back a better first rounder than he gave away for nothing. Am I just dreaming?

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I’m not buying it. This KoolAid sucks.

    Simple moves will produce more of the same.

    This team needs a serious paradigm shift before anything try positive will happen.

  • Bryzarro World

    Love morons who try to use the term “mouth breather” as an insult. I can’t wait until you people have a plugged nose or have to work hard. You’ll die and we won’t have to hear self important dipshats trying to be clever…

    • Kr55

      MacT said talk is cheap during his GM hiring conference where we got all the cheap talk from Lowe. This year though, talk is mainly what we’ve got from MacT. “Success is coming”. “Good structural improvements”. The junk about how people that know hockey see this team going in the right direction. Saying the Oilers provide very, very high entertainment value to the fans.

      I don’t even want to think of the mess this team would be in if Clarkson accepted our deal. The dismantling of the kids would probably need to start next year with that boat anchor on board.

  • M22

    I said it before, and I’ll say it again.

    There is only ONE move that needs to be made to correct this mess, and it must be done by Katz: Remove Lowe ENTIRELY from the organization, find the BEST hockey man available (no ex-Oilers), hand him the keys, and say “Build me a winner”.

    Everyone below this man’s level will fall away, with few exceptions. All of the various aspects of this organization (hockey side) that need changing will change.

    There you go, Daryl. I’ve never built a business like you have, not even close, but I just gave you the plan for your hockey team. You’re welcome. I’ll take 2 season tickets for life.

  • Bryzarro World

    “Defense is at an all-time worst ooo look Mark Fraser!!” -MacT
    “Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Nuge aren’t what we need! Woah Craig let’s sign that ex-Marlie!!”

    I get Dallas feels we need some upgrades on our team but c’mon are Marlies that didn’t get resigned by them(there of course would be a reason) any better?

  • CMG30

    With our stabilized goaltending and no other changes, if the season was to start over tomorrow I believe that by the end we would be up to the low 20s in the standings.

    If Mactavish can add a legitimate top 2 defenceman, then I believe we just might be playing some meaningful games come April.

    If Mactavish can pick up 2 top 2’s and find a big mean skilled center look out!

    • CMG30

      No doubt that Perron is an upgrade from what we had before, but the position he fills was not the position that MacT had to address last summer. Perron fell in his lap but he needed to address defence, goal, and center, not wing

    • Zarny

      No, actually a guy like Lucic, Horton, Okposo or Perry is exactly what this team needs. A legit power forward.

      I don’t expect any are readily available but a guy like Wayne Simmonds might be. Or Blake Wheeler.

      Perron has the attitude Edm needs but ultimately he’s more small and skilled than power forward. If he doesn’t have the angle he peels off to the boards; he doesn’t drop his shoulder and go nuclear on the net.

      The Oilers need to swap out 2 of their top 6 F. If you ranked them skill wise Gagner and Perron likely come out 5 and 6 so there is logic in trading both.

      Both probably have the lowest return in a trade however, and since Perron has the attitude the Oilers need they can afford to look at trading Eberle or Yakupov.

      But the attitude of this guy has to be traded or can’t be traded is beyond ridiculous. Anyone can be traded.