Change is coming to the Edmonton Oilers. We might not know
how or who, but we know change is coming. No team can be this bad for this long
and stay mostly intact. Here are five players we might be watching for the last
Starting with the easiest of the players to project out of
the lineup, Nail Yakupov is very likely to move this summer. We know that his
agent, Igor Larionov, was given permission by Peter Chiarelli to work the
phones and drum up interest in his client around the NHL. Yakupov’s value is
going to be very low. He has no cache around the league. His scoring numbers
are not living up to the billing of a 1st overall pick. I love him
to death, but if he’s part of a deal that nets the Oilers a defenseman, it is
likely as part of a package. We’ve seen him linked with Pouliot going out in a report by Jason Gregor. The deal was apparently kiboshed after the Pouliot injury, but that’s something
that might show up again this summer.
Yakupov came to the Oilers by way of the draft; the prize
for enduring the painful 2011-2012 season. At 59GP, 8-13-21 he isn’t going to
wow anybody with his standard numbers. Still, I love being a citizen of Yak
City. Unfortunately the consensus around the NHL is that the player and the
team would be happier away from each other. He has shooting ability and 1 year
remaining at a low price. Mix in the fact that he’s still a young player and
this kid could surprise everyone next season in the right situation.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Mark Fayne. The
problem is that the team needs to upgrade their defense and they probably want
to keep several others before they would want to keep Fayne. The Oiler stay at
home defender plays a strong positional game when he’s on top of everything. He
has an OK shot but he rarely uses it. He can hit people but prefers to stay in
lanes than leave them for thunderous glory. He gets thrown to the wolves with
Sekera quite a bit as the only natural, healthy righty on the team with a lick
of defensive sense.
What Fayne has in his favor is that he’s a righty with bit
of experience and he’s under 30. That alone should make him attractive enough to
a lot of teams. However, he still has two years left on a contract paying him
3.625 million per year. He was on waivers once this year and nobody made a
claim on him, which should confirm the fears teams have about his Cap hit. If
this is his last game I would expect the return in a deal would be someone with
an equally questionable salary. Also, if this is his last game as an Oiler I
hope that the team genuinely replaces him with someone of quality.
The Nuge has had a very difficult season. He was on pace to
match the output of his past several seasons before breaking his hand. Despite
that, he appeared off kilter during the heart of the schedule. Overall, I’d say
this hasn’t been a great year-long audition for RNH with his new General
Manager. When he was left off of the Team North America squad’s initial roster
it was eyebrow raising. As were the rumours that the Oilers were interested in
Seth Jones and Nugent-Hopkins was the name people were hearing. He recently had
his bell rung and hasn’t looked quite right since then either. With news of RNH
declining Team Canada at the World Championships it seems his injury might be
more severe than we thought.
If this is RNH’s last game as an Oiler then it’s not because
he had a down season. A year ago he was the team’s most consistent player and
the 1C of the club. All the attributes that made him the player he was didn’t evaporate.
If he’s leaving the Oilers it’s only because the team has a chance to acquire a
truly elite defender. Properly run NHL teams don’t give players like the Nuge
away. However, an actual hockey deal for the right player might see him leave.
Lord only knows what the Canadiens are capable of doing if they’re dumb enough
to keep Therrien on board. Possibilities are endless.
Along the lines of “you have to give something to get
something” is where you’ll find the reasoning for why this might be Jordan
Eberle’s final game as an Oiler. Eberle is a former NHL All-Star. He’s a
potential 30 goal man and if he works on his one-timer this summer could net 40
with McDavid as his center. Eberle started the season injured for the month of
October, but is one of the NHL’s most consistent goal scorers. If there’s a
glaring flaw with 14 it’s that his defensive game is as weak as Nail Yakupov’s
but without the effort.
One of the lasting rumours of the season has been Eberle for
Hamonic. The Oilers need what Hamonic provides and McDavid could probably turn
any one of our readers into at least a 15 goal scorer. The Islanders are very
likely to lose Okposo this summer to free agency and if they do then they will
also need what Eberle provides. I think it’s very likely that this is a swap we
see at the earliest possible convenience for both teams. Hamonic has requested
a trade to this part of the world. Eberle is a longtime member of a brutal
Oiler team that may or may not have a culture problem.
Call it a Mulligan. The Oilers submarined two very valuable
assets at last year’s draft thinking they found an answer to their problem on
the blueline. They wanted a player who was closer to helping them than
whichever 18 year old they would have drafted. They succeeding in finding
someone older, but having Mathew Barzal or Kyle Connor or anyone else taken
near that 16 spot would probably be more valuable than Reinhart as of today.
I still believe Reinhart has an NHL career ahead of him, but
the Oilers have depth on the left side that is going to keep Griffin on the
outside looking in. He has to break through Klefbom, Sekera, Nurse, and
Davidson just to be a 3rd pairing guy. If the club starts looking to
package players for that elite defender they need on the right side, the other
team will likely want a young defender in return. Nurse is probably off the
table so that leaves someone like Griffin Reinhart. He hasn’t been
disappointing so much as he’s been replicated by others.
I’m willing to bet that three of the five players mentioned
above are gone before October. Which three I couldn’t say with any certainty but
I wouldn’t buy an Eberle, Yakupov, or Fayne jersey any time soon. I don’t look
forward to some of these players leaving. I don’t think Edmonton has anybody
remaining who would potentially be addition by subtraction aside from
Yakupov is a personal favourite and it will break my heart
to see him leave town and take knives in the back on the way out. Fayne has
done the best he could do playing at least one spot too high in the order all
year. The Nuge is a smart player who opens up possibilities all over the ice.
Eberle has scored a lot of goals for the Oilers and that shouldn’t be forgotten
because he doesn’t defend well. Reinhart has performed exactly to expectations
up to this point and it’s not his fault that he shoots left. I would wish any
of them the best of luck in their future endeavors if they move on from the