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

Left
Wing
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

89-Gagner-6

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:

Left
Wing
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.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • Doctor Smashy

    JW,

    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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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…

  • 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.