The future of Edmonton’s defense is more than a little bipolar. There is a great divide between what the left side of the ice should look like for the next half decade or so, and what the right side of the ice will look like. With TSN’s Ryan Rishaug tweeting out some contract talk regarding Klefbom, the left side looks strong. The right side on the other hand…that’s going to need some TLC.
Talks btwn Oilers and Klefbom camp going well. Could see deal in the 6-7 year range soon. Best guess is just over 4m based on other deals
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) September 11, 2015
A six or seven year deal for Oscar Klefbom that would take us from the age of 23 to potentially 30 at just around $4 million per season sounds pretty damn good to me. Chiarelli can’t make this deal fast enough as far as I’m concerned. I mean it. He could Costanza a room full of old ladies and children making his way to the fax machine and it would be completely justified.
On The Left
If the Oilers were to lock Klefbom up long term that would make the future of Edmonton’s left side look like this (in no particular order):
Sekera is going to be a reliable veteran for the Oilers for the duration of his contract. This is a guy who has a solid reputation as a complete defender. He can move the puck, chip in a bit on offense, and knows his way around his own zone. He was given some pretty glowing praise during his time in LA where he showed off an ability to make his teammates look better.
We discussed Klefbom a bit just the other day. He’s such a great skater and has shown an ability to learn so quickly that MacTavish famously suggested there was no situation the Oilers couldn’t put him in as a 21 year old. Locked up long term the Oilers will have found a guy who just actually might be able to live up to MacT’s often hyperbolic billing.
Lastly, Darnell Nurse is not being groomed to be an NHL defenseman. He’s being groomed to be the anchor of an NHL team. The future is so bright that you have to wear protective eye gear when you think about it. I could probably file a WCB claim just writing this paragraph. He’s big, mean, fast, agile, and smart. He has every attribute wanted from a future top pairing defender. He has it all except experience.
On The Right
That’s a very healthy port side. It’s so good that it’s pretty unlikely all three would remain on the left side because the right side is just too weak now and long term. Compare the strength of those left side defenders with what the future holds on the right side (again in no particular order):
Reinhart is a Chiarelli guy who played the right side in the WHL despite being a left shot. I think the easiest place for him to break in will be on the right side. I still don’t know what to make of his upside. Islander fans were not too optimistic after this past season. If he proves to have top four ability then it has to be on the right side as foil to one of the other players.
Fayne is under contract for three more years. Until he’s traded or supplanted he’s a part of the plans. We all hope that he can get a bigger push this season, perhaps playing alongside Sekera. He averaged less ice time per game than Marincin, Ference, Hunt, and Nikitin last season. That just can’t be the case if he’s going to be part of the solution on the right side.
As for Justin Schultz. I have no idea how long he’s going to remain an Oiler player. I mean that with all sincerity. I don’t think his aversion to physical play or his own zone will endear him to the new management or coaching staff. With consecutive one year deals you have to think the organization is already a little skeptical. We were promised Norris trophy potential and there has been a critical failure to deliver on the promise. Will he still be here in a year’s time when the Oilers want to make further upgrades to their blueline?
With Brandon Davidson nothing has changed for me. I still see him as little more than a replacement player. Aside from being extremely affordable (which will be an asset to him) I don’t see him being more impactful on the defense than almost any veteran defender who will be available for a song in August 2016.
The future of the defense is loaded down the left side of the ice. The problem is the drop off to the right is drastic. We have no idea what Reinhart, Schultz, or even Fayne is actually capable of doing right now or down the road.
When Peter Chiarelli looks at his defense corps he has to be making the right side his priority. That is, as soon as he finalizes that long term deal with Oscar Klefbom. If the deal is in the range of what Ryan Rishaug is suggesting then the club is going to be set up very well moving forward. They should be able to go after a more impactful RHD to round out the defense.
I’m partial to Dustin Byfuglien and Seabrook talk has been going on since the summer. Slowly, solutions to Edmonton’s problems are beginning to present themselves. The next issue to tackle is the spots Fayne and Schultz are currently holding down. Will an internal solution present itself or will Chiarelli continue to be aggressive molding the team in his image? My guess is the latter.