Monday Mailbag – Do the Oilers Need a New Backup?

Mailbag

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Happy Monday, fine citizens. May your day go by quickly and the faces of your co-workers go un-punched. Here is another edition of the Mailbag to help you kill off some company time, and give you an opportunity to learn something at the same time. Magic, right? As always, this feature is completely dependent on you guys. If you’ve got a question you can email it to me at [email protected] or DM on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Until then, enjoy another free lesson from our stable of writers.

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1) Walter asks – Has your own personal protected list for the Oilers changed since the beginning of the season, as in who you think the Oilers may protect in the expansion draft? If yes, who have you put on your list that was not there previously and who came off?

Jason Strudwick:

Yes, I have changed mine since the start of the season. The way Maroon and Matt Benning (doesn’t have to be protected but adds a new wrinkle) have been playing is the reason for the shift. Maroon is now on my list for the way he has played and his bargain contract.

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Jason Gregor:

At the start of the season, I thought they would be 4-4-1. Today, I see them going 7-3-1 mainly because of Patrick Maroon’s play and Brandon Davidson not being healthy.

Lowetide:

No, but I am getting close. I still keep Brandon Davidson (4-4-1) but would want to find a way to protect Patrick Maroon (four Fs ahead of him: Leon, Lucic, Eberle, Nuge). Oilers could leave Eberle exposed, I do not think it reasonable (no RW of his calibre). I expect a trade will be made to go 7-3-1 and protect Maroon, I am just not there yet (in terms of giving up on Davidson). Flame away! 🙂

Robin Brownlee:

Haven’t made one yet and won’t until the end of the season when we see what Chiarelli has done to the roster for playoff drive. Lots of room for change between now and then.

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Jonathan Willis:

My thinking has shifted. I hadn’t ironed out a complete list, but I was a little torn between a seven forwards/three defencemen or eight skaters approach. I’m not now; I’d take the 7-3-1 road, ideally adding a forward to the roster in the process since the Oilers don’t have that many that really need to be protected. In Peter Chiarelli’s shoes I’d be more open to exposing Benoit Pouliot and Brandon Davidson than I was in September, and far less open to exposing Patrick Maroon.

Chris the Intern:

How do you not do anything in your power to try put Maroon on there now? The guy has been a stud and they should be considered trading away a defenceman (maybe Davidson) to allow the Oilers to add Maroon on the protected list.

Baggedmilk:

How would Vegas possibly go without pulling a guy like Pat Maroon if the chance was there? The Oilers will need to move a forward, a defenseman, or be willing to gamble on a guy like Davidson so that they can protect Maroon. I’m guessing they’ll have to go with the 7-3-1, which could get interesting.

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2) Stacy asks – What do you think about how Taylor Hall handled the media and general distractions in his first return to Edmonton?

Jason Strudwick:

It isn’t easy at all to come back and play for the team that you played with for a number of years. After leaving the Canucks to go to the Blackhawks my first game back was hard. The day felt like I was on a treadmill. Everyone wants to say hi and take a moment of your time. All you want to do is have a good game!

Jason Gregor:

He was fine. No different than how he usually is or most big name players who have returned to Edmonton. Speaking to media for 10-15 minutes isn’t that big of a distraction for players. They are used to it.

Lowetide:

Very well, as expected. Nothing in his previous behaviour led me to believe we would see anything other than a first class person.

Robin Brownlee:

Classy. That was expected.

Jonathan Willis:

It looked to me like he handled it well. He had a really solid game with a terrible team (what else is new?) and mostly said the right things.

Chris the Intern:

I was actually more concerned on how WE would do with his return. Whether we would cheer, or boo. But I think everything worked out nicely. Taylor looked nervous in the first period but he ended up having a half decent game. He better watch out not to piss off his own fans too much by talking too much about the Oilers.

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Baggedmilk:

Taylor handled the media beautifully. He complimented the city, the fans, and talked about how he had to stop himself from watching Oilers games. He’s very clearly still hurt about the trade and it was interesting to hear him try to hide it a little bit. I wrote my Three Thoughts article on Friday and while putting that together I was cruising Twitter for some reaction and it was amazing how many Devils fans hate the Edmonton storylines. I think they wish he would just get over it already.

3) Francis asks – With the Oilers competing for a playoff spot do you think the Oilers would look at moving out their pending free agents (Hendricks, Gryba, Russell) or do you think they would retain them for depth?

Jason Strudwick:

The team has played well. No need to move anyone out unless you are replacing from within with someone as good or bringing a player from a different team. Just trading to get draft picks doesn’t work for me anymore. Wrong message to send to the players in the room.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see any reason they would trade Russell, who plays 20 minutes a night, for a draft pick. Making the playoffs is significantly more important than adding a second or third round pick. I don’t see Hendricks having many suitors. I wouldn’t trade Gryba because defensive depth is important. What if they suffer a few injuries on the blueline after the trade deadline? I’d rather have depth than a late round pick.

Lowetide:

I think a player like Hendricks is vulnerable because there are replacements available (although with less experience). The defenders will likely stay, you need a ton of those guys for the postseason. I think we are approaching the point where we can assume Edmonton will be buyers.

Robin Brownlee:

Could they? Sure. I wouldn’t move Gryba or Russell, short of a team wanting them as part of a deal involving more significant players.

Jonathan Willis:

It’s a case-by-case thing because the team can and should make the playoffs this year, but also needs to keep one eye on winning the Cup in the near future. If Hendricks can be dealt, by all means go for it – his on-ice contributions can be replaced internally. Normally I’d be more skeptical about moving Gryba, but Edmonton also has a ton of defencemen in the system and Matt Benning has done a good job seizing a regular spot. Russell’s situation is more difficult. He has real value to the team, but that value has been exaggerated – his 0.941 on-ice save percentage at 5-on-5 is far-and-away the best total of his career and is giving an impression of defensive invincibility that isn’t warranted. My guess is that the Oilers could cash him in for something really significant, and if that’s the case they should.

Chris the Intern:

Depending on the circumstance, I think you should try keep your depth players and worry about them in the summer. UNLESS it works out nicely that we get a good return. Chiarelli and the Oilers have to make the playoffs this year or else the city will burn down. That would be my main focus, not next years’ contracts.

Baggedmilk:

If the Oilers are going to make the playoffs this year they’re going to need depth. That means getting out of the habit we’ve formed over the last decade of trading expiring contracts for magic beans. Matty Hendricks may not be what he once was but he’s still a veteran presence that would be useful down the stretch.

4) Oilers Fan in Newfoundland asks – Is Brossoit a realistic option for the backup job for the rest of the season? For me, I would rather Chiarelli found an experienced backup over a guy that has struggled in the AHL this season.

Jason Strudwick:

I agree. I would prefer to see Brossoit continue to play. The problem is good backups are hard to find and you have to pay for them midseason with draft picks. I am greedy and don’t want to give those up.

Jason Gregor:

They have six weeks to find out. If Brossoit struggles then Chiarelli can add a veteran at the deadline. They need to find out what they have in Brossoit, and maybe even Ellis, if Brossoit falters.

Lowetide:

Great question, and I think the next several weeks will give us our answer. Edmonton has kept Brossoit in the minors and he has worked on his consistency. At some point, you have to give a man his opportunity, and I think we are here with Brossoit.

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Robin Brownlee:

I would lean toward a more experienced back-up and that’s something Chiarelli could focus on if he doesn’t like what he sees from Broissoit during the regular season.

Jonathan Willis:

Brossoit needs to clear waivers next season, and he’s on a one-way contract. I don’t like that he needs to win the job right now – ideally he’d be at the top of his game in the AHL rather than a prolonged slump – but this was always going to be a make-or-break season for him and the Oilers. But I don’t have any problem with giving him a shot and seeing what he can do with the minutes.

Chris the Intern:

Yeah, I agree, especially since Brossoit’s not having the greatest year right now. If Brossoit was putting up last year’s numbers I would be content with him riding the pine, but his numbers in the AHL this year, and how he played in the NHL last year make me nervous.

Baggedmilk:

Yes. Full stop. No offense to LB but he’s rocking a .908 save% in the AHL this year and that’s nothing to write home about. I think it would be better for his development to play every game in Bakersfield rather than watching Talbot from the bench. Get a backup, Chia. Do it now.

5) Justin asks – What does Jujhar Khaira have to do with his latest recall to stick with the big club? Which veteran should be nervous about losing their gig?

Jason Strudwick:

Consistent. He needs to be the same every night. Be physical, cycle the puck and take it to the net. Simple game plan that can be hard to do every night when you are tired or sore.

Jason Gregor:

Khaira needs to just be consistent. He played well in his first six or seven games last year and then it tailed off a bit. Which is not a surprise, many young players, and even some vets, struggle to find the zone where their effort is consistent every night. He has all the skills to be an effective NHL player.

If he plays well, Matt Hendricks is the veteran most in jeopardy to loss ice time.

Lowetide:

I think he has a great chance to stay. The last item on the list was offense, and he has improved markedly since his rookie pro season. I think Khaira is going to be a strong candidate for an NHL career, but do worry Las Vegas may also feel this way.

Robin Brownlee:

Nobody should be nervous. Competition for jobs is part of the game. Jujhar has to keep his feet moving and take the body. His size and speed for a bigger player are assets he absolutely has to use. Play a simple, consistent game.

Jonathan Willis:

He needs to earn the trust of the coaching staff. Todd McLellan has made it painfully clear that he will sit players indefinitely if he’s not convinced of their utility, an experience that Anton Slepyshev and Taylor Beck and Jesse Puljujarvi have all gone through. Matt Hendricks is the obvious player for Khaira to displace on the roster. Drake Caggiula probably should be in some danger – he’s the only forward on the team averaging less than a point per hour at 5-on-5 – but judging by how the coaches have used him he isn’t.

Chris the Intern:

I think less is more with Jujhar’s situation. He just needs to play a solid, mistake free game, and throw around his body. I guess Anton lander should be the nervous one as he got replaced with Jujhar. Other than that I think Jujhar may have a spot until Puljujarvi or Pakarinen, (after a conditioning stint) are good to come back up.

Baggedmilk:

JJ is a big boy and he needs to consistently use that big frame to cause mayhem out on the ice. As for stealing a job, I’m looking at guys like Hendricks that could be beaten out by a younger, cheaper Khaira.

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  • Looch#27

    JW your math is showing bro! Russel while I agree is not a top 2 defencemen has played that role for us and done a more then admiral job at it while playing on his off wing. While he might not be a long term solution I bet my last beer that PC sees his value(because math sucks bro) and he’s here to stay for our playoff drive. Instead of pause rewind to study every nuisance of the game why not just try watching? Russel is a quality number 4 Dman and your math bias is not doing you any favours happy Monday all

  • judgedrude

    Sorry panel…but for some reason I take Strudsy’s answers more seriously than the rest.

    I don’t know why…maybe it’s his choice in sweaters that appeals to me.

    • Randaman

      Are you serious? Struts is so scared to say what he really thinks because he’s scared to hurt any players feelings.

      That’s my take, no offence Struds but you are now a TV star. Stay there.

  • Been there

    With the oil where they are in the standings I see them as buyers, not sellers. And only if it is an upgrade. Eberle for a Hamonic, Trouba or Barrie. Something like that. Then they could protect a 4-4-1 scenario. The expansion draft will determine so many trades this spring for all teams.
    Draft picks only help the bottom teams where playoff teams have to worry about the playoffs, expansion and salary cap going forward.
    Oilers stay the course unless an offer comes that addresses all issues, imo.

  • vetinari

    New backup? Yes, absolutely and if history has taught us anything, you cannot afford to not have a reliable backup come playoffs even if it costs you a mid-round pick.

    We are basically running with one NHL caliber goalie in our line up and we are highly vulnerable if Talbot goes down.

    • CaptainLander

      True, but also proven is sometimes you need to give the young player a chance because you never know how good they can be and how far they can take you…see Matt Murray.

  • My argument to resign Russel is this: Who’s better?

    Last year the free agent defensive market was thin. This year it’s freakin anemic. Especially for right hand D, and especially for any right hand D who can shoot and move the puck. Maybe Bennin is better right now, and that’s great. But beyond that, why not have the depth and experience until say an Ethan Bear might be able to break through with that role?

    • Spydyr

      It’s is not just about the free agent market this summer. If most teams use the 7-3-1 format for the Vegas draft that will leave many very good defencman available for either trade with the teams about to lose them or with deals with Vegas. If you take defenceman A we will trade you player B for him

      • If you look through the free agent list, and even go so far as to plow team by team and see who they might part with that fits the bill of right handed offensive D man, it’s not a big list. In fact it’s not really a lit at all.

        The best name I could come up with is Mike Stone in Arizona who had a really good year playing with OEL, but like the rest of the team has dropped off a cliff this year.

        But is he better than Benning, or a futre player like Jones or Bear? No idea.

  • Cletus Spuckler

    Leave Lucic exposed, Vegas will not want that contract anyway. Even if he his lost it won’t matter as he is doing nothing to help the Oilers right now. Its not like any assets were spent to get him and a better free agent would be willing to come to Edmonton as a replacement.

      • Cletus Spuckler

        Well that sucks, sorry I was unaware that PC would be so stupid to give Lucic a no trade. It is horrible that the Oilers finally got a good GM but he felt the need to saddle the Oilers with an “friends and family contract” for what Lucic did in Boston for him.

        • Spydyr

          The no trade was the cost of signing Lucic. I never like the term of the deal but again that was the cost to sign him. IMO it will hurt the team the last few years of the deal.

        • pkam

          Perhaps you should do some research first.

          In this past offseason, there were 4 top UFA wingers.

          Oilers signed Lucic to 7 years at 6M. Canucks signed Eriksson to 6 years at 6M. Sabres signed Okposo to 7 Year at 6M. And Islanders signed Ladd to 7 years at 5.5M. All 4 contracts carried a NMC.

          Among these 4 players, Lucic and Okposo are ranked higher than the other 2. But Okposo is a RW so Lucic is the best LW availabe. You bet Canucks and Islanders and probably a few other teams would gladly offer Lucic that same contract. We have the choice to sign Lucic or not, but not a chance to sign him for lower dollar or less condition.

          As of today, Lucic ranks 31 among all LW in ppg with 0.6 ppg, Eriksson ranks 52 with 0.44 ppg, and Ladd ranks 80 with 0.29 ppg. So I will argue that we get the best UFA LW deal at the time of signing and still do as of today.

    • Hemmercules

      What exactly were you expecting out of Lucic?? He’s on pace for the same points he got last year, he’s in the top 20 for hits in the NHL. I don’t think anyone is crazy about the contract but thats the way she goes when signing a UFA.

      I put the brakes on when everyone was saying Eberle and Lucic were going to have career years before the season started because of McD. Pretty hard for one guy to single handedly make 2 players have career years. Lucic is about where I expected, could maybe have a few more points. Who knows what is going on with Eberle?? I took him in a hockey draft and he’s garbage the last couple months. Will they expose him though? I doubt it.

      • SSB1963

        Top 20 in hits? Can’t see it, have been disappointed in his game. Not physical enough (for what we were told), skates like a Clydesdale and can’t seem to take a pass.

        • Hemmercules

          Hes actually listed at 16th overall. From what I have seen, he finishes his checks almost every single time, and not love taps ether.

          I actually heard he hasn’t had a penalty in like 18 games or something like that though. He needs to be a bit better offensively and maybe a little more on edge but I dont think he’s been bad. Just my opinion.

  • Harry2

    If there was any argument on whether Mr. Willis knows anything his answer about Russell removed all doubt.

    On what planet does a team trade one of their top 2 veteran defenceman when the team is desperate to make the playoffs and are currently sitting in 2nd in the division. Especially with injuries to the defence core starting to add up.

    Sometimes I think his schtick is him just putting us on. No one can be that ignorant.

    • Rock11

      Because Larsson, Sekera, Klefbom, Benning, and Nurse(when healthy) are all better than the “Top 2” defenceman you are referencing. Being a GM is largely about asset management and if another GM sees Russell as a first or second pairing guy, when he’s really a good number 5, then you cash in on that opinion and upgrade the organization. Do that often enough and you are eventually sipping from Stanley. If a GM decides to hold on to impending UFA’s just to squeak into the playoffs and lose in the first round they call you the Flames.

  • Craig1981

    I’m not in favor of moving a guy just because he might get picked. Many of the 29 other teams will be trying that and prices will be low. If you lose a guy like Reinhart or Davidson that’s fine. It means there will be someone else you don’t lose.

    I’m actually not opposed to trading for a couple guys a team thinks they will lose for nothing. LV can only take one

    • Spydyr

      Every team is going to lose one guy. I am far more interested/concerned about who the Oilers can acquire next summer. Making the right deals could build a contender.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Patty Maroon has played himself in to a “must-protect”. Its really a no-brainer at this point. The only potential argument against it is that he’ll only have 1 year left until UFA status and we may be protecting him for a single year of additional services – I think that is a risk that needs to be taken.

    Subject to further roster moves (such as an Eberle trade, which I just don’t see happening), its now a fairly easy decision to go 7-3-1.

    Eberle will not be left unprotected – I know, down year, one-dimensional, $6M cap hit – still, he’s the top RW on this team and not really replaceable for $6M in free agency.

    This leaves Davidson exposed – he many actually survive (and someone like Reinhart taken) if he gets hurt again or doesn’t regain last year’s form.

    I don’t want to lose Brandon, however, given he is no better than 4th on the LH depth chart, I think its a loss than the organization can weather.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    My only gripe with Kris Russell is that I wish he would hit the net/bury one once in a while.

    The kid skates well, makes good decisions, plays strong on his off-side and blocks shots like he has a force field. And he’s bull rider tough.

    I don’t know what the future holds for this kid but I’m happy to have him on the team right now.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Subject to a horrid skid taken them out of playoff contention (which I’d be very surprised to see if Talbot stays healthy), I can’t see this team selling off their UFAs.

    Zero chance that Gryba or Russell will be sold – not when defensive depth is so important (shit, there is a chance Nurse, Larsson and Russel are all out tonight).

  • OriginalPouzar

    I guess I could see Hendricks being sold but only if we can actually get a decent draft pick. It would be phenomenal if we could scoop a 2nd rounder for him although I can’t see it (maybe if we add a C prospect?).

    I’d rather keep Hendricks for experience and depth – yes, there are replacements, guys like JJ and Lander can play responsible 4th line minutes, however, there is a role for a guy like Hendricks in the playoffs – maybe not every game but his physicality (5 hits last game) and willingness to put his body on the line could prove beneficial in the playoffs – again, not every game, I don’t think his body could take it.

  • Heavy Stick

    Yes Patrick Maroon is off the charts BUT he’s playing with who? He’s a perfect complementary player for 97 and 29 but without them does he produce. The past says no. I’d still protect him over Davey. With Davey’s history I think Vegas passes.

    • Randaman

      Are we all forgetting that with the expansion draft, Vegas also has to make the cap floor? Yes, this would include UFA signings which will be very few of quality(would any bonified star want to go through that expansion pain).

      Pouliot fills that need perfectly and lets not discount the possibility that Eberle is traded or left unprotected as that 6M could go a long way towards adding a couple final pieces along with the 4M coming off the books as Ferance expires.

      I wouldn’t think we will know anything until it happens as PC plays his cards pretty quietly compared to the last regime.

    • Keepyourstickontheice

      Perfect complimentary player, stop right there. If the Oilers are going to stay good once McDavid and Draisaitl are off their ELCs, they will need complimentary players to sprinkle throughout the lineup. Even if he continues to light it up, they can ink him to a reasonable 2-3 year deal and guarantee continuity.

      Maroon is a gem and a steal of a deal. I just hope he can keep this ridiculous pace up and hit 30 goals. Remember the last time we had a 30 goal scorer?

  • Total Points

    Why worry about the draft

    The 12th player (actually about the 15th if we consider the players who are not exposed in the draft) on this team is easily replaced.

    We need to worry about the 15 or so players who are here such as Eberle, RNH, Pouliot, back up goalie position, etc.

    Whoever is lost in the draft will not be missed. Oilers have had a big tunrover in the last 12 months, Hall, Yak, Schultz, Nilssen, Purcell, Korpi, Lander, Klink, Gazdic, Nikitin, Ference, Fayne and others.

    One player from the bottom of the roster will not be missed

  • Derian Hatcher

    And secondly. many people talk about moving players like this is NHL 17. If Russell is moved as some are suggesting, who repalces him? It’s frustrating to continually read that Russell is not as good as some think. To my eye he has been a solid addition. We have been around this block a million times with d-men, and where has that gotten us? It’s gotten us Nitkinen, Belov, etc….and how did that turn out?

  • pkam

    Do we need a backup goalie? If depends if TMac has confidence to play LB at least one in three in the remaining games.

    We have played Talbot 40 games out of 45. If we keep playing him at this rate, he will have to play another 30+ games in the remaining 37. I think he will be completely exhausted when the playoff starts, if not earlier.

    • Been there

      A perfect reason to maybe bring Ellis up. Being a very good college goalie where they are used to only playing 1-2 games a week with the rest being practices. A perfect situation for a back up in the NHL where he gets practice with the big team and spell off Talbot when needed.

      • pkam

        I have no preference to play LB or Ellis. But TMac has to start playing the backup about one in three from now on. There are about 6 weeks left till the trade deadline. If TMac has confidence to play any of LB or Ellis for about 1/3 of the remaining games, I think we are good. Otherwise, PC has to get a backup that TMac is confident to play.

  • Muddy

    Alright enough of this Lucic bashing already. Here’s a major wake up call Oiler fans, Milan is who we has always been. The issue I think most fans are having is being that he played on the East coast we only saw him maybe once a year and in highlights. Most of the time if Lucic was in a highlight it was because he was banging in a hard earned goal or beating the crap out of someone. His last Stanley Cup against the Vancouver he was brilliant and I would expect that level to be there again in the playoffs. I think if you look at most of his regular season games in Boston you’ll see the same type of play we are getting here. Also keep in mind he is part of the culture change on the bench and in the locker room that has gotten us to SECOND place in the west. Its a package not an individual that needs to be looked at overall and I’m happy with what we are getting as a team so far.

  • hockey1099

    Willis can you explain (perhaps using analytics) how trading a top four defenceman helps the team either this year or next? What’s a second rounder going to do forus next year? what percentage of second round draft picks make the NHL? Of those how many make the team in their first year? How many of those are top four defenceman?

    Is there an advanced stat for worst blogger and can you tell me if it’s you or Henderson leading in whatever category that is?

  • Shameless Plugger

    I’m guessing those who are calling for Ellis instead of LB haven’t watched a single game of either goalie this year. I haven’t either.

    I will say this, I’d prefer to have a guy in his 4th year of pro hockey over a guy in his 1st year. I really can’t say whose better I just think going with the guy who has experience as a pro is the play on this one.

  • MessyEH!

    I’m so tired of hearing about the expansion draft

    The Knights can only take ONE player.
    That player will be replacement level. The Oilers have the heart of their line-up exempt. Chia-Pete really doesn’t have that tough of a decision to make.