WWYDW: What should the addition of Connor McDavid do to the Oilers’ forward lines?

Draft Lottery

The Edmonton Oilers’ needs at forward seemed pretty clear-cut heading into the summer. The necessary additions to remedy those needs seemed obvious, too. Then came a lucky tumble of the lottery balls and the virtual certainty that Edmonton would be adding generational talent Connor McDavid to its stable of young talent.

In one night, everything changed.

Three Scoring Lines

64-Yakupov-5

As of right now, the Oilers currently have eight forwards that we can be reasonably confident will be deployed inside the top nine:

  • Centre: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, Anton Lander
  • Wing: LW Taylor Hall, RW Jordan Eberle, LW Benoit Pouliot, RW Nail Yakupov, RW/LW Teddy Purcell

After those eight, we can also be fairly certain that Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon will anchor a defensive zone specialty line, with some combination of Rob Klinkhammer, Tyler Pitlick, Matt Fraser and Luke Gazdic rounding out the forward group.

8-Roy-4

There’s still one spot open in the top nine, though, and the Oilers have some options there:

  • Pending free agent Derek Roy. Roy has good chemistry with Yakupov and finished the season well; he could easily be bumped to left wing and perhaps played on a line with Yakupov and Lander. The downside is that he’s a) another small forward and b) another primarily offensive forward.
  • Top forward prospect Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl was the No. 3 overall pick and he’s almost certainly going to make a strong push for a roster spot in camp. He could be bumped to left wing, perhaps with Lander and Purcell, and would add size and centre depth to the mix. The downside is that the Oilers would once again be counting on an unproven player to address weakness, and no matter how mature he is for his age he’s still a young forward and comes with certain defensive deficiencies.
  • Promoting a depth forward, like Pitlick or Fraser. Pitlick had really solid chemistry with Lander in Oklahoma City and showed well in a brief cameo late in the year; stick him on a line with his old centre and Purcell and there’s a decent chance things turn out. The downside is that it weakens depth and Pitlick (and Fraser, for that matter) may not have the offensive ability to stick in the top-nine at this point.
  • An outside hire. This could be anyone. Want size, defensive responsibility and centre depth? Let me introduce you to 6’4”, 223-pound Shawn Matthias, a centre/left wing who scored 18 goals for Vancouver. Want a clever two-way player with postseason experience? How about Justin Williams, who picked up 25 points in 26 games in last year’s playoffs and won the Conn Smythe Trophy. Feel free to scroll the UFA list at NHLNumbers for other names. The upside is that there is no shortage of options. The downside is that the Oilers also need to address defence and goaltending this summer, too, and the perfect free agent just may not be interested in joining a team that hasn’t been competitive since 2006, McDavid notwithstanding.

What Would You Do?

Craig MacTavish7

In the G.M.’s shoes I’d be tempted to go the discount route. Pick off whichever useful two-way winger can be found for cheap later in free agency – maybe it’s Jiri Tlusty or Blake Comeau or Erik Condra or the wonderfully underrated Lee Stempniak. Maybe St. Louis doesn’t qualify Magnus Paajarvi, who had fantastic chemistry with Lander in OKC. Maybe there’s some European pro who we’ll briefly become the centre of attention as he decides to jump to the NHL. There’s always some useful wingers available late, looking for work, and the problem can be dealt with after the big priorities (defence, goaltending) are taken care of. Worst case scenario, the Oilers end up with Roy or Draisaitl or Pitlick in the role; that’s survivable though less than ideal.

I’m going to pick Jiri Tlusty for this example because he’s reasonably big, fast and young and can do a little bit of everything. Also, he was moved at the deadline for a third-round pick and change and seems a prime candidate to be undervalued this summer. Then I’d pencil in the lines like this:

Left
Wing
Centre Right Wing
Benoit Pouliot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall Connor McDavid Nail Yakupov
Jiri Tlusty Anton Lander Teddy Purcell
Matt Hendricks Boyd Gordon Tyler Pitlick
Luke Gazdic Rob Klinkhammer

It makes sense to me to stick with Pouliot, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle as a unit given how good they looked when Hall was hurt. That leaves Hall to play with McDavid on the other big line; the third member could be any of the other wingers but Yakupov has had good success in cameos with Hall and deserves the first shot. That leaves Tlusty with Lander and Purcell as a versatile third line with players who can move up as necessary.

That’s my solution, but it’s far from the only one possible, and What Would You Do Wednesday isn’t really about my solutions. What would you do with the forwards?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • There is a chance, if we do a deal with a team like Chicago, that we end up with a guy like Bickell. If we haven’t acquired a forward via trade, then I would try to sign a guy like Williams. Matthias would be a fine fallback, but he can’t win faceoffs, so i would just call him a LW… lol

  • This lineup is way too small and way too soft. Although defense and goaltending should be 1A and 1B targets this offseason, getting bigger and nastier should be the second priority. This means getting rid of Purcell (maybe Katz gives MacT the go ahead to buy out a couple players with all the extra $$ he’ll make from Connor…NN should be the other) and Roy. Sucks for Yak but it’s pretty simple, he’s not a third line defensive specialist or energy guy so if can’t play with McDavid he needs to be traded. That said, putting Yak and McDavid on the second line together seems risky so you need a contingency plan. That’s where signing Stewart and Stafford coming in, both can play on the right with McDavid, make space and protect him if Yak doesn’t develop instant chemistry. If it works out with Yak you slide one to left on third line that could handle dzone, bring energy and size, and pop a few. Both could also stand in front of the net on the PP. Tell Stafford and Stewart they’ll be battling it out with Yak for a spot on the right with Hall and McJesus and I bet they sign.

    As for defense and goal:

    Crawford / Niemi / Anderson should be the targets. If that doesn’t work we’d better sign/trade three top four dmen and go with less proven starter (i.e. Neuvirth, Talbot, Jones ect.). Make a pitch to trade for Seabrook (Marincin, a first, and a third and do it at or before the draft so people know your serious about winning come July 1st) and go hard after UFAs (in order) Franson, Michalek, Oduya, Ehrhoff, Sekera, Beauchemin, Jackman, Rozsival.

    Just a dreamer here (no idea if this would work within the cap, guess it depends on UFA salaries):

    Pouliot_RHN_Ebs

    Hall_McDavid_Stewart/Yak/Stafford

    Stafford_Lander_Stewart

    Hend_Gordon_Pitlick

    Extras: Klink, Gazdic, Leon (only if injury to top six or third line center, do not bring him up to play third line wing or anything on the fourth)

    Ehrhoff Seabrook

    Oduya Fayne

    Klefbom Schultz

    Extra: Ferrence, Nurse

    Anderson
    Scrivens

    Defense will make or break this team. If they can sign/trade three top four dmen , a decent goalie, and add some size and grit up front they WILL make the playoffs.

  • Build road map around core. Core at any time should be top 3 centers, top 3 defense, top goaltender. Preference should be given to retaining centers as wingers over natural wingers. Get Tlusty, Soderberg or Vermette on a 2 year to build momentum and experience. Forwards: Poulliot-Nuge-Eberle, Purcell-Tlusty/Soderberg-Yakupov, Hall-McDavid-Lander, Hendricks-Gordon-Klinkhammer. Rookie centers should always be paired with a former center going forward until the training wheels come off. As we face cap issues, trade the wingers off gradually year by year: Eberle, Yakupov, Hall, etc. Forward core is McDavid, Nuge, Draisaitl. For Defense, buyout Nikitin and trade Schultz for a late pick; addition by subtraction. Use the late 1st and late 3rd+ for a top 2 defense on the right side on cap strapped team (Seabrook or someone similar). Pay UFA stopgap to fill left side for one year if possible (Beauchemin or someone similar and less expensive). Try and sign another righty (Franson, Petry or someone similar). Defensive core should be Nurse, Klefbom and someone who shoots right not named Schultz. Trade the late 2nd for someone like Lehner. Try and get Niemi or Neuvirth via UFA then offload Scrivens on Arizona or wherever possible and wait for Broissoit to take the helm in 2 years. Let Nurse play 1 full year in the AHL with an occasional call up where needed, let Draisaitl spend 1.5-2 years in the AHL. Bare minimum for centers going forward should be 1 year in the AHL after next year. After this season, all roster changes should be gradual. No massive turnovers anymore. JayZ should have let me write the blueprint.

    • I agree with you on building around Nuge, McDavid, Draisaitl completely. Scoring wingers are a lot easier to acquire, if that is the centre depth moving forward then even if one goes down to injury it’s still formidable. The offence runs through centres, not wingers.

      However, I disagree on trading so much for Seabrook with no guarantee he’ll sign. I see these wild Seabrook deals all over the place, he only has 1 more year on his contract. Selling lots of draft picks is silly, the Oilers should have learned that these last few years when they tried to restock the empty pipeline. We’ve got Nurse coming up, and a lot of depth defenders in the system. We need a 3-4 year stopgap, MacT tried to get a 2 year stop last year (Nikitin-Fayne) but it didn’t work so he’ll need to do better.

      A better option for D

      Klefbom – Franson
      Sekera – Shultz
      Marincin Fayne
      Ference

      (Do whatever you want with Nikitin, give him away for a 7th round, buy him out if that is still allowed, put him on waivers since Katz has deep pockets that are getting deeper if he clears, but get rid of him)

      This way, each of the youngsters have a veteran presence. Klefbom-Franson and Sekera-Shultz can play a 1A 1B role so Klef doesn’t get overloaded. Franson has proven he can handle top pair in Toronto, and is a good complement for Klefbom.

      Not going to happen, but fun to think about trading Shultz and putting Petry there instead.

  • Ever the Optimist

    First consideration here has to be the salary cap. By the end of next season the Oil should be able to clear off . However this year will be tight considering what holes need to be filled.

    We are at approx. 39.5 million for our current Forwards. 2.3 in goal and likely 17.5 for 6 of 7 defense men. That comes to 59.5 and only leaves 13.5 million to fill #1 Goalie and 1 top pair dman as well as the 3 open forward spots. I would get, at no more than 3 Million a season, Joel Ward or Michael Frolik. Both are defensively aware, good penalty killers and able to move up offensively as needed plus ward brings good size. I would then target Derek Roy and Manny Malhotra at as close to 1 million per season as can be managed. Roy being the top 9 fill in and Manny bringing his leadership and face-off skill if a 4th liner gets injured.

    Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle

    Hall – McDavid – Yakupov

    Frolik or Ward – Lander – Purcell

    Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer

    Roy – Malhotra

  • MGD

    I think Draisatl has to play at least most of his season in the NHL next year – they burnt 1 of his ELC years last year; wasting another in the AHL doesn’t make sense, unless they’re hoping he’s just average in his 1yr (3rd year of ELC) to get a cheap bridge for his 2nd contract.

  • MGD

    As of now our forward lines look like this
    Pouliot. Hopkins. Eberle

    Hall. Mcdavid. Purcell

    Lander. Roy. Yakupov

    Klinkhammer. Gordon. Hendricks

    ? ?
    Klefbom Shultz

    Fayne. Ference/nikitin nurse

    ?

    Scrivens

  • Jaxon

    NHL:

    LW/C/RW

    SC1: Pouliot / Nugent-Hopkins / Eberle,
    SC2: Hall / McDavid / Pakarinen,
    SC3: Comeau / Draisaitl / Yakupov,
    DZ: Lander / Goc / Upshall,
    X: Klinkhammer / D Roy.

    LD / RD

    P1: Ehrhoff / Franson,
    P2: Klefbom / Fayne,
    OZ Softs: Marincin / Schultz,
    X: Ference.

    G

    Niemi or Neuvirth or Greiss /
    Scrivens

    AHL competing for spots in future:

    LW/C/RW

    Slephyshev / Yakimov / Chase,
    C Hamilton / Platzer / Fraser.

    LD/RD

    Nurse / ? – This RD spot should have been reserved for Kenney Morrison but they let the Flames get him!!,
    Laleggia / ?.

    G

    O’Connor,
    Broissoit

    DRAFT:

    1. McDavid.
    16. RD – Meloche, Carlo, J Roy.
    33. G – Blackwood or Tomek, if not then LW – Yakov Trenin.
    56-ish. RW – Keegan Kolesar, if they don’t get a goalie at 33, then pick Maxim Tretiak (yes, his grandson).
    78ish. RD – Austin Strand.
    85ish. RD – Will Borgen.
    90ish. LW – Ryan Gropp.
    124. LW – Vladimir Tkachyov (currently ranked #159 of North american skaters).
    154. G – Michael Robinson.
    184. LW – Mattias Elfstrom

  • Roberts489

    I just don’t see a reason why draisaitl should be rushed to the big league now that mcdavid is in place. Let him develop into the big two way Center that we need. Have Roy – lander – yak as your 3rd line. And then next year draisaitl will be ready for the 3rd lines duties and lander will take over Gordon’s spot.

  • IMHO Pitlick belongs on one of the big lines (as long as he can stay healthy). I’d try him with Hall and McJesus. Pitlick pushes the pace with his size and strength while still having a soft touch with the puck. It could be a really good fit.

  • Serious Gord

    Whoever thinks that having Lander / Roy / Yak as a third line is going to get us into the playoffs has been brain washed by Oilers management over the years. Those are the exact bets that have killed us over the years. Just cus Yak and Roy had a decent 20 game cameo in the ozone try not to forget they were still minus players (Roy was minus 13 in Edmt), don’t provide physical energy, and are midgets. Roy and Purcell HAVE to go!!! If we start the year with that third line we’re in trouble. There are tons of good free agents wingers out there that should be targeted to play with Lander….Stafford, Frolik, Stewart, Ward, Upshall, Comeau…those are the guys you need for your third line.

  • Nuggets

    Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle
    Hall – McDavid – Lucic
    Tlusty – Lander – Purcell
    Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer

    Seabrook – D. Hamilton
    Klefbom – J. Schultz
    Ference – Fayne

    Anderson
    Scrivens

    Trade Pens 1st + 2nd Round Pick for Brent Seabrook

    Trade Yak + Marincin + 2016 1st Round Pick for Lucic + Dougie Hamilton + 2016 2nd Round Pick

    Trade 2nd Round Pick for Craig Anderson

    Sign Tlusty

    • Like the line up but those are unreal trades

      You’d give up a 1st and a 2nd for a possible rental? He has one year left on contract than off to UFA.

      Seabrook would be awesome but only way they get a first is conditional on him resigning with us.

      I imagine

      Both our 2015 2nds a prospect (marincin/musil) 2016 1st conditionally might get it done. Im all for getting him but only if we give up minimal unless he resigns with us or signs extension first.

      Your 2nd trade is never going to happen BOS give up there future 1D, best current D and a first line winger for pick, prospect, and a perceived lower value high pick in yak. Takes two to tango and BOS tells you to pound sand with this one. If you had all from EDM on your proposal just for Hamilton still don’t think BOS takes it.

      Anderson trade not happening try 2nd and a prospect at least.

  • Millet Bob

    The first, most essential priority for the lineup is to get a tough winger to add some teeth and protect McDavid!!! No other deals/moves should be made until this is taken care of. If we see our new #1 punished like Hall was his rookie year… well that would be a giant f-up. Get a tough winger to play with Hall and McDavid, for the first half of the season at least, to give the guy some security and comfort while he breaks in. Mandatory. Otherwise they’d have to play Gadzic with those guys, which wouldn’t be terrible but would be nice to have some toughness-depth. Security for our #1 takes total precedence. Simmonds/Prust/Dorsett/Boll/Stewart/Tootoo, whoever fits the mold best.

    Also, McDavid being a 1/2 center, playing with Hall is a no-brainer. Check out Gretzky’s comments today and who he compares him to.

  • Millet Bob

    IMHO there are no I-A priorities as even if you shore up the D and beef up the forwards it doesn’t mean SFA if you have a sieve for a goalie.
    I, for one, am sick and tired of reacting “How the h*ll did that go in?” seemingly every game. If I think that way,imagine how the players feel. They start a game off well, get some chances, even score and then the opp scores on a 40′ wrist shot, not screened.
    GET a GOALIE, PLEASE!! All I ask for is one that makes the saves he should.

    Chara is an old 38 and is basically done. BOS held on too long. Doan is 39 in Oct and is basically done. Bickell is over priced. J Williams
    is 34 in Oct and is going to want term and $$’s. No thanks.
    I would wait and see on NN. Nobody played well under Eakins and then he got hurt.

    It seems here that whenever someone suggests trading a core forward, it’s Ebs. Nuge and he went on a tear without Hall. Under Nelson, he was nearly at a Pt/G.

  • Start with UFE’s
    First priority D-man: F. Beauchemin – 2-3 year deal. Money what it takes!
    Second: Forward with size – C. Stewart – 3-4 year deal around $4-5 million/year.

    Next trade for a legit goalie
    Try Anderson from Ottawa followed by Crawford from Chicago.

    2015-16 just miss playoffs, 2016-17 playoffs!

  • First get mclenen, them sign niemi, then get a top 2 defenseman ( shattenkirk or giradi ) because both teams have salary issues then get a guy to protect mcdavid like simmons because he can keep up with him too and if possible soderberg

    My lines are

    Pouliot – nugent hopkins – ebs

    – hall- mcdavid- Simmons

    Sodeberg-roy-yak

    Hendriks – gordan – klink

    Defense is

    Shatenkirk – giradi

    Shultz- klefbom
    Ference – nurse

  • My Forward Lines

    Top Line: Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle (Don’t fix what isn’t broken)

    2A: Lander – Soderberg – Yak

    2B: Hall – McDavid – Purcell

    D-line: Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer

    Soderberg has shown he is a 2C/3C in Boston who can provide offence. Lander plays the role of Pouliot, retrieving pucks and giving them to Yak and Sod which he has shown very capable of on the PP this year.

    As good as McDavid is going to be, they made the mistake of putting an 18 year old in the 2C spot last year, don’t do it again please. If he moves up the depth chart, he moves up, but don’t slot him in from day 1. Massive OZS for this line.

    This also leaves Hendricks and Lander on wing and they can slide to C when injuries inevitably occur, or you give Leon a shot.

  • Benoit Pouliot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
    Taylor Hall Connor McDavid Teddy Purcell
    Leon Draisaitl Derek Roy Yakupov
    Anton Lander Boyd Gordon Matt Hendricks
    Rob Klinkhammer

    Thats how I see it working best, at least to start. Maybe Yak n Purcell can switch at some point.

  • Sign Chris Stewart !!! He’s BIG, plays a tough mean game finishing his checks, can score goals and can play a body guard role to Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall

    Pouliot-RNH-Ebz
    Hall-McDavid-STEWART
    Draisitle–Roy-Yakupov
    Hendricks-Lander-Pitlick
    Gazdic

    USE Purcell and Gordon along with draft picks to get us some MUCH needed help on the Blue line!!! 🙂

    • toprightcorner

      Stewart should come fairly cheap on a 1 or 2 year term st under $2 mill with his poor offensive numbers this season. I love his willingness to fight and when his scoring drops his aggressiveness picks up.

      I would like to see him on the 3rd line to start and if he finds his scoring touch again he can bump up but if he becomes a problem waivers and bury him in the minors.

      If not a big winger I would prefer the Oilers add another center and move one to the wing for better center depth when injuries come.

  • Sign Chris Stewart !!! He’s BIG, plays a tough mean game finishing his checks, can score goals and can play a body guard role to Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall

    1.Pouliot-RNH-Ebz
    2.Hall-McDavid-STEWART
    3.Draisitle-Roy-Yakupov
    4.Hendricks-Lander-Pitlick

    Popcorn press box *Gazdic

    USE Purcell and Gordon along with draft picks to get us some MUCH needed help on the Blue line!!! 🙂

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Pouliot Nuge Hall

    Hall McDavid Draisaitl

    Purcell Roy Yakupov

    Hendricks Gordon Klinkhammer

    This leaves a TON of cap space to use on a couple Dman and to sign Ramo.

  • fire_crotch

    I think you are looking at this wrong. The most important aspect this year for McDavid will be to learn the defensive side of the game in the NHL. Outside of the checking line and RNH, Lander is by far the best oilers forward in his own end. I say move McDavid along side Lander and put the heavy Puliot on the other wing. Put HAll/RNH/EBS back together and keep Yak/ROY together. If Drasaitl is ready move him to the other wing on that line and buyout Purcell, use that money to shore up the D. My top 9 would like this…

    Hall/RNH/Eberle
    Drasaitl/Roy/Yak
    Puliot/Lander/McJesus

  • Johnnydapunk

    I’m not sure what the feeling is going to the Oilers with McDavid as I know Edmonton is now not such a last choice, and it’s nice to actually feel a bit of hope for a change, haven’t felt that in a while with the Oil.

    For a forward, I would go after Joel Ward as I don’t think he is crazy money, negotiations don’t seem to be going so good, and I think he is a solid enough player, then see about Mike Green, Johnny Oduya, Barret Jackman, and Paul Martin, out of those 4 Defencemen, I think the Oil could get 2 if they get someone new as a coach.

    Another one which may be unpopular is I would shop around Scrivens as I think that Bachman would be a fine backup for the cheap, and for a number one goalie, I really don’t see anyone that really screams number one for me, at least UFA wise. I just don’t think Scrivens has been good enough to be a number one and as a backup, I would be looking at a cheaper option. The few goalies that are UFA are Griess, Niemi, and Neuvirth. Goaltending can be less of a priority if the defencemen are sorted.

    Finally in swinging for the stars, I would see what Byguflien would cost trade wise, as he would be an answer to both a big man to keep the opposition in check, and a solid enough Dman.

    I think once the Oil actually draft McDavid, and the coaching/management is a bit clearer, we can see how players feel about Edmonton as a destination. Right now I can’t gauge if there is that change in feeling or not.

    As Van Damme said it best in a commercial for a certain Web hosting company…

    It’s go time.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I don’t think we need to worry about our forwards at all. We can cover it. I would probably sign Roy though, as long as he is cheap and willing to sign a 1 year contract.

    It is a waste of time thinking about forwards… we need to address the D, and goalie, only then might we think about spending any money on forwards.

    We would be fine going forward with he forward we have in the system now.

  • lavdaddy

    1. Pouliot Nuge Eberle
    2. Hall McDavid Yakupov/Draisaitl
    3. Purcell Lander Draisaitl/Yakupov
    4. Hendricks Gordon Klinkhammer

    Extra Forwards: Pitlick, Gazdic

    Lets be honest the lines are going to be completely dictated on who McDavid plays with best (and possibly dictates who gets traded out). I watched Draisaitl play in Victoria this year and he has nothing left to prove in junior he is a man among boys. He would be ideal to play on the wing somewhere in the top 9 next year. The best teams in most cases have more than just 4 centres on the roster. Draisaitl can produce on the wing, fill in at centre when needed, and not have as much defensive responsibility playing on the wing rather than at centre. All in all its an exciting time to be an oilers fan, cannot wait for next season!