Three Forwards

Craig MacTavish6

Craig MacTavish talked to Terry Jones over the weekend, telling the Edmonton Sun columnist that he plans to add 4-5 players, with one or two coming from trade and the remainder through free agency. After eliminating the two defensive positions he specifically mentioned, that means we’re looking at 2-3 new forwards for the 2014-15 Edmonton Oilers.

The Depth Chart Today

The future up front

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Centre Right Wing
Taylor Hall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
David Perron Sam Gagner Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks Boyd Gordon Jesse Joensuu
Luke Gazdic Mark Arcobello Tyler Pitlick
Anton Lander Steve Pinizzotto

The 14 names above represent what in my view is the Oilers’ most likely forward depth chart today. We can add a trio of likely minor-leaguers to the list – Will Acton, Ryan Hamilton, and newly signed Iiro Pakarinen – if we want to be thorough and be reasonably confident we have the legitimate NHL options surrounded.

To this group we can potentially add the player the Oilers will get if they keep the No. 3 overall selection in this year’s draft. If they keep the pick the player will compete for an NHL job, and with the possible exception of Sam Bennett my guess is that he’d likely end up on the roster.

MacTavish’s aim is set pretty high – three new forwards represents an entire line of NHL talent – although there are going to be subtractions along the way, too.

The Shopping List


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

My guess is that the Oilers have identified the following positions as being in need of help:

Second line centre. No newsflash here. Sam Gagner is a dead man walking if the rumour mill can be believed, and the Oilers may not want to bank on whoever they draft being ready for major-league action. If I were betting, I’d say plausible free agent targets include Mikhail Grabovski, David Legwand and maybe Brad Richards.

Third line wing. Potentially the Oilers could get this player back in a hypothetical Gagner deal, but free agency has a bunch of players who can play minutes on the wing and it isn’t so strong in centres. Plausible targets include Nikolai Kulemin, David Moss, Daniel Winnik, Brenden Morrow, Devin Setoguchi, Benoit Pouliot, and maybe Blake Comeau.

Third line centre. This is the position I imagine the Oilers would address in a potential Gagner trade, and the names being batted in the rumour mill would work – Colin Wilson out of Nashville or Josh Bailey from the Islanders. There are also some potential free agent grabs: Steve Ott, Vernon Fiddler, Marcel Goc, Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Michal Handzus and the sure to be overpaid Dave Bolland.

When a Plan Comes Together

If all goes well, the Oilers’ NHL forward depth chart would look something like this:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Centre Right Wing
Taylor Hall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
David Perron [New Player] Nail Yakupov
[New Player] [New Player] Mark Arcobello
Matt Hendricks Boyd Gordon Jesse Joensuu
Luke Gazdic Anton Lander Tyler Pitlick

*Luke Gazdic may not be ready to start the season, which could potentially open the door for both of Lander and Pitlick to make the team out of camp.

Whether or not that’s good enough is going to depend on who MacTavish lands to fill those vacant spots, but if we’re right on the plan it’s as ambitious as Oilers fans could ask for.


  • paul wodehouse

    If we draft Drasaitl, I would love to see him compete for the third line position and bring in someone else for the #2 spot. Overall everything you mentioned seems plausible. Should be an interesting first day of free agency.

    • Lexi

      Agreed, the proof is in the pudding, not in the telling. I’d think by now fans would be fed up with the telling and wanting to see some results.

      Although I don’t disagree Oilers would benefit with upgrades of 4-5 players (at least) I believe next season isn’t going to be about them, but rather about the rest. If the team can see progression from the majority of the rest, versus the regression of last year is going to be far more important overall to the team. Let’s face it, if you’re assuming Hall-RNH-Eberlie are good enough as a #1 line based on the past season, you’re sadly mistaken. Second line Perron was OK, Yak (very poor) and beyond that little to offer hope for future success. Building a “team”, consistent effort and workable systems that ALL the players buy into is going to be far more important than a few middling additions.

      There are signs of hope in this regard, re new assistant coach but as a fan I’d be putting a lot more pressure/hope/accountability on the “core” starting to live up to the unending hype than some additions…

    • Zarny

      Meh, it’s irrelevant.

      Dale Tallon is telling anyone who will listen the #1 pick is available and that he wants to sign 4-5 UFA’s including Iginla.

      Frustration with all talk, no action is understandable but nothing a GM says actually affects negotiations. It’s just fodder for the media.

      • Seems to be massively on the decline anyways. He does bring the intangibles though.. Leadership, toughness, et al
        … But you would like them to be able to score some. Pouliot will get paid too, but I think he’d be better money spent. Wouldn’t be upset if Ott landed here though in spite of his offensive drought.

        If Umberger gets bought out that might be another worthy name, even though he’s seen better days too. I realize this is a sin to suggest, but if he came cheap, he could be a big leader here.

  • Doctor Smashy


    If we wanted to create a sheltered, soft minute, offensive zone start line and two or three hard minute lines, could we do the following:

    Trade Arcobello to Buffalo for Grigorienko.
    Start Yakupov with Gregorienko and Lander on the soft minute line.
    Sign Winnik or Moss to join Hendricks/ Gordon
    Throw money at Kulimen and Grabovski to join Perron on the 2nd line.

    Hall RNH Eberle
    Perron GRabovski Kulimen
    Lander Grigorienko Yakupov
    Hendricks Gordon Winnik

    Or trade for Brad Richards and keep Gagner for the second line RW if we can’t get Kulimen and Grabovski.

    • Just a Fan

      I hate when people do fantasy GM stuff. First of all, if you think Arcobello is the equivalent value for Grigorienko you’ve got another thing coming. Second, the Oilers obtaining players via Free Agency isn’t going to be a cake walk, they aren’t signing 3-4 sought after players, they’ll be lucky to get one player, and probably via overpayment.

      The only plausible thing here is trading for Brad Richards if the buy-out rumours are true, then again, it starts to make the cap harder to stay underneath, especially considering his term and value (which is a $6.6 mil, running until 2020). Considering he’s 34, that contract is an absolute boat anchor, and unless management has the intention to buy him out in a year or two, I can’t see this being a good deal.

      The real hope here is that the Oilers can fill that #2C slot, although I’m doubtful that it happens. I think if Draisaitl does get drafted by the Oil and plays in the show, him on the 3rd line would be a significant improvement to our strength down the middle. That said, we aren’t winning the cup next year, so why not let him develop while MacT continues to add pieces.

      I’m excited for Free Agency to see what MacT can do, he’s made some pretty solid moves acquiring players (although he’s also traded away NHL players for late picks). Hopefully he can make something happen.

  • Doctor Smashy

    I’m a little concerned that you still have Joensuu on the fourth line. He is not terrible good at hockey which I think is a problem…since that is supposed to be what the Oilers play. I would rather have Pitlick in that spot, glass skeleton and poorly developed connective tissue and all. An even better idea might be almost any other NHL player…

    • Czar

      Is there enough bubble wrap to keep either player on the ice for a full year?

      I really hope Pitlick can stay healthy, there is a player there but man he’s had $hit luck.

  • Czar

    I’d put Pinizzotto ahead of Joensuu on the depth chart. He brought more grit and passion in his brief time here and was willing to stick up for his teammates.

  • Doctor Smashy

    I’m okay with that setup. I do believe if they draft LD then he will make the team. I just don’t see much competition for him and his size will be too tempting for the coaching staff.

    As much as there will be changes in the forwards I still think much of how the next season will go is going to depend on what happens on the defense. But all we can do is wait and see.

  • Lexi

    As bad as Richards looked in the playoffs, he still had an pretty good season and I think he might be a good fit for Yak. I am pretty sure two years of him would be better than two years of Gagner.

    He has played for Ramsay in the past. I don’t think he is a second line C for any true contender, but wouldn’t he be good enough to get the Oilers to around 21st and going in the right direction? What other teams would he be a fit for as a number 2 C? Nashville, Dallas maybe New Jersey. I think the same teams that will be bidding on Legwand and Grabowski.

    I think Richards/Bailey/Winnik would at least be an adequate and doable offseason.

  • Craig1981

    First, I wish to say that, although I am liking very much for the Oil to draft Draisaitl at #3 if Ekblad is gone, there is that one slight chance that he and Ekblad could both be drafted to Florida and Buffalo just prior. Then it becomes of Bennett versus Reinhart if the Oilers still want a centre by then…. and I would have to go with Reinhart over Bennett (Pedigree/WHL star player).

    Now if I was then armchairing the GM position of the Oilers,…. (even with getting Draisaitl at #3), I would look at getting Grabovski as a UFA for 2nd line centre duty or make a deal/trade for say a young guy like Couturier.

    Next I would like Fiddler or Ott for 3rd line centre duty with Moss or Moulson, or even Kulemin for winger on the third line with upping to 2nd line at times.

  • Benny Botts


    What do you think about trading for Patrik berglund for the 2nd line centre position? If the rumors are true and the blues are making a push for spezza and Berglund isn’t included in the deal, you would have to think a centre is on their way out in st. louis. He’s 6’4 217lbs, doesn’t play a overly physical game but I think would slot in nicely with perron on the 2nd line.


      • Chongler

        Not to mention that any trade with Stl would almost have to go in their favor to make up for the Perron robbery from last summer. Unlikely the Blues will let that happen again, but who knows.

        I like the new CBA rules regarding UFA talks, the teams can start to talk and deal with UFAs on June 25th, which will be interesting, especially since the early bargaining rights won’t be a tradable asset at the entry draft a couple days later. I was never a fan of the previous rule of everything from initial talks to signing a deal all on the same day. This new rule promotes more action of big name players and multiple significant moves by one GM on July 1st.

  • Craig1981

    If we could sign a 2nd line center and bump Gagner down to 3rd (Why is even Willis insisting he gets traded???) and then trading/signing for a 3rd line winger (I will get trashed for this comment, but I could see Penner fitting nice) then thats not a bad forward group…..I would place Pitlick as a better 4th line winger than Joensuu

    • "Frank the dog"

      Were you watching the Oilers when Penner played here? Do you not remember what a frustrating disappointment he was to MacT?
      Penner may have 2 Cup rings but his lack of commitment most of the time drive coaches crazy. He behaves as if he just doesn’t care most of the time and I’m sure this doesn’t do the locker room much good most of the time.

      • He was also the top scorer on the team that year. Moreover, he was frustrating as hell, but as a third line winger instead of the guy we offer sheeted who was supposed to come in a shoulder the load, well that’s a lot different. Penner does have his problems but puck possession was never one of them.

        • "Frank the dog"

          I’m saying that MacT’s deep hatred of Penner would preclude him from bringing him here, even if that was in a different role where he would probably do well.

          Penner also got as rough ride from the fans here, which would probably make him less likely to come here as well unless he was both desperate and overpaid, which isn’t going to happen.

          • I could imagine Mac T as a coach and Mac T as General Manager have differing opinions on players. If you’re Mac T and you’re charged with making the club better but you’re having a tough time landing guys, then you’re gonna have to think outside the box a little bit and take some chances. If he was willing to pay Clarkson, I think he could stomach a small overpayment for Penner to shore up the third line.

            I really like the idea of a soft minutes Penner Draisaitl Yak third line. All over 200 lb. Would cost about 4 – 5 mill total for the whole line. And I think Penner and Draisaitl’s puck possession game would really complement each other. Watching those two hold onto the puck against other teams’ third lines would be such a nice change. Then as they were desperately trying to take the puck away form them, well that opens up a lot of room for Yak and his insane shot. Add to that even one guy from the point who can unleash a big shot and that would be a tough line for other teams lower lines to play against.

            This, of course is all on paper speculation, but really, as a contemporary Oiler fan, isn’t that the most fun part?

      • Craig1981

        No doubt he frustrated MacT. Penner was a first line player who some felt never pushed himself as hard as he could…..very frustrating for a coach to have his best left winger not reaching what he felt was his full potential.

        That said at 6’4″, averaging just shy of 100 hits a season he wouldn’t be a bad option for a 3rd line. Like you said he has proved TWICE he has a role on a Stanley cup winning team.

        • A-Mc

          I Agree. I would certainly give Dusty P another look if the price is right. The guy liked playing here and was visibly shaken when he was traded.

          While being called lazy, disengaged and somewhat indifferent to what is going on around him, he still managed to put up points; and That’s all that matters.

          As far as i’m concerned, as long as a guy isnt a cancer in the room, and he can contribute to the team in a positive way, he should be an option for employment.

          He had a few low seasons in LA, but bounced right back to 32pts in ANA, so he’s still got it.

          He’s big. He can score some. He has good history with the young guys. He actually hits.

          If the price isnt retarded i certainly look at Penner again.

          • Craig1981

            100 hits is not bad actually. Chara had 163 this year with far more ice time. 100 hits would put you right around 200th in the NHL which is about 7th on an average NHL team. Not great, but not terrible either for a 3rd line player.

  • oilerbuff

    I really like Brian Boyle to slot in as 3rd line centre. we could also do worse than.Steve Ott, but I like Boyle better and he just came off a Stanley Cup final team

  • bazmagoo

    Kulemin and Winnik would look great on a 3rd line with Arcobello in the middle in my opinion. I think both could had for under $3 million on a 3 year term, that’d be my best guess. If we end up landing Wilson or Bailey for Gagner plus, I’d assume they will fill the 2nd line role even if they aren’t entirely capable of doing so. Next season is going to have to be scoring by committee if we are going to make progress.

    Can’t really understand why everyone keeps slotting in Arcobello on the wing. The guys great on the dot, plays solid defense, and hits everything that moves. He’s a center!

  • Spoils

    I wonder if Hall Nuge and Ebs will take a step forward.

    Comparing the use of Nash with the use of Carter in the finals this year, showed off the value of understanding how a player creates points.

    Nash and Carter create points on their own no matter who they are paired with. By moving Carter to the 70s line, Sutter was able to get him time away from the top D pairing.

    I think this is how Hall should be used, but that means we are looking for some different players.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If there’s a cure for everything that ails Nail Yakupov. It may well come in that package called Joe Thornton. Jumbo has helped turn many a player into 40-50 goal scorers over the last decade. Many with fewer weapons than what Nail has in his favor.

    Wait for it, wait for it…..

    Hall/ Thornton/ Yakupov

    Perron/ Hopkins/ Eberle

          • Sorensenator

            Joe is not done, he had 76 points last year man. Top 10 among centres.

            San Jose wants to retool their team a bit and they know they can get lots for Thornton.

          • Zarny

            No, SJ isn’t hitting the reset button.

            After another playoff flop they are entertaining offers for Thornton and Marleau but you aren’t getting a bargain.

            Other than the lockout seasons, the last time Thornton put up less than 70 pts was 2001-02 when he had 68 pts in 66 games. He was the 7th leading C this year with 76 pts which was 6 pts more than Anze Kopitar.

            He is 35 but he is far from done. There would be ways to mitigate the cost of a trade and perhaps avoid giving up Eberle or Yakupov (3rd overall this year, 2015 1st round pick, Marincin and Klefbom etc) except for one thing…

            There is no reality where Joe Thornton accepts a trade to Edmonton, AB, Canada.

          • Craig1981

            Exactly. Glad you are here Zarny….someone that understands how hard it is to get an elite player.

            Thornton makes ZERO sense for the Oilers since as a 35 year old, his time as an elite player is in its twilight (never seen the movie, btw) but he still puts up almost a point a game which means he would be in high demand for the contending teams. High cost for only a few years is not what the Oilers need right now.

            Add Thornton with Webber as players the Oiler fans would love, but will never get.

          • paul wodehouse

            …see that’s my point… IF MacT wants Joe Thornton he’s only willing to give UP “Gagner Gordon and a package of maybes”…it’s all Joe’s worth now…don’t get me wrong I loved Joe Thornton…a dozen years ago…watch he goes to another cup contender for a second or third and a 30 year old centre…

          • Craig1981

            SJ is still a cup contender. If the offer isnt great, and improves SJ, they simply wont move him. They surely arent desperate and they dont have to trade him for peanuts. He doesnt want out, he is signed for 3 more years, and he is still very productive.

            So why would they trade him for a crap package that makes SJ worse: now and in the long term?

            Id bet he stays put.

          • paul wodehouse

            …y’know I thought THIS was going to be San Jose’s year…with Niemi being a former Cup winner knowing what it took to win it all and Joe being at the end-ish of his career really wanting / needing a Cup for his legacy, Marleau looking great at the Olympics …thought they would NOT flop AGAIN…still a contender? ok but IMO not with this present cast of almosters…

          • ubermiguel

            I wonder how many years of crushing disappointment in the playoffs it will take before SJ realizes Thornton is part of the problem. Is this the year? He reminds me of Nash, great player, but he doesn’t have that next gear that the playoffs require. Right now he’s a veteran centre that will instantly improve the Oilers and will help shelter our young small centres so I’d invite him with open arms, but he’ll never be a guy to carry you to a Cup.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Sorry, thought he’d maybe be a surprise addition to the buyout list. Lecavilier could take his place on the left coast. Wilson was pondering the idea of a rather significant change only weeks ago. Figure Joe may have been the sorta change he had in mind.

        • Zarny

          No, Thornton starts a 3 yr @ $6.75M extension next year so he isn’t eligible for a compliance buyout.

          SJ is rumored to be taking offers for Thornton and Marleau but they won’t go for a bargain.

          Brad and Mike Richards are potential buy outs although LA says Mike is staying in LA.

          I think NYR have to buy out B. Richards due to the cap recapture penalties alone which is why you shouldn’t trade for him. If he becomes a UFA though there will be competition and I doubt he picks Edmonton.

          Despite what LA says there may be a trade opportunity for M. Richards. My concern is he is in decline and signed for another 6 yrs @ $5.75M cap hit. That could be a really ugly contract for the last 3 years.

          • Sorensenator

            It’s too bad, Mike Richards is only 29. It could be a case of being overshadowed in L.A. by guys like Kopitar and Carter; he is still a useful player.

          • Zarny

            Mike Richards is certainly still a useful player and exemplifies intangibles like leadership. If he was ever bought out every team other than LA would be calling.

            I’m sure LA’s defensive style and playing behind Kopitar & Carter are factors but his offense really dropped off the last 3 years (44, 54 (pro-rated) and 41 pts) while he was only 27-29 y/o. At times he was playing 4th line minutes.

            He’s young enough to possibly bounce back in a different situation and it’s a no-brainer to go after him as a UFA following a buy-out; but trading for that contract has risk if he doesn’t bounce back, starts to break down physically and continues to decline.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Are you out of your freaking mind!! In what universe is Lecavalier an upgrade over thornton? And a thornton buyout? Jesus man put down the bottle. Why would SJ buyout thornton when they could very easily trade him for something instead of giving him millions to just walk away. And Lecavalier is under contract for 3 more years. Get a grip Gold Gloves

      • Quicksilver ballet

        There’s now way I’d give up players to bring Joe in Paul. Was hoping he’d find his way somehow onto the buyout list, guess that’s not going to happen by the sounds of the mob here. Nobody appreciates sarcasm anymore Paul 😉

  • Zarny

    The positions of need are obvious. There are certainly names that can help but the UFA reality is that the crop is thin and there are a lot of GM’s with cap space.

    2-3 free agents is doable but they won’t be sexy names. They will be a 2nd pairing D or bottom 6 F where the real need is a top pairing D and 2C.

    The key players will need to come via trade.

  • oilbaron

    Im all for Overpaying for a 2nd line center. If this is what we need to do to start winning some games im all for it. Overpay to get Paul Stastny here to play on the 2nd line between Yakupov and perron.—- If we draft The german, SEND HIM BACK TO JUNIOR! whoever we draft should GO BACK TO JUNIOR. there has never been a time where sending a player back caused the player any harm. Itll help with his confidence with regards to his skills and ability after the 2014-15 season.—- Oh, and make a trade for MIKE GREEN for crying out loud! he would play in our top 2 on the right side, hes better then what we have now, is mobile and can advance the puck.Hes got one more year until UFA status and his numbers have been declining on a declining capitals team. He could use a change of scenery and would be a good leader on our team. The cost would surely be high maybe Gagner + a high end Defensive prsopect like Marincin or Gernat or Simpson(we wont have room for all these players to play anyhow) and a pick (maybe next years 2nd rounder) 🙂

    • "Frank the dog"

      Draft the German, keep the Russian, bring the other Russian across, see how Gagner does with a coach that shows him how to play both ways and how to win face-offs, give the young ones a year to fix themselves, and next year let them compete for the 2C job in Training Camp.

      If Gags isn’t the best 2C of the bunch, he’ll still be better than he is now, and worth a lot more on the trade block with no NMC to worry about.

  • 15w40

    Does the Penguins entertain a Gagner for Sutter trade. Gagner could offer some offence on the wing with Malkin & Sutter could slot in at #3 centre for the oilers. Sutter is an RFA & there may be more pieces involved but it may make sense.

    Gagner has more offensive upside & Sutter has more of a defensive concience.

  • Willis, or anyone else for that matter, I know you don’t like to deal in what if’s, but all sign are pointing to Draisaitl. Though I am not a fan of rushing these kids to the NHL, if he were to play pivot on a newly formed soft competition 3rd line, then couldn’t you effectively change the make up of our entire forward core by signing one second line R or L wing (depending on where you put Perron, I always thought he’s a natural left but I might be wrong). And also signing one veteran 3rd line L wing with size?

    Hall Nuge Ebs

    Perron Gagner ?

    ? Draisaitl Yak

    Hendricks Gordon (Lander/Pitlick/Pinnizotto/Gazdic/Arco)

    If the problems of the Oilers are too small, to little value for tradable assets, too few veterans, Yak is too soft defensively, and so is Gagner who had a tough year due to injury, then this might just be the quickest easiest solution. I think for the third line you could get a guy like Heatly or Penner to steady that duo, which would also be a pretty big third line with some decent skill, though not too mean. And depending on who you put for RW on the second line, there’s a lot of options to add two way guys with jam, or some skill guys, or really whoever to make sure our two worst defensive players (Gagner and Yak) don’t play on a line together. Heck you could even go get a big fourth line defensive specialist and just run out the Gordon line in the tough minutes shut down role.

    With all of the team’s problems, I think this is the most realistic scenario to up the value of Yak and Gagner, and make the team better without losing any of our core players. The only issue this doesn’t solve is our defence. Maybe a pick and a prospect could get a top two guy. I hear Markov wants 6 mill a year for 3 years. If he just wants the money, that might be the exact guy we need to mentor our young D talent till they can take over.

  • Craig1981

    I really believe that the biggest improvement to this team has been made with the addition of Ramsey and the removal of Bucky and potentially Smith
    The coaching changes along with the bodies we already have is going to make a huge difference.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Lets not all set ourselves up for disappointment.

    We all know the changes coming this summer will only rival the Barker, Eager, Belanger, Hordichuk signings of just a couple of summers ago.

    The troops will not come in and save the day. Stay the rebuild from within course.

  • If this is an accurate representation of the roster I’m not sure it matters. No matter who they get this won’t be a team that makes the playoffs. The mix of talent isn’t right and those moves would be just another bandaid. If you cherry pick the three best guys you can imagine do those lines stand up to this year’s playoff teams?

  • 15w40

    Joe Thorton has a NTC – he is not coming to the Oilers. His agent has already said he’s not really interested in moving at all but if he does it will only be to teams that are virtual locks to be in the final four – not Edmonton.

    Edmonton will have to develop their own Thorton and any other high profile trade candidate or FA for that matter

  • Quicksilver ballet

    its a good time of year waiting waiting to see what shakes out of the tree,but I hope mact t gets the ball rolling,anyone remember how stunned he looked on the draft floor when schinder went to the devils,get a trade or 2 done now,leaving a good sence of what you need via free angency