We are live in Buffalo, which is amazing because I had the ultimate traveler brain cramp: Dustin Nielson and I pulled up to the border crossing in Buffalo and handed our passports to the customs agent. He asked the usual questions. What are you here for? How long will you be staying? Why are the Oilers still terrible? Well he didn’t ask the last one, but he was probably thinking it.
He scanned our passports, then looked at me and said, “Your passport is expired.” I replied, true story, “Really, my birthday isn’t until October.” He stares at me and was likely thinking, ‘Does this guy work for the Oilers? No wonder they are still terrible.’
He actually replied, “It expired last month. Be sure you get a new one when you get home.”
He was a good dude, and we made it to Buffalo where hockey fever has gripped the city. NHL Draft 2016 sign are everywhere downtown and there will be a lot of moves to discuss, debate and analyze in the next few days.
The draft is just over 48 hours away, and even though the Oilers don’t have their usual first overall pick, they are still one of the hot topics.
“Who are the Oilers going to trade? Who would you trade?” are the questions of the day from my fellow media friends and from numerous fans I’ve already spoken with around the hotel.
The easy answer is Nail Yakupov, and right now I can’t get a strong sense of who or if Chiarelli will make a substantial trade. I haven’t changed my stance on who I would trade to acquire a proven defender; it would be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Not because I don’t like his game, but it has to do with Connor McDavid and to a lesser extent Leon Draisaitl. Moving RNH weakens your team less than if you trade Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle, in my eyes.
I don’t have a strong read on what Peter Chiarelli will do trade wise, but I also never believed a deal would be made before Friday. I believe talks will start to warm up tomorrow and into the weekend.
Here’s what I’ve found interesting and what I’m hearing.
- Milan Lucic won’t resign with the Kings. Dean Lombardi informed the other 29 teams they can talk to Lucic’s camp immediately (via Pierre Lebrun). Lucic will garner a lot of interest, but unless the Oilers address their blueline needs first, I wouldn’t sign him. They do not need hefty contracts on the wing.
- I like Lucic, but remember over the next four years his production will not match Taylor Hall’s. If you believe Chiarelli should trade Hall to address the defence, fine, but just be aware Lucic will not replace Hall’s production. You might be okay with that because the defence will be better, but in a few years when many hope the Oilers are a legitimate contender you might wish you had a left winger who produces like Hall.
- As good as Lucic is he doesn’t drive the play. Everyone who talks about wanting three scoring lines needs to realize you would need three drivers for that to happen. Pittsburgh had Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on separate lines in the playoffs (very small sample size I should add). Over the past five seasons, those three players have been top-nine in scoring. They all drive the play. Lucic does not, and if you trade Hall, then you only have Connor McDavid as a driver. Food for thought.
- I really like the Alex Goligoski signing for Arizona. They got him signed for under $5.5 million per year and they only signed him for five years. He was the best UFA defender available, and every other GM should use his contract when negotiating with the other UFA defenders.
- I don’t see any reason a team should pay Jason Demers more than what Tampa Bay paid Anton Stralman in 2014. I’d argue Stralman is a better overall defender, and his $4.5 million cap hit is what GMs should be looking at when negotiating with Demers.
- The Oilers overpaid in term and money with Andrej Sekera, which happens in free agency, but Chiarelli can’t afford to overpay another second pairing defender. I understand the need to improve the RD, but overpaying both Demers and Sekera would limit their cap flexibility within two or three years.
- Columbus is open to offer for the #3 pick. They will trade down, but they want to unload one of their many bad contracts. No one will take David Clarkson’s contract (four years remaining at $5.25 million), but some teams could be enticed to acquire Scott Hartnell’s remaining three years at $4.75 million or Fedor Tyutin’s final two years at $4.5 million. I’m sure they would gladly unload Sergei Bobrovsky’s deal (three years, $7.45 million) as well, but he’s had chronic groin issues the past few seasons. It would be a major risk to take a chance on him.
- No surprise today when Gary Bettman announced Las Vegas will be playing in the NHL next season. What stood out for me was the limit of players they have to select in the expansion draft. We had heard rumbling, but it was official now. They have to choose at least 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goalies. And 20 of those players have to be under contract for the 2017/2018 season and Las Vegas must draft players who total a minimum of 60% of the $73 million cap ceiling ($43.8 million). The Columbus Blue Jackets will have a few contracts Las Vegas can pick from.
- Jesse Puljujarvi is even bigger in person. He’s listed at 6’3″ and 196 pounds, but he is for sure over 200. He is thick and extremely strong. I don’t see any way the Blue Jackets pass on him, but if they do, Bob Greene has a very easy decision. Take Puljujarvi.
- And I don’t get why the Oilers would draft one of Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev or Jacob Chychrun at #4. They all shoot left, for starters. The Oilers have four solid young lefties in Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Brandon Davidson and Griffin Reinhart. They need some right-shot defenders in the system. The other reason I shy away from one of them at #4 is because neither is the obvious choice, and history tells us taking a forward in the top-five has a much better chance of becoming a dominant player than a defender does. Unless the D-man is an obvious choice like Drew Doughy or Aaron Ekblad, which these three aren’t at this point, the Oilers should choose between Pierre-Luc Dubois or Matthew Tkachuk. If I’m picking I go with Dubois because of his size and skating ability. The NHL is getting faster by the day, and until that trend changes I go with the skilled guy who is a better skater. Tkachuk could be a fine player, most likely he will be, but Dubois can play all three positions, he’s bigger, is a better skater and he’s just as skilled.
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