Adding A Player Before Expansion


New Year’s Eve is around the corner and one resolution for the Edmonton Oilers might just be to do everything in their power to become a playoff team. Good news, this team is in position already to that (crazy, I know). So the next step is to be more than a team that just makes it in and is happy to be there. This team should resolve itself to add another impactful player.

I’m talking about the notion that the Oilers should try to make a substantial addition in some form or another to the club. The team is much improved from a year ago due largely to good health and the development of key players, but it still has some areas of weakness. The Oilers are good but not some kind of juggernaut.

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The problem that the Oilers face, and it’s the same one that all of the other clubs face, is that the expansion draft looms overhead. It’s very difficult to add a quality player with some term on his contract when it means exposing someone else on the roster to selection by Las Vegas.

My first reaction to this tweet made by Bob Stauffer was an instinctive recoil. Taking a forward with term before the expansion process? Are you nuts? After some thought about Edmonton’s situation in particular, the idea kept making more and more sense.

Now, I think that one of the greatest needs the Oilers have is a puck moving right-handed defender who can log power play minutes. Yes, I think Kris Russell is occupying that person’s spot in the lineup. No, I’m not going to turn this into another Kris Russell article.

The problem with adding a player who has term to the roster (and this also applies to GIVING term to a player like Kris Russell via extension) is that the NHL Expansion Draft is most restrictive on defensive protections.

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The format is either seven (7) forwards, three (3) defenders, and one (1) goaltender OR four (4) forwards, four (4) defenders, one (1) goaltender. So opting to protect 1 extra defender means exposing 3 extra forwards. That’s a tough call. Since most teams, Edmonton included, have more important forwards than defenders it will be a lot of clubs going 7-3-1.

Adding an impact defender with term or extending Russell means the Oilers would need to protect Klefbom, Larsson, Sekera, and Russell/New Defender. That means it’s a 4-4-1 and now Edmonton can only protect 4 forwards.

This would be an issue for Edmonton because I can come up with at least five forwards who I want to keep and need to be protected:

1) Lucic. He’s protected automatically but he’s also clearly someone the Oilers need to keep.

2) Eberle. He’s not producing to his maximum abilities and he’s still on pace for a career average year.

3) Draisaitl. Remember when the Oilers made him the 2C at 18 years old? Now he has to be protected.

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4) Nugent-Hopkins. He’s soaking up as many defensive responsibilities as possible and there’s no way exposing him to the draft makes a lick of sense.

5) Maroon. Big man, dirt cheap, scores well with McDavid. No brainer.

I think this is an almost universal top 5 for the Oilers. Exposing anyone here to Las Vegas would be giving away a great asset for nothing or impossible because of the rules. The last two names on the list of seven forwards will vary. As of today, I would suggest Mark Letestu is the sixth name and seven could be Kassian or Pouliot depending on your personal preferences.

I’ll be honest, my belief is that Pouliot is significantly better than he has been this year, but I also don’t think the Oilers would be sad to see him move on. Considering Maroon and Lucic seem unshakable from the 1LW and 2LW spots, and the Oilers don’t have anyone banging down the door at 2RW, there’s an opportunity for the club to make an addition at forward who can stick around long enough and be worthy of that seventh protected spot in the expansion.

(Quick reminder that neither McDavid, Nurse, nor Puljujarvi will need to be protected)

Edmonton might not be able to take on more than rental on defense without blowing up their expansion plans, but they can take a run at upgrading their right wing position. Jordan Eberle is doing fairly well but hasn’t meshed with McDavid the way we all hoped he would. Pitlick is injured. Slepyshev has been OK for a rookie. Puljujarvi will be good one day but hasn’t scored since opening night.

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The Edmonton Oilers can upgrade a key position, keep the player past this year, retain all of the core forwards on the team, and head into the playoffs a significantly stronger club than they are right now. This team has been in sell mode after the Christmas break for a decade. Right now they might be one of the few teams capable of buying a player who has term and is available. 

  • Mr.Ulanov

    I’m all for adding a right winger with term to the team if he can slot in on line 2 and push Eberle. Would suck to expose Kassian or Letestu but worth the risk.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    I am sure Chia is always working the lines but if he has the inclination to do something do it early providing the ask is reasonable.

    I have zero faith in the Monster and that scares me. L.B. OR Ellis seriously I believe are better in the long run right now.

    Take a shot at a RHD or RHW. If you aren’t playing JP Send this kid down now or play him. He isn’t hurting us. Give him 10 In Bakersfield if need be.

    I love meaningful Hockey and we have several weeks if not months of it. Get us to the Show Chia. Anything can happen as we know.

    PS – Connor needs a speedy remotely skilled vet.
    Someone is out there , Find him.

      • Big Jacks Meat

        I wish I knew , Philly has won squat with him so… would be a nice piece.

        I look at Washington , cant seem to win it all, the window is closing and OV is not young anymore.
        The Metro is so stacked those teams will be looking for an edge somehow.

        Caps are deep , maybe something could shake loose.

          • Dreadguy

            No thanks on Oshie. His production is less than Eberle’s and he is the same size (yes, he does play “bigger”). Simmonds on the other hand would be worth a look depending on the cost. He’s a 60pt guy with character/physicality and on pace for a career year (80pts) while playing on the Flyers 2nd line. Additionally, 14 of his 29pts this year are on the PP. Dare to dream. I know I will get trashed for this last suggestion, but what about Vanek? He might not cost much more than a farmhand and a draft pick. It was a long time ago, but he was a 40 goal guy two times.

  • @Hallsy4

    WHoever the Oilers expose won’t be that big of a loss compared to other teams. If they took someone like Pouliot it would almost help the Oil with that contract. Time for Chia Pete to earn his paycheque. Get us to the dance PETE, and give Connor what he needs to succeed. DOn’t stick him with boat anchors like EBS and Milan “Hunchback” Lucic.

    • Andresito

      Cant these posts be banned when someone writes things that are utterly despicable in this day and age? Milan was born with that. Speaks volumes of you as a human being cutting someone down for something like that. Can’t believe OilersNation allows comments like that. I don’t see how its different than being racist.

    • Andresito

      Cant these posts be banned when someone writes things that are utterly despicable in this day and age? Milan was born with that. Speaks volumes of you as a human being cutting someone down for something like that. Can’t believe OilersNation allows comments like that. I don’t see how its different than being racist.

      • Rock11

        It doesn’t guarantee you have to protect him but what else would be the point of the long term extension. A long term deal means it is most likely you value the player enough to protect him. After all the point of the extension would be to ensure no other team gets a shot at him as a UFA so why do that and then expose him to expansion.

    • Kepler62c

      Ya that’s been bugging me too – if they sign Russell to a short deal (1-2 years in my mind, with Nurse, Davidson, Benning and Reinhart down the depth chart we don’t need him to block them much longer) I really don’t care if he is taken in expansion.

      The contract costs only money and a roster spot and if he gets claimed it’s like you never signed him in the first place AND the rest of the team stays untouched.

  • bcoil

    Everyone is pushing for a RH power play specialist ……What is wrong with a LH power play specialist ??? and I think we have a couple in Nurse and Davidson developing quite nicely into that role. I think that just because some reporter types think a RH wild be nice that we all have to parrot that view .I don’t care if they are RH or LH just get the puck to the net and quarter back the PP . I think we dont need to waste or trade ammunition on another defensemen until we have everyone healthy and see what we have .Detroit won a lot of cups without a RH defence man but they sure had some great LH ones

    • S cottV

      Agreed. With Drai and McD both LH guys that work the right side half wall, it’s a LH D that is needed to QB the PP.

      McD and or Drai – need to make a forehand to forehand pass to a LH D man playing on the same right side, to take the puck to the middle – top of an umbrella formation. From there – a QB LH D man can pass forehand to forehand with one timer options, back to McD / Drai or the other way to a RH D man.

      The problem is that Sekera is at best a 2nd unit guy, Klefbom is still too shakey and may never suit the bill, Davidson doesn’t have the likely pedigree but a possibility, Nurse would be a maybe with a rather steep development curve over the next couple of years.

      So we need to acquire and or develop a LH QB D man and need a top 4 caliber RH D man – who can primarily shoot the puck in one timer position, with some offensive up side. This guy doesn’t have to have 1D credentials. A 2D or even 4D would be fine, as long as he can shoot.

      • A-Mc

        If Connor or Leon (LH) are passing to a defenseman, only a RHD has a 1 timer on the pass attempt. The defenseman isn’t meant to be a QB for the PP, that’s what Connor is; everyone needs to be a shooting threat.

        If you have a position that isn’t a shooting threat, then the 4 defenders can cheat on coverage. With our QB’s being left handed, it’s really important we have a right handed shot on the blue line.

    • Seanaconda

      Everyone is trashing you but Vanek looks great on Detroits powerplay. Having a really good year.

      And Mike green is actually looking good too but Detroits gm said they might actually try to be buyers at the deadline.

      I think its a bad idea for them to buyers but if they are they are guys you could probably get for cheap that may improve the team if Detroit makes the right decision and sells.

      • belair

        Yep. Both of those guys are having solid seasons and Detroit isn’t. Holland would be a fool to try to sneak in. The East is set. Mike Green is a youngish Alberta native, signed for one more season after this. He’s the RH PPQB we’ve apparently needed all along.

        Davidson and Maroon are nice players but they’re not irreplaceable. Davidson is a 7D on a healthy Oilers lineup and Maroon probably doesn’t even get taken since he only really produces next to McDavid. LV probably takes Khaira over him.

        The goal is to get better, isnt it?

          • belair

            Tyler Pitlick is done for the year…and is a UFA.

            Patrick Maroon scores most of his points flanking Connor McDavid. If we’re avoiding adding a player of player(s) who can help this team won this year because we’re worried about losing these types of players we will never get better.

            If the Oilers traded for Green and Vanek tomorrow this team suddenly looks like a contender. The possibility of losing Maroon or Davidson to LV is literally the last thing in my mind at that point.

  • S cottV

    Play it in the middle.

    Buy, sell and protect where it makes sense – to keep a playoff berth a possibility, but – improving the roster and cap position for next year is more the priority.

    A playoff appearance would be good for experience.

    We don’t have our act together yet, to – overly dent the future for some kind of push in the playoffs this year. Minor dent? Sure.

    McD and Drai are gonna be the best 1 and 2C in hockey within a couple of years. That being said, they are not ready to deliver a Stanley Cup yet – so, why push it now? Not only do they have some maturity and learning to get through, we haven’t got the right complimentary line mates for them, at this point.

    Eberle and Puljujarvi are major problems re the above. Eberle because he is on the mental “no eye of the tiger” down slide and Puljujarvi because he is just 18 years old.

    Nuge is also a problem – as he cant carry a two way line on his own and putting him or Drai on the wing, exposes us at 3c, where Cagguila isn’t gonna cut it yet, in anything resembling a playoff run.

    Add in – we’re short a high end defender.

    Add in – McL has not established enough of a bullet proof system of play as of yet. We’re still way too leaky to be considered a playoff contender. This is part to do with McD and Drai’s needed development into top end veteran centremen.

    No – we’re just not ready yet. Much improved and very encouraging for the near future, but – not this year. Minor dent to the future – only. Iginla? Maybe – but I doubt he would want to come here. He would know that we are 2 to 3 years away – as a Stanley Cup contender. He needs to win it this year.

    • Dreadguy

      Anyone else want to see JJ Khaira up with the big club sometime this year? If he can hold down 4th line C duty, it gives Todd Mc some options with regard to playing Nuge/Drai on the wing. Not permanently, but just when needed during certain games.

  • JimmyV1965

    I truly don’t understand this narrative that if we sign Russell we have to expose him in the expansion draft. There is absolutely no way Chia or any other GM is giving him a NMC. He’s a fourth or fifth dman on any team. Those guys don’t get NMCs. In fact, if you sign him to an attractive package, it might provide cover for Davidson. Maybe Vegas looks at Russell instead. At the very least it offers us some depth in case they take Davidson. Am I wrong here? Russell signed a one year deal for $3 mill. I really doubt he’s holding out for a NMC.

    • A-Mc

      If we’re still in the playoff hunt by the trade deadline, there is no way the Oilers are sellers.

      Katz, and the city, are so horny for playoffs after 10 years out – there’s no way Chiarelli can willingly sabotage our chances.

    • percy

      I like Shattenkirk, but I think a r winger to play with Mcd is the priority now. Leave the def alone for now, they are growing nicely. A winger that can put Mcd passes in the mesh will give us the wins we need. Then off season Shattenkirk yes.I Like W Simmonds all day long.

  • A-Mc

    In years past, the Oilers would pay Kris Russell more than he was worth and that would be an artificial expansion protection. Hopefully Chiarelli doesn’t do this.

    My first choice is to grab a RHD that is capable to the same level as Russell. If he’s not available then i try to get Kris Russell as a FA after the expansion draft. I agree that we need to protect more forwards than we do Defensemen.

  • OilCan2

    Pouliot, Kassian & Russell may get exposed. We only lose one and so does every other team. I doubt Russell gets a no trade clause, Pouliot may get passed due to his $$$ contract and Zack is on a short deal.

    We have been in the playoffs all season. Keep it rolling please. It sure is fun having the best player in the league as our Captain.

  • Seanaconda

    To add a top winger chances are they would lose someone they would protect anyways if not more. so it shouldn’t affect the protection list that much. Unless they are giving them away for free then take him anyways.

    Should re sign Russell and not protect him. If you don’t want him picked in the expansion draft I’m sure he’s fine waiting to get the deal and team he wants to wait until after Vegas picks. He signed super late this year.

  • @Hallsy4

    I don’t protect Russell, signed or not. Seems rediculous to protect him. I’d trade Ebs this offseason at the latest. And Pouliot. Nuge can stick around until next off-season. Lucic to 2nd line. Griffin is a loss, it happens, cut the chord as much as possible and move on. This teams looking good. Keep adding piece Peter C. Need you down here brother.

  • Spoils

    too much of a coincidence to me that Poul Ebs and Nuge have all fallen off despite the fact that they should be in prime playing mode.

    they are in transition from being stars to being support in McDavid’s new world order.

    trading now is trading low. hold and benefit.

  • Spoils

    for me looking at our lines we would be slotting that person on the “3rd line” for sure. with a weak center and a weak LW….

    “Bob Stauffer ‏@Bob_Stauffer 3h3 hours ago
    Oilers lines:

    I’d vote to keep the powder dry and spend big to get the power play QB scoring DMan we truly need.

    • Stick boy

      Pou- lander- CAG
      Seems like a good 3rd line if nuge or drai move to the wing. TM seems to rely heavy on his 1,2 and 4 lines and keeping his 3rd line for guys that need to be sheltered.

  • Hang on, so there is a penalty for protecting more defenders? Maybe my math is wrong but 7+3+1 seems like it adds up to 11. Whereas 4+4+1 only adds up to 9. So you are saying if teams want to protect one extra defender, they have to expose two extra forwards?

    That is bonkers.

    Well then it is indeed pretty obvious they shouldn’t sign Russel until after the expansion. Only problem there is that instead of exposing him to the expansion, they expose him to the rest of the league.

    Now, if for argument sake I believe you when you say Russel occupies someone’s spot who will be an upgrade. Who is this person.

    Seriously take a look around the free agent lists coming up for defenders and tell me who this guy is. Cause right now it goes Shattenkirk, then some over the hill left shooting guys, then nobody. Seriously if you thought this was bad for free agency, well then get ready to take a shot at um, Cody Franson, and uh… Yannick Weber, and um… Phillip Larsen? So while I agree Russell isn’t the answer, who is?

    • S cottV

      Probably designed that way, so that the expansion team can latch on to some half decent d men, so – they don’t get totally blown away in the first couple of years in the league.

      A lineup skewed with better d men, gives Las Vegas a chance to keep things close and build up from a reasonably strong foundation.

  • Rusty Patenaude

    If they sign Russel the deal will not include a no movement clause. Therefore they do not have to protect him. Therefore they will not be going with the 4-4-1 option. Where did you get the idea that if they signed Russell they would have to protect him?

  • Slightly off topic, but how does the League decide who is a “forward” and who is a “defenceman” for purposes of the XP draft?


    What’s to stop the Oilers from playing Davidson at Forward for a few meaningless shifts this season (i.e.: in the 3rd period of games out of reach either way) and then protecting him as an RW instead of a D in the draft? Alternately, where does Winnipeg slot a player like Byfuglien who legit plays both F and D roles?

    • @Hallsy4

      Good question. I’d imagine they use Yahoo Fantasy Hockey positions as the rule, but that might be incorrect. Potential for some grey areas, like you said Buff, and Brent Burns are the big dogs that come to mind but I’m sure there’s a lot more. So the Oil protect Lucic, Nuge, Ebs, Drai, Maroon and Sekera, Klef, Larsson… and Talbot. I like Davidson but he’s not a huge loss. Pouliot gone is fine by me. Kassian I hope they don’t take, but I doubt they will and he’s also replaceable. I guess now’s not the time to aquire a top RHD to protect, unless it involves trading one of Ebs or Nuge. I’m not at all worried about the expansion, it honestly will help the Oilers because many more teams will be desperate in much worse situations than the Oil, and all the movement opens opportunity. Wish there were 2 expansion teams.

      • Kepler62c

        “I like Davidson but he’s not a huge loss”

        Absolutely incorrect – Davidson gives this defence the kind of depth the Oilers haven’t had in years. He’s a two-way 4-5 Dman right now and only going to become more consistent and responsible.

        Undervaluing and giving up players like him for next to nothing is what plagued the Oilers through the Decade of Darkness.

    • Kepler62c

      This is a really good question… and I think something Edmonton should definitely look at exploiting if the opportunity presented itself.

      Once Nurse is back and the D is at full strength, playing Davidson on the 4th line for a few games wouldn’t significantly hurt the defence and I can’t see him being out of place on a defensively responsible line with Letestu and Kassian.

      And also, what’s to stop McLellan from filling out his roster with Davidson as a forward and using him as a defenceman?

      The only issue is I feel like the league has addressed this and that the rule would be that if a player has both forward and defence protection eligibility then they must be protected as a Dman.

      • Seanaconda

        Lmao it’ll be majority games played at either position. No way is the league going to let burns or buff get protected as forwards. They want Vegas to succeed they won’t allow loopholes like that.

  • crackerjack14

    I’d like Chia to use Klefbom to get a player like Ryan Ellis. Then, Chia could protect Ellis, Sekera and Larsson. Russel could be signed as well, but not protected. If he gets taken, then so be it. If not, then he could fill Davidson’s spot should he be taken.

    UFA market isn’t too sexy, but Oshie is out there. He plays a harder game than Ebs. Perhaps Washington would like the cost certainty of Eberle in exchange? No doubt playing alongside McDavid could be a big draw for Oshie.

    Assuming Maroon, Oshie, Lucic, Nuge, Draisaitl, Letestu and Kassian were protected up front, lines could be:



    Pouliot (Pitlick)-Khaira-Puljujarvi




    Davidson-Russell (Gryba)

  • hockey1099

    Every team is going to lose a player it sucks but that’s what it is. If russel is signed he doesn’t need to be protected there is no way we are going to lose him. . That gm in Vegas has been reading matts articles and knows russel is garbage and has terrible analytics hence they will just pass over him.

  • kelvjn

    Besides Brent Burns or Dustin Byfuglien there are also forwards that play the point on power plays.

    If this is going by roster sheet, what’s stopping coaches swapping a W and D in the game sheet but claim to tactically play a checking W and a marauding D?

    Do players actually have their position written on their contract or registered with the league?

  • Oilcounty88

    odd question. What happens if you have like 5 defenceman with no trade clauses. Do you only have to protect the 4 and the 5th is essentially a free-bee?