So much for the safety net

As Craig MacTavish and his staff attempt to fix the Edmonton Oilers woefully inadequate centre depth chart, they’ve had one luxury: a safety net. While talking trade with other managers and looking for the best possible fit, MacTavish and company could look out at free agency and see a pair of pretty good centres (whatever their warts) in Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy and know that if a deal couldn’t be made they could likely scoop one up for not much money later in the summer.

That’s no longer the case.


For basically the cost of Matt Hendricks, on Tuesday the Nashville Predators signed both proven NHL centres still on the market.

Sure, Ribeiro was blasted by the Arizona G.M. Don Maloney for off-ice issues. Sure, Roy is 5’9” and has gone from a 30-goal man down to just nine last season. But the Predators spent almost no money and went from a centre depth chart of Olli Jokinen and Paul Gaustad to one that stands a decent chance of a competent by-committee performance.

It was a big day for David Poile, and Nashville’s significantly better off for it.


Craig MacTavish9

This shouldn’t be a doom-and-gloom day for the Oilers. There are all kinds of reasons why Edmonton might prefer a trade to signing one of the bargain pivots still on the market. And if MacTavish is reasonably confident of adding a quality pivot that way he’s probably right to pass on those free agents.

But the fallback option of a Roy or Ribeiro is no longer there. The last remaining centre of any note still available in free agency (and no, Michal Handzus doesn’t count) is Andrei Loktioniov, the 24-year-old Russian who had 22 points in 68 NHL contests last season.

That’s a problem, because going into next season with the current centre depth chart simply can’t be an option; it isn’t good enough and there’s a real risk of undermining the positive steps the Oilers have made this off-season. Today’s signings leave MacTavish in the difficult position of needing to pull the trigger on a trade or failing in a significant way this offseason.


  • Dodd

    So I guess, Arco gets his shot. I mean if we’re gonna sign a nine goal scoring small centre, why not see if Arco can get it done? At the end of the day, Draisaitl, and one of Yakimov or Juhjar will likely be the third line centre eventually, so, lets see what the big German and the guy who constantly exceeds expectations can do.

    My biggest issue with this set up, is where do you put Yak so he’s not a defensive liability. The soft minutes line with a brand new Draisaitl, or the second line with Arco and Perron? Tough call but I think it might be the difference between having two effective scoring lines, one learning line, and the shut down line. Or two lines that struggle to produce offence.

    • McDavid's Comet

      That would sum-it-up, it will give Arco a chance to prove himself and if he doesn’t work out, it would be the excuse for management will use for another dismal season. It brings the oilers one step closer to McDavid and drafting him wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The question is: can oiler fans stomach a 9th season of suck to get him? Regardless I would like to see them send Draisaitl to the minors, there is no need to rush him in.

      • bwar

        Are you really “rushing” a kid who had a better PPG than Nuge in the WHL hos last year, and who has the physicality to endure NHL rigors, and will have at least one if not two strong possession veteran wings playing on either side of him, possibly on a soft minutes line?

        As more and more free agent centres are taken off the shelves, it seems pretty clear the organization believes Draisaitl can take one of the spots in the top nine.

        It would also appear they are pretty high on one of Yakimov or Jujhar to take over the third line centre position once Draisaitl is ready to take the second line C spot.

        I mean, Mac T was even quoted as saying Draisaitl might eventually be the Oilers number one centre. What does another year in junior really offer a kid like this? If he was old enough for AHL duty, sure, but he’s not, so why?

        • Zarny

          Here is the thing…the Oilers rushed Nuge to the NHL. So comparing Draisaitl to him doesn’t say much. PPG also isn’t a good criteria to determine if a player is “NHL ready”.

          The most basic test Draisaitl has to pass is his skating. If he can’t keep up to the play in the NHL he can’t stay…it’s that simple.

          What does another year in Jr offer Draisaitl?

          It offers him 20+ min a night including top PP minutes for the entire season. It offers him the chance to work on his overall game while being one of if not the best player on the ice. In Jr he will be a leader; in the NHL he will not.

          Draisaitl was a dominant player in the Jr for all of 1 season. It is silly to think he has nothing to gain from another tour in the W.

          • CaptainLander

            How has Nuge’s development been at all hampered by coming into the NHL in his first year. His rookie year was his best year points wise. So I think it’s a fine comparison. Yes his shoulder got hurt as he wasn’t physically ready, but even that didn’t exactly set him back. It’s not like one more year in the DUB and Nuge would have magically been bigger and heavier.

            As for PPG, how is that not a good statistic to judge NHL readiness when compared to other NHL players who made the jump and succeeded? What other metric do you compare guys with. If you look at his NHLE, or every other metric, Draisaitl is on par or better than Nuge, who again, did not suffer developmentally by making the jump at 18.

            It’s not silly to think he has more to gain by developing alongside NHL players than he has developing on a crap WHL team.

          • Zarny

            How has Nuge’s developed been hampered?

            Well, you said it yourself. His shoulder got hurt because he wasn’t physically ready to play against men. He’s missed 15% of games since joining the Oilers and that number jumps north of 20% when you consider how many games he has played injured.

            You don’t think missing or playing injured in close to 1/4 of his games has hampered his development? As you stated, his best production was his rookie year. Player development isn’t linear but when his 3rd season is considerably less productive than his rookie season because he had to spend all summer rehabbing an injury because he played in the league before he was physically ready then yes, I think it’s a pretty solid argument his development has been hampered. Otherwise you would expect his production to increase not decrease.

            PPG is not a good statistic to judge NHL readiness. No statistic is a good judge of being NHL ready. Jonathan Drouin had a better PPG than both Nuge and Draisaitl but wasn’t NHL ready. Skating ability and being physically mature enough are probably the two most important criteria. Nuge had one but not the other. I suspect Draisaitl is in the same the boat except reversed.

            I also didn’t say it was silly to suggest Draisaitl had more to gain by playing alongside NHL players than he has on a crap WHL team. What I said is it’s silly to suggest he has nothing to gain by playing another year of Jr.

            He absolutely has things to gain by playing another year of Jr just like there would be things to gain by making the jump to the NHL. There are pros and cons for both options. How good of a team PA is largely indifferent. The Oilers are a crappy team too.

            If you have to shelter Draisaitl on the 3rd line playing soft minutes I think the cons outweigh the pros in keeping him; but it’s certainly a matter of opinion. You will find very respected hockey minds that disagree about it.

      • BLAKPOO

        Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis?

        “By committee” was referring to the Grebeshkov, Larsen, Belov, Hunt “Strangers in a Strange Land” defense by committee training camp gong show that failed us so famously last year.

        4 crappy guys do not magically turn into two useful guys.

        Ribiero and Roy ‘may’ rise to the occasion.. but the odds are they’ll do more harm than good.

  • I’m glad Oilers sign those two. Riberio could have destroyed the young players on the team and Roy is a midget. Gagner was run out of town by Oilers fans because he was small. Roy is even smaller than Gagner.