I’d feel comfortable saying GM Craig MacTavish has done a bang-up job filling holes on the roster of the Edmonton Oilers this off-season if he’d acquired another proven NHL centre, but that’s unlikely to happen, at least for the time being.
With a bunch of “maybe” in the form of Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander and Mark Arcobello penciled in between first-liner Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Boyd Gordon, much of the focus has been on what MacTavish hasn’t done – landing a proven pivot – rather than what he has done, which is to add some much-needed size and experience throughout the line-up.
Now, with the entry draft done and the 2014 free agent crop pretty much picked over, we’re into the period when general managers and hockey-ops people take a break and head out for vacation. That doesn’t mean they turn their phones off, but the next few weeks are one of the traditional lulls in the off-season.
That leaves fans and media types to digest what’s happened so far and look ahead to what remains to be done. Around here, that means chewing on the additions of Nikita Nikitin, Mark Fayne, Keith Aulie, Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell and Draisaitl while waiting on another man in the middle.
Like I said, the latter will probably take a while.
WHAT WE KNOW
What we do know is Draisaitl is going to get every opportunity to compete for a job at training camp, even though those of the mind the big German should be returned to the WHL no matter what aren’t thrilled with the idea. Draisaitl has already said he’ll spend the summer in Edmonton working out with team training staff. That’s OK by me.
What most of us can also agree on is MacTavish needs at least one more centre to contest the spots between RNH and Gordon. Maybe Draisaitl will be fine no matter what. Maybe Arcobello can regain the form he showed early in his stint here last season and they can split time. Maybe not. Thus, the need for somebody else to push for those spots. The question is, who?
The St. Louis Blues looked like possible trading partners until Vladimir Sobotka packed his bags for the KHL and thinned the mix in the Show Me State. I thought Sobotka or Patrik Berglund would have fit quite nicely into the middle mix here. With Sobotka out of the equation, I don’t know that Berglund is available now, even with signing of Steve Ott.
The other names, crossed off one at a time, we know. David Legwand might have been a UFA possibility, save for the fact he had no interest in coming to Edmonton. Ott, who can play wing or center, was deemed by some a fit here before Doug Armstrong inked him when Sobotka bolted.
Now, with MacTavish catching his breath and taking and making calls at a more leisurely pace from his summer home near Kelowna, we’re left to contemplate second-tier free agents like Andrei Loktionov or Peter Mueller. MacTavish is doing the same.
Likewise with going the trade route. MacTavish will take some time to assess the pieces he’s gathered and then decide if and when he needs to bolster the Draisaitl-Arcobello-Lander trifecta of candidates – and, of course, what he’ll have to give up to do it. I think it’s a must, but getting the right guy before training camp trumps grabbing the first available body.
Making that one more move isn’t going to put the Oilers into playoff contention in 2014-15 because this team is coming from so far off the pace in a stacked conference, but it would get them closer and make for what I’d call an off-season well-spent.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.