This is such an exciting time for Oilers fans and such a busy
one for NHL General Managers. We are one day away from the Edmonton Oilers
adding a generational player to their roster and as of today NHL clubs are
allowed to begin courting free agents.
While this must be Peter Chiarelli’s busiest day as the Oilers’ GM, it’s also a day in which nothing will get done. We are so tantalizingly close
to the draft that I sincerely doubt Gary Bettman will allow any deal to be
announced. My guess is that even the trades that are in effect complete will have to wait until the
show begins at 5 PM tomorrow.
Chiarelli, the Oilers crew of management underlings, the
tattered remains of the scouting department, and everybody else who has paid cursory
attention to the Oilers knows that Edmonton needs an NHL goalie and two NHL defensemen who could conceivably play at least 20 minutes per night. That means
the Oilers President and GM should be fielding and making calls to a lot of
people today. The Bat Phone should be ringing off the hook.
For maybe the first time in my adult life, the Oilers could
possibly be seen as an interesting destination for free agents. Between winning
the Connor McDavid lottery, replacing the previous management regime with a competent and proven leader, and the hiring of Todd McLellan as head coach, the Oilers of today are a totally different destination for UFAs than they
were when the regular season ended.
Of course the Oilers lack the one real, proven attraction for UFAs
and that’s a history of winning. But the Oilers are not going to be selling
their own winning pedigree, they’ll be selling the winning pedigrees of
Chiarelli and McLellan. Chiarelli’s Bruins had 386 Wins in 704 Games for a .548 winning percentage and McLellan’s Sharks had 311 wins in in 540 games for a
.576 winning percentage.
The new regime plus the chance to play with a generational talent is a bill of goods the Oilers are sure going to sell free agents this summer.
Before the end of the day, the Oilers should have an idea who is at
the very least interested in hearing them out. Perhaps this feeling out period could change the course of
trade negotiations that are also ongoing right now. If the Oilers find UFAs are
receptive to their pitch then perhaps it doesn’t make sense to push overly hard
to move the 16th for that defenseman. Conversely, if they get the
impression that they are on the outside looking in with the free agents they
covet then it could push them to be more aggressive on the trade front.
Today and early tomorrow is really the only time when NHL
teams can try to get a handle on the market before they have to commit to
actions at the draft. While no deals can be signed, the early moments of the
courting period could help inform their actions tomorrow and the day after in
It’s an interesting convergence of events that I don’t think
under normal circumstances would occur. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Oiler
War-Room right now.
For what it’s worth, I would love to see the Oilers go after defensemen like Ehrhoff, Franson, or Sekera (preferably two of the three, even) and
also kick tires on players like Neuvirth and Greiss.
The reality is that in a week from now, 90% (or more) of the
roster for the 2015-2016 Oilers is going to be set. The window for Chiarelli to
put his stamp on this time is small and we are expecting them to be aggressive
in a few areas.
Keep the phone charged, Peter. The next 48 hours are going
to be busy.