drai capture

Start a conversation online or at work these days about the Oilers and the conversation (after the McDavid fist bump) quickly turns to who gets what job. Will Leon play the wing? HOW can they send down Nurse? Peter Chiarelli said Griffin Reinhart would be on the Oilers this fall—book it! For Oilers fans this century, it (for the most part) comes down to contracts.


oilers depth chart

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This is the logical roster based on ‘next contract up’ and Oilers fans will recognize this kind of roster setting from the Steve Tambellini era. There ARE players who aren’t among the 23 above who may have a chance to make the big team—or be considered for early call up in case of injury. There are seven who we can reasonably bet on seeing during the season, even if they can’t push out a veteran in training camp and pre-season.


  1. D Griffin Reinhart: A full year in the AHL and you’d have to think he’s close to NHL-ready. By any stretch of the imagination, a top five overall selection who has a year in the minors should be ready. Edmonton has some contract issues, but that aside we should see him in Edmonton early and for a long time.
  2. D Darnell Nurse: The one guy who could impact Reinhart’s NHL time is Nurse. Although Peter Chiarelli’s Bruins would often keep players on the farm for an extended period (David Krejci spent a year in the AHL and then a little more), Nurse is so dynamic it’s difficult to imagine too much time in Bakersfield.
  3. C Leon Draisaitl: He played half of last season in the NHL and the big man is absolutely going to have a long and productive career. The question is: Will it be this year? I’d guess that Todd McLellan takes one look at him and begins finding ways to keep him. I don’t think he’s going to be in the AHL long.
  4. G Anders Nilsson: The Oilers are unlikely to go with three goalies, so Nilsson will have to make an early impression. It’s possible he clears waivers and pushes Laurent Brossoit in the AHL, but the Oilers may want their top G prospect to get the Bakersfield starts. I think Nilsson may be a more substantial story than it appears at this time.
  5. R Iiro Pakarinen: The Pitlick and Klinkhammer positions on the NHL team are (imo) razor thin. Pakarinen looks like a very good match for what we might call a ‘McLellan type’—fast, aggressive and a forechecking demon.
  6. R Andrew Miller: It may seem like a long shot but Miller has good speed and that’s an area Edmonton was sadly lacking a year ago. Plodding feet are not useful on the forecheck and that could give Miller a longer look. He does have skill too, meaning a spot as a complementary player on a skill line is an area he could fill short term.
  7. D Brandon Davidson: If he shows well enough the Oilers may look to find an NHL home for one of their fading vets. It’s also possible Edmonton goes with 8D at the beginning of the year, as Davidson is waiver eligible and exactly the kind of value contract they’ll need in the next few years.


Bogdan Yakimov, Jujhar Khaira, Jordan Oesterle, Greg Chase, Anton Slepyshev and Laurent Brossoit may hang around longer than expected, but they’re probably starting from too far back.

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Oh yes. Edmonton has three goalies, 10 defensemen and a plethora of wingers pushing for employment. The only area I think that we can safely write in stone is center (Nuge, McDavid, Lander and Letestu) although Leon Draisaitl is applying for a job at both C and W.

Most of this century has been a complete yawn for Oilers training camps. In most seasons you can grab the veterans, add in the waiver eligibles and if there’s any room tack on someone like Toby Petersen or Liam Reddox (still suspect some of those bottom of the roster adds were Edmonton’s way of telling their first-round picks to work harder).

Will we see the same at this year’s TC? Maybe. I’m hopeful Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli gift Oilers fans with the best 23 men available.

  • bazmagoo

    Nikitin and Schultz paired up?!??! Yikes!!!! That’s a – waiting to happen every shift.

    There is no way Nikitin can be in the top six if you are serious about competing this year.

    I just have to believe Chia doesn’t think this dcorp is good enough and can go past Halloween with it.

    • bazmagoo

      “Nikitin and Schultz paired up?!??! Yikes!!!! That’s a – waiting to happen every shift.”

      Agreed, that does sound like a disaster. I don’t think my heart could take those two paired up on defence.

    • bradleypi

      Just because an oilersnation blogger says it, it doesn’t make it true. The real scary thing would be if Fayne and sekaras were the actual top pairing. Hello lottery pick! Good thing coach McLellan actually knows hockey and will have Schultz on the top pairing where he belongs.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Stay tuned because tomorrow we’re going over possible line combinations and the day after that we’re gonna evaluate each position separately and make a depth chart and then the day after that we’re going to look at possible duos to play with each other and then the day after that we’re gonna look at possible line combinations. Exciting stuff is happening.

    • andyg

      Do you really want to leave your special time.(summer time) Do you really want to go into the season and have the heart ache come back.(losing )

      I think you should enjoy the rest of the summer being happy and annoying. This season will not end like you envision.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I feel like I finally can cheer for this team with out looking like an idiot when I feel optimistic for the future. So often we have been hung out to dry by management over the summer as needs were simply not addressed. I have no clue what to expect but will be happy that it will in no way resemble 2007-2014

  • B_Oliver

    Until the Oilers ice the best lineup regardless of status,then nothing has changed in their thought process.If I was a ” veteran” I’m hoping it hasn’t changed.If the young defenseman earn the job in camp,they should be given it.

    • Train#97

      My lineup exactly. McDavid, Hall and Yakupov is a must to be tried. Putting Draisaitl with Nuge and Eberlie gives an extra centre on the line with the potential to be a top line together for years. In a year or two the Oilers might have the best 1-2 lines in the league for a long time.

      • Train#97

        Where do you want to put him on the third or fourth line?

        This kid has real skills and the place you want to see if he can flourish is with the big boys not plugs. Like I said before give him the opportunity and see where he stacks up.

        This way you’ll know in a hurry what he needs to work on. If he can’t play with the big boys what makes you think he will succeed with guys like Purcell or Hendricks.?
        That’s when you send him to be a first line centre in Bakersfield.

        In the article the other day about Pavelski this is what McLellan did was put little Jo with big Jo

      • Train#97

        You think Gaudreau played on the fourth line last year. You think Bennett is gonna start his career on the fourth line in Calgary?
        You don’t play these types of guys with plugs,you play them where they can excell!

  • Ever the Optimist

    It would be nice to see the best 23 players but i doubt we see that. Right now if Nurse, Reinhart, McDavid & Draistl all make bonuses on the team we are over the cap. But it sure would be nice to see a coach who put the best 20 on the ice every night without deference to age, contract or ego.

    If that meant waving nikki and benching ference all season …. so be it and cap concerns be damned 🙂

    • hagar

      Interesting and perplexing statement about bonuses and how they will/might effect our lineup . Seems to me we are in cap hell already by not buying out anyone . We’ll see if they get rid of one or more before season starts . Not sure where or why Lowetide has us at 5.332M cap space .

      Case in point : We are allowed a small percentage over cap hit for bonuses , but they are taken into account right from the start of the year towards the cap .

      Current status by NHL numbers we stand at 73.431M , with a bonus cushion of 5.175M , zero for LTIR (long time injury ) , and cap space of only 3.144 M .

      Not much wiggle room when you consider bonuses . Example : McDavid = 2.85M,Draisaitl 2.475M , Reinhart 2.35M, Nurse .850M , Slepyshev .500M, Klefbom .350M , And Broissoit .233M . That works out to 9.558M just in bonuses ,way over the cushion of 5.175M. McDavid with Draisaitl or Reinhart would put us over that figure for bonus space alone . What cap space we have now will have to be used to add more than one after McDavid by my estimation .

      • BDH

        The Oilers should not have to worry about the cap, even with some of the bonuses. Because by the end of the year (the same as every year) they will be way below the cap because of all the money that they will save due to injury and the injury players being replaced with much smaller salaries.

        • Train#97

          Injured players still remain on cap hit for entire year injured or not , Adding another smaller salary just adds more to cap problem i’m afraid . Every club would use it otherwise to open up cap space . It simply is not allowed . Bonuses start right from start of season and have to be declared as part of your cap . We will be in a cap crunch all year if we do not find a way to dump some salaries .

          • hagar

            Good luck having Nuge, Hall, Jordan, Nurse, Leon, Yak, Mcdavid, and Griffin around in a couple years if everyone plays to potential. Throw in a 6 or 7 million a year goalie, and the rest of the payroll, and things don’t look good.

            I still say some stars need to go in favor of solid medium priced players, or it will all fall apart.

            I hope not!! But it is one hell of a potential situation coming.

          • bradleypi

            Do you need to be told that this does not mean straight up 1for 1? You are the one who sounds like Kblowe. It is all about having the right mix of players. Too many high end finishers will not work without any soldiers doing the heavy lifting.

          • You know how you get those “soldiers” you develop a pipeline of them so when they get too expensive you get rid of them, if you think you get those players by trading stars then you need to lay off the hooch ,especially this early in the day.

          • Wax Man Riley

            Here’s hoping that Chia can start to do as you suggest. We all saw how great the previous management was at developing talent. It’s been so long I actually forgot that was an option. And yes the hooch. And if you have been a true Oil fan for the last ten years you would also understand the hooch.

          • hagar

            I am simply not looking to have the wheels fall off on defense, for the sake of one extra “star” player dude.

            It’s weird how fans of the oilers want change, but they refuse to entertain the thought of any trades that will actually create the change.

            If we traded Taylor Hall in some epic trade that made the oilers a way better team.. would you fan boys say it was a horrible choice because you like Taylor Hall, or would you say it was the right choice because the team is now better?

            I don’t personally know Taylor Hall, so I don’t personally feel two craps for him if his trade results in a better oilers team.

            All the people that do, need to go clean the bus.

          • hagar

            Don’t try backpedalling now. I never said not to trade Taylor Hall and you didn’t say to trade a star as part of some epic trade. You said trade stars for medium priced players. Trading stars for stars at other positions is one thing but trading stars for guys that you plug in to third line/third pair roles is a bad idea.

          • bradleypi

            Yes , we certainly could be if we keep having to overpay for middle and lower line players as we have been doing . If we are a more competitive team that should not be such a problem in future . If we continue to do it then we are going to lose the odd one or more . We have to do a better job of getting our AHL players into lineup , as they are much cheaper on the cap generally . We have to also get rid of poor contracts like Nikitin and Purcell appear to be . To many of those type contracts will cause a major piece to have to be dealt . Cap will go up but the squeeze will still be on , as salaries go up as well , especially for those middle players . Balancing act to keep the major pieces or sacrifice a little more in the middle area (s) . That’s my take at least .

  • NJ

    Lt, in regards to this:

    C Leon Draisaitl: He played half of last season in the NHL and the big man is absolutely going to have a long and productive career. The question is: Will it be this year? I’d guess that Todd McLellan takes one look at him and begins finding ways to keep him. I don’t think he’s going to be in the AHL long.

    What makes you think he’s ready for the Nhl? Did half a season in the WHL suddenly turn him into an NHL hockey player? Why would he push for an NHL job nos instead of being defaulted to Bakersfield until he forces his way on to the roster? What happened that suddenly he’s a glorious “pushing” prospect? Sure he lit up the WHL but he is a literal man among boys!! I look forward to the arrival but please, don’t gift the boy man a slot.

    The same for every other player mentioned? I think (based only on what I’ve heard, I’ll admit) that Nurse seems more ready than anybody including Reinhart.

  • Train#97

    Nurse is 220lbs and as fast as a Christmas angle! At 20 y/o this kid is the future. I can’t wait to see him murder the fool that touches his buddy McDavid! That’s the hockey I’ve been patiently wIting for and I hope to see the beginning of it this year!

  • S cottV

    Don’t see how anyone can view LD in a negative
    Light based on last year’s NHL experience?

    C’mon – Eakins as coach, the swarm, no legit top end d men, suspect goaltending, a Yak on his wing, the team losing left and right – etc etc..

    It doesn’t get any worse for a rookie centerman – in terms of reasonable shelter and support.

    You put LD in 3rd rotation on one of the better teams – last year and he would have done just fine.

  • Train#97

    If Lowetide is correct and we have 5.5322M in cap space left , with a 5.175 bonus cushion we then have the cap space to employ all the bonuses of new players if they make main squad . That’s 10.71M total to bonus count of 9.588M .

  • BDH

    Even if those number are right, the problem isn’t just cap space, its roster space. If Nurse stays up for example, then someone else must go. So that means a buyuot (still gonna cost cap space) or sent to the minors where the majority of their salary still counts against the cap. You cant bury a salary in the minors anymore. This has been discussed over and over but Lowtide won’t accept facts. Unless Chia is able to dump some guys somewhere without taking salary back, the bonuses with determine where a lot of guys play this year.

    On the plus side, McDavids bonuses will be worth every penny, especially againts Calgary!

    • Wax Man Riley

      If Davidson was better than Nikitin and they sent Nikitin down the oilers would have over $350,000 cap space freed up and the better player playing in the NHL.

      Because you can bury $950K, the cap differential is the variance of the replacement players salary from that $950K.

      The actual cash cost to the team is the difference between the replacement’s NHL salary over his AHL salary.

      Replacing Nikitin with Nurse would save $140K in cap space before bonuses and cost $660K in cap space if all bonuses met.

      All that is doable.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I still think this is another development year. Dri, nurse and maybe reinheart will start on the farm to give them lots of playing time. They will get roughly half year then get called up as trades are made sending away UFA’s. Mcdavid is probably not ready to win yet and his supporting cast isn’t either. The other thing to think of is that the new arena is still a year away. All their movements is getting ready for winning in the new area.

    I think they will push for playoffs but will cone up short.

    • hagar

      What does the new arena have to do with anything? You conspiracy theorists make me laugh. The new arena will be sold out every night regardless of how the team finishes. Why would they put off winning for another year? What is the advantage? Do you actually think ticket sales will be higher for a team that finishes 30th rather than a team that squeeks into the playoffs? Trick question…it doesn’t matter because every game sells out!

      • Their budget will based on the regular season games. Playoffs are bonus.

        Playoff revenues would be HUGE to Katz. Every game in excess of $100,000 and probably considerably more. And this will be significantly more when they get into the new arena versus sharing with Nothlands.

        Prior to the McD sweepstakes the Oiler’s had no hope of making the playoffs this year. Now they have a glimmer but I don’t think you’ll see a big push till next year.

        I also think this was their plan since 2009. (I also think they misjudged how long it would take to recover from their blow up. They were off the rails till the McDavid fell into their laps).

  • YakCity1039

    I know everyone’s bent out of shape over Nikitin, but let’s see how the guy shows up to TC, whether he’s fit and ready to go, or another repeat of last year (where MacT stated he came out of shape). Let’s see how he is the first 10-20 games then make a decision. He has been a serviceable dman in his career.

    • bradleypi

      From the story that eventually came out after McTavish stated that nikitin was out of shape was bs . he obviously had problems last year (back ) but I honestly believe the swarm tactics used last year made all of defence look bad looking for a better performance from all the d this year although there is the age problem for some (1) here’s to hoping . man I wish we could be debating game performance !! Bring on the season !!! It will definitely be entertaining even without the best results !

  • Train#97

    Contracts could play a role in who makes main squad , and who gets sent down to minors . Nurse is best option perhaps to keep on main squad as he has best contract @ 1.713M of which only have to claim .850M bonuses . Reinhart is 3.213M with 2.475 M being bonuses . McDavid is 3.775M and 2.850 M is the bonus part , while Draisaitl is 3.40M and 2.475M in bonuses . The first figure is the grand total of salary and bonuses combined . Slepyshev is 1.525M and .600M in bonus part . Contract figures for Nurse are the most favorable basically .

  • For once in like nine years the Oilers don’t need some of the young kids to play big important on the big club and can afford them the opportunity to have some time in the AHL. And yet here we are again saying, forget that, let’s do the thing that hasn’t worked for the last nine years.

    While I think Edmonton may be a team that can make the playoffs, watching teams like the Rangers and Ducks makes me think they likely aren’t ready to win a cup yet. So what is the harm of having guys like Nurse and Draisaitl in the AHL until they need to be brought up due to injuries, or there are spots available because of trades or stuff happening at the trade deadline?

      • Wax Man Riley

        Ah! key word in there is SOME. Meaning of course McDavid is going to be asked to play a big important role on the team. But, even a guy as hyped up as McDavid, I think is actually coming into a situation where fans and pundits are putting reasonable expectations on him. A few years ago the kid would be counted on to save the damn team day one. Whereas I think most people seem like they’ll be happy if he wins the Calder and scores 60 + points. For a guy said to be better than Crosby – who scored 102 pts his rookie year – those are some pretty reasonable expectations.

        He’s also coming into a situation, unlike Crosby, where the team not only has a legit number one C, but the kid will have some very talented wingers who have been int he league for a while.

        So for me I see him on a second line that gets a lot of favourable match ups and zone starts until the day he takes over the number 1 C job. When that happens is up to him as oppose to a team that needs the kid to excel in the most important role on the team from day one.

        McDavid aside though, guys like Nurse, Reinheart, and Draisaitl have the luxury of spending some time in the AHL which even as near as last year wasn’t really the case. It’s something the team hasn’t been able to afford for a long time, so it would be nice to see this year.

        Where do you see McDavid playing?

    • bradleypi

      This comment getting more trashes than cheers absolutely sums up oilersnation for me. Just bizarre thinking. I’d love to see nurse and Reinhart in Bakersfield as the top pairing to get a feel for how they each play. And then add leon to the 1st line there. Wow. Oilersnation seems to have forgotten the purpose of the ahl. Can’t keep throwing kids into the fire.

  • Ndustry

    With Draisaitl and Yakimov coming up the middle, do you think they will play Lander just to trade him? I think that could be what they do, unless they try to push for it this year or unless Lander already has good trade value. I think they try to up his stock and use him as a piece in a trade for an impact D. If we don’t want to trade Eberle, Hall, Yakupov, Drai, then Lander might be our most valuable prospect asset to trade. And if he already has Value and we’re not “pushing” for it this season I can see the coach pushing for Draisaitl up the middle to get him experience and Chiarelli moving Lander

  • Ndustry

    I would like to see Pouliot drop down to play some shifts with Lander and Yak at some point. I think that third line with easier competition could really shine if we work it right.