Gone by the Deadline

Peter Chiarelli3

Peter Chiarelli made some headway this summer, but the Edmonton Oilers’ roster remains flawed in many ways. The goaltending is uncertain, the defence is loaded to the gills with third-pairing types and even the forward corps has some discernible weaknesses.

In short, the general manager isn’t close to finished yet, because realistically there are a finite number of things he can do in a single summer. Chiarelli does have a history of making in-season moves though, and I’d expect that a lot of the names on the opening night roster for 2015-16 are long gone by the time game 82 rolls around.

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Obvious Candidates


  • Teddy Purcell. A competent middle-six forward entering the final year of his contract ($4.5 million/year). It’s not impossible the Oilers re-sign him at a lower rate after a good season, but it’s more likely that the team moves him at the deadline given the relative ease of finding comparable players in the offseason.
  • Nikita Nikitin. If he was making $1.5 million/season he wouldn’t be a problem. I’d guess he’s tradeable at the deadline for a late pick; there’s always an NHL team looking for a depth defenceman at the deadline and dollars matter less there. Last year of his deal.
  • Justin Schultz. A change in management means that the Oilers’ loyalty to Schultz (which has been sorely tested) may not survive another tough campaign. He’s young enough to have some value in trade.
  • Andrew Ference. Ference may not be tradeable, even at the deadline. He needs a good year.
  • Nail Yakupov. He could play 500 more games for the Oilers or be gone before 50 pass. He’s a total wild card with crazy potential and just a two-year contract.
  • Ben Scrivens. He might be able to save his Oilers career with a great season, but even if he plays lights-out he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.
  • Matt Hendricks. Remember when Craig MacTavish said last year that he could have moved Purcell or Andrew Ference at the trade deadline? Veterans tend to have some value, and given Hendricks’ age and salary it’s plausible that the team moves on if it gets an opportunity.
  • Eric Gryba. He’s one year away from being unrestricted, and he’s in an entry-level position. Not only will he have value at the deadline but it’s entirely possible that he’ll be replaceable internally by one of the Oilers’ second-tier prospects (Brandon Davidson, David Musil, etc.).
  • Anders Nilsson. No idea if he’ll have value, and at this point it’s not even possible to be sure of which league he’ll be playing in.
  • Anton Lander. He has to find a niche or he risks being squeezed out by top prospect Leon Draisaitl and established NHL’er Mark Letestu.
  • Luke Gazdic, Tyler Pitlick, Rob Klinkhammer. All replaceable, all on one-year deals.



Chiarelli won’t necessarily confine himself to the obvious candidates, either. The big names (players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl) are more likely to be offseason moves than in-season deals, but the important thing to remember here is that the new regime is going to have a different game plan than the old one did and some of the pieces seen as key building blocks or supports under MacTavish will be seen as expendable under Chiarelli.

That list of expendables may include some of the veterans signed long-term. Chiarelli had Benoit Pouliot on the Bruins in 2011-12, but only kept him a single year; he may not be interested in letting him play out the term of his deal. Mark Fayne is a useful NHL defenceman signed long-term but similarly may not fit into Chiarelli’s vision for the defence corps.

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It’s going to be a fascinating year, for many reasons. We can reasonably guess at the backbone of the team: Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at centre (personally, I’d include Taylor Hall at left wing on that list and rather expect Chiarelli to come to the same conclusion), and the quartet of Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart on defence. Now the question is which players will be retained to play with that group.


  • Cowbell_Feva

    Purcell had pretty strong point production when playing with talented players in Tampa. He might have a rebound season…I’m not a fan of him because he is so soft, but if he fills the net, it would be a pleasant surprise but also something I wouldn’t be entirely shocked by.

      • Cowbell_Feva

        Yep. By no means am I a fan of his lack of grit.

        I was referring to 2011-12 with Tampa when he put up 65 points as a purely skill player with great linemates. He will probably get his fair share of good linemates again this season, so I would be that much less thrilled with him if he couldn’t surpass the 34 points he got last year….

        Side note: 2010-11 playoffs he had 17 points in 18 games which was the first time I had really noticed him. Maybe if the Oil could ever get back to the dance, he could repeat…lol…ugh, not this year.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i was saying this exact thing *before* we won the McDavid sweepstakes….after 9 years of not making the playoffs, i was more than prepared to see *anyone* go in order to try to win. and that will be the tough part, trying to teach a pretty talented team how to win.

    • CaptainLander

      I cannot agree with this enough. I’m a huge supporter of Hall, Nuge and Eberle but I would be excited to hear one of them was moving on because you know that the return would address a team need for a long time. I am an Oilers fan first and only a casual fan of the individual players.

  • fran huckzky

    This blog depressed me. The season hasn’t started yet and we are speculating on who we can unload at the deadline. when are we going to get rid of the loser mentality??

        • Cowbell_Feva

          The definition of stupidity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This defense looks a lot like last year with a few wildcards thrown in. There’s hope with Sekera and the prospects but this is not a complete unit by any measure today. It is building in the right direction.

          • AJ88

            Sekera, Gryba and Nurse/Reinhart. That is 50% turnover of the top 6 in only a few months by Chia.

            I am not saying the issue is fixed, but to say we are heading into the season with basically the same defense is flat out incorrect.

          • MorningOwl

            Re Nurse/Reinhart

            it amazes me that people point to three rookies, 2 of which should not even be in the NHL this season, as reasons the team is better and will make the playoffs.

            McDavid won’t need sheltering?

            Nurse and Reinhart will perform at a high enough level to be elite impact players?

            no, it is not the same defense, but you’re pointing to two rookies that may only see limited NHL games… probably shouldn’t see much if you really want to develop them

          • Clarkopolo

            What amazes me is that fans/media have their minds made up one way or another on whether Nurse is ready to play in the NHL. How do you know if he is ready or not??

            I’m not saying he is ready, but there are plenty of instances when a 20-year old D-Man selected in the top 10 of his draft year would be ready to play at this point. And with the addition of Sekera, you can ease a Nurse into the NHL as a 4/5 option.

            Nurse, by most accounts, was the top defenseman in the CHL last year. Yes, the jump is rather large from the CHL to the NHL, but Nurse has a good chance to be successful in the NHL as a 20-year old.

          • bradleypi

            We all know the defence was horrid under Eakins. Are you saying they didn’t look better under Nelson? I’m guessing you didnt watch. I noticed they were better and add sekaras to a bunch of guys with everything to prove makes me believe that they can be a competent defense. They don’t need shutouts every night. They just need to score one more than the other guys. Man I wish oiler fans and writers would actually get behind the team instead of ripping them to shreds every chance they get.

          • bradleypi

            The goaltending was horrid under Eakins , and that made our defence look even worse than it was . Nelson had the advantage of his players mainly playing against the smaller Eastern Clubs ( 15 of 25 games ) , so if defence looked better it was not much in comparison . They were just as bad against Western division clubs as Eakins was , but i’m not sure you were aware of that , or took it into consideration . Talbot’s the key/spinoff effect to our better defence and offence . Fasth and Scrivens did little for us .

          • Cowbell_Feva

            What worries me, is that Talbot came from a great defensive minded team that is one of the best teams in the league.

            He will not get that same buffer here in Edmonton. I fear his GAA and save% have no way of being anywhere near as good as they were.

            It wasn’t that long ago that Scrivens was being touted as the next big deal due to his numbers behind a talented defensive LA team…

            I hope Talbot can deliver!!

        • bazmagoo

          This is also true. 2 seasons of MacT/Eakins has done that to me, no doubt. It will be interesting to see how the players develop with a real NHL coach and knowing that management is on the ball finally.

      • Ideally when McDavid was drafted the teams salary structure would of either been free of poor contracts(ergo mega Cap Space) OR the team had an established D with a 1st pairing D man already in place. Neither was the case.

        Everything after that was focused on improving the depth, eliminating dead cap space(Ference,Nikitin,Purcell) and seasoning the D men that are on the cusp of taking significant roles on D (Klef,Nurse.Reinhart). Which means time in Ahl/Nhl as the season progresses.

        The gameplan is likely to pump the tires of these 3 players)FNP and possibly Schultz) particularly in hopes of a pump and dump by trade deadline. This will allow the younger D players to ease into an NHL role. And fast track bad contracts out the door. The negative to this is it means possibly sacrificing a playoff spot this year. The positive is the team will be in a better position to excel in the 2016-2017 Season.

        Can the fans take it? Absolutely. Will everyone agree with this strategy? Clearly they will not. But I can at least understand the logic behind the strategy.

      • bazmagoo

        Agreed. Can’t expect to make the playoffs when Klefbom, Nurse and Reinhart are the cornerstones of our defence. They are all going to have very successful careers, but are too young and inexperienced now.

      • Wiggleswag

        As Oilers fans we’ve been conditioned to think that rebuilding year means losing lots of games in hopes of a high draft pick.

        I agree this will be a rebuilding year, but not like the previous rebuilding years. We’ll be building primarily with trades rather than draft picks. That will be a nice change of pace.

      • CaptainLander

        When will it be time to move to a different “re” word, can we stop re-building? Maybe do some re-tooling, re-factoring, re-assessing (never mind we should still have the assessment results from Tambi with all the assessing that was done)….uh..re-organizing.

        When will we re-turn to the playoffs? That would be re-ally nice. I think the fan base is re-ady to re-ward the franchise if only they would stop the re-petition of loosing.

        My work is done here.

        • RyanCoke

          Don’t know where everyone learned to spell, but losing is not spelled with 2 “o”‘s. I see this everywhere to the point that I think people learned to spell from facebook.

          • CaptainLander

            Totally agree, spell check should be better at catching these things.

            Sorry, can you read this small font up there on your high horse? But yes, I did not thoroughly proof read my post on a hockey blog. Because for some reason that would mean that anything anyone ever said in a blog comment would actually mean anything. It doesn’t, so you have to ask yourself…if a person were to make a pie but instead of eating it just threw it in the garbage would it matter if the baker followed the recipe exactly?

          • RyanCoke

            Are you that spelling professor from the Sportsnet boards? Thank goodness you’re here! SOmetnez I harv tubless wit mi werds. Cud u please proophreed this fer mi?

      • mcjesus take the wheel

        I agree with you, but I think we are 1 top 4 right handed defense away from having a solid group.

        If you could roll Sekera-Fayne, Klefbom-Franson, Nikita-Gryba. I would say our defense is ready. Then let the kids push their way into the lineup.

      • bradleypi

        Wow please elaborate on how a defence with sekaras, Schultz, Fayne, klefblom, nikitin and ference equates to a “rebuilding” year? There’s one guy on that defence under 25. Are you saying that Chia never traded or bought out nikitin, ference or Schultz so he could get a crack at another lottery pick? Wow man let your hatred for those 3 go and accept that they are oilers. And like someone previously said, there’s a new coach and a new system. I guarantee that this defence won’t be as bad as you or oilersnation thinks it is.

        • NJ

          I’ll reply to the above in a second.

          Re: Eberle scoring the big goal in game 7. He hasn’t seen a playoff game in the NHL. The playoffs are a whole different animal. And, as someone mentioned, the jump from Junior to NHL is huge.

          You “guarantee” this defense won’t be as bad as we think?

          Ference and NN are still there and declining rapidly. Sekara is similar (slightly better?) than Petry. Schultz? Did he learn something in the summer about defense? Put on 20 pounds?

          The only factor to be determined is Nurse. And I bet considering he’s up to 218 pounds and skates better than most NHL D men, I would suggest the wildcard factor here is quite high.

          Will the D be better? Probably not a whole lot, though we want it to be. Hopefully the goaltending is better which then will improve the defense. So, I’d rebuilding year means out of the playoffs, then I would suggest that, while we may still be playing meaningful games in January, somewhere 18-20 would be a successful season.

          • bradleypi

            Oh well if you say NN and ference are declining then I guess it must be true! Why just pick those 2? Were they the reason the swarm defence didn’t work. Hmmm another guy playing the blame game. That’s easy I guess. And you are telling me that you know Schultz so well that you are sure he needs to put on 20 pounds to be successful? Lol. Why would an offensive dman put on weight and get slower?? That makes no sense. And good on ya for cherry picking the fact that the Oilers couldn’t beat western conference teams. I suppose you are blaming Schultz, NN and ference for that too? Just because they didn’t win doesn’t mean they weren’t improving. My point was that under Nelson they weren’t getting blown out like under Eakins. Improvement in my books. I still guarantee they will be better. Let’s revisit this in December if you want. I’ll be here. A rebuilding year….. lololol!

  • bradleypi

    Still sad they couldn’t get Boychuck to come to Edmonton. I wonder if he would have considered it after we won the lottery and the management and coaching staff changed.

    At any rate, looking forward to watching a capable GM build a winner here in Edmonton.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    The McDavid effect is going to shine throughout the roster.

    The new coaching staff is already light years ahead of the old musical chairs game.

    PC will treat us to at least one more good addition before opening night. He may well work some smooth moves at the trade deadline but I hope it is to find another piece for a playoff run.

  • Zarny

    I expect ~ 50% of the roster will be turned over in the next year or 2.

    The Oilers had 62 pts last year. Barring a time warp in progression the D is marginally better. Unless Sekera gets injured. Yikes.

    The Oilers have a phenomenal core to build upon but need both better players and a better mix of players. With the cap change is inevitable and ongoing.

          • Joy S. Lee

            These are just off the top of my head, so here goes: Boston (Dougie Hamilton). St. Louis (Eric Johnson, 1st overall pick). Winnipeg and Buffalo (Bogosian, Zadorov, etc, etc.). Arizona (Yandle). Toronto would trade anybody in the past, maybe not so much now. Montreal dealt Gorges to a division rival right after a stellar playoff performance. Didn’t Dallas just trade Trevor Daley (reportedly their best D-man last few seasons)? And these do not include guys who hit free agency, like Ryan Suter, for example. Point being… they do get traded and they do get moved; just not frequently. But it is not “only when they have issues,” it simply has to be the right deal for both teams.

  • Wiggleswag

    The good news is most the the trade aways can be replaced with internal assets/players. So we’re not trading because we need a replacement. We can trade them and get assets for future use. We have some depth now.

  • Wiggleswag

    The Oilers have added 9 roster players:
    4 D-men: Gryba, Reinhart, Sekera, Nurse
    3 Forwards: Letestu, Korpikoski, McDavid
    2 Goalies: Talbot, Nilsson
    9/20= 45% of the team is new
    Maybe they will be like the Toronto Blue Jays who made some major moves and then went from 25th place overall to 5th overall in the MLB in the same season?
    I’m expecting nothing less than a final four appearance in the Stanley Cup Final’s May 2016.
    Don’t forget we now have a real coach and assistants and real GM as well.
    This isn’t even close to the same team as last season.

  • AJ88

    I am going to step out on this one and disagree with you Willis on the upcoming season. I think you are going to see a much different team with the players we currently have. This will not be a ” rebuilding year”, however a few tweaks will most likely be required.

    I think the Oilers will make somewhat of a run at the playoffs, hope I don’t have a size 11 in my mouth by Christmas.

  • AJ88

    It’s gonna be a year for the young guns to get a chance to learn how to play in the nhl, and hopefully by the end of the year have a better grasp of how to use their skills in the nhl, I’m still hoping playoffs tho

  • mcjesus take the wheel

    The comments from the oilersnation sheep are once again both ridiculous and hilarious.

    Willis, you say there is a finite number of things Chia can do coming a single summer yet Mact was only in charge for two years and you and others expected miracles?

    And yes some have pointed out there have been turnover in the roster but turnover does not equal improvement.

    Talbot and Nillson seem very similar to Scrivens and Fasth going into last year. Gryba, Sekera and Reinhart is maybe a marginal upgrade at best over Petry, Marincin, Aulie. Reinhart may not even make the team.

    Letestu and Korpikoski in for Gordon and Roy isn’t an upgrade either.

    Sheep keep pumping up Chia.

  • Spydyr

    The bulk of Oilers moving upwards from the cellar will be on Talbot’s ability to duplicate what he did for Rangers last season . After that , we should see a better defence in part because of that alone . Chia has added others that should also help that upward trend including a new wave of developing youth to compliment young core now . McDavid should certainly be a huge factor as well . Draisaitl , Yak . Lander , Hopkins should all be better this year and show more up trend . Nurse and Reinhart have lots of potential even at NHL level I would wager . Sekara, Gryba , Korpiskoski and Letestu are likely to provide an upgrade to team as well . There is very few arrows pointing downward on club this season to be frank . Of those that might be , are only and perhaps Ference , Purcell and Nikitin . If Talbot does his job ,I think you.\’ll find Oilers have a very competitive team this season , with a fair chance to make playoffs .

    • mcjesus take the wheel

      When and If we get back to game 7 of the finals Eberle is money to get the winner.He’s a proven big game scorer,please add him to your untouchable list.The guys a highlight reel and he’s ours.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        If he learns to backcheck, win battles on the boards, and stop the behind the back no look passes… I’d add him to the Untouchable list.

        Needs to learn how to play consistent two way hockey.

        Player that shouldn’t survive the all star break is Shultz. Worst DEFENSEman in the league.

  • Klam

    Closer to the cup, but you know what short term goal I want….

    1)Battle of Alberta DOMINATION!

    2)Put the Nucks down a notch.

    If we can do those two things and be higher then last year in the standings. I will be a happy Oilers fan this year.

  • We may have 2 options influencing how many newbies we play this year , and also how many veterans we keep on staff – all to possibly avoid the draft of expansion . Will other clubs want Ference , Nikitin ,or Purcell as an example at trade deadline to soften the blow of losing someone on their club they do not want exposed to that draft ? Playing all the rookies might also expose us to losing someone we might not want to lose otherwise ?

  • bradleypi

    Set the bar low by calling this a “re-building” year and anything more is just gravy. It also lessens the disappointment factor if the same oilers show up again this year.

  • I agree it isn’t done with by a long shot !! They need grittier players through out the line up things need to change I love eberle and hall but they are brutal defensively and spend too much time on there butts. Percell was let go by Tampa because he was to soft most of our defencmen are to soft we need to focus on getting tougher look at Tampa bay they are a large hardworking gritty team that by my guess probably plays in the scf again this year all the best teams have gritt unfortunately we don’t! Although we have some great prospects coming up with the aforementioned gritt most are a couple years out and we can only have so many rookies each year something has to give . time for some trades

    • bradleypi

      Sometimes there is a fine line between being soft and being lazy . Oilers forwards go like gangbusters when they have possession , but lack that intensity trying to get possession back off other club . The only acceptable ones on top 6 are maybe Pouliot and Hopkins with that acceptable effort . Draisaitl also needs to pick it up on backcheck , etc.. They have to take more personnel accountability after loosing possession . Other teams look good on transition and possession game against us as well because of a lot of laziness that we allow to happen . I think we’ll see a vast improvement in that area this season with more accountability from everyone and start shedding that soft/lazy label in doing so .

  • Derzie

    Being a Flames fan I look at the Oilers core as ‘the guys I would like to steal’. That said, in order from best, McDavid, Nuge, Nurse, Hall, Eberle, Klefbom. That is all. The comparison of Drai to Bennett would prevent me from giving Drai any props although if handled correctly, he will be very good.