Succession Planning

Craig MacTavish16

Any competent NHL general manager needs to make decisions with an eye on the short-, mid- and long-term. For the Edmonton Oilers, part of that means making rough plans now for next summer’s free agents. This is something that has started already – the David Perron trade saw the Oilers move a significant player prior to his rental season – and needs to continue as the team draws up its game-plan for this summer.

Via NHLNumbers, the following players currently under contract will be unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2016:

  • RW/LW Teddy Purcell
  • C Boyd Gordon
  • LW/RW Rob Klinkhammer
  • LD/RD Nikita Nikitin
  • G Ben Scrivens

86-Nikitin-2

Three of those five names aren’t terribly significant at the present time. Klinkhammer is a depth piece, albeit a useful one, and the Oilers stand a decent chance of signing him to another cheap deal next year if they’re of the mind to do so. If they aren’t, he’s a prime candidate to be replaced by an internal option. Nikitin just completed his second year of playing at the level of third-pairing defenceman; if he’s somehow traded it won’t be a hardship and the only real discussion worth having right now is whether he should be bought out (to which I say “probably”). Scrivens is likely slated for the backup goaltending job; if he rebounds and takes over as starter great but there’s no need to worry about that until such time as it happens.

That still leaves Purcell and Gordon.

Teddy Purcell

16-Purcell-1

Purcell isn’t a popular player in Edmonton at the moment; there are some who have argued that he should be joining Nikitin on the buyout line. Doubtless we’ll see those arguments in the comments section here, too.

But while Purcell is overpaid he has some significant items working in his favour.

Purcell has significant offensive talent. His 34 points in 2014-15 represent his lowest total since his breakout 2010-11 campaign; he managed 36 in lockout-shortened 2012-13. An NHL team can make use of the kind of production that Purcell managed this season and we’re very much seeing him at his worst.

Purcell is useful in a variety of ways. He adds some size to the lineup and that has some value. He was a good match in many ways for both Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov; both players saw their on-ice goal and shot metrics improved dramatically when they played with Purcell. I expect the reason is that Purcell is a limited but legitimate NHL player, with the brains to play at both ends of the ice and a tendency to have the puck stick to him. He’s a decent option for both special teams; he out-produced Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall in terms of per-minute power play scoring and was a regular on the penalty kill. He’s versatile, capable of playing left wing or right wing on any line.

He has his warts. He doesn’t play a physical game despite decent size. He needs to be smart because he isn’t fast. He’s not a natural shooter (despite good skill in the department) by inclination and plays a pass-first game. He’s more of a complementary player offensively rather than a driver. He comes with a $4.5 million cap hit.

On balance, he’s a useful top-nine forward. Barring a total collapse, he’s going to have value as a fill-in piece at the trade deadline, particularly if Edmonton is willing to retain salary, and I expect that’s what happens. He’ll play 40-odd games for the Oilers and then get dealt elsewhere for pick in the 45-90 range.

If that’s the plan, Edmonton needs to be prepared to fill his slot. To me, that means adding a cheap, veteran winger (as mentioned yesterday, someone from the Jiri Tlusty/Lee Stempniak/Sean Bergenheim family) to fill the existing hole in the Oilers’ top nine and then finding an internal candidate to step into those minutes post-deadline. Leon Draisaitl, Tyler Pitlick and Iiro Pakarinen are all obvious internal options.

Boyd Gordon

27-Gordon-6

Boyd Gordon is a popular player in Edmonton, and with good reason. For two years now, he’s taken on some tough minutes and delivered excellent results. The question is what happens as his three-year contract with the Oilers comes to an end.

Gordon’s strengths are obvious. He’s an exceptional faceoff man, one of the very best in the game. Defensively, he’s a wonder; he’s highly intelligent and it’s a rare thing to catch him anywhere other than exactly where he’s supposed to be. He’s not a guy who racks up the hit counts (for the sake of contrast, over the last two years he has 58 hits in 142 games while Anton Lander has 88 in 65 contests) but there’s never been any question of his willingness to grind things out in the corners. He’s hard on the puck. He’s also an excellent penalty killer, and a reasonable playmaker. Despite limited offensive tools he’s a guy who can take and make a pass.

The trouble with Gordon is that he’s a specialist, and a pricy one. He had one goal and four assists in 38 games after Christmas; he’s entirely out of his depth in an offensive role. He’s never scored 10 goals or 30 points in the NHL; he’s never hit 40 points in the minors. He provides roughly the same amount of offensive punch as Andrew Ference. Despite his one-dimensional nature, he makes $3.0 million per season.

On balance, he’s extremely useful as a dedicated penalty-killer and defensive zone man. A head coach can feed him an endless diet of tough minutes, and he’ll saw them off. The question is whether the Oilers want to re-sign him or send him away at the deadline.

Either option might appeal. Working in Gordon’s favour is his impressive performance in the first two years of his deal. Working against him is his age (he’ll turn 32 in October) and the fact that the Oilers might think they have a replacement lined up. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid in the top two centre spots, and Leon Draisaitl on the way, Edmonton might reason that Lander (good defensively, decent on the draw) can fill Gordon’s minutes more cheaply and without any fear of a drop-off due to age.

Regardless, there’s no reason to anything about the situation now. Edmonton has decent depth down the middle, particularly if (as G.M. Craig MacTavish suggested yesterday) the club re-signs Derek Roy. They can make a final decision closer to the deadline.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Ready to Win

    Can we shame, I mean, call for Andrew Ference to voluntoldedly hand over the “C” to Taylor Hall, in the way Lee Foglin did for Gretzky so the new era could take over the reigns and take this team to a Stanley Cup?

    • Hemmercules

      I dont understand all this stripping the C business. Maybe Hall doesn’t want it and I say he’s still too young.

      How do we, the fans, know who is more suited to wear it without ever being in the room or on the ice with them??

      I would love to see the new coach take a vote or not even have a C for next season and let someone earn it.

      • Whitey31

        I say give it to McDavid. The kid already has the weight of the world on his shoulders so you can’t really put more pressure on him than being touted as the best player to enter the league in 30 years by the Great One himself. If he’s going to break so many records, may as well start with the youngest captain in NHL history.

      • paul wodehouse

        …my best guess is that Ference was voted by the players to be the captain once upon a time…shaming him outta the C is harsh to even say but “voluntoldedly” is funny-ish different for sure …any other way could be stripping and that’s NFG so maybe the captain needs to be traded…~would the Bruins want him back in that Lucic trade~
        Fogolin was player voted captain according to a half verified legend after Blair MacDonald and first NHL Oiler captain Ron Chipperfield but Fogolin took it upon himself to give 99 the letter…of course with the blessing of former Oiler WHA Oiler captain Glen Sather…a first…Slats made it his call to name #11 the captain after 99 was sold…

        … Hall SHOULD be the captain imo especially with you-know-who coming in…crikey he’s making enough money and I can’t see him ‘not wanting it’…with it he might even get through a whole season without injury…captains are ‘sposed to play smarter!

      • Anton CP

        Ference may have been deserving of the “C” two years ago, but he has deteriorated too much. In the heat of battle, and a difficult season, I’d want a player that can still command enough respect to inspire greater performances and demand more from teammates. While everyone may respect Ference as a person/teammate, it’s hard for me to believe that they respect that he is a good player. He can’t inspire anybody to raise their level. It’s time to do a Lee Foglin and pass on the matrix to Rodimus Prime, I mean Taylor Hall – a player who cares, plays hard, and plays elite, and can inspire his team to a higher level. As Lowetide says… “pushes the river”. Might not be the most mature captain in NHL history but who cares. These kids care. Give them room to grow into it. You can always pull the C, look what happened to Joe Thornton.

      • Anton CP

        Have the players vote on the C? Holy crap. I thought it was the organization that couldn’t get out of novice hockey. No way that could divide the room. Just let it evolve and if the coach believes he should “encourage” a change let Ference take the lead and make the move.

  • Strange Tamer

    1st Eakins gets canned, then we get McDavid, then Nicholson, then Chiarelli? Might as well shut Oilers Nation down, there won’t be anything to bitch about.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    The Gordon, Hendricks and Klinkhammer 4th line was the best 4th line this team has had in years. The only thing that comes close is when Glencross was on it for those few short weeks before we let him walk to Calgary.

    I don’t encourage trading any vets until the young group has shown the maturity to take over. It’s why someone like Derek Roy has value beyond his on-ice point production. He did great things for Yak and the team took a much better turn after his arrival.

    It’s also why I see the Oilers trading for experienced d-men or going after players like Beauchemin or Mike Green. I’d even consider Phaneuf if Toronto would retain about $2 mill in salary and he could be had for no better than a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

  • Craig1981

    I think a Gordon resigning would all be about the dollar value. If hes willing to sign for less, then it might make sense to keep him but if he demands 3 mil or more I don’t think it will work. Edm is going to need to get leaner salary wise in their bottom 6 F’s and bottom pairing D’s if they want to keep their top player together.

  • CODD_FATHER

    Now all we have to do is get rid of that drew remenda guy.If I hear head on a swivel one more time I swear im going to……….

    Bring back louie or put gregor or spector in that chair next to kevin Quinn.

    • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

      Drew has improved somewhat over the past year but given that many more viewers will be watching Oiler games next year,I think an upgrade is warranted.

    • Tikkanese

      I would like Quinn to be gone as well. Although it was entertaining to listen to Louie have to correct Quinn all the time on things like what a natural hat-trick actually is when Quinn calls it wrong.

      • Whitey31

        Spend some time watching other team broadcasts and you will see Kevin Quinn is one of the best in the league.

        Really needs to have Debrusk back though!

        I think Gregor or better yet Struds would be a great replacement for Remenda.

  • BlazingSaitls

    My dog jumped on me this morning and I spilled hot coffee all over myself. Just when I was about to lose it I said to myself…’McDavid’ and all was fine. My dog just looked at me with a tilted-head.

  • S cottV

    Start moving guys out that are considered easy to play against and keep or bring guys in that are considered hard to play against.

    While Oilers have or will have centre depth – the core off Nuge, McD, Leon, Lander and Gordon aren’t exactly Backes-like tough in the middle.

    These guys will need the help of hard to play against, complimentary d men and wingers.

    To me – Roy is too small, one dimensional and easy to play against.

    Gordon is hard to play against – keep him at least until Leon is considered ready to play full time in 3C.

    Eberle, Yak, Purcell – are easy to play against. If somehow, they could be part of a deal that brings in some hard to play against d corps or wingers – look to do it when the timing and payback is right. Throw Schultz in this mix, if he doesn’t turn the corner in a hurry.

  • Serious Gord

    Related:

    Bob MacKenzie just stated on Tsn Toronto radio that chiarelli won’t be coming to EDM unless he becomes POHO and has complete control over hockey decisions. That means that klowe gets moved to aside but stays on the payroll.

    Mackenzie did not say that it was a done deal.

    IMO it also likely means that mact would become chiarelli’s Bitch like nolin was with shanahan.

    • Truth

      I would say that’s a given. I can’t see Chiarelli signing up with any organization to have less control than he had in Boston. He either replaces MacT as the de facto GM or in a position that MacT would have to answer to him.

      Chiarelli as POHO would see Lowe vacate the position, obviously. I would guess he “moves on” and retires, or is given some sort of BS advisory role.

  • S cottV

    What I want:

    Pou-RNH-Ebs
    Hall-McDavid-Purcell
    Lander-Roy/Soderberg-Yak
    Hendricks-Gord-Klink
    Extras: Pitlick, Gazdook (they love him)

    Klefbom-Schultz
    Nikitin-Fayne
    Marincin-Ference
    Extra:Davidson

    Talbot/Jones/Bernier
    Scrivens

    Sign Roy or Sodeberg for center Depth

    I dont see the Oilers signing a FA Dman, they have no room.

    At this point I rate davidson higher than Nikitin and ference, but you can’t have 8M sitting in the pressbox.

    Nurse will replace Nikitin after the deadline, and Drai will replace Purcell after deadline.

    for those saying Purcell can’t keep up with mcdavid, well maybe, but just a couple season’s ago he was keeping up with Stamkos, and relax, he will be gone after next year anyways.

    I really hate our D. but I think Nikitin and Ference are untradable. and is better to let Nikitin’s contract just expire.

    Thoughts?

    • Whitey31

      The oilers were getting calls on Ference at the deadline, no reason to think they can’t move him if they wanted too. They need to upgrade the defence badly with veteran dmen and if a marincin,nurse or someone else challenges for a spot, great. If that’s what you mean by “they have no room”. If you mean they have no cap space, by my account they have 12 forwards, 5 dmen and 1 goalie signed for next year (not counting the cheap throw ins like pitlick, davidson, musil who will start on the farm and not impact the 23 man roster towards the cap on 2way deals) with 12.5M left in cap space if the cap is set at 71M. That being said they need to resign shultz and sign/trade for a goalie. With whatever cap space is left they need D and mabey an affordable 3rd line winger. Also Purcell is a usable guy but It would be nice if he was a bit more impactful.

  • Leef O'Golin

    I know draisitle will be very good but he is not the Answere next year for a third line centre we need experience and size I think patrik berglund is till a possible option. Draisitle should be used as our main call up if a centre goes down but nothing more

  • Whitey31

    Would it be a good idea to go for a cheap veteran defensemen? Kimmo Timonen? His production isn’t worth an NHL contract but his experience would be priceless for Nurse/Klefbom:just hoping that he has something left and not be a Nikitin. Sergei Gonchar could be a good move at the right price, great size, great experience, lets just hope he can still be a decent player. The move I want to happen is Beauchemin. Throw around $4.5M at him for a 2-3 year deal. Keeping Roy is a must. Gordon,Hendricks, and Roy have to mentor these young centres.

  • Anton CP

    As long as Oilers can re-sign Gordon with a reasonable price that he is a priority UFA that Oilers have to think about. However that 3.5m is still a bit high for an one dimension player. Purcell is only worth re-signing if he is cheap, he may have a decent size but he is not worth anywhere close to that 4.5m cap hit.