Monday Mailbag – August 17th

Mailbag

The worst part about going back to work on Monday is that you have to try and find things to do until you’re allowed to leave. You drink 48 glasses of water. Make sure Twitter hasn’t changed in the 15 minutes since you last checked it. You read all the celebrity gossip that you pretend you don’t care about. Corporate me used to restart my company computer a few times and pretend that there were some kind of updates that had to be done. The struggle is real. Finishing your Monday without throat punching a coworker is a goal we all strive for. As always, the Mailbag is here to help you achieve that goal. I need questions for next week so please email them to me to baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or DM them to me on Twitter. Without further adieu – the Mailbag. 

NIKITINGUAC copy

1) Trevor asks – What’s stopping Chiarelli from dumping Nikita Nikitin? There are plenty of teams with cap space, surely he could swing a deal where he offloads NN, retains some salary, for say something like a 4th or 5th round draft pick. That would free up a roster spot for someone like Nurse or Reinhart. Do you think he wants to see if he’ll bounce back, or that there are truly no takers?

Jason Gregor:

Doubt any takers at this point. You could sign other Dmen on the free agent market for $2.25 million (which is cheapest team could get Nikitin for) or less. Chiarelli will wait until camp and early in season to see if there are any takers, or if Nurse or Reinhart are clearly better, the Oilers could send him to the minors.

Jason Strudwick:

I was very surprised at the contract he received last summer, as were many people around the league. I don’t think there would be a lot of takers for him this summer. Depth is very important on the back end. Injuries add up quickly. The Oilers have some now so hold on to it. Do I think NN has an impact this season? I have my doubts.

Jonathan Willis:

I guess the answer to that question is: “How much will Christian Ehrhoff/Jan Hejda/whoever cost in free agency?” If you figure the Oilers retain 50% of Nikitin’s salary, he’d effectively be on a one-year, $2.25 million contract. Given the choice between acquiring Nikitin at that price and signing Jan Hejda (my guess is that he comes cheaper on a one-year deal) which direction would you go?

Lowetide:

There are a few things here. Nikitin was injured at the end of the season, so there may be questions about his health. Teams may want to see him. Also, the Oilers may have decided to hold back the water on all of the prospects, meaning Nikitin at least starts the season (if healthy) on the roster. Options. That’s what Peter Chiarelli is keeping.

Robin Brownlee:

Don’t know if Nikitin will bounce back, but it makes sense for Chiarelli to have a first-hand look for himself before taking any action.

Jeanshorts:

First off, I said all along during the Oilers buyout windows that I think it makes more sense to just eat this final year of Nikitin’s contract and be fully rid of him next season rather than eating up (albeit fairly unsubstantial) cap space for another year. Second, I doubt there are very many takers for a 29 year old, #5-6-7 D-man with a history of injury who’s never played a full 82 game season, coming off arguably the worst season of his career. And finally, yes I do think, at least partially, this is Chiarelli giving him one last shot to prove that he does still belong on an NHL roster. I’m of the opinion that some of that is due to the lack of legit, veteran NHL D-men on the roster right now and the log jam of soon-to-be but probably not quite ready for primetime prospects, rookies and minor leaguers. Nikitin had a season we’d all love to forget last year, and he’s never really shown himself to be more than an adequate bottom pairing guy. BUT he has played over 200 games in the NHL. And not to keep beating this pile of dust that used to be a dead horse but the Oilers are still in a place where they don’t have the luxury of letting guys like that go, unfortunately. 

Pretty much every move Chiarelli has made this summer has been done to promote competition within the system for roster spots on the big club. Nikitin will be pushed by guys like Nurse and Reinhart to hang onto his roster spot, and if that’s the motivation he needs to not be a tire fire this season then great! I think best case scenario he has a bounce back season and Chiarelli trades him at the deadline. If the ghost of Kimmo Timonen can get TWO picks out of Chicago you have to think that a half decent Nikitin could at least recoup the picks the Oilers gave up for Chiarelli and McLellan. 

And let’s not forget the AHL is always an option. If Nurse AND Reinhart both make the Oilers opening night squad then Nikitin could become the new Wade Redden! Those roster spots shouldn’t be “freed up”. They should be earned by the players.

Matt Henderson:

There are a few things getting in the way of a Nikitin deal. First, he’s not very good and hasn’t been for several years. To a lot of general managers, that’s a deal breaker. Second, cap space is probably more valuable than Nikita Nikitin to a lot of teams. The ability to add or retain salary with cap space opens up many more possibilities down the road. Lastly, there are simply much better players available on the open market right now. It might ultimately cost less for Nikitin at 50% but if teams have the space why not try to get Ehrhoff or Franson?

Baggedmilk:

I think the biggest problem is that he makes way too much money for what little he provides. There are still some pretty solid d-men left in free agency and I would guess that all of them will make less money than what Nikitin makes. So if I’m a GM I’m waiting to see what’s happening with those guys before I call Peter Chiarelli on Nikitin. Personally, I think we’re stuck with him until the trade deadline and only then will Chiarelli be able to move him for scraps. On the bright side, the Oilers aren’t in cap trouble and defensive depth is always a good thing so having him around isn’t the worst idea in the history of hockey.

NurseOnStandby

2) SevenSeven asks – As is often seen, GMs push prospects and other players that are procured during their time at the helm. Do you think this will have a difference on the Reinhart/Nurse situation? Does Reinhart get the push or at least the early push?

Jason Gregor:

Don’t see Reinhart getting pushed ahead of Nurse. This trade wasn’t made simply for this season. The #16 pick wasn’t going to play for at least two years, likely longer, so Chiarelli’s thinking is if Reinhart can contribute next year it is a good deal. They won’t force him into lineup this year. He didn’t dominate in AHL last year, so nothing wrong if he goes there again. Two years of AHL seasoning won’t hurt him if he isn’t NHL ready.

Jason Strudwick:

Nurse looks like he could be a good NHL player. No GM will hold back that type of player in favor of “his” guy — that would make no sense. Without seeing training camp but knowing young players I would be happy to see both start in the minors. Think long term.

Camps can be deceiving. Vets don’t kick it into high gear until the start of the season at best. Exhibition game are littered with drafted and AHL players. I expect Nurse do show very well during that period…but think long term.

Jonathan Willis:

No, I don’t think it’s going to make any difference; Darnell Nurse is simply too good a prospect to be vulnerable to that kind of thing. People like Brandon Davidson and David Musil, on the other hand, would do well to impress the new brass immediately.

Lowetide:

That’s my guess, but Nurse is going to make it tough. I suspect they’re both in the starting lineup for the final game at Rexall.

Robin Brownlee:

Not sure what you state as common practice is reality. Reinhart was drafted a year earlier than Nurse and should be further along and closer to being ready. There’s every chance he’ll be put into more situations to prove he’s ready than Nurse because of that. That might be a push, but it has less to do with who drafted or obtained the player and more to do with when he was drafted.

Jeanshorts:

I think a lot of this will come down to how training camp goes. Obviously Chiarelli (or someone in the organization *COUGH Bob Green COUGH*) is very high on Reinhart. I didn’t mind the trade nearly as much as other people, but it definitely was a fair bit to give up for a guy who is, for all intents and purposes, still a prospect. But clearly they want him to succeed and see him as a big part of the organization going forward. 

However I don’t really see a scenario in which one guy has an advantage over the other purely because they were either an Oilers draft pick or brought in with the hopes of being a big part of the team for the next decade. If either guy makes the team it’ll be on merit and talent, not pithy inside politics or personal relationships.

Matt Henderson:

I think there’s definitely something to the bias you suggest is there. However, I think what will play a bigger part in how the two players are treated this fall will be experience. Let’s assume both play similarly well in camp, the Oilers may well just want to give Nurse the pro experience that Reinhart already has. That said, if Nurse shows he’s the best choice for one of the top six spots then I’d like to hope that the team won’t stubbornly play Reinhart instead.

Baggedmilk:

If the premise of this question is true we’ve got some huge problems. If Darnell Nurse is better than Reinhart then he should be playing regardless of who acquired him. I think it’s going to take some time for people to get used to having a competent management/coaching staff where theories like this prove to be completely false. If Reinhart earns a job he’ll play, and the same goes for Nurse. It’s Todd McLellan’s job to ice the best possible team with the players he’s been given, and I’d expect him to do that.  

Battle

3) Vetinari asks – Where do you think the biggest battles will be at training camp this year for opening night positions?

Jason Gregor:

3rd/4th line centre between Letestu and Lander.

The #4-#6 slots on defence. I have Sekera, Klefbom and Fayne as top three.

Who will be second line RW — Yakupov or Purcell?

Jason Strudwick:

I would expect there to be a battle in the crease and on the blue line. Both areas have numbers we just don’t know who will get all the time.

Jonathan Willis:

Everywhere. Seriously. Defence is probably my pick if I have to settle on just one position; there are probably 11 guys who will seriously compete for seven or eight spots. Goal has three players on NHL contracts; Ben Scrivens could plausibly be the Oilers’ No. 1 on December 1 or still be looking for his first major-league game of the season. The forward group is slightly less competitive, but there are battles to watch there and it’ll get crazy in a hurry if, say, Edmonton opts for eight defencemen and invites Lee Stempniak to training camp.

Lowetide:

Defense for sure, there are TEN guys for seven or eight spots. Leon can make things difficult too, especially if he thrives on RW.

Robin Brownlee:

Battles for opening night positions means looking at the fringe players and borderline guys in the 20-23 spots. I’m more interested in seeing who plays the wings with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid and who makes up the top pairing on the blueline. The bottom of the roster decision that holds intrigue is who makes up the third-pairing on the blue line, who gets the seven spot and who gets sent to the minors.

Jeanshorts:

I think the biggest battle will take place inside the crease. Not necessarily for the starters job, but who knows maybe Nilsson will blow the doors off at training camp and McLellan will have no choice but to start him opening night (I really doubt this will happen though. #TeamTalbot). Or maybe (and if the $1000 worth of lucky pennies I’ve thrown into fountains at West Ed finally pay off) Scrivens will rebound mightily and he’ll take over the number one job! But more so, I think the battle will be for the backup spot. The Oilers have Scrivens, Eetu Laurikainen, Anders Nilsson and Laurent Brossoit all fighting for spots, whether it be the number two guy on the Oilers or the starter in Bakersfield. It’s like a good version of the three-headed monster nightmare we witnessed however many seasons ago!

Matt Henderson:

The biggest battles, I think, will be for 3LW and the 5/6D spots. I’m not convinced Korpikoski is a third liner and Draisaitl has expressed that he is willing to shift to the wing to play. As for the defense, Ference and Nikitin are in tough to earn ice time this year. These spots should be hotly contested.

Baggedmilk:

I think the biggest battle will be who gets into the defence on any given night. There are more players than there are spots, and picking a “top six” from that group will be tough. I like the idea of having guys earn their spot rather than be gifted a place based on contracts. I also think there will be a battle in net because you know Ben Scrivens isn’t happy about giving up his job. Despite having a shitacular year Ben Scrivens could turn things around and give Talbot a run for his money.

Wisdom

4) Alexandre asks – If you could give Todd McLellan one piece of advice what would it be?

Jason Gregor:

Demand consistent competitiveness from this group. Hold them accountable to playing hard, which I assume he will.

Jason Strudwick:

Continue to undersell.

Jonathan Willis:

Don’t read the comments section during a losing streak.

Lowetide:

Don’t listen to Lowetide’s advice.

Robin Brownlee:

I would not presume to give Todd McLellan advice about coaching a NHL team. Honestly, what is a fan/blogger/hockey writer/radio guy going to tell McLellan that he doesn’t already know?

Jeanshorts:

Don’t go on Twitter, ever. Stay as far away as possible.

Matt Henderson:

Well, since McLellan knows more about hockey than I ever will, I would feel like an idiot giving him hockey advice. I can only imagine a conversation starting where I begin telling him he should play Yak on the second line and security escorting me out the building before I can even bring up the Eakins/Nelson splits. So instead I’m going to tell him that sweet sauce is completely overrated and he should go for a garlic sauce on his donairs. Also, don’t go to Abbottsfield for any reason. It’s a trap.

Baggedmilk:

Be careful with Rexall beers. Your whole night can get away from you in a hurry if you don’t handle those babies with care. 

BattleWin

5) Craig A. asks – Why do you think Oilers fans love fighters and checkers as much as we do? It always seems to me that these guys become fan favourites very quickly.

Jason Gregor:

Not sure about checkers, but fans in every city respect fighters because they know it is an extremely difficult job.

Jason Strudwick:

I think a lot of cities do. I know in NY with the Rangers the fans always cheered those guys.

Jonathan Willis:

There are lots of reasons. One of them, I suspect, is that being a physical player is much more an act of will than simply being a goal scorer. If a goal-scorer gets on a cold streak, he can’t simply decide to score a goal one night; there are a lot of variables at play and his effort level is just one of them. If an enforcer hasn’t had a fight in a while, he can simply decide to go hit a guy and as a general rule (assuming there’s a similar player on the other team) he can simply decide to pick a fight. There’s never any cause to question the willingness of a good enforcer to do his job, because he can any time he feels like it. Scoring and/or preventing goals requires more than a simple decision on the part of the player in question, though, and so it’s a lot easier to imagine motivational issues that don’t really exist there.

Lowetide:

We’re a working class city with a working class work ethic. We like our rock and roll, we like our beer and we like rugged hockey. We’ll sleep when we’re dead.

Robin Brownlee:

Fans love blue collar guys who do the dirty work without a lot of fanfare or, relatively speaking, money. The ability to produce goals/points is a rare skill but it’s fun and it pays handsomely. Blocking shots, throwing checks and getting punched in the face isn’t fun and doesn’t pay nearly as well. Fans relate to them as more average-type guys, even though there’s nothing average about players good enough to make it the NHL in the first place.

Jeanshorts:

Edmontonians and Albertans in general pride ourselves on our blue collar reputation. Alberta has become what it is today off the backs of farmers and oilfield workers — people that work hard jobs and long hours. So when a guy like Smytty comes in and busts his ass every shift, or a player goes out there and “digs ditches” so to speak, paving the way for the more naturally talented players, we respect the hell out of that type of work ethic. Fans also have a much easier time relating to guys like that than they do, say, a guy like Ales Hemsky who has been exceptional at hockey his entire life, and was blessed with talent that made it look like he didn’t have to work as hard as other guys out there (which I don’t believe is true at all, but I digress). And this isn’t just an Edmonton phenomenon either; you see it in most fan bases around the league. Flyer fans were bummed when Zac Rinaldo was traded. Shaun Thornton has basically been knighted in Boston. Some of the most popular players in the history of the NHL are enforcers. Fans appreciate guys who go out there and sacrifice their bodies for the good of the team, and can see a lot more of themselves in a guy like Boyd Gordon than a Steve Stamkos. And, I mean, who doesn’t love a good underdog story about someone working hard to defy the odds and achieve their dreams? Heartless bastards like Chris the Intern, that’s who!

Matt Henderson:

Players who look like they’re working are always going to connect to the vast majority of people who have to put an honest day’s work in just to make a buck. Additionally, my experience is that those players are very down to earth (at least by professional athlete standards).

Baggedmilk:

People love fighters for the same reason ancient civilizations loved gladiators — because it’s awesome. Loving a good scrap isn’t just an Edmonton thing though, I think most fans around the league are proud to rock the jersey of their team’s tough guy. Fighters and checkers have a tough job, and don’t get all the glory that a top scoring player will get. People appreciate that kind of stuff, and sports provides it in abundance. 

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I like Chia’s decision to just eat the last year of Nikitin instead of buying him out. One year of Nikitin instead of multiple years of lost cap space.

    Is Talbot gonna be wearing his Ghost Busters mask?

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    “And, I mean, who doesn’t love a good underdog story about someone working hard to defy the odds and achieve their dreams? Heartless bastards like Chris The Intern, that’s who!”

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CHRIS THE INTERN! GET MY COFFEE!!

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Another good read with my Monday morning coffee guys. Your making the world a better place one article at a time.

    Got this Beastie Boys song stuck in my head lately only the lyrics have changed a bit.

    NO SLEEP TILL……………PENTICTON!

    Hoping we get a lot of ON making the road trip.

  • vetinari

    Regarding Nikitin- I doubt that there are any takers for his services at this point regardless of his price point. Best case scenario is that he comes to camp healthy, rebounds, and becomes a stable and effective top 4 defencemen who we can either use or we can trade for something in February. Worst case scenario is that he gets sent down to the minors and walks at the end of the year.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    If Oilers intend on running 3 offensive lines then they probably require 3 offensively inclined defenseman . One on each defensive coupling in top 6 . So that leaves us basically , in order of preference , with Schultz , Nurse and Nikitin , and to a smaller degree Ference . Klefbom , Fayne and Reinhart not overly offensive . Sekara , mind you , can probably do both reasonably and pop above Nikitin if he shows no better than last season . . Calgary runs 4-5 with offensive ability . I think we will run with 7 defenseman to start the season , and see if reducing is in order . Nurse should push Schultz for top offensive defenseman on our squad , and thus I feel he will make team this year right off the bat . Reinhart will find it tougher to crack lineup , I believe , than Nurse . Defense will be biggest battles .

    Oiler fans have a liking for protectors , seeing as we have lacked that over recent years .

  • camdog

    The Oilers didn’t make the trade for Reinhart to play him on the left side. Reinhart is expected to compete on the right side. Hopefully Oiler fans understand the difference. Generally the RD is weaker than LD. That’s part of the reason why Petry got the big contract and why it was such a gamble to trade him away.

    Reinhart doesn’t need to out play Nurse to make the team, his competition is Fayne, Schultz and Ference.

    • Dan 1919

      Poor Petry, he can’t be left alone to play in his new city, Oiler fans continue to dwell on him.

      But since you brought him up, it wasn’t a gamble to trade away a guy who had trouble staying in the lineup of the worst defensive team in the NHL, who was weak in his own zone, often lost 1on1 battles because of low compete level, was terrible at positioning and was often caught giving the opposing team 2 on 1’s or leaving a guy wide open for a perfect shot against our subpar goalies.

      But hey, he was an average passer and a decent skater, so trading away a guy who was gifted ice time and opportunity many NHL dmen dream of, was the most terrifying trade in Oiler history, I know.

      Get over him, just because Montreal overpaid in term and cost doesn’t mean he’s worth it.

    • bazmagoo

      I did not realize Reinhart was more of a right sided guy. Ideally I would love to see Darnell and Griffin playing 1st pairing minutes together down in the AHL next season, until the trade deadline.

  • “And, I mean, who doesn’t love a good underdog story about someone working hard to defy the odds and achieve their dreams? Heartless bastards like Chris The Intern, that’s who!”

    No more back massages for you Jeanshorts!

  • bazmagoo

    @Strudwick “Nurse looks like he could be a good NHL player. No GM will hold back that type of player in favor of “his” guy — that would make no sense. Without seeing training camp but knowing young players I would be happy to see both start in the minors. Think long term.

    Camps can be deceiving. Vets don’t kick it into high gear until the start of the season at best. Exhibition game are littered with drafted and AHL players. I expect Nurse do show very well during that period…but think long term.”

    This all day, still can not believe Oilersnation somehow has Jason on board. Awesome!

    @JeanShorts “I didn’t mind the trade nearly as much as other people, but it definitely was a fair bit to give up for a guy who is, for all intents and purposes, still a prospect.”

    I trade a #16 and #33 overall pick for a #4 overall pick every day of the week, month, year, millenium.

  • A-Mc

    I gotta say that these photoshops that are used for the Monday mailbag are actually really good. Good work to the guy/gal that is getting that done. (Clearly not BM or JS)