The Edmonton Oilers are currently one offensively minded top four right-handed defenseman (RHD) away from having a pretty solid roster. No,
really. They are.
When Peter Chiarelli took over at the helm of the Edmonton
Oilers he was tasked with the impossible job of taking the Oilers forward
without moving backwards to do it. That is to say that the Oilers needed to get to
the next level without having to give up core pieces to make that happen. With the time to
act starting at the draft and continuing through the free agent period, we are
seeing Chiarelli aggressively put his stamp on the team without dismantling the
best of what was there before.
Did he do that? Well he’s had a pretty good off-season, and July just started. Here are
McDavid: Found Money. It wasn’t official but McDavid was an
Oiler the moment the last lottery number dropped. It still doesn’t seem real.
Reinhart: Traded the 16th and 33rd overall picks to acquire.
Had a self-described disappointing 1st pro season but it wasn’t like
he was a complete non-factor. He’s still a solid prospect.
Talbot: Traded the 57th, 79th, and 189th
picks to acquire. The best goaltender available in free agency or trade
Gryba: Traded 107th pick and Travis Ewanyk to
acquire. The team’s new 6D. Big, physical, mean, amazing beard.
Korpikoski: Traded Boyd Gordon to acquire. Maybe the least
useful piece acquired by Chiarelli, but he’s fast and physical. He’s a 4th
liner with 3rd line potential.
Letestu: Signed as a free agent. He is a young-ish (30) 3 or 4 centre who
shoots right. Less emphasis on defense than Gordon, but more skill in the offensive
Sekera: Signed as a free agent. Probably the team’s best all-around defender today. Should be
capable of playing the big minutes with Schultz (?) and forcing Klefbom in the
2nd pairing where he won’t be killed.
In less than a week he has added seven bodies who are all slated
to be on the opening day roster, and he only moved out Boyd Gordon and Martin
Marincin (who you will recall was traded for that 107th pick. No, I’m
still not over it) from the NHL roster to do it.
He was asked to build up the team without completely dismantling
it. What he’s done in the last week is exactly what that looks like in action.
In my piece about the Oilers defense before free agency I
was pretty adamant that Gryba and Reinhart wouldn’t address the real problem
with Edmonton’s lineup. I stand by that statement, but Sekera does address the need
for a top flight defender who can play in all situations. He is a legitimate
21-22 minute per night defender and has been for years.
My personal expectations for Reinhart are purposefully low
for this coming year. He hasn’t proven to be a fulltime NHLer yet and I’d prefer
to assume he belongs in Bakersfield until he earns a spot. However, Chiarelli’s
expectation is that Reinhart will, at the very least, challenge for a roster spot
with the Oilers this year and it’s an assertion he keeps repeating when asked
the question. He believes Reinhart is a real player who will help the
Oilers sooner rather than later. It truly seems like the plan is to be ready
for this kid to make the team in the fall. Between Reinhart and Nurse the
Oilers have some solid talent pushing for spots on a pretty deep left side.
The Oilers new defensive depth chart is as such:
Sekera – Schultz
Klefbom – Fayne
Nikitin – Gryba
The weak link in the defense is still the top spot on the
right side. When the season ended that was the roster spot most of us
identified as the most needing of change. Justin Schultz holds that position
down and there isn’t anyone in the system pushing him out of that spot.
At the top of this post I said that the Oilers are one
offensive-minded top-4 RHD away from having a very competitive roster and I
believe it. My first choice is to sign Franson and sell Schultz to the highest
bidder, but the troubled defender is only 203 games into his career and it’s
still possible for him to turn back north.
The real question is, after watching as much game film as
humanly possible, how comfortable is Chiarelli going to feel having Justin
Schultz at the top of his depth chart?
The GM has been aggressive in his search for NHL talent who can
complement the roster’s strengths. When the Oilers won the lottery I was
adamant that they could not simply wait around and hope their window to win
magically opens up as if by some act from above. I cannot be upset with their actions since the draft because they are doing exactly what I have
wanted them to do.
They are trying to build a winner today. The team is not waiting around. Even if Chiarelli doesn’t
add another body he’s already found the man who will be his starting goalie, added
offense to the bottom six, and changed out three of his six opening night defensemen from a year ago.
Even with all the positive change it still might not be enough to make up the
37 points that stood between the Oilers and the playoffs.
Is it greedy to suggest the Oilers need to do more? Maybe,
but if they are indeed trying to build a winner today then they realistically
need to make further changes to the roster.
There is a lot of time between now and training camp. We
wait to see what other changes if any are in store for the Oiler roster.