davidson ferguson

The Edmonton Oilers are bringing in big defensemen via trade, draft and free agency at a rapid clip. Three new men arrived during draft weekend and free agent Day One, and there’s more movement to come. Who will last the season? Who will be here next fall?


  • Chiarelli: “There are teams that aren’t
    necessarily hard and heavy but they strip pucks. They’re hard on
    battles, they win more than their share of battles … they [can be] heavy
    but they’re not huge. A lot of that has to do with the coach, the
    philosophy of the organization, that’s part of what I hope to instill.”

The Bruins under Chiarelli had a mostly veteran group (he worked very hard in his first twelve months to acquire veterans under control contractually) and brought along young defensemen in a measured fashion.

Chiarelli Cuts

  1. Martin Marincin (Perceived as lacking a physical element to his game)
  2. Keith Aulie (Certainly tough enough, speed might have been a concern)

    Chiarelli’s Adds

    1. Andrej Sekera (Complete skill set, can play top pair)
    2. Eric Gryba (Tough as nails, toughest zone starts in Ottawa last season)
    3. Griffin Reinhart (Big defender, good positional D and physical)

    The GM also added several defensemen at the entry draft and the organization is having a long look at Loik Leveille this summer/fall.


    The Oilers signed a few RFA’s (Brandon Davidson, Justin Schultz, Brad Hunt) and some entry-level deals (Joey Laleggia, Ben Betker) but the new hires were signed in March before Chiarelli’s arrival—I don’t think it would have made any difference.


    Edmonton’s current depth chart (invites included) looks like this tonight on blue:

    1. Andrej Sekera—Complete defenseman with the entire
      range of skills.
    2. Mark Fayne—Stay at home blue.
    3. Oscar Klefbom—A big part of the future.
    4. Justin Schultz—I’m somewhat optimistic about Schultz this season.
    5. Nikita Nikitin—Early word has him in good shape and looking
      to make good.
    6. Eric Gryba—An underrated addition.
    7. Andrew Ference—Veteran took on difficult zone
      starts and I think he’s been a good captain.
    8. Griffin Reinhart—I don’t think he makes the
      opening night roster but it’s going to be close. 
    9. Brandon Davidson—Inexpensive and an adequate depth player. Could make the team. 
    10. Darnell Nurse—Top 4D, only a matter of time and it won’t be long. 
    11. Brad Hunt—AHL impact D, tough depth chart for him, ahead and behind.
    12. David Musil—Smart player who will be applying for the same job as Davidson.
    13. Jordan Oesterle—He has wheels. Chaos for sure, but there’s some promise.
    14. Dillon Simpson—Oilers bringing him along slowly, he’s a smart defender.
    15. Martin Gernat—He had a horrible season from the start of camp to the season-ending injury.
    16. Joey Laleggia—Awesome power-play potential.
    17. Ben Betker—Skates very well for a really big man.
    18. Caleb Jones—Nice range of skills, size and speed. Maybe a little shy offensively.
    19. Ethan Bear—A personal favorite, fine passer, mammoth shot.
    20. Loik Leveille—Red Line had him at No. 77 and compares him in
      style to Jason Garrison.
    21. Colton Waltz—Another tough defenseman. It’s a trend folks
    22. Kevin Davis—Cody Nickolet of WHL From Above: “an efficient puck-moving blueliner,  owns an extremely smooth and comfy skating stride. Solid positionally.


    1. Justin Schultz—He’s going to be expensive next summer, Edmonton may move him if the performance isn’t strong. 
    2. Nikita Nikitin—He’s UFA, could be dealt at the deadline.
    3. Eric Gryba—They’ll sign him or deal him, Gryba is UFA 2016. I think they sign him. 
    4. Andrew Ference—If he continues to erode, could be bought out.
    5. Brandon Davidson—They like him but he’s waiver eligible. Too close to call. 
    6. Brad Hunt—I think he’s too one dimensional to survive the uptick in quality on the depth chart. 
    7. Martin Gernat—Conditioning issues have him way down the depth chart. Halfway out the door.


    1. Andrej Sekera—Signed through 2021.
    2. Mark Fayne—Signed through 2018. 
    3. Oscar Klefbom—About to sign long term.
    4. Griffin Reinhart—Chiarelli sent away two valuable picks for him. He’s here to stay. 
    5. Darnell Nurse—May be the best defenseman on this team in a couple seasons.

    Those are my guesses. Thoughts?

      • OilClog

        I say Fayne could be traded.

        In all seriousness though, none of these guys will be able to overcome Halls lack of leadership and shady morals.

        Unless of course, Hall is a good person?

        I don’t know anymore, the views of this site are confusing sometimes.

        I hate Lamp.

      • Butters

        I just don’t see how Gryba sticks around. He seems to be replacement level, so no need to give a raise and eat salary cap for a 6-7 defender. He just doesn’t have enough upside. These types of players can be plucked off waivers, or as unsigned UFAs late in the summer.

        Otherwise I tend to agree with the rest of your excellent analysis.

      • Butters

        My guess is McDavid is going to have a profound effect on entire team . I think they”ll follow him enthusiastically to another level . Might be hard to recognize the old results craved Oilers ?

        • Spoils

          I’ve always felt this way about Gretz. That players around him believed they could be great. You look at bands and often there’s a force that pulls the others along…

      • Butters

        In couple of years, it could be a hard line up to crack as a young defensemen.

        Looking forward to seeing Nurse, Big Yak, and Jujhar as everyday mean SOB’s. When their ready, no sooner.

      • Butters

        That Bluebullet report is excellent. It is a very good read and very informative. It will be interesting to follow the next few years of Nurse and Reinhart, and see how accurate it turns out.

      • Butters

        I feel Reinhart is going to come into TC and prove to everyone why he was drafted 4th overall. I don’t think anyone knows what Edmonton has in this player and we are all going to be pleasantly surprised. He’s got all the tools, there is no reason to believe that right now Nurse has the better chance at being a #1.

        Best Case Scenario in 2 Years:

        Nurse – Reinhart

        Klefbom – Sekera

        Davidson – Fayne


        • Been there

          I like Davidson and the feel good story but I really don’t see him staying in the Oilers system. I am betting there will be a trade for a 1-2 or 3-4 d- man in the next year or two to bolster the back end

          • Been there

            I think a guy like Davidson has value. At every level his iq and leadership are on full display. He is the most boring defender in the best possible way. Watch him at the U of A game and you will see the puck enter the zone, Davidson skate over, the puck will leave the zone.

            He’s just so low event.

            • Been there

              Can’t argue that logic, but Klefbom, Fayne and Reinhart all possess those attributes as well, like I said I like Davidson, I just see the management going for a big physical top defenseman to complete the back end.

              • Been there

                True, but all those guys are going to be paid more. I’m not going to try and project a salary cap in a few years or anything, but the only salaries to be coming off the books in 2 years are Scrivens, Nikitin, Purcell, and likely Ference.

                The contracts coming on the books, however, are Klefbom, Nurse, Yakipov (if he get’s re-upped), Draisaitl, Lander (same as Yak), Reinheart, Talbot, Schultz (same as Yak and Lander) and then the team is one year removed from McDavid which is going to be pricey. So, if Davidson can do the same job as Fayne, but for 3 million dollars less, that guy will definitely have a place on the team in a few years.

                With the amount of talent the team has accrued, something will have to give, and Chi likely has learned from his mistakes, and will be searching high and Kevin Lowe for value contracts.

                Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Draisaitl, McDavid, Sekera, Nurse, Talbot, Klefbom, Reinheart, Pouliot, and likely Schultz, Yak, and Lander is going to cost a lot.

                Not that it’s a terrible problem to have. Rather pay good players good money than bad players too much.

              • Been there

                I agree almost 100%, I really like Landers (a lot) but on this team he will never be anything now but a 3rd or 4th line centre just due to Hopkins and McDavid ahead of him, so if he stays he will only get that kind of money, Schultz has a lot to prove and not much time to do it, I can honestly see him as trade material.

              • 916oiler

                Agree on both points.

                My hope is one of these two surprises this year. Watching Lander make hay with the linemates he got stuck with last year was impressive. Then they gave him Hall and he continued to excel. That to me says cheap utility player in the mold of like a Cogliano (man if only we could get a player like that on the Oilers!).

                I feel like coaches and managers love those guys who can win faceoffs, kill penalties, get dirty on the PP, shift to the wing when needed, play up with skill, and play down with defense.

                So while I agree he gets paid probably around what he’s making now, that is still a player who will make himself invaluable.

                As for Schultz, honestly, I’m sort of hoping he doesn’t turn a corner and just gets turfed.

                He’s too much money for a guy who only does one thing. Both Leleggia and Hunt could likely play that role for much much less money. Only issue is they both play the left side. Edmonton is pretty short on Right side D.

                Of course they should have given the Schultz money to Petry and the problem would have been solved.

                Ugh, I can only dream of a d that is

                Sekera – Fayne

                Klefbom – Petry

                Doesn’t matter – Doesn’t matter

                I mean, that is like a real NHL top four.

                But, in defence of Schultz, I really do think Eakins and his ‘system’ could have had a lot to do with it. I think we’ll see McLellan deploy Schultz in a way that maximizes his positives and downplays his negatives.

                Perhaps he’ll be a good deadline trade chip.

                Best case scenario for Schultz is he follows a Jack Johnson career path. The guy could flat out not play defence in LA. But is used a lot less in Columbus and is better for it.

      • Butters

        Reinhart is an interesting player with no seemingly glaring weaknesses . Physical , good hockey sense , blocks shots and can put up offense and even quarterback on Power Play on occasion , and decent speed . He may not be elite in many of those aspects , but probably upper middle . Stable and dependable and can probably work well with anyone . Nurses tool bag a little different than Reinhart’s , maybe bordering on more elite qualities in some aspects of the game, but both should bring dividends to club .

      • billythebullet

        NN was always a band aid solution. He may or may not last the season but unless he does something special will not be back 2016. The oilers are not deep on the right side so it is almost crucial shultz turns into the reincarnation of scott neidemier (sp). Either way his lack of compete may come back to haunt him if he doesn’t post north of 40 points while not being a possesion hazard. Otherwise I expect he will be a deadline deal. Fayne has had his name pop up on site as tradeable, but honestly, he is an effective right side d at a good cap hit. He ain’t going anywhere.
        2016 d will include these 6 players.
        Nurse Sekera Rienhart Fayne Klefbom Ferance

      • Thumby

        Hard to fathom , on a team defensively challenged as we have been , high draft choices like Reinhart and Nurse both not making this team . Both will almost be the only ones perhaps from first round draftees from their draft year yet to solidify a starting job in NHL . Not be able to so on an Oiler defence just seems weird . I can’t imagine how both cannot crack our defence this year .

      • billythebullet

        Alot of these blogs are rehashing old blogs…I would like one of these ‘news articles’ to track how, say Shultz, Klefbomb, Nurse, Ference have spent their summer preparing for the season…that would be very interesting….how has Nikitin prepared for this season?

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        i agree that in the long term it will likely be Sekera, Fayne, Klefbom, Nurse and Reinhart, then another UFA signing in 2016. i am still of the opinion that it’s possible that Fayne could be gone if the Oilers sign a better d-man next summer and a kid from our system makes the team.

      • Been there

        To me the unknown wild card this year is Nikitin, does he really come to camp in shape, does he come with any semblance of desire?
        Not sure if he has a no movement clause, can he be sent down if not playing well enough? If he can and picked up by another team, do the Oilers have to retain any salary, or is he just a lost body?
        If he can be claimed and another team has to take the contract that would free up cap room for adding another d-man via trade that has a cap hit.
        That being said come on training camp, let’s get it on!

      • billythebullet

        Justin Schultz and Nikita Nikitin are the keys to the Oil defence this year. We know the top 3 (Sekera, Fayne, Klefbom) can play top 4 minutes. We need one more top 4 i.e. a legitimate top 4. I am hoping that is Nikitin or, if not him, then Schultz. If Nikitin steps up in his UFA year then that takes substantial pressure off the final pairing and injury fill-ins of Schultz, Gyrba, Nurse, Reinhart and Ference, allows Nurse and Reinhart softer minutes and hopefully helps Schultz re-build his confidence.

      • freelancer

        Given Chi’s track record, I imagine the vets will be running the back end for the foreseeable future. However, given the skill set of the players coming up, I think they’re going to push the conversation.

        I would not be surprised to see the D in a few years be:

        Nurse – Sekera (shift over to the right)

        Klefbom – Schultz (assuming he turned a corner by then)

        Laleggia – Reinheart

        Every line has a two way player with size, every line has a puck mover. Book it.

      • Tikkanese

        All these articles keep saying these UFA guys will be traded but what if the Oil are in the playoff hunt at deadline time? They won’t be trading any of them.

      • Joy S. Lee

        I’m glad the guys in the first two spots are the (newish) veterans, while the coming ‘Big 3’ that are going to make up the core of the Oilers defense for years to come aren’t amongst that top two. Long time projecting lineups where those key future players didn’t have to be in those key roles.

        That looks like a formula for proper development. Now we get to see which of the coming big three show off enough to become a key cog now; the team has enough in place to wait! If one is ready now, the pieces begin falling into place.

        SEKERA – FAYNE

        Gyrba was a really solid addition. Nikitin, Ferrence, Davidson and Laleggia are the sixth and seventh man alternate choices.

        * Nurse or Reinhart plays 30 minutes a night in the AHL. If Nikitin is an actual player again (or another of the 6/7 guys above proves to be), then both those kids could play those minutes TOGETHER every night in the AHL. There are potential benefits in that, if neither breaks down the door. In which case I would suggest a definitive deadline deal which allows one or both to join the Oilers on a fulltime basis.

        This all depends on Justin Schultz. If he continues to display a ‘couldn’t give a crap’ attitude in the defensive zone, he’s done; see ya later. If McLellan can actually get the tin man to show some emotion, maybe he will develop into something everyone says he’s capable of that I haven’t seen a whole lot of. But that is the key to how the Oilers defense plays out this year, to me. Schultz is such a wildcard that he makes the whole thing unpredictable. Biggest story on the team this year is Justin Schultz, because it’s going to affect everything else.

        My best guess is that Schultz doesn’t make the grade and is the centerpiece in that deadline deal. But the pieces are in place where Schultz, Fayne, Gyrba, Nikitin, Ference and Davidson could all be dealt. Ignoring what might come back in such a fantasy trade applies here. So the defense would become something like this, barring that trade to include an NHL defenseman:

        SEKERA – FAYNE
        NURSE – GYRBA

        which soon has to become this in order to have the ‘Big 3’ in the top 4:
        ? – FAYNE

        If Fayne is in your third pairing, something is going well. He could really excel in that role, especially if one of the others in the system surprise. With a solid core, they’d be able to properly develop the rest. But the top 4 is where it’s at in today’s NHL. The third pairing should be inexpensive and effective.