rnh common5

Craig MacTavish accomplished much this summer, but the center position hasn’t been addressed beyond an old phenom being replaced by a new one. I suspect the team may have overplayed their position, believing something had to shake loose and showing too much patience. That said, they do have options in the middle and some of these men are going to have long, productive NHL careers.

Unless MacT has a miracle in mind, the Oilers on paper are very weak at center compared to the rest of the Western Conference.



Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had an outstanding rookie season, spent much of year two less than 100%, and regained some of his magic in year three. Rookie coach Dallas Eakins ran him beyond-ragged at times during the year (Nuge played 28:12 in his first game in the lineup, 2013-14 season). One hopes baby Nuge is getting his rest and taking vitamins, he’s going to need them come the November chill. A lot of RNH’s offensive value comes via the pass (and on the power play), and that will be reflected in our center estimates.

LEON! (with Arco to help)

draisaitl page tsn

We could pretend it isn’t going to happen, but why? Draisaitl’s NHL equivalencies suggest he would score 40 points in 82 games. The Oilers played Sam Gagner over 1200 minutes as a rookie, no reason to believe (at this point) the big German won’t get a healthy TOI and with good NHL wingers. They call it a push, and one suspects we’re going to see a big one this winter. 


oilers 13-14 vollman sledgehammer

Boyd Gordon (along with Matt Hendricks) look like they’ll form a tough minutes line. There was some talk of this being the fourth line, but one suspects it will end up playing the third-most minutes (and in fact being the ‘3line’ for Edmonton). Gordon delivered more than expected offensively this past season, it would be unwise to expect a repeat.


  1. Mark Arcobello 1.82
  2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.56
  3. Boyd Gordon 0.93

Mark Arcobello had a terrific season when in the lineup, I think he’ll share 2line duties with Draisaitl and then share 4line work with Lander when he’s batting down in the order. Nuge’s 5×5 number needs to be better (say 1.80) if we’re going to consider him an impact offensive player—his power-play ability will take care of the rest.

Source: BTN


The Nuge had 13 a year ago, suspect we can crank it up a couple, that’s a decent bet for a No. 1 overall who is completely healthy. I’ll give the Arco/Draisaitl 2line combination eight, that’s a little more than double Arcobello’s total in half a season during 2013-14. Not exactly scientific, but these aren’t first-shot scorers, they’re playmakers. Gordon scored six even-strength goals a year ago, I’m going to guess five this season and we’ll throw two Lander’s way for fun.

30 even-strength goals for the centers. Fair? This is an unproven group and passers all, and the total for C at EVs last season was 34. I’m going to suggest 30, because we know there are going to be long nights and growing pains for lines 2 through 4.


Again we’re dealing with playmakers, the Nuge is a crazy passer and in his element with the man advantage. Draisaitl should get cherry minutes at 5×4 and 5×3 on the 2pp, and that could be good or bad (rookies don’t usually get a ton of PP minutes).

Nuge scored 6 last year, let’s pump him up to 9. If three more of those wide high lazers find the range? I don’t think that’s a crazy bet. Arco and Gordon had one each a year ago, let’s keep them there. How many for the German? 4? Let’s say 4 with the man advantage and we’re probably aiming too high but maybe we were tough at evens.

15. That’s 15 on special teams. Fair?



Sometimes things look out of whack because they are, and the Oilers really should straighten up and fly right with center for 2014-15. But, like that lovable uncle who looks fine except for the comb over and the Keep on Truckin’ belt buckle, it appears the town team can’t help themselves.

A season ago, Oiler forwards scored 166 and I have them at 175 this time, mostly due to the wingers. If they could ONLY get an actual NHL center.

  • If they plan on playing Arco on the third line wing where does that leave Yakupov?

    I get a sense that MacTavish is waiting close to the start of the season when those cap teams might start unloading talent for next to nothing.

    It’s a terrible game of chicken.

    • bwar

      I totally agree, it is like a terrible game of chicken. You might say, this is….Bold!

      You gotta take chances sometimes, to get better. I think MacTavish is going to make a Perron-type deal again this off-season, and he is just lurking in the shadows right now, waiting for a moment to strike. I do believe the Oiler GM has been making strong moves; I believe he came in with a lot of drive, and that the drive is still there.

  • Guy Lafleur

    Imagine if they would have drafted Ekblad. We would have Nuge, Gordon, Lander and Arco. There’s no way we would go into the season with that talent down the middle. They clearly believe Large Leon will fill a Large hole.

  • JBear

    I don’t want to be the pessimist of the group, but Lander couldn’t score a single goal with top six minutes and the likes of Eberle, Hall and Perron as linemates, one year ago.

    Its laughable to assume he will score two even strength with Gazdic and Joensuu as linemates.

    We simply cannot afford to ice this centre depth next season. It simply not an option. Even a Lokitinov would help.

    I think the harsh reality is we will have to sacrifice a now plentiful and depthful winger for a centreman.

    It seems we are seeking a true bonifide 1C, not 2C, at least for the time being.

    A trade is the only way to go. And if it costs us an Eberle or a Perron right now, we gain massive centre depth when Drai is ready to hit the ground running. That is more important than creating Gagner 2.0

    Centre depth is more important than winnger depth. Its just reality.

    • Buke

      Will 1 center while giving up NHL wing strength win the cup?
      Of course not!!
      Champion teams are not built in a day. MacT strengthened wings. Strengthened Dmen. Strengthened goal. Drafted a big skilled C. All in less than 15 months! Good on him. Oilers are not yet in a position to trade skill from one position to strengthen another.
      Start with L.D. In minors, Arco + Lander at center. The oilers will still be better than last year’s team that went almost. .500 last 1/2 of year.

      • Tikkanese

        That “might” be a decent arguement if the entire west didnt get extremely better in most positions. We are in the strongest division in the strongest conference.

        Thats great that he strengthened the wings, it really is, but look how much it cost us? We dont have enough money for a #1 center, a #1 dman, etc.

        You talk about “Champion teams not being built in a day”…

        …but how about in 10 friggen years?

        The important thing is that we are drafting and developing, and to implement that does take a decade, so i do understand that. Im not asking for us to win the cup next year. What id like; however, is for us to stop rushing our 1st round draft picks into the league when they are not ready. LD would not start in the league on all 29 other teams. We should be no different. Id honestly prefer to start with Arco and Lander then have LD play here and ruin his confidence and hinder his development.

        And you can talk about us going .500 in the last half of the year, but why not also bring up how we went the first half of the year? Cause our centre depth right now is much closer to that of the start of last year, then that at the end of the year.

  • Guy Lafleur

    Baby Nuge is a bust ..he will never be able to compete in the mighty west . Kopitar bench presses Baby NUGE working out . He is too small , too soft and too weak .Offer him and Schultz to Montreal for Galchenyuk ..now theres a centre to build around !! Him and LEON in 5 years will be unstoppable !!!

  • Rocknrolla

    This is off topic, but Jason Demers -who seems to be on a similar career arc to J Shultz – just signed a 2-year $6.8 million deal with San Jose. Does this set the low end of the bar for a bridge deal for JS ? If so, it may make a 5/6 year deal at $4.5 to $5 per year more probable, yes ?

  • OilClog

    There’s too much same age, talent wise log jam with the D.. Well not really, but there’s a lot. Lots of teams need to fix their caps.

    Trades are coming.

    • Buke

      Oh really? Name two teams that need to shed salary before the start of the season. Yes Chicago is one, but a yard sale of Oduya will do that. Phili…nope, they can put Pronger on LTI the last day of training camp to give almost 5 million in cap relief. Boston does the same with Savard.

      The reality is that aside from a minor issue in Chicago, no team is really in a cap crunch. The magical beans we want to wiggle loose simply won’t be there.

      This leaves us with trading for a top 6 centre. What GM has an abundance of those?

      • v4ance

        People who don’t understand the CBA should stop talking about the cap like they know something.

        Teams must be cap compliant or BELOW $69 million BEFORE the first day of the season. After that, THEN they can put people on LTIR. Teams like Boston and Philly are already over $69 million so they need to shed salary between now and October 13th or hide them in the AHL.

        Looking at Boston specifically, they need to sign RFAs Krug and Reilly Smith. If they sign for a combined $5 million cap hit, the team will be $5 million over the $69 million upper limit and will need to shed FIVE million in cap commitments before they can place Savard on LTIR. Neither player is safe from waivers so their salaries can not be hidden in the AHL at the start of the season.

        Chicago is in a similar bind. They’re $2 million over the cap and 4th year NHLers like Saad, Morin and Rundblad can no longer freely pass through waivers. They’re looking strongly at buying out Hossa to avoid cap-recapture penalties and to give themselves a bunch of breathing room to make other moves later in the season.

        Philly is $3.1 million over the cap and has no RFAs left to sign but no players on their NHL roster who can go thru waivers without being exposed to 29 other teams. A straight buyout of Lecavalier won’t work because they’ll still be $100k over the cap.

        In previous years, teams like Calgary and Philly went with less than 23 players on their NHL rosters thru parts of the year to get under the cap. Most of the teams that are in trouble this year have young players starting their 4th year of service and can’t go thru waivers without another team being able to claim them. Otherwise, their salaries could have been hidden in the AHL

        Tampa looks like they’re in trouble but they can hide Connolly, Sustr and Drouin in the AHL in paper transactions to start the year before they are recalled after placing Ohlund on LTIR for the season

        • Buke

          I agree…


          “OPTION 2: Put the injured player on LTIR on the final day of training camp and, including the injured player’s annual average salary or cap hit, build a roster that exceeds the upper limit by an amount that is as close as possible to the injured player’s annual average salary.
          By way of example, the upper limit is $70.0M and a team’s Averaged Club Salary or cap payroll on the final day of training camp is $71.5M, including an injured player with an Averaged Amount or cap hit of $2M. The team places the player on LTIR on the final day of training camp and is deemed to have already fully replaced the injured player, meaning the team’s new upper limit is $71.5M instead of $70.0M.
          Had the team recalled a player with a $500K cap hit prior to making the LTIR designation, its Averaged Club Salary would have increased to $72.0M from $71.5M, and likewise its new upper limit would have increased to $72.0M from $71.5M. This highlights the importance of a team having its Averaged Club Salary exceed the upper limit by an amount as close as possible to the injured player’s Annual Average before making the LTIR placement in order to maximize cap space.”

        • Gordie Wayne

          Gapgeek would disagree with you.


          At the start of a season, teams facing long-term injury situations essentially have two options if they want to maximize their cap space for the rest of the year.

          OPTION 2: Put the injured player on LTIR on the final day of training camp and, including the injured player’s annual average salary or cap hit, build a roster that exceeds the upper limit by an amount that is as close as possible to the injured player’s annual average salary.”

          They do have to be compliant before the first day of the season, but they can also put players on LTIR before the first day of the season

          • v4ance

            Yes but in these situations, the teams that takes this option have to have players that are waiver eligible with cap hits that are large enough to make the team cap compliant. It’s a matter of moving exact amounts of money around to match cap hits and these teams don’t have enough waiver eligible players to make these maneuvers.

            The teams that we are talking about Philly, Chicago, and Boston do not have enough money in ELC contracts that will add up to the current overages to get them under the cap. Well actually, they do have players but they’re all on their 2nd contracts or have lost waiver eligibility due to the number of games played.

            SO yes, Chicago can get cap complaint by waiving Saad and Boston can do the same by waiving Krug but any team can pick them up on waivers for a simple waiver fee. (Helloooo Buffalo/FLorida/Edmonton!) Then the teams can bring up AHLers whose salary matches the amounts being placed on LTIR.

            That’s why I mentioned the Tampa example as well. They do have ELC players with enough $$$ to make them cap complaint even just as paper transactions for the 1st day of the season or the last day of training camp.

        • DonEnrico

          Thank you.

          Please post this excellent answer on every quote from people that keep writing “No, no, PHI isn´t in cap problems, all they have to do is put Pronger on LTIR, blablabla…”

        • Buke

          Boston is currently 209,143 over the cap including last years bonus overages. Sucking off Savard’s cap at $4,027,143 leaves the Bruins $3,818,000 to sign (or call up) a third line winger and a fourth line winger. This puts them up to 19 skaters (12 forwards and 7 defense) and two goaltenders. Lets say $2M for a third line winger and $1M for a fourth liner. That still gives them $800K in room for the press box