The 2016 NHL Entry Draft has come and gone. Many believe the Oilers’ draft luck continued when the Columbus Blue Jackets elected to pass on Jesse Puljujarvi and select Pierre-Luc Dubois. Time will tell who becomes the better player, but Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers were very happy to land Puljujarvi.
However, Chiarelli did not land the player he needs the most: A right shot defender, but he’s still optimistic it will happen.
I was more surprised by Nail Yakupov not being dealt, than I was seeing the Oilers leave Buffalo without a right-shot defender. The latter isn’t easy, but it is a necessity for the Oilers to improve and Chiarelli must acquire a defender this off-season.
It doesn’t matter when the deal transpires, but he simply won’t be doing his job if he doesn’t upgrade his defence. He hasn’t shied away from this reality, he’s on record many times saying he knows what he needs, but until he makes a deal Oilers fans will be restless.
Chiarelli understands your frustration. He talked about it Saturday in Buffalo. “I can understand their (fans) frustration (by not seeing a trade), but I have to make the right deal,” said Chiarelli.
Despite not consummating a trade on Saturday Chiarelli felt he had some worthwhile conversations with many different general managers.
“I had some discussions, so I furthered those along. I thought it was actually a pretty productive day. It didn’t result in a deal, but I thought I had some good talks today (Saturday).”
Chiarelli has been through this dance a few times. Only Ken Holland, David Poile, Jim Rutherford, Lou Lamoriello and Doug Wilson have been a GM for longer. Ray Shero, Garth Snow and Dean Lombardi all became GMs in the summer of 2006 like Chiarelli.
I asked him if he’d like to get a deal done instead of rely solely on signing an unrestricted D-man starting July 1st.
“There is a different dynamic before July 1st versus after July 1st. The market shifts a little bit. You have to know where the market goes. It (making a trade) might be a little bit easier before, otherwise you have to wait until the market clears, but there isn’t many D on the market so I don’t think that (waiting) would be too long,” Chiarelli replied.
Chiarelli will keep talking and he has to have a 3rd liner mentality this week.
“You just have to grind away,” he said. “For example, a couple of the discussions I had today (Saturday) the positions (trade requests) had softened. What usually happens is whenever there is a deadline or milestone there is a loosening up. The next one is July one. We are in a shopping period now, there is some movement in discussions, and now we just have to grind away,” said Chiarelli.
Chiarelli would prefer to already have a deal made, but ultimately it doesn’t matter when he upgrades his defence, as long as he does it before the season begins. However, with every passing day the pressure slowly builds to improve his blueline.
Drafting Puljujarvi is great, but he doesn’t play defence and he’s only 18 years old. Another young, skilled forward will not push this team closer to the playoffs. Chiarelli needs to acquire a RD, and he believes this week presents a good opportunity for him to hopefully close a deal.
- After round one Chiarelli suggested the Oilers would use their third round selections to address some organizational needs. He hinted at skilled forwards and a goalie, but instead the Oilers drafted three defencemen. “The more D we can get the better. They take longer to develop. We want
to keep stock piling depth there, and we got some skill forwards in
there later. McPhee is an intriguing pick. I think he was overlooked a bit, and he has the heart of a lion,” said Chiarelli after they made eight picks on day two of the draft.
- It is too early to accurately critique any team’s draft. I don’t bother reading any of the “Draft rankings” because they are simply guesses and often written by people who have never watched the majority of the players. None of us really know how most of the picks outside the first few will pan out. Columbus left themselves open to criticism for passing on a Puljujarvi, but in five years we will have a better idea if they erred, or made a great pick.
- The Oilers signed Iiro Pakarinen to a one-year deal and qualified David Musil. They elected not to qualify Luke Gazdic, Adam Clendening, Kale Kessy and Niklas Lundstrom. Smart decision on all fronts.
Eric Lindros deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He was a rare breed of size and skill. It is too bad injuries, specifically concussions, cut his career short. Between October 1992 and April 1999 he played 431 games and scored 600 points. He averaged 1.39 points per game. Sadly, for him and hockey fans, he missed 113 games during these seven seasons, but he and Jaromir Jagr (1.44 points per game) were the two best players in the NHL.
Despite missing 113 games he was still tied for fifth most points during these seven years. Only Jagr (736 points in 512 games), Teemu Selanne (644 pts in 485), Joe Sakic (612 pts in 493 games) and Adam Oates (611 pts in 500 games ) had more. Ron Francis had the same 600 points as Lindros, but he played 100 more games. He was a treat to watch, and despite playing through injuries he was still among the top-point producers in the NHL.
He was also +177 in those seven years. Jagr was +155, Francis was +75, Selanne +49, Oates +30 and Sakic +25. I’m not the biggest believer in +/-, but that is ridiculous compared to the other top scorers in the same span.
I heard many conversations with agents and NHL management and there are talks about the NHL considering moving the draft age to 19. It is about time. If you want to have an exemption rule, fine, allow 18 year olds to be drafted in the top-ten, but otherwise it won’t hold back players from playing. Last year only Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanafin played four months after being drafted. Eichel was 19, so it was really only two players who would be impacted by moving the draft back. You could then move the draft to be a complete calendar year, from January 1st to December 31st, and players born after September 15th, wouldn’t have to wait.
The current cut off date has already proven it doesn’t hurt kids. Many of the top picks in recent years were late birthdays, and had to wait another year to be drafted. Auston Matthews, Eichel, Taylor Hall
The main question is how does the NHL make the switch? There is some talk about splitting it up over two years, and moving the cut off day back five months one year and four the next. It makes a lot of sense. NHL teams would have another year to evaluate kids. Players would have another year to mature and grow, and we would see fewer 16 year olds in major junior hockey. Too many kids get ruined by rushing to the CHL and playing fourth line minutes. They should stay at Midget AAA or play junior A, where they could play more minutes and develop their game.
Hopefully this happens in the next few years.
- I had a much deeper attachment to the draft this year. My nephew Noah was there and he was lucky enough to be selected by the San Jose Sharks. I’ve spoke to many excited young men over the years, and it is one of my favourite days of the year. Pure joy is the theme of the day, and because of my press credentials I was able to see him right after he was drafted. He is usually a pretty calm and reserved, but I’m not sure I’d ever seen him smile that big before. Congrats to all the players drafted, and to those who didn’t, don’t let it get you down. Adam Oates, who is in Hall of Fame, was never drafted and many other top players weren’t either. Your future will not be defined by one weekend.
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