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

  • Randaman

    I move Eberle and a prospect for Lucic. Boston needs change and that’s a start. That fixes the grit and he can absolutely play. We have no need for Draisatl to be rushed now so he comes to camp and goes to the Ahl. Why? Because half a season in the WHL didn’t make him an NHL player. Let him go earn his stripes in the A. I sign Roy if he’ll take a one year contract. Between him and Lander they can battle for the 3rd center position.

    The lines don’t matter because no matter what the armchair GM says, the coach can change all of that come training camp. The one run by an experienced NHL coach that I hire this summer after interviewing everyone available and after deep and meaningful discussions with Bobby N..

  • paul wodehouse

    I would watch the NHL playoffs ( right now) and see what is working with other teams and what is not.

    Three scoring lines sounds good but in practice does not always work. The battle levels out there right now in the playoffs suggest that having a physical player with skill is mandatory.

    We need to find skilled grit……..too much of this type of player is never enough!

  • Zarny

    I’m weary of dropping McDavid onto the 2nd line with little back-up. He’s still going to be a rookie transitioning to the NHL. He’s going to have off-nights and on occasion you may want to shelter him with softer 3rd line match-ups.

    I don’t think Lander provides enough support for McDavid so I’d target Carl Soderberg.

    Pouliot-Nuge-Eberle

    Hall-McDavid-Yakupov

    Lander-Soderberg-Purcell

    Hendricks-Gordon-Klinkhammer

    Gazdic Pitlick

    Injuries will happen. Lander can slide to C if needed similar to Colborne in Cgy.

    Shawn Matthias would be an excellent addition as well. I’d talk to Arz about Martin Hanzal too if Soderberg signs elsewhere.

  • paul wodehouse

    …JW you’re not factoring in Draisaitl much at all, which is a good thing in my opinion… he could stay in the AHL playing real CENTRE minutes til it’s his time to come up…I hope he’s to be the fourth line CENTRE and be big and crafty anchoring the bottom six one day…

  • A-Mc

    As much as I like Leon I would use him to get that top line dfenceman. Maybe a Leon +Marincin and a first to get OEL or A first rounder next year Pitts pick this year plus Marincin to Chicago for Seabrook.Something like that. Edmonton needs to win now. Ufas will come to town now with Macdavid .

  • Craig1981

    I like Lander on the checking line as a winger. As we learned last year a team needs wingers that can play center.

    Plus the “4th” line needs 3 really good defensive specialists. So you can put them out the in the defensive end with another teams top line…..you don’t want a questionable winger on that line.

    I think the RNH and McDavid line will both be playing 20+ min. Gordon should be around 14 min a game. That leaves the 3rd line only playing 6 min. Roy-Purcell-Pitlick should be able to handle that.

  • A-Mc

    I agree that Wayne simmonds is the perfect fit but he may cost toomuch to acquire. Joel Ward is an interesting ufa. Leave nuge line with poo and ebs. Hall mcdavid and simmonds. I would sign roy to a cheap contract and start dr drai on the left wing with roy and yak. Leave the wagon line intact and have lander as your extra man if drai isnt ready.

    Then I package the pits 1st and a prospect and go after Seabrook.

    Try to trick Leafs into taking schultz and a 2nd for Dion at half price.

    Sign up Mclellan and Niemi.

    Pouliot Nuge Ebs
    Hall Mcdavid Simmonds
    Drai Roy Yak
    Hendricks Gordon Klinkhammer
    Lander Pitlick

    Phaneuf Seabrook
    Klefbom Rfyne
    Marincin Ference
    Nurse

    Niemi Scrivens

  • wiseguy

    Pouliot-nuge-eberle
    Hall-mcdavid- (Justin Williams)
    Purcell-Roy-Yak
    Hendricks-Gordon-Klinkhammer

    FA Targets
    Antii Niemi, Mike Green, Christian Erhoff, Matt O’Connor, Cody Franson

    Buy Outs
    Nikitin, Ference

    Leave draisitle in the AHL for the year with Nurse. Don’t even think about bringing them up.

    Signing those goalies, 2 of those D, and trading some picks for Williams is not unrealistic. Assuming of course Mcdavid has made Edmonton. A little more favourable to come too of course.

  • wiseguy

    Lots of good suggestions on here. Really like the Justin Williams suggestion playing with Hall and Mcdavid. As for the goaltending situation is there a chance we could potentially steal Anderson out of Ottawa?? Now that they are in love with Hammond. Anderson could be available

  • 916oiler

    That is literally what I would do, aside from the 3LW spot. Tlusty sounds good though.

    Let McDavid ease into the NHL with a superstar like Hall on his side, and they’ll gain confidence while Nuge n company handle the tougher stuff and still produce.

  • Tikkanese

    I liked Roy and Center depth is great to have and all, but hello, McDavid! McDavid, Nuge, Lander, Gordon, Leon and heck even Hendricks can play Center if need be. The Oilers already have Center depth, thanks to McDavid.

    That plus the Oilers badly need guys who play with size in the top 9. The Oilers really do not need to resign Roy.

    • freelancer

      True, but a couple things there. However (god forbid) McDavid or Nuge gets injured. Sure Lander can move up, but is Drasaitl ready to play centre, do you trust Hendricks as a centre long term?

      I think a better option would be Matthias as has been suggested by many. But I think Roy would be a cheaper option. It would be nice to have one guy one that third line who is a veteran and can play wing or centre. On top of that, it’d be nice to have another vet to help McDavid.

  • Craig1981

    In my opinion if the Oilers are able to have good summer trading and maybe signing players they could make the playoffs next year.
    They really only need to make one big trade. Take Yakapov and the first round pick we acquired from Pittsburgh in the Klinkhammer trade and also Nikitan and send them to St.Louis for Kevin shatinkirk and Jake Allen. St.Louis would take this trade because if they go out in the first round they will be blowing it up because this will be their third year not making it past the first round and they need offense badly (Yak would go great with Tarasenko).
    This trade obtains the Oilers an #1 stud defencemen next year and a somewhat proven NHL goaltender.

  • Really good discussion here. A couple of things stand out to me:

    • I really agree with everyone who wants to cheap out on the L3 winger. I think there are significant needs elsewhere, and fully expect Draisaitl to be ready for the job (I just dislike counting on non-McDavid rookies as general principle).
    • I didn’t mention him because as I said my belief is the Oilers are better off going cheap, but for those who want to see some size/toughness added to the lineup what about Bryan Bickell in Chicago? I wouldn’t do it (I can’t underscore enough how cheap I am) but he’s a 6’4″, 223-pound pound winger who can start on L3 and move around as desired. He shouldn’t cost much in terms of assets; Chicago’s in real trouble and that’s an ugly contract.
    • One thing I’m seeing a lot that I’ve seen before is the idea of sticking Roy at centre and bumping Lander to wing. I see Lander as the better defensive player and his offence really took off after an extended stint up the middle; doesn’t it make more sense to put Roy on the wing (where he won’t need to be as responsible defensively) and leave Lander where he’s flourishing?
  • wiseguy

    If McDavid has the offensive chops everyone says he does, then Yak should be able to play with him.

    So top two stay as it is. I’d move Schultz up to fill the winger position. its addition by subtraction. He’s a better player than some of the other options, he is already here. And he won’t hurt the blueline anymore.

    Then focus all the efforts on the blueline.

  • Phuryous George

    Draisaitl and Nurse will both be on team next season and cost effective to help bring in new veteran additions . Broissoit may be default in goal if price to high for veteran goalie . Therefore on offence we have Pouliot , Hall, McDavid , Eberle , Hopkins , Draisaitl and possibly Yak on top 3 lines . 4th line could still use an upgrade although unlikely this year . Rest of forwards need upgrading – minimum 2 sized gritty players . McDavid would pair well with Pouliot and/ or Draisaitl -possession types with size and some physical side . Could Yak become defensively sound enough to fit on line with McDavid ? Lander moving to wing an option but he is not physical enough , although I prefer him to Klinkhammer on fourth line . Nurse should fill Petry’s old role well . Leaves us to get 2 sized gritty forwards and a top notch defenceman , Will there be enough left over for a better goalie ?

  • Try to fill hole internally or through UFA

    UFAs: Ward, Glencross, Soderberg, Are my favs for our spot. All are vets with lots of grit and compete. Play one of them with Hall Mcdavid.

    See couple suggestions for seabrook. He is the dream for sure this is what I would suggest offering for him.

    A) 1 2015 2nd round, 1 2016 2nd round pick
    Conditional 2016 1st that resigns with us before trade deadline

    B) Marincin/Musil/Schultz (preferably), 1 2015 2nd round pick. Conditional 2016 1st if he
    resigns with us before trade deadline.

    As for Defense UFA like Oduya and Michalek.

    We have two buyouts left I believe so use them on NN and Purcell.

    Trade Schultz one of our younger guys are just as good cost way less.

    I only want to see deals done that involve our draft picks for next 3 years and keep developing the youth.

    Either Simmonds or Lucic could be had I believe but Eberle would be starting point for both BOS and PHI.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Please don’t count on Draisaitl!!
    If he’s an NHLer, great. If not (or if we have injuries there will be injuries there are always injuries), we should have a backup option (e.g. Derek Roy).

  • One other thing to keep in mind: Purcell has one year left on his deal. I fully expect he’ll play ~40 games with the Oilers and then be moved at the deadline for futures as a rental.

    In other words, there’s going to be a permanent spot opening up in the top-nine for an internal candidate. That’s one of the reasons I think Edmonton would be wise to bring in a veteran for the current open slot; not only will there be injuries but they should be expecting to elevate one of the internal options partway through the year anyway.

    • Hemmercules

      Lets hope Mact learned something this year about starting a young lineup without depth at certain positions. He did call next season a development season so I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see no changes to the forwards but I still wonder if Katz and Nicholson are pressing a bit now.

      • Serious Gord

        Getting mcdavid makes it imperative that next season NOT be a development – read: no chance of the playoffs – season. Significant moves have to be made pronto.

  • Phuryous George

    Pouliot Nuge Ebs
    Hall McDavid Lander
    Paajarvi Roy Yak
    Hendricks Gordon Klinkhammer
    Pitlick

    Go ahead and trash it if you want to. I have a framed 3 pic layout in my office from a few years ago with the “young guns” of Ebs, Paajarvi and Hall, and i’m tired of getting teased about it.

    Would Paaravi be an upgrade over Purcell, and compliment Roy-Yak by digging in the corners and play with their forecheck style?

    I am aware Paaravi is not the best we could do here

    anyway…..

  • Spiel

    This was a 28th place team. There should be no guaranteed spots.

    Presumably McDavid is NHL ready, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to prove he is ready. Have McDavid, Draisaitl, Lander, and a veteran free agent compete for those spots. If Drai is better than McDavid, then Drai plays. Likewise, if McDavid is better than Nuge, he plays as your #1C.

    Same on defence.

    • Tikkanese

      I agree. Top pairing D and a starting goalie are the 1a and 1b top priorities for the Oilers now.

      If McDavid is as good as they say he is, then I think anyone, even Nuge is tradeable now.

      • ubermiguel

        Totally agree about the defence. Totally discagree about the Nuge. “Oh no, we have too many elite centres!” is something I’ve never heard before. Granted, everyone is tradable for the right price.

  • Petrolero

    I think the biggest priority in the summer should be finding a top goalie. The defence needs more than one guy to be competitive and it’s always easier to find a good top nine forward during the season.

  • bleedingoil

    I don’t know what “bad words” were in my prior attempt to post (maybe there is a filter on the word “trade” anywhere near the word “Eberle”?), but here’s a revised version:
    1. Trade Eberle for a #1 D
    2. Buy out or trade Purcell
    3. Sign Steve Downie and Matt Beleskey (combos of grit and skill we don’t currently have).
    4. Sign Derek Roy

    Hall – Nuge – Pouliot
    McD/Roy – Roy/McD – Yak
    Beleskey – Lander – Downie

    The RWs can be mixed and matched as need or chemistry dictate. Dr. Drai is first call-up and next year pushes somebody out.

    Back end:
    #1D – Martin (FA signing)
    Klefbom – Schultz
    Marincin – Ference
    Nikitin
    Schultz and Nikitin would be gone in my ideal world, but that seems unlikely.

  • serenity now

    I live 2 blocks from prospera in Kelowna, and let me tell you the walk to watch leon play has been the highlight of my spring..dudes a beast we cant sleep on having him in the org.

  • I have the feeling that one or two of the “core” is going to find a new arena to play in before the summer is over. I speculate that a deal will be made that will involve either Eberle or Yakupov and our second 1st round pick in the 2015 draft. I wont go so far as to predict who specifically a deal will be made for, but he will be considered a #1 d-man to everyone involved.

    Think of names like Seabrook, Doughty, Weber, Keith, Karlsson, etc.

    I also think that with a proper defense, the Oilers will not need to panic about finding a goalie. Scrivens/Fasth/Brossoit sounds like a good tandem to me, as long as they’re not having to face 50+ SOG every night.

    • Nobody’s trading Duncan Keith for Jordan Eberle. Nobody’s trading Shea Weber for Nail Yakupov.

      This is the thing that those ‘the Oilers MUST move Eberle or Yakupov for a star defenceman’ folks forget: other teams have to be willing to make the deal, too. Both Eberle and Yakupov are excellent young players, but they aren’t as important to a team as a real No. 1 defenceman.

      As a rule, teams that have No. 1 defencemen just don’t trade them.

      If a top defenceman shakes loose, it’s probably going to be a financial/rebuilding decision and it’s probably going to be a No. 2 guy in the mold of Dion Phaneuf or Brent Seabrook.

      • Straight up, player for player, there’s no way this kind of deal is going to happen. I tend to think more along the line that we have a second 1st round pick, talented forward assets, as well as future considerations and depth players that a good GM *cough* would be able to use to formulate a deal for a #1D.

        I have faith that a deal COULD be made. I have less faith that MacT WILL be able to make it happen. But, with that said, he has not had this type of bargaining power before either, so I for now give him the benefit of the doubt.

          • I would consider the deal that sent Pronger to Anaheim to be one such deal. This is one example of this type of thing happening and we’re all familiar with the circumstances.

            It’s fair to say that occasionally, great players need to find new teams to play on for a variety of reasons. The trick is to get them to want to play for us.

            We have the bargaining power to get one.

          • Craig1981

            So one in 10 years. You expect the Oilers to make a move in the next 4 months that has happened once in 10 years!

            Yes a top player can request a trade but that seldom happens and I don’t know of one right now.

            Webber will never be traded…..bring it up removes all credibility to any of your posts btw.

          • Well thanks. That’s nice of you to think so highly of me.

            I’m just a fan like everyone else. Credibility is something that someone who earns money for voicing their opinions to be concerned with.

          • Millet Bob

            I wouldn’t be so sure that Weber will never be traded. I believe that they have a self imposed cap. NSH have 3-4 really good D and Jones is going to be, if he already isn’t, a #1 pairing. Weber is BIG bucks and they are going to have to re-sign (resign is to quit) them with hefty raises. They need offense, so I can definitely see him being traded.
            As EDM fans well know, anyone can be traded.

          • But the Pronger-to-Anaheim deal came about because he demanded a trade away from Edmonton.

            I’m not one of those guys who thinks nobody will sign with the Oilers, but I have trouble imagining a star D demanding a trade to Edmonton.

          • I think prior to this week, I would concur with your statement that no star D-man would demand a trade to Edmonton.

            But… McDavid as an Oiler, Nicholson as CEO, a new coach/GM/PoHO are all great for breaking the cynicism that prevails about playing for the Edmonton Oilers.

            It is more likely that there will be player somewhere that is ready to leave their current team for reasons that none of us are yet aware of. If the Oilers can compel them to play here, then we’re all going to party like it’s 1999! (or 2006, or whatever)