Photo Credit: Billy Hurst/USA Today Sports

How does the Davidson trade alter the Oilers’ expansion draft plans?

There were a lot of reasons for the Oilers to move Brandon Davidson at this year’s trade deadline. The need for a third line centre, the club’s relative strength on the left side of the blue line, and a down year all played into it.

The expansion draft was obviously a big part of the equation, though.

Under the rules laid out by the NHL, teams have the option of protecting one goaltender and either eight skaters of any position or seven forwards and three defencemen. The difficulty with the eight skater approach for the Oilers is that even with Connor McDavid exempt they have five forwards who would seem to be locks for protection:

  • Leon Draisaitl
  • Milan Lucic
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • Jordan Eberle
  • Patrick Maroon

There will, doubtless, be objections to Lucic’s presence on that list. He has a no-move clause, so there’s not much point in talking about it. There’s also a vocal portion of the fan base that seems to believe Eberle and/or Nugent-Hopkins should be exposed to Las Vegas. As I wrote last month, Eberle has real value and exposing him would be a waste of that value; the same comment applies with greater force to Nugent-Hopkins.

With five forwards in need of protection, that leaves two spots for the quartet of Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira, Mark Letestu and Benoit Pouliot. As of today, the first two names make the most sense, with Letestu’s age and Pouliot’s contract making them expendable. If re-signed, David Desharnais might figure into this, too, though for the sake of flexibility the Oilers could presumably wait until after expansion to give him a deal.

There are only three defensive slots available, and all of them are spoken for:

  • Andrej Sekera
  • Oscar Klefbom
  • Adam Larsson

Here at least, there should be no controversy. Sekera has a no-move clause, Larsson’s value is such that he cost Taylor Hall over the summer and Klefbom has arguably the greatest long-term upside of anyone on the team, With Darnell Nurse exempt, there’s a pretty big drop-off to the next tier of defenders.

Kris Russell is a pending free agent who may or may not be back in Edmonton; if he’s to be re-signed it makes sense to wait until after expansion. Griffin Reinhart would be a tough player for the Oilers to lose given what it cost to acquire him, but there’s nothing for that now.

Goaltender Cam Talbot would be a lock for protection even if he didn’t have a no-move clause.

All things considered, Edmonton is in excellent shape heading into expansion. If anything, the team should be looking for opportunities (Anaheim, Columbus and Tampa Bay all come to mind) to add a forward from a team in a more difficult position. If that means exposing Khaira, so be it.


    • passenger

      Anyone advocating exposing Eberle should be mocked until they feel the need to go to church and apologize to Gord.

      I’d make a crack about these people handing out their banking passwords simply because they weren’t thrilled with the interest rate, but actually protecting and nurturing assets are foreign concepts, obviously.

      • Mitch92

        Mock away but exposing Eberle might be the right move. Those who expect Vegas to pluck Poulliot just because he is the made available are wishful thinkers. At least with Eberle both sides would be somewhat satisfied as it would open up six million in cap space which will help us with resigning some of our current talent, Draisatl, CMD, etc.. We have Jesse Puljujarvi close to being ready to take a spot in the top six at an ELC discount so maybe some of the open cap space can be redirected toward further improving the blueline depth. Vegas gets a player with skill and experience who will want to prove his former team wrong.

        • CBK

          I don’t see how the Oilers organization would be satisfied giving away Eberle for nothing just to open up $6M.

          Despite what you think Eberle has value, and if the ultimate goal is to free up cap space, I’m 100% sure Chiarelli can find a suitor willing to trade draft picks/prospects to have a proven top 6 winger in Eberle.

          The absolute wrong move without a doubt is exposing Eberle.

          Thankfully Chiarelli knows this.

          • Mitch92

            I am not an Eberle hater. I just think there are a lot of other ways to spend six million dollars that will make the Oilers a better team. Trading Eberle is not an option. We would have to eat 50% of his salary.

        • someguy

          The only thing we can definitively say about Puljujarvi at this point is he’s proven himself in small sample size to be an AHL scorer. How exactly does that show he’s “ready to take a spot in the top six?” You’re actually advocating the Oilers put guys in the NHL that aren’t ready yet? How did that work for them in the past?

    • BornInAGretzkyJersey

      It amazes me how quickly the vocal minority brandishes their pitchforks and torches when a guy goes through a slump even with a consistent history of production.

      Nuge and Eberle are among our top six players, let alone forwards. Full stop. Let one of them go for nothing? Absurd.

      Not that I want to lose the guy, and games like last night offer ample evidence of what he brought his first two seasons, but Benoit Poulliot is likely the guy LV claims. He’s a capable veteran who can take on big minutes. He has two years on his contract so it offers them a season and change before having to commit to an extension or a deadline trade for assets. That’s a valuable commodity on an expansion team.

      I believe many people who talk about losing BD/LB/GR to the expansion may not be paying attention to two important factors. First, the number of 6/7/8 defensemen who will be exposed is incredible. Teams like Minnesota and Anaheim are going to be in tough to protect their quality surplus rearguards, meaning LV will get a few good ones at the middle end and have a veritable cornucopia of bottom pairing defenders to choose from. This is also true with overpaid veteran goalies (think Halak, Miller, Vokun, Fleury, etc). Which ties into my second point, namely it’s going to be a challenge to meet the cap floor if they take all young guys on value contracts. LV will need to pick up some vets on big contracts. Guys like Pouliot and his 4mm a year are good building blocks, as are Dustin Brown or Marian Gaborik and possibly Rick Nash and their albatross contracts.

      Just a thought.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Exposing Eberle is stupid.

      But if you could get Golden Knights 2nd round pick for Eberle and that counts as their selection does that move warrant some consideration?

    • BornInAGretzkyJersey

      Not a chance they do that… take a look at an expansion draft simulator and you’ll see there are handfuls of more valuable young and veteran goalies. LV needs to take three, so they’ll likely take two starters (for argument’s sake… Halak and one of Fleury/Bishop/Miller) and a young prospect under control from a team like Nashville or Winnipeg.

      • Captain McTowel

        First of all, Bishop is a UFA. They won’t waste an expansion pick on him. Fleury still has a NMC, which means he still gets to decide his own fate. Miller is washed up and would be a waste of a pick. Halak is having a strong season in the AHL. Howard has been good when healthy. Why take an underachieving player like Pouliot or an underachieving defenceman like Reinhart, when you can have a bright and promising goaltender on a good contract instead? Yes, there are other goalies available today, but that’s all going to change by June 19th. There is no one else on this roster that will be available, that I would want to go long term into the future with.

        • BornInAGretzkyJersey

          LV has first pick to sign UFA’s and use that as their pick. Name a better goalie who’s known to be available. As I said, I was just posting up better options that are or may be available.

          Why take BP? Salary. The salary floor is a thing. Check out an expansion draft calculator and tell me it’s easy to reach the cap floor without taking on some big contracts from veterans. LV can’t just load up on young talent with promise and bargain contracts, see Oilers, Edmonton, 2006-2016.

          In fact, Mark Letestu has a far better chance to get selected than LB, whose stature and skill is equaled by at least half the league’s backup or top AHL prospect goaltender. Don’t get me wrong, I like LB plenty… just see him duplicated elsewhere. See reasons above about veterans with term you can count on to play big minutes.

        • Oilerchild77

          Oh captain, my…. never mind. Anyway, you really should take a look at some of the goalies available. There are a number of them with more experience and and notoriety than LB. There’s a less than 50% chance LB is grabbed because he has almost no NHL experience. I really hope they take Pouliot to help get to the floor, that would be best case scenario.

  • Bee-Rye

    Leaving Eberle exposed for nothing ‘would’ be stupid. I feel a deal could be made to expose Eberle in exchange for something. eg: picks, other players, something other than future considerations. I see the possibility of cap space becoming a real issue for the Oilers and if Eberle continues on producing at his current level then it won’t be good. I am one of those people who think this needs to be a serious consideration for the Oilers. I feel that the Oilers were open to trading Eberle for the right return. This might be possible in any deal to expose Eberle at the expansion draft.

    • BornInAGretzkyJersey

      Playing at his current level? Seven points and +3? Trade the mall!

      Jeez, a guy (who’s been our most consistent goal scorer since 2010) goes through a slump and the mob around here are reaching for their voodoo dolls and sewing effigies to burn in the town square…

      Eberle has scored the 21st most goals in the NHL in the last six seasons with 141. That puts him 16 back of Crosby, 12 back of Towes, 12 up on Giroux and, wait for it… wait… 16 up on Hall. Yeah. Bust for sure.

  • Bee-Rye

    I would venture to say that there are other ways to get to the cap floor that don’t rely on Vegas taking a player like Pouliot from the Oilers. I also don’t see Vegas as having any problems making it to the floor. Pouliot over Letestu, Khaira, Kassian, or Reinhart? Unless Pouliot has some kind of crazy production from now until season’s end I don’t see this happening. If we’re thinking the expansion draft is some kind of fairytale time for teams to lose mediocre veterans with large contracts I would say that McPhee is likely not an idiot. If he needs more salary he can trade for better players on larger contracts using good prospects/players on attractive ELC’s/contracts.

    • BornInAGretzkyJersey

      Try a cap calculator. They have to make the floor at the expansion draft.


      Yes, those other players are all valuable, and possibly more so. But BP can play (again with the crucifixion after one bad year…) and history suggests he will regress to the mean and perform at or near established levels. McPhee isn’t unwise and there is evidence that his crew has time for fancy stats, so there’s a good chance they’ll see him in a positive light. A shrewd move by them would be to entice ChiaPete to take him for some considerations.

        • BornInAGretzkyJersey

          I decided to put my money where my mouth is and take another shot at a draft. If anyone’s interested I can post a link to the team I came up with (somewhat hastily haha).

          A good amount of change after the deadline has created some new team scenarios worth consideration.

          Looks like the floor won’t be as big of a concern as I initially thought.

          Still, when I sub in Mark Letestu or Kris Russell for BP there’s a big drop in top-6 talent. I stand by my assertions from this summer that BP is the best choice for LV based on the apparently available players.

          Best talents I have them acquiring are Plekanec and Namestnikov up front, with Brodin and Hickey on the back end.

          Your mileage may vary. 🙂

      • Seanaconda

        They don’t have to make the actual floor the have to make an expansion draft floor which equals like 1.5 mill average or something super low for 30 players. To reach the actual floor they can do that with short term overpaid ufas

  • McDavid's Comet

    I’m curious if Kassian can nix being picked in exp. draft; based on sobriety reasoning? Vegas would be bad place for him to be, in regards to his disease.

      • McDavid's Comet

        No, not at all, but in this particular case Kassian is a RFA and doesn’t have the choice as to which city he plays in. Unless he is picked by Vegas he will be signed by Edmonton; those are the options.

    • BornInAGretzkyJersey

      He’s put that behind him.

      If he was gonna break, training in Huntington Beach over the summer would have afforded all kinds of opportunities, no?

      Also, he’s made a point of mentioning that he still goes out with the boys but when things ramp up he quietly excuses himself for the night.

      I’d make a point of protecting Kassian. Big, tough, quick, right shot winger who creates space, works the cycle and chips in a few points here and there.

  • CornDogsBruh

    Exposing Eberle will NEVER happen. I suspect Pouliot is the pick just due to the serious lack of offensive options. He may be coming off a down year but he has scored at a typical 2nd line pace for most of his career. If it’s not Pouliot then it will be Reinhart, but I imagine he is far from being considered a sure thing to the LV management. At least with Pouliot you pretty much know what you’re getting.

  • Where's the Lamb Sauce

    Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t really like Khaira’s game. He’s big and somewhat fast but from what I’ve seen he doesn’t have hands. Wouldn’t be the end of the world to lose him, would just be sad to see Pouliot still here

  • TKB2677

    Here is a question I have when I see and article about the expansion draft and the author listing you may want to protect a player like a kharia. Why?
    The really good teams all have a lot of depth. Guys playing on the 4th could easily play on the 3rd and so on. Same goes for the defense. The Oilers are starting to develop some depth. A guy like Letestu is a good example. It’s better for the team is Letestu is on the 4th line. But if needed he could play on the 3rd line and do ok. He’s good on the PP, usually good at faceoffs and usually decent on the PK. He’s a proven bottom 6 player that can score decent bottom 6 numbers. Plus he makes less than 2 mill. That to me sounds like a fairly valuable, versatile guy.

    Then you have a Kharia. He’s big and can skate and at times shows he has an edge and can be physical. On paper he looks like a bottom 6 guy, probably a 4th liner. No one is sure he has enough NHL offense to stay in the NHL though. To date, he hasn’ t established himself. At times he does what he needs too to be a 4th liner, other times he doesn’t. There is a 35yr old Hendricks, a guy that has all the heart and desire and gives you everything he has but on a lot of nights is just too slow taking the spot that shout be Khaira’s. Right now Kharia is a borderline NHLer and translates into a 4th liner. If I am the Oilers, I may like what Kharia might be but why am I protecting a guy that might bean NHL 4th liner but he might not be anything. Don’t they already have a couple others that are tweener NHL forwards in Slepushec and pakarien?

    If I’m Vegas and I know it’s going to be tough to build team that won’t be terrible, why am I selecting any boderline NHLers from any team? I’d want guys still have game left in them but are full time NHLers. I’d want guys that maybe are stuck on a teams 3rd and 4th line because of who’s ahead of him who if selected might be able to play more of a role. I’m not selecting a guy who could just as easily be in the minors vs the NHL.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    I would protect Letestu. He’s a swiss army knife. So what if he’s on the wrong side of 30? Our window to win is in the next few seasons. I like what little we’ve seen of Khaira, but losing him wouldn’t be a big deal.

  • We are in

    Not protecting Larson because of the cost to get him sounds like good reasoning but losing Reinhart for what it cost us “but there’s nothing for that now”. I’m struggling to understand your two lines of thinking here. One might be able to argue that the picks we gave up to get Reinhart could be greater than the return on an Eberle trade right now.

  • Max

    After Todd McLellan’s comment about toxic fans and Justin Schultz, perhaps we should all take a deep breath and a step back and stop with the ‘get rid of’ and ‘he’s useless’ comments. Whoever gets taken will be out of our hands, we are headed for the playoffs with what we have, warts and all. These guys have gotten us this far, so perhaps screaming for blood is a bit stupid.

  • TKB2677

    For anyone that worries about maybe losing Reinhart. Why are you worried? Similar to what I said about Khaira. If I am Vegas I am not using my pick to take Reinhart. Supposedly he’s finally taking a step. He’s gone from a guy that didn’t looked like he’d be anything to a guy that looks like he might be an NHLer. He’s not the Oilers first call up. If the Oilers have him next year and assuming the bring in another right handed dman, I’d be surprised if he made the team but he might be he first call up. So if I am Vegas, I’d be taking a guy that is a sure fire NHLer not a maybe.

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      LOL at those who worry losing Reinhart. Even if he makes it to the NHL, his ceiling is what… a Kris Russel? He’s a bottom-pairing dman in the BEST case scenario. Who cares. The cost to acquire him is a sunk cost. Don’t worry about the picks we gave up for him. That’s in the past. Nothing we can do about that.