A Glance at the Blueprint?


Peter Chiarelli’s comments and actions around the trade deadline are fascinating to review for anyone with an interest in what his overall plan for the Edmonton Oilers organization is. We don’t have the full picture, by any means, but it’s little like getting a quick glance at the blueprint.

Of particular interest was the general manager’s comment on his team’s three high-profile centres.

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Three Centres


Near the end of Chiarelli’s press conference on Sunday he was asked some open-ended questions about his read on the team (I believe the questioner was Derek van Diest of the Edmonton Sun) and the G.M. took the opportunity to expand on his view of the team.

really would like to see the whole team together,” Chiarelli responded in part. “I’d like to see the three
centres, because it really opens up the wingers. I’m going to see that
eventually, [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] is coming back shortly, knock on wood that one of the other
two doesn’t get hurt again.”

When asked a follow-up, Chiarelli expanded on that desire to see all three centres. It’s worth quoting his comment in full:

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The silver lining to all this is that we’ve had two young centres that have played against some heavy, heavy competition and not just the last two games [against Los Angeles and Anaheim], the matchups have been tough for these guys. These last two games if you look at Connor [McDavid] and Leon [Draisaitl], these are tough, tough games. They’re going to benefit greatly. The other side is that if we have all three we’ve got a better, more mature player in Nugent-Hopkins shouldering some of the load and the other two are able to have a little more latitude on the matchups. I would have really liked to have seen that, and then you can see the wings and how they—because you have three talented centremen, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have put Leon up—but then you’ve got three talented centremen and you can really see how the wings can flourish. That’s disappointing. The D, I knew the D was a work in progress. But I was more disappointed in not seeing the three centres together.

Nugent-Hopkins gets a lot of play in the media as a potential trading chip, and nothing that Chiarelli said on Sunday explicitly rules that out. But those were not the comments of a general manager who lacks respect for the importance of building the forward group around strength in the middle and they certainly weren’t the comments of a G.M. who was oblivious to Nugent-Hopkins’ gifts.

Rather, there was a frank admission of the value Nugent-Hopkins brings in a tough matchup role. If you tilt your head to the left and squint just right, there’s even a hint of Draisaitl shifting back and forth between centre and wing, sometimes playing down the middle to stretch out the scoring and sometimes shifting back to the side to load up a scoring line.

None of this should be confused with certainty. These are hints, and if the Oilers take a right turn at the draft—say trading Nugent-Hopkins for a defenceman—that wouldn’t be a shock to me. But there’s a fascinating forward path built around three centres, and it fits with another deal which transpired at the trade deadline.

The Maroon Trade

Patrick Maroon is an interesting player, a guy that fans in Edmonton have had an eye on for a long time. He was on waivers just three years ago but even then had a lot going for him. He’s extremely big, extremely tough and his hands go a long way toward making up for his feet.

He has two other points which for the purposes of this discussion are more interesting. The first is that Anaheim often used him as the third member of the Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry line and he was effective in that role (and others, too). The second is that he’s cheap.


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If, hypothetically, the core of the team is the trio of McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl down the middle that will eventually represent a lot of money tied up in three centres. There isn’t a lot of money left over for forwards, particularly once the defence and goaltending get factored in.

The solution is to do a lot of bargain shopping on the wings. Maroon is a great example. Veterans on short-term deals like Lee Stempniak in New Jersey, P-A Parenteau in Toronto and Alex Semin in Montreal this year are others. They won’t always work out, with Semin being a case in point, but the idea here is to add a player who can be effective as a complementary piece without breaking the bank. Looking back, it’s possible to look at the Lauri Korpikoski as an ill-advised attempt at exactly this.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve always been in favour of moving Teddy Purcell. Purcell had a nice year with Draisaitl and Taylor Hall and is a useful player, but there’s probably an underrated veteran in free agency this year who can fill much the same role at one-third the price. Benoit Pouliot is a better player and I don’t put him in the same boat, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Oilers do.

I also think that if this is the path the Oilers are going down at some point it’s going to be hard to pay for both Hall and Jordan Eberle, and as it’s always better to be proactive than reactive a deal involving one or the other might happen even before the salary cap forces Edmonton’s hand.

Again, the big caveat here is that the evidence for this model remains high on speculation and low on evidence. But it is a plausible path forward (in all honesty, it’s the road I’d take with this roster) and we’ll be able to see soon enough if it’s the strategy that Chiarelli plans on employing.


  • Explicit

    That’s a lot of talk about the forwards… What’s the blue print for the back end?

    Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, Nurse, Reinhart

    That’s a lot of lefties. shat do you do with that many lefties??

    • freelancer

      While Sekera shoots left, he has played the right side with his previous teams, Reinhart also has played both sides. I see Klefbom, Davidson, Nurse as our left depth chart in that order. Either way you’re right, we need 2 right shots this off season.

      • Explicit

        Ya, Sekera can play his offside. Although he’s said he prefers to play the left and is better on the left so I would keep him on the left.

        But even if you did, you still got too many lefties. Can you really play both Sekera and Reinhart on the right side and think having 1 righty is going to be good enough?

        I don’t know, it looks like a mess to me.

        • freelancer

          I wouldn’t play Reinhart. Regardless of how they go about acquiring D men, I see Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, and Nurse as the only return players. Depending on how much depth we acquire, Nurse could potentially start in the AHL.

          Chiarelli needs to acquire 2 defencemen, one of them having to be a top 2 guy. Advantage of Sekera is being able to play him on either side depending on what is around him.

          • Explicit

            I agree. But Reinhart was a chiarelli acquisition, let’s hope he doesn’t get stubborn with him.

            Reinhart deal was a bad move. I wonder what you could get for him now?

          • freelancer

            Chiarelli hasn’t struck me as the GM to keep a piece if it isn’t working. Having said that if there isn’t a market for him I doubt we see a trade. If anything he could continue to develop in the AHL and be a depth call up. Either way not good for what was used to acquire him.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      Until we have a truly solid top two Defensive coreall the rest is window dressing. Of coarse having the injured D-man back would really help. The size of the new players should help as well in creating space for those smallish forwards.

    • crackerjack14

      It seems logical to trade Klefbom($4.167m/yr) for Hamonic ($3.857m/yr). A little money is saved and the D is better balanced:



      Nurse-Gryba(or a Vatanen)

      • Explicit

        It does seem logical, although I don’t like it for some reason, it does seem logical. But I can’t help liking Klefbom more than I like Hamonic. Maybe that’s just me falling in love with our own player.

        • oilerjed

          Sorry to disagree with both of you but there is no logic in trading away one our few serviceable homegrown top 4. We must add to the d core not subtract. Use draft picks and wingers if UFAs are not available but leave the defense alone.

          • Keepyourstickontheice

            Especially for what seems to be a lateral move(both Hamonic and Klefbom are good top 4 defenders on value contracts). We’re back where we are now if we trade our top 4 defenders for roughly equivalent players.

            If you can somehow package Klefbom for one of the 10 best defensemen in the league, swing for the fences. Otherwise, we should be looking to add to our pool of defensemen by trading extraneous assets.

        • THRNHJE

          Klef is what Hamonic is with a touch more offense. I would trade anyone on the D before I trade Klef. Look at how the team was doing before he got injured and since. His contract is going to be a Josi like envy of the league sooner than later. A top pair of Klef Hamonic would solve the D problem a lot better than people might think.

      • crabman

        I’m only making that deal if we also get a true top pairing RHD with offense and able to run the pp. Making Hamonic a second pair shutdown guy. Otherwise we are trading away a younger player who is signed longer and has shown more potential for offense. Klefbom is already almost as good as Hamonic and may be that top pair guy we need in a year or two.

  • freelancer

    I would be more interested to see how RNH fairs on the wing paired with McDavid or the Draisaitl line. Nuge has been on of this team’s better two way forwards and they are missing him terribly right now.

    • S cottV

      if you read into what we can see of the blue print, a heavier team that can cycle the puck, appears to be materializing.

      In that vision – Hall Drai Kassian, is what you’re after vs Hall Nuge Drai.

      Beyond the fact that Kassian is a very smart – two way thinking forward in his own right, he brings the cycle dimension to that line.

      Take a page from the Kings and their belief in forward puck possession, being superior to defending.

      Over reliance on rush tactics, increases the occurrence of counter attacks and the need to defend.

      Get the puck. Take it into the zone or throw it into the zone with a strong forecheck. Keep or gain possession and don’t squander it, by prematurely thinking you have to take it to the net. If its really there – great – go, but more often – use your size and strong cycling skills to work that cycle, involving all 5 skaters.

      Frustrate, pull, stretch and wear the hell out of the defensive alignment – who are trying to break the cycle.

      Even if it works out that you don’t get to the net – who cares? it’s an investment. Another 30 seconds of forward zone possession to put in the growing bank, where you’ve kept hold of the puck – 200 feet from your own net. They get it and have to change – big deal. No need to defend a high speed counter attack and or hang out trying to defend in our zone.

      On the flip side, well executed cycling will lead to enough scoring chances, when defenders start getting frustrated and tired. Take it to the net and jam it home.

      Very – very smart hockey, if you have the right mix of guys who can pull it off. We don’t have enough of the right mix – yet, but it’s getting there.

      To me – maybe you surround McD with rush oriented wingers and let him go, more so than the other lines.

      Drai and Hall, absolutely need to mix cycling into their deal, because they are turning it over way – way too much on the rush. Work with Kassian and mix in a strong dose of cycling to the deal.

      The 3rd and 4th lines go cycle crazy. Keep the puck as far away and for as long as is possible – from our zone. Chip in with the odd goal, off the cycle and we’re good.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I for one really can not see trading a center for at least a year. If we were to trade Nuge before next year I for one have a hard time seeing us have any chance at a post season next year.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    Assuming 10 forwards, 4 defense and 2 goalies this is the team I foresee named for Canada tomorrow:

    Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Getzlaf, Perry, Tavares, Bergeron, Seguin, Benn and Nash

    Weber, Doughty, Keith, Subban

    Holtby, Price

    I think Hall will make the team, just not the first 16.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    The beauty of having such gifted centers is that in many cases they can make a mediocre wing look incredible. Then before you have to pay them big money you trade them when there is still value on the contract for another player than can fill in the roll for cheap. Several teams try to do this but I think Chicago is the best at it. MacDavid could make any player in to a 100 point player. Just keep your stick on the ice.

    • Total Points

      Keep Ebs with McDavid for the rest of the year and run his numbers up like you suggest, then trade him for a #2D (wont get a #1 D for him).

      The d will be better and Nurse may get to the #1 spot in a few years.

    • Mediocre wingers? Since when are Ladd, Sharp, Hossa, Panarin, and oh… damn who is that one guy? What the hell is his name? Kane? ya that’s it Kane. Since when are any of those guys mediocre? Maybe you are referring to other mediocre guys who’ve played on the wing like Byfuglin, or Versteeg, Saad, Bickell, or Teurovinan.

      Yep, those are just some down right mediocre wingers there. I imagine probably only Hossa, Byfuglin, Sharp, and that Kane guy eventually make the Hall of fame. That Panarin kid probably only gets to win a few stanleys and maybe a Calder. Super mediocre.

      Great example of a team that sells its crappy assets high, I think the return on Byfuglin, Ladd, Sharp, Saad, and Versteeg was Stalburgh (left in free agency) Anisimov (acquired in a package that included Saad), Trevor Daley and Garbutt (Daley was flipped for Scuderi, Garbutt for Sekac), Rutuu (came back in the Ladd deal), and finally picks for Byfuglin that turned into Marty Reasnor, Joey Crabb, and Jeremy Morin.

      So in all their trades of ‘mediocre’ wingers, basically… they got back Anisimov?


  • Oil City Roller

    Before any changes happen this team needs to answer a few questions. Who is the old core, who is a part of the transitional core, and who comprises the future core. Once this is established there needs to be an evaluation year followed by some minor changes to shore up the core. Let this percolate for a few years of development then make a grand scale core evaluation. Make the necessary changes then allow development. Hopefully a deconstructed evaluation revels no changes are necessary. At that point the Oilers will be ready to make the push for an unprecedented run of Stanley Cup greatness.

    • NoisyNufe

      My sonny b’y. Waz rong wid ya head ? Come over and we’ll polish of ah bottle ah Screech. You should see a lot clearer den. And if ya don’t, we’ll have da heave ya outta here.

  • Will

    Hall – Draisaitl – Kassian

    Pouliot – Nuge – Laine

    Maroon – McDavid – Yak

    Hendricks – Lander – Cracknell

    Maroon, Lander, Yak, Kassian, Lander, and Cracknell all come pretty darn cheap. And this allows Eberle to be traded for help on D.

    About 25 mill before McDavid and Draisaitl, as it’s anyone’s guess how much their second contracts will command.

    What I like about this set up is that if needed McLellan could load the top 6.

    Hall – Nuge – Draisaitl

    Pouliot – McDavid – Laine

    As for the D, I guess Eberle would get you a piece, maybe free agency another, maybe they have to trade on of the lefties.

    • Total Points

      Laine should not be on team for at least a year.

      Oilers have been making this mistake for years and time to correct it now.

      Fill Laine’s position with a veteran free agent like Stempniak.

      • I can get behind that.

        I imagine if Laine or Puljujarvi is who the Oilers get at the draft, it’ll likely be a Draisaitl situation.

        Remember at the start of the year when I think Hall and Purcell were on McDavid’s wings. Remember when no line could find chemistry and it took the team forever to finally just do the most obvious things? Then injuries hit.

        And all the stuff about Draisaitl and Nurse ‘developing’ in the AHL went right out the damn window.

        Again, totally agree with you, but I could see one of those kids getting called up due to injury, and using their monster frames to make it impossible to send them back down.

      • THRNHJE

        Laine is bigger than any of our top picks in the past, and wing is the easiest transition to the NHL of any position. At 6’4″ 210lbs as a 17 year old and already playing in a men’s league, I think he could handle the swap.

        I’ll do similar to Will and throw out my presumed moves and get trashed, but if we draft 2OV I predict the off-season goes as follows:Ebs goes for Hamonic, yak and probably a 2nd for Vatanen.




        I like the looks of that team, you can juggle the lines as you please, the albeit small sample of HallDraiNuge earlier this season was beastly. Respectable D that moves the puck properly will make the F’s and the G’s look as good as they actually are.

  • .

    Chiarelli mentioned that there were two deals that almost got made yesterday, going to a yay-or-nay decision point but they “did not involve any of the quote-unquote 6 Million dollar players.” He also said there was talk about trading the $6M players “maybe a month ago but [not over the trade deadline].”

    I guess that could mean a number of things–so totally speculating–such as Eberle was talked about a month ago, but not since he’s been playing with McDavid, or RNH was a topic but not since he’s been injured, or that they weren’t getting the return/ value that they wanted (eg. Seth Jones could have been too costly in PC’s eyes) etc.

  • TyeDye

    Keep Hall, move Ebs for a defensemen.

    Ebs is a great finisher (most of the time; his button hook to belly flop move that he does lately doesn’t produce much) but he is an incredibly inefficient forechecker.

    Ebs is just too small to push guys off the puck, and does not have the reach to take it away. Essentially, Ebs has to be given possession, he’s not going to take it.

    He’s great, don’t get me wrong, but if you have to move him or Hall I think its an obvious choice. “Visuals” aside, Hall produces more and is higher in scoring so really that should be the end of the argument.

    • The older I get, the better I was...

      Agree with your comments. The one other factor is the one that is difficult to assess from the outside. Which one has the character needed when the going gets tough and which one raises the level of the team mates that he plays with the most. Statistics may not have all the answers on this point.

  • camdog

    Does that mean PC is hoping that RnH can develop into the Shawn Horcoff role? Obviously RnH has more skill than Horcoff, but he still doesn’t bring the intangibles to the team that Horcoff did, especially in the dot.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    I’ve said it before Eberle is the odd man out of the core players.

    Given that Draisaitl can move into the RW spot.

    I’m wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the Oilers thinking right now considering the speculation of a Eller for Yakupov trade.

    What I also took out of the Chiarelli presser is how valuable RNH is to the team, anyone who’s watched Draisaitl since RNH is gone down should note how badly he and Hall struggled.

    I don’t see Chiarelli moving gorillas into Hall or Pouliot spot, if you look at Chicago they have a great balance of team toughness but not at the expense of skill.

    • Explicit

      Why does the Yakupov for Eller trade make you think Eberle is the one on the block? Isn’t Eller a 3.5 million dollar Center? An Eller deal would make me think a Center is on the block, and would make me think chia lost his mind.

      Can Reinhart play in the AHL next year without worrying about waivers? Pretty sure nurse can

      • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

        Eller is a third line C, Draisaitl, McDavid and RNH are not, so…I ‘m just playing the odds that one of the present C will slide over to RW, given that Draisaitl has played that position and played it very well makes me think a few things.

        The Oilers were shopping Yakupov a RW and the fact that the Oilers are also looking for a third line centre with some size makes me think that one of the centres will move over to make way for a future trade involving both Yakupov and Eberle also given that the Oilers also need defensmen and cap space.

        I should have been clearer on the matter but it’s just my opinion.

      • For Pete's Sake!

        I agree, Ebs is the most likely to go. He’s a pure triggerman and that’s a nice thing to have. But he’s the most one dimensional of the top core forwards.

        A smallish forward who doesn’t play a heavy game and he’s purely a right winger. Nuge and Draisaitl can play wing or center and that makes them much more versatile and valuable.

        And, if we pick in the top three at this year’s draft, we can probably pick up a bigger, heavier version of Eberle in Puljujarvi or Patrik Laine.

  • RJ

    “”He’s been waiting for this opportunity & we’re giving it to him. We expect big things.” – TM

    This three centres talk is the put up or shut up time for Yak. He’s played well with offensive centres, and hasn’t scored with black hole centres.

    He’s going to get a couple of multi-point games playing with McDavid. Book it.


  • 99 NOW 97

    Bought a Boxer Pup 2 days ago , had no clue what to name this little trouble maker [not so little actually] This morning he got his new name.

    Welcome Maroon. Perfect fit trust me.

  • OldOilerFan

    I hope this is the blueprint. You know one of the big three is going due to CAP and the $ involved, and I hope it’s not RNH. You can teach a center the wing position but not vice-versa, that’s been tried here already.

    And on a side note, I don’t understand why some crap on Reinhart. Okay it was a big price paid, get over it. He’s a big boy and has an upside. Let’s see. When he did come up and played with Gryba, he looked pretty good, even written as such on ON. The Islander game yeah he crapped the bed, but who was his partner?  Shultz!

  • Kevwan

    When Chiarelli made the ” 3 centers” comments it was in reply to his disappointments of the season.

    He will get a chance to see the 3 centers as Nuge will be back shortly. I think Chia is very much undecided as to which 6 million dollar forward get’s moved.

    I also think that Chia elected not to move Fayne or Korp or get a better return for Purcell because he didn’t want to retain salary on a 3rd contract.

    He’s kept his powder dry so that he can retain salary on a contract in any deal before July 1st.