The State Of The Defense Before Free Agency

The Oilers had an immediate need in net. They went out and
got their guy in Cam Talbot and they did it at a wonderful price. I’ll probably
revisit that deal sometime soon because everything points to it being a great
deal right now. However, as the Oilers head into the UFA season tomorrow there
is one thing they just simply haven’t addressed: The defense.

Now before we get all up in arms, I wasn’t so polluted at
the OilersNation draft party to miss the club trading for Griffin Reinhart and
Eric Gryba. I saw them. They registered in my head but I’m still struggling
with how they address any of the problems that the Oiler defense actually had.

Edmonton’s problem wasn’t a lack of 3rd pairing defenders. The Edmonton Oilers lacked top four defenders. They lacked players who
could log 20+ minutes a night that the team could actually depend on to, you
know, defend. They specifically lacked a true top pairing right hand defenseman
who could push Schultz down the order and for that matter they lacked a true
top pairing left hand defenseman who can keep Klefbom down the order.

They simply lacked for top end talent.

What the Oilers did over the course of last season, and at
the draft, was to remove their best RHD in Petry and remove Marincin from the 2nd
pairing. What’s done is done, and we all understand that things got to a point
after the Oilers refused to negotiate with Petry that there was no going back.
As for Marincin the fanbase was always mixed (up) about him and despite my
strongest support he looked like the odd man out.

Fine. The Leafs have a chance to laugh the Oilers out of the
building if Marincin establishes himself for the price of a depth pick.
He’s gone, and there’s nothing I can do about. However, I will always begrudge
Oilers management for giving me even the smallest reason to cheer for the

The issue here isn’t that Marincin was removed and Matt is
going to cry in his attic alone in the dark listening to REM’s Everybody Hurts.
The issue is that by the end of the season Marincin was playing the in the 3D
spot and the Oilers haven’t added anybody capable of being a 3D.

I tweeted something the other day that caught some attention that I’ll post here. This is the state of the Oilers defense right now:

This is problematic.

Now I maybe have been exaggerating things just a bit with
that assessment of the defense. I’m sure it’s possible that Klefbom regresses
and becomes a 3rd pairing guy too…

Of course the Oilers won’t play empty space for 25 minutes a
night. The way the roster will *probably* fill out is like this:

1st Pair: Klefbom Schultz

2nd Pair: Nikitin Fayne

3rd Pair: Reinhart Gryba

Somebody is going to get that top pairing time and based on
the current roster it’s going to be Justin Schultz. That is a disaster because
he has proven thus far to be a terrible option as a 1D. He doesn’t shoot, adds
next to nothing on the PP, and is hopelessly lost in his own zone. Klefbom is
all but a lock on the left side.

The Oilers opted against ridding themselves of Nikitin, so
whether it’s vanity or a desire to just bite the bullet on the last year he
will likely be handed a spot. Fayne is a lock on the right side and he’s a
better player than Gryba.

Team’s don’t make splashy trades at the draft to put those
pieces in the AHL and Chiarelli has stated his expectation is that Reinhart
makes the NHL this year. Gryba was also very clearly Ottawa’s number 6 and we shouldn’t
assume anything other than that makes him a capable number 6 in the NHL.

I truthfully have no idea where or when the captain Andrew
Ference plays right now but he’s a guy that Chiarelli let walk away from his
team once before.

Oiler lineups have rarely been built on merit over the last
few years, but if training camp was actually an open competition then we could
probably expect Nurse to take Nikitin’s spot on that depth chart. However, it’s
likely that we see him assigned to the AHL based on contracts alone. Of course
we could be surprised by the team in the fall.

That is the current state of the Oilers defense as we head
into free agency. While the future might possibly be better off with Reinhart
in the system, the current state of the defense is no better than it was at the
end of the year.

That makes defense Edmonton’s biggest weakness heading into free agency. We have heard very little about who the Oilers might be interested
in signing so far, but there are rumblings that they are not targeting one of
the big fish defensemen.

They’ve done a fantastic job adding enough 3rd
pairing defenders to fill the spots for three NHL teams but the team is going to
live and die with Klefbom and Schultz again if Chiarelli doesn’t change things up.
Over the next week or so we should expect the Oilers to all but cement their
roster for the 2015-2016 season. The goaltending issue has been tackled. The
forwards will be getting a McDavidian boost. The defense is waiting for the
upgrade it so painfully needs.

  • camdog

    Everyone keeps asking me the question:

    “Josh, what are we going to do about our DEFENSE.”

    My answer:

    OVERPAY the dudes that are available. C’mon, Mike Green is available. He is a top 4 guy. Franson is available, pay the dude!!!

    Why do you novices keep talking trades when there’s top guys that could be had for nothing except a huge contract.

    I bet Chara could be had for a bag of Doritos.


    • Oilers-Entourage

      Because it may not matter this season but paying big money to people who wont be a valuable part of your organization in a couple of years is poor allocation of money. That’s why you don’t spend big on these guys who are only held in high regard because of a bad free agent class. Why pay a guy like a top pairing player when they aren’t. When the time comes for us to actually pay those who will be our top players “oh sorry we can’t afford you because we have a 33 year old regressing mike green making over 5 mill per” that don’t fly with me

  • Oilers-Entourage

    I’m not sure how Shattenkirk’s “availability” even materialized into suggestion, but if he were actually available, it’d be the best kept secret in the NHL. However, Don Sweeney sure didn’t do himself any favors by keeping Hamilton’s availability on the down-low.
    But there’s no question that 29 other teams would be in line to place an offer on a right-handed top pairing D-Man who works his but off, shift after shift.
    He’s not exactly over the hill and his contract is a beauty.
    The Blues would certainly look to dump a forward or two, before resorting to such atrocities, in my mind.

    I like Adam Larrson. Now that’s a little more realistic. Jersey is hurting for youthful offense.

  • Zarny

    Talbot was a nice add at a great price. I bet beefing up the blueline would help with resigning.

    The “true top pairing right hand defenseman who could push Schultz down the order” was Hamilton. We know how that went. Sounds like they made a call to Nsh about Jones but alas, no dice. I suspect they made a lot of calls, and either didn’t find any other Dougie Hamilton’s or couldn’t stomach the price.

    For 16 + 33 Griffin Reinhart is who’s available. We’ll know in a couple of years if inaction was the better choice.

    Marincin and Gryba were housekeeping. The new GM shuffling the deck to suit his preference. He knows Gyrba from a former division rival; I suspect Chiarelli trusts him to get the job done on the bottom pair. Hasn’t always been the case the last few years. Marincin was redundant and odd man out.

  • hagar

    Maybe PC is looking to the 2016-2017 season per Katzs’ request for the new building. If that’s the case, then someone like Griffen while not what we need right now, replaces a waste of space like nikitin at that point.

    We can’t get rid of nikitin right now because his contract is toxic, so PC goes after an entry level contract dman to fill a hole until some wasted space dman can be cleared next year.

  • Oilers-Entourage

    I gotta say it.

    Mike Green is sweet, but I really don’t think he’s what we need this season. We need a top pairing defensive defenseman. All of our soft minutes are already accounted for.

  • Rod the Viking

    Jultz will not be in the top pairing, if not traded he will possibly be in the second pairing. McLellan will not put him out against the other teams top line, remember he saw a lot of him over the last couple of years playing against Thornton and completely getting his lunch ate. McTavish and Newport sports will not be deciding how much ice time Schultz gets anymore.

    • Oilers-Entourage

      If the addition by subtraction makes the team better, I can totally see it happening. But Nikitin, Ference or Purcell just might have some value at the deadline with salary retained.
      Playing them is usually best.
      Ifor Nikitin is as bad as he was last year,(if that’s even possible) I’d waive him without hesitation.

        • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

          I hear ya.
          Which is why I said “playing them is usually for the best”. But if they contribute more harm than good, there isn’t much you can do to increase their stock. Bad is bad.
          Especially now that each player is analyzed, microscopically.

    • Kevwan

      I think that’s a better option than keeping him with the team if he’s playing like crap.

      I hope Nikitin get’s moved. If he stays and earns a trip to Bakersfield I think PC will give him a ticket there. PC doesn’t strike me as the timid type.

  • bazmagoo

    TSN stated Beauchemin is looking for 3 years/15 million. Oduya likely around the same. Short terms, big dollars. We can afford to overpay one defender as long as the term is 3 years, in my opinion. Anything to push Schultz down the roster.

  • 1979

    My gut says that a deal is coming with Pittsburgh… Brandon Sutter and Derek Pouliot coming our way and Nail Yakupov, a defensive prospect and a high pick next year going back their way…

  • Tikkanese

    @MH Great post and I agree on pretty much all points!

    I hope you’re right about Talbot. I’m just not happy because those trade pieces could have helped to get that top pairing D. Plus, there were viable options available in net as UFA’s. Not to mention, Talbot is a UFA in one year and that could blow up in the Oilers’ face.

  • McSaviour

    We can only hope that Chia is playing foxy by suggesting he doesn’t need to make a move. We need defensive help in a big way. Unless he can pull a rabbit out of his hat a top two D man is out of the question. So we need either a legitimate top 4 UFA, like Sekera or some kind of trade. If he thinks the present state of the D is okay, be afraid. Be very aftaid.

  • Word to the Bird

    Shultz should not be in our first pairing. I don’t think he should be in our second pairing. Klefbom is fine as a #2 d-man in my opinion, but he needs a legitimate #1.

    Oilers are so screwed on D, and then we trade our best defensive forward. PC is pissing me off.

  • someguy

    Matt, I love how you think you can just find a top pairing defenseman in the store.

    It’s easy to say that the Oilers need one but how to get it?

    Here’s an idea, why don’t you give Chiarelli the rest of the summer before judging his moves?

    Also, Mark Fayne was a top pairing guy in New Jersey, and Chiarelli saw more of him than MacT when he was playing there. Don’t you think that’s something that would be taken into consideration? Just because he struggled last year doesn’t mean he’s not a top pairing d-man.

    Klefbom did well as a top pairing guy last year, why would you say he’s a 2nd pairing guy? That doesn’t make sense.

    Also, Shattenkirk will never be moved, so the rest of you are dreaming if you think you can offer Eberle and Yakupov for Shattenkirk and Oshie is NOT going to happen, so stop dreaming right now.

    More realistic options are Ryan Ellis (who is stuck on the depth chart behind Weber, Josi, and Jones in Nashville) and Brent Seabrook (a salary cap dump who can be had for next year’s first as the centerpiece). Ellis is shrimp, though, as he’s below, 6 feet tall and ~ 170 lbs IIRC, so that may scare off Chiarelli.

    Sure, if you narrow mindedly look at guys who CURRENTLY are #1 pairing guys then you have to give up core players – but those guys will never go anywhere to begin with, because their teams won’t give them up.

    That’s what those of you who are submitting trade proposals seem to forget.

    Terrible blog with terrible comments.

    • smith

      Klefbom is a rookie. If you wish him to grow and develop he needs to be sheltered and supported. He was a top pairing at the end of last year on the oilers. Fayne does not have the offense to be a top pairing defence just like Sekera is lacking in that department. If the oilers wish to get better (more than a slight improvement) they need to acquire a top pairing d-man one way or another. Islanders did it last year, Flames did it this year, Sharks did it with Burns, Toronto with Phaneuf, the wild with Suter. It can be done. Something the oil have failed to do for 10 years.

  • Wow. Great assessment of the problem…..what solution do you propose Arch? Top pairing Dmen are not simple to come by……trade Hall? Eberle? Nuge? those guys may or may not even get a top pairing guy in return (ok. Hall prob would)