There’s been much written and discussed in recent weeks about GM Craig MacTavish’s failure to address his lack of depth at centre with the Edmonton Oilers. That’s unlikely to change until he adds a proven pivot because it’s an obvious deficiency.

As I’ve written recently, while a news release declaring the Oilers have signed so-and-so to a bargain contract would do much to ease the angst of the fan base, my sense is it’s unlikely – and unnecessary – MacTavish get something done this minute, if not sooner.

Like you, I don’t think it’s a good idea the Oilers go into the season force-feeding Leon Draisaitl into the second-line centre spot behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and leaving the rest to Boyd Gordon, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander. Puts too much pressure on RNH and the kid. This, we know.

Despite consternation among the faithful with the UFA market almost picked clean after Nashville’s cheap-o signings of Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy – I’m reminded of the old poster featuring the vultures, “Patience my ass, I’m going to kill something” — MacTavish has options. There’s the UFA bargain bin, the possibility of making a trade and the waiver wire.



There’s not much left in the UFA bargain bin, but there are names out there – none of which haven’t been mentioned before. I mentioned Daniel Winnik weeks ago as a low-buck possibility. Bruce McCurdy brought him up today in a bargain bin piece over at The Cult of Hockey. 

Winnik, 29, is more a winger than a centre, but he takes face-offs (his career percentage is a decidedly mediocre 41 percent). He’s got good size. He provides very little offence. He can play some tough minutes. He can PK.

If you’re looking for a true second or third-line centre, Winnik isn’t your guy. Obviously, he’s well down everybody’s wish-list because he’s still sitting there. If you’re looking for insurance, as in a veteran who can move around and spell off Draisaitl and Arcobello when need be, he remains a cheap option worth a look, at least in my books.



If I’m MacTavish, it only makes sense to seek out trade partners between now and the start of training camp who either have a glut of centres or who are up against the $69 million salary cap.

Teams over, at or near the cap as of now include Philadelphia, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Boston. The Flyers are over $72 M in terms of cap payroll and have used both their compliance buy-outs. While some fixate on Sean Couturier, it won’t happen. He’s a bargain at $1.175 million for the next two years. Brayden Schenn as a 2-3 guy, anybody?

In terms of teams with pivots to spare, Nashville comes to mind after their signings of Ribeiro and Roy. Jason Gregor brought this up again yesterday and specifically mentioned Colin Wilson as a possible target.

Wilson is no home run, to be sure, but has some nice attributes – he’s only 24, has good size and is a 30-35-point guy — and might be pried away from a Music City group that includes Ribeiro, Roy, Paul Gaustad, Matt Cullen and Mike Fisher, who is coming off knee surgery, to take a utility role.



Waiting for castaways via the waiver wire isn’t the preferred way to fill the hole the Oilers have in the middle, but there’s the occasional find to be had once teams, especially those at the cap, start trying to thin their payrolls.

If the Oilers, who’d have third pick on the waiver wire, can find a useful player, like they did when they plucked Ryan Jones from Nashville, to fill the void, that might work. Again, that’s not a big-bang answer or a sexy acquisition, but it’s an option MacTavish can and will consider.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Spoils

    pick off Winnik etc. for $1M/y first so trade negotiations don’t focus on our huge desperation and then make a trade ASAP for a Wilson etc.

    to be a true cup contender we will need depth at center so we shouldn’t think of RNH + NeonLeon + Gordon + Arco/Lander/draftpick etc. as ALL we need.

    which is to say a bolder trade for a better piece should be considered.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    MacTavishs actions/lack thereof in key positions make perfect sense if we can all fast forward yet another 12 months. Considering Petry and Perron may also soon be gone, Nurse and Leon still both a year away, the time to start putting down roots may still be premature.

    A year from now it could be RNH, McDavid, Draisaitl and Gordon. The center ice issues will fall by the wayside. The Blueliners will all be another year smarter, and some previous counted on kids could be heading out of town to address an area that needs addressing.

    Connor McDavid answers so many needs for this hockey club. Both time and talent wise.

    The first selection next June is a fine goal, and well worth another tough year. The Oilers best boobie prize is yet to come. Craigs actions this summer certainly leave that window open.

    • Serious Gord

      Playing for mcdavid is amazingly foolhardy. Waste an entire 82 game season – and one year of everyone’s career and one more year of fans patience for what?

      A superstar player MAYBE. Gotta win the draft lottery first and that is the least likely for a dead last finisher for any year save the draft post the lost season.

      And there is always the chance he flames out between then and now – rips up his knee, gets concussed etc. or just stops developing or loses interest. Worst than that he may at great we may win the lottery and THEN he gets a career ruining/diminishing injury.

      Mcdavid is just crazy talk. And another excuse for MacT to fail again.

  • hallsyoilerforever5

    They cannot go through the season with a centre lineup consisting of Nuge, Arco, Draisaitl, and Gordon. That has disaster written all over it. Arco has shown he can play, but is he honestly able to withstand a full 82 season, and not get injured from the big guys in our division? One hit from Doughty managed to get him injured. Meanwhile, assuming Draisaitl plays well enough to make the camp, he needs to be sheltered ; otherwise it’ll be Sam Gagner rush syndrome all over again. If Nuge or Gordon gets injured, then that’s another disaster. They cannot keep going with “potential” players. Sign or trade for a proven player for 1-2 years. Even Loktionov wouldn’t hurt.

  • I think I’d go out and try and sign Winnik now. Then this should somewhat afford you ability to move one of the wingers. Have my choice of who I’d move, but I’ll leave that open. Move a talented winger for a 2C. Maybe you don’t get the shiniest of centermen but I think it still improves the team loads.

  • Andre Loktionov remains unsigned, was ranked 14th in the LEAGUE last year for centers in terms of possession numbers.

    That’s ahead of guys like Patrik Berglund, Mike Richards, Brad Richards, Jordan Stall. Granted, it was while playing against easier competition.

    HOWEVER, you can’t expect true bonafide ready-to-go #2 centers in the bargain bin.

    You offer the guy a 1-year deal with some nice $ to sway his decision and tell him: “Here you have an opportunity to be a #2 center in the NHL, with the chance to get a nice payday at the end of the year if you succeed. All you have to do is beat out a thus-far career AHLer, and a newly drafted 18-year-old.”

    This might be the best chance of his career. He’s gotta see that.

    Loktionov very well could be this year’s poor-man’s Grabovski.

    • bazmagoo

      Loktionov looks like a great option to me, but I think the Oilers go into next season with Lander, Arco and Draisaitl battling for the remaining 2 center spots. Guessing any other option MacT is pursuing is via trade.

      • I’ve seen him listed as 5’11” once, and 5’10” three times on different sites, anywhere from 180 to 195 depending on where you look. Who really cares. Maybe we should sign the San Antonio Spurs to compete in training camp for #2 C.

        He played 48 games in Jersey, and 20 in Carolina and got injured at the Worlds.

        In Jersey (a 5th place Corsi team) he was 3rd on the team in Corsi% for any player with 20 games or more.

        In Carolina ( a 24th place Corsi team) he was 8th, and did better relative to his teammates than he did in NJ.

        Anyway, I’m not saying we are playoff bound with Loktionov, but he’s another guy to compete for a job. That’s what we need.

        • I tend to agree with you. Guys like Loktionov and those I’ve mentioned aren’t big names, but they are NHL players and the Oilers need one more of those in the middle.

          In a Petry item I did earlier this month, somebody suggested they trade him for a true 2C and I said I didn’t see that happening before the season, based on people I talked to. I still don’t.

          I think the Oilers, for now at least, are looking at lesser players on the cheap in the categories I mentioned in this item.

          Moving bigger pieces to get bigger pieces will likely come later, if it comes at all.

  • Dan 1919

    Matt Cullen is probably more likely to be moved than Wilson unless the Oilers throw Nashville a high draft pick, and the Oilers 2015 first round pick should be untouchable. I am not going to call for MacTavish to be fired for not hiring Derek Roy, I also do not expect him to land a big young two way centre for a prospect and a pick. I would like to see them add another forward like Winnik or Penner with the thought that they might move a top six winger for a centre at a later time.

  • Just read Staples’ article on Jultz and Corsi.

    Funny how our D man with the worst Corsi, also had the best Scoring Chance plus/minus of all other Oilers D. My guess is that most years those two stats would line up rather nicely(especially over a large enough sample of games), but in this case I hope it’s the Corsi that is the outlier and not the scoring chances.

  • Dan 1919

    Good article, I’m all commented out on saying they need a center and hypothetical solutions. Hopefully MacT lands something before the end of summer, if not I guess they’ll roll the dice with Arco and other unproven players and hopefully that works if that’s what they do; although it hasn’t worked in the past.

  • ooj

    If the oilers go the trade route, they’d have to move a more significant piece(s) to land a 2nd line C… creating a hole elsewhere in the lineup which the team probably can’t fill within, for a lack of ready depth in the organization.

    Looks to me they’ll just take their chances with what they have until absolute panic sets in 15 games into the season.

    • BlazingSaitls

      -“The NHL Board of Governors has approved changes for next year’s draft lottery system, sources told’s Pierre LeBrun Thursday.”
      -“include the compression of odds among the 14 non-playoff teams as well as increasing the number of selections determined by draft lottery law.”
      -“The changes likely will be a source of consternation for some, especially those with a stockpile of high picks for 2015.”

      Im tired of seeing these McJebus posts now. If the Oilers finish last it is no guarantee a McJebus pick. Same with if they finished 29,28,27. It could very well go to a 17th-26th place team next yr. I hope the Oilers are at least in the 17-26 bracket and still get a great pick if not first overall. Im not counting on the worst team in the league getting McJebus, dat’s for sure!