Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Now What?

The downside of losing Brandon Davidson for nothing (in the expansion draft) was losing him for nothing. That said, at least the transaction, evil as it would have been, would have completed the expansion price. The Oilers won’t lose Brandon Davidson in the expansion draft, but will lose a player (unless a trade can be worked out). So, now what?

First, let’s establish the players who must be made available based on expansion rules. According to the rules, Edmonton must make available:

  • One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons. This is Mark Fayne. Source
  • Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons. In my example, this is Benoit Pouliot and Mark Letestu. Source
  • One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list. This is Laurent Brossoit. Source


  • Goal: Cam Talbot
  • Defense: Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson
  • Center: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl
  • Left Wing: Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Jujhar Khaira
  • Right Wing: Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian

The tough decision, in my opinion, is between center Mark Letestu and winger Zack Kassian. Kassian is unsigned and an RFA, and the Oilers could choose to protect a young player instead of the veteran winger. However, Kassian has played so well it seems to me there is a chance we see are seeing a more useful player emerge. Tough choice, and you could argue in favor of Letestu, in fact I have until now.


  • Ineligible for Selection: G Nick Ellis, D Darnell Nurse, D Matt Benning, C Connor McDavid, R Jesse Puljujarvi, C Drake Caggiula, R Anton Slepyshev, R Patrick Russell, L Tyler Benson, C Jere Sallinen, C Kyle Platzer, R Greg Chase, L Braden Christoffer, D Andrew Ference, L Joey Laleggia, D Ryan Mantha, D Ethan Bear, D Caleb Jones, D Ben Betker, G Eetu Laurikainen.

This is an outstanding list, and combined with Edmonton’s projected list of protected players, represents one of the most promising futures in the entire NHL.

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  • Goalies: Laurent Brossoit; Jonas Gustavsson.
  • Defense: Mark Fayne; Kris Russell (UFA); Eric Gryba; Griffin Reinhart; Dillon Simpson, David Musil, Jordan Oesterle (UFA), Mark Fraser (UFA).
  • Centers: Mark Letestu; David Desharnais (UFA); Anton Lander; Henrik Samuelsson; Bogdan Yakimov; Zachary Pochiro.
  • Left Wing: Benoit Pouliot; Matt Hendricks (UFA).
  • Right Wing: Iiro Pakarinen; Tyler Pitlick (UFA); Justin Fontaine (UFA).


My guess is Griffin Reinhart. Why? There are better players, but Mark Letestu is a free agent in 2018 and drafting Benoit Pouliot seems unnecessary in that the Vegas club probably wants a sweetener from Edmonton to take on salary. Reinhart is RFA, coming off his entry-level deal and looking at a reasonable contract. Vegas would have him under control for several years and GM George McPhee values WHL defenders with size.

Do you agree? Or is there another name that you think will be going?

  • El Guapo

    Losin Reinhart hurts when you look at the price paid for him, but it only hurts the organizational depth at this point. The left side is set at the NHL level with Klefbom, Sekera, and Nurse.

    • Keepyourstickontheice

      Or it might let everyone move past the bad trade he made. Every team is going through the same process, and no good team is going to be comfortable with the players they lose.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I would think about protecting Letestu of Khaira – yes, I realize the 10 year gap in experience and Letestu only has 1 year left to UFA status, however, next year is the year this team starts to be a true cup contender and Letestu is an important player.

    I like JJ, however, lets not forget what he is – a fringe 4th liner in the NHL – yes, he will likely develop in to an every day 4th liner but I don’t think he will ever have the offence to be any more than that – he hasn’t had the offence at any stage of his career and you can see his hands just aren’t that great.

    He has great speed and size combo and can be the next Matty Hendricks – causing a ruckus on the forecheck and likely a good penalty killer but this isn’t a player the organization can’t afford to lose.

    • McPoilers

      I think the idea behind exposing Letestu rather than Kharia is the we have to expose 2 forwards signed over 17/18 and that have played either 40 games this season or 70 games over the last two seasons combined. The players on the Oilers that fit this description right now and could be exposed are:
      Maroon, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Letestu, and Pouliot (Lucic has a no move clause).

      Of these forwards, it makes the most sense to expose Letestu and Pouliot, as mentioned in the article. Though this could change if any player that matches the 40/70 rule is signed to a new contract prior to the expansion draft, such as Hendricks, Pakarinen, or Lander.

      • OriginalPouzar

        That is a valid point – I think a re-signing of Pak or Lander could take care of this. I don’t know PC’s plans though with respect to those two – need to be cognizant of the 50 contract limit (Mantha, Bear and Jones’ contracts will start to count).

      • Kepler62c

        If they qualify Iiro Pakarinen then he’d meet the exposed forward criteria along with either Letestu or Pouliot.

        I’d protect Letestu or Pouliot over Khaira. His potential is a bottom six player, and really to date he’s not a lock to have a long NHL career. He could play 100 games, or he could play 500 – but he hasn’t really shown that 500 is the likely outcome.

        And if they are going to take Reinhart, I’d rather hang Khaira out there as an alternative young player that can grow with the team – he’s replaceable and I’d prefer to keep Reinhart over Khaira given the choice.

      • Copper

        Lander has played 83 games over past 2 seasons. I also believe it is easier to replace a 4th line winger (Kassian) than a RC that plays all situations and is over 50% on the dot. Kassian is already expensive for a 4th liner in today’s NHL and he is RFA.

    • ricardo2000

      The way Desharnais is playing I might choose to protect him rather than Jujhar Khaira. There are too many other more valuable picks such as, Lander, Pitlick, or Letestu, to see him go in the draft.

  • Hemmercules

    So hard to say without seeing all the lists, including the Oilers. I still see Pouliot being a possibility if he plays well down the stretch and into the playoffs, likely have to throw in a pick for them to take him though. Everybody has to lose someone and if they lose Reinhart so be it. I would really like to hear the behind the scenes on that trade. It was obviously a gamble and I wonder how much influence Chia had at the time from the guys around him or if it was all him. Falls on him regardless.

    Its too bad we can’t see the lists early, the NHL is really brushing this whole expansion draft under the rug. Hopefully they change their tune and give us some early info on the lists.

  • Lloyd B.

    What if Fayne gets hurt? Can they expose an injured player? If not YIKES !! What if Gryba won’t re-sign before the expansion draft? Trade for a D that will protect the only other 3 that meet that criteria?

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    If I’m Vegas, I take a chance on Lander and put him in a spot to succeed. I just refuse to believe his dominance in the AHL can’t translate to the NHL in the right situation.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Alexandre Giroux was the Ovechkin of the AHL in 08-09 when he scored 60 goals in 69 games. This translated to a whopping 6 goals in 48 NHL games. Some guys just don’t have the speed or can’t think the game at the NHL level.

      I think Lander could be a solid 4th line, PK, faceoff specialist but that’s it. He has 10 goals in 215 NHL games. He just doesn’t have it.

  • Shredder

    If Pouliot can play like last night regularly, he might have some value. I’m not saying we should necessarily protect him, but he might be more likely to go to Vegas…after he wins Stanley with the Oilers this spring…

  • ScottyPrime

    Its funny, but I never see anyone mention Anton Lander as a draft candidate.

    It may seem odd, but think about it for a moment. Lander is almost definitely the best player in the AHL. He’s what, 25? Hardly over the hill, he’s actually in his prime. His numbers have never translated at the NHL level but he’s also never been given a chance at good minutes with good players, save for one 10 game stretch or so in which he DID produce. Vegas can give him that opportunity. He’d still come cheap and he could be an absolute steal for them if he turned into a capable 2nd/3rd liner, especially since he is already a solid defensive player and faceoff guy. Vegas is going to be a bad team for a little while and that’s the kind of place where a guy like Lander could see a bigger role and potentially make a pretty good mark for a few years.

    If it happens, you heard it here first.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      “If it happens, you heard it here first.”

      Well i heard it from Positive Ray of Sunshine 20 minutes before you posted it and i’ve seen exactly what you said basically copy and pasted in a lot of blogs this season. Players who have 10 goals in 215 games don’t just become 2nd line players.

      • toprightcorner

        I agree Lander will never be a 2nd line player, likely not a 3rd line player and on most teams, not a 4th line player. For Vegas though, he is a perfect 4C for that team. He would be under $1 million, has NHL experience, good PK, goof on the dot, very good leader aand will likely play with less experienced players. For Vegas, their 4th line doesn’t even need to break even, they just don’t want them being a disaster, so defense well before offence required. I would not be surprised if McPhee would take Lander over Reinhart cause I think there will be better LDs to choose from that will be available in the draft or free agency.

        Oilers need to sign Lander so they can protect Letestu, even if Lander is in the AHL all next season.

  • TKB2677

    I find it a bit strange when an Oilers blogger who believes a lot in advanced stats, immediately says that Pouliot isn’t an option and would take a “sweetener” to take.

    I don’t think salary will be an issue for Vegas as I doubt that most of the guys they are taking will be making big money. I also doubt that there will be too many high priced UFA’s dying to go to Vegas to get their heads beaten in night after night. They are an expansion team, they won’t be good for awhile. Unless some shockers happen, Vegas is going to have a tough time finding a lot of legit top 6 guys. So scoring will be hard for them. So in all likelihood, they will be a defensive team.

    When Pouliot was signed, all the advanced stats guys loved it. They thought the term might be a year too long but the salary wasn’t bad. He’s a 2 way guy, good possession numbers, has size, can skate, can play on both special teams and play up and down the lines in your top 9. His first year and second year, he was all that. 58 games – 19 goals, 34pts. 55 games, 14goals – 36 pts. Plus he was a good possession guy, he played both special teams and was decent defensively. If he plays a full season both those seasons, he scores over 20 goals and is pushing 50 pts. That’s second line numbers. Plus when you factor in the rest of what he did, that’s pretty good value.

    This season it’s been a disaster. In 55 games, he’s got 7 goals, 12 pts. Butt even though he’s been lousy, he has still killed penalties and been on their PP from time to time. In his last 2 games, 2 goals, 3 pts. He seems to be playing with some confidence, he seems to have some chemistry with Kassian and Desharnais and maybe in the last 12 games, he can go on a bit of a run and get over 10 goals.

    So if you are Vegas and you know you are going to have a hard time getting top 6 guys, why wouldn’t you take a flyer on a Pouliot? He’s had a terrible season but the 2 previous were really good. If he can get back to being a mid teens goal guy, around 40 pts while killing penalties, being on your PP and being a good possession guy, 4 mill is decent value. It’s not like he is old, he skates really well. If you see chemistry with Desharnais, go sign Desharnais. I don’t see the Oilers signing him nor do I see a ton of teams lining up to get him.

    • With Pouliot I’d wager that it’s more about contract price than the player himself. As we’ve seen over the past couple games, ? can be effective out there but he struggles with consistency. Is that a $4 million guy that Vegas would want on the payroll? We shall see.

      • Jaxon

        I think Vegas will need to take a bunch of larger contracts as they still need to get to 60% of $76M (or $45.6M), don’t they, and they can go as high as $76M? Many of the contracts they pick up will be expiring in the next 2 years, so long term, they will not have to worry about making room for future stars until their 4th season if they get a really good top 4 draft pick. I really don’t think contracts will be much concern for them. I think they’ll have a lot of 800,000 to 1,250,000 players so they should be able to grab a bunch of $4M plus players, if they like them. That said, I’m in favour of signing one of Lander, Pakarinen, Desharnais, or Hendricks to a one year extension and leaving them and Khaira exposed instead of Pouliot. Even with his terrible season, Pouliot is 125th in 5-on-5 Primary Pts / 60 in the NHL over the past 2 seasons (of players likely to reach the 70 game plateau). That is a better than average 2nd line player. Better than average being the top 135 forwards (90 1st line players, and 45 2nd line players). Only McDavid (3rd), Lucic (94th), and Draisaitl (98th) are better. Maroon is 139th, and Eberle is 159th. Thus McDavid, Lucic, Draisaitl, Pouliot, Maroon and Eberle are bonafide top 6 players. Desharnais is 191st, Nugent-Hopkins is 219th, Kassian is 252nd to round out the top 9 players. Pakarinen is 285th, Letestu is 372nd, Hendricks is 385th, and Lander is 408th out of 414 total players meeting the criteria. Lander’s amazing AHL season may be enough to entice Vegas, so he would be my pick to sign to an extension and expose instead of Pouliot.

      • Shameless Plugger

        They have to get to the cap floor. They’re going to have to have a bad contract or two. They can’t just take all league minimum contracts. I’d say there’s a solid chance Pouliot is in the discussion.

        • Keepyourstickontheice

          Or they will swing big at a couple free agents. The trick would be not over paying to the degree that they’re hobbled in years to come, but paying enough to entice players onto an expansion team and to hit the cap floor.

  • btrain

    I take Kassian over Letestu. As Great as Letestu has been, much of his success this year is on the first unit PP. I believe JP or Eberle could produce as much or more than him next season on that unit. Hell, with McD and LD, Kassian would probably be very successful on the first unit PP. Therefore I think, considering there is reasonable if not better replacements already on the team for the top unit PP, its important to evaluate Letestu away from the PP. Away from the PP Letestu has 5 goals and 20 points. Respectable numbers for a 4th line player, but we need to look beyond offense in terms of what he brings that a Lander or a Khara couldn’t also bring. PK? Probably better than average but wouldn’t say he is exceptional and Lander is better. Faceoff% a shade over 50%, right handed, he is a rare commodity in this regard on this Oilers team. However, how hard would it be to find a 4th line center who shoots right who hovers around 50% in the circle? Anyway, I very much appreciate Letestu and would be happy if he didn’t get plucked in expansion. He is a very useful player and has this unique quality in which he shoots with his right hand lower than his left? However, if its down to Letestu or Kassian, I am picking the younger, bigger, meaner, tougher, and more skilled option to protect.

  • TKB2677

    I know Pouliot’s contract is a sticking point but correct me if I am wrong but Vegas has to take on some salary do they not? I don’t see most teams 3rd and 4th liners – most of whom are the forwards that will be made available making a ton of money. Any young players made available are going to be making low money. I do understand. This years Pouliot is grossly overpaid for how he has played but the previous 2 seasons Pouliot wasn’t.

    Plus I don’t see Vegas taking Reinhart. You have to think that most teams will be going 7-3-1. That means there are going to be a whole lot of teams #4 NHL dmen made available. I think Vegas is going to have a tough time scoring and will play a defensive style. So if that is the case, I am drafting or getting the best possible goalie tandem I can get and I am picking the best dmen I can. If you have good goaltending and a decent defense, you can be somewhat competitive. We all think Reinhart will be an NHLer sooner rather than later but he’s looking like he will be like a Davidson who took a while to develop. So if I am Vegas, am I going to pass up an actual potentially decent and useful NHL forward who would automatically spot into at worse your top 9, probably your top 6 and draft a dman who might play in your 3rd pair but could just as easily be a season or 2 way from even cracking the NHL full time?

  • @Hallsy4

    I honestly think the expansion draft will help the Oil, as most teams will get worse and it shouldn’t really effect the Oil. They are so lucky that so many of the top players don’t need protecting. This is a huge opportunity for Chia. Whoever they lose isn’t that big of a deal. Griffin? Doesn’t look like he will play here anyways, and isn’t dominating the AHL…. I don’t really care where he was drafted or who thought he was going to be good when he was 17. Other teams will be scrambling and Chia will be able to add pieces. I don’t see how this draft isn’t a good thing for the Oilers. Us as fans don’t want to lose anyone, because of the dog in the manger syndrome. However, most teams will get worse, and if Chia can take advantage of teams in crunches, the Oilers should get better. Expose the mall brother.

    • McMuffin

      Don’t think the league is stopping at 31 teams. Odd numbers don’t work. The Oilers may be set up to not lose a huge piece to Vegas, but wait 2-3 years when Quebec, KC or whoever joins the league. Those will be tough decisions as to who to protect. We will lose something, I’m just not too worried.

  • OilDAWG

    I think you are dead on the money. I’d choose Kassian over Letestu barely… more based on Kassian Is aggressive and a bit crazy!! However I think Reinhart will be the pick!!

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    It would be EXCELLENT if Vegas takes Griffin Reinhart.
    Why? Because:
    * We only lose a B-level prospect. He’s a decent prospect whose ceiling is a #4 dman, but is more realistically a #5-7 dman. His best-case-scenario comparables on this team would be Gryba and Russell. No big loss.
    * We would be losing a player from a position of great depth in our organization (left-handed dmen).
    * He would get a fresh start and a good opportunity in Vegas. Good for him!
    * We can stop bringing up the trade that brought him here. It was a bad trade. It’s over with though. It’s a sunk cost. We need to move on.

  • sAFETY

    It might be a gamble, but I’d take Kassian off the protected list and use the spot for someone else. There’s little chance that Vegas, while they’re trying to build a fanbase and prove to the sporting world that they can handle a major sports franchise, is going to risk picking a player with his baggage. If it were Quebec City I’d protect him, but no GM in his right mind is going to risk bringing him to Las Vegas, especially when similar players will be available from other franchises.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    If Letestu is left exposed I’d expect him to be snapped up. The guy is the Swiss Army knife of hockey players. On the other hand you really have to wonder if McPhee might consider taking Kassian might be putting him in a no-win situation down in the city of sin…

    Kassian is wearing his heart on his sleeve for the Oilers right now but I’d gamble and leave him open for the draft. (I’d definitely explain why to him though – I think he’s grown up enough to understand the business decision.). My bet is that Vegas would pass.

    It would be a mercy if they took Fayne off our hands, and until the last two games I would have suggested paying them to take Pouliot. As for Rinehart – he hasn’t shown me (at least) anything to suggest that he’s not going to be quickly passed on the depth chart by a couple up-and-coming dmen we have in the system. Like someone commented earlier – maybe if he gets taken by Vegas he’ll get a better chance to play. Whatever ridiculous price the Oilers paid for him is honestly irrelevant at this point.

  • toprightcorner

    Simple solution. You sign Lander to a 2 way deal at his same salary but a $400k AHL salary. Then you protect Letestu instead of Khaira, Letestu means way more to the team next year (an important year) and work to resign him after that.

    You then see if you can make a deal with LV to take Lander instead of Reinhart who has a decent contract and can easily play on their 4th line. If we lose Reinhart, we still have a highly skilled AHLer that can help develop the young guys coming up and can come to the big team in case of injuries. Getting a $400k for AHL is a nice perk cause no chance he expects to sign a 1 way deal with another team. He could very easily go back to Sweden or KHL and make more money and succeed in a leage where speed doesn’t matter.

    Whether they can do this deal or not isn’t as important as protecting Letestu for the team next year. The Oilers will not find an equal replacement for Letestu, a guy you plays 4C, produces on the PP, can PK, has the offense to jump to 3C in case of injuries, very good on the dot, very good veteran in the bottom 6. He is a player that the Oilers will want to resign, not lose in the draft, and signing Lander lets you do that.

  • toprightcorner

    All I have to say is the way Desharnais is looking at 3C, they Oilers are likely to try to sign him after the expansion draft if they can get him at a good number. The only thing that would make him a better fit for this team on 3C is if he was a right shot. If the Oilers resign him then I say Chia made another great deal and repeated the Maroon signing.

  • Jaxon

    If Vegas will be building a D first, clog up the neutral zone kind of team, then maybe Lander is quite attractive. I can’t recall a play where he was at fault on a goal against. He’s definitely a defensively responsible character guy and he has shown offensive skill in the AHL. I think they should sign him to an extension and expose him and Khaira instead of Pouliot. Lander would then qualify as your other forward (with Letestu) under contract with 70+ games in the past 2 seasons.

  • Jaxon

    If they have faith in Puljujarvi, then I would be okay with losing Letestu or Lander. Puljujarvi being on 1RW or 2RW means Draisaitl is 2C and Nugent-Hopkins is 3C… then they just need one of Letestu, Lander, Caggiula, Khaira, or maybe Desharnais (if they re-sign him in July) to fill the 4C spot. Heck, even with Draisaitl at RW, I’d be okay with Desharnais at 3C and one of Lander, Letestu, Caggiula or Khaira at 4C. Plus, those players are available on the UFA market every summer for under $2M for a 1 or 2 year contract.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      no matter who we lose, Oiler fans will still overreact. i just don’t understand this thinking because we lost Davidson and our defence survived like i knew they would because we already have a solid 7 guys who are doing the job. if we lose say Khaira, some will go ape spit but fact is we are winning right now without the guy in the lineup and i think we will survive if we lose him and as it stands now he’s easily replaceable. people need to relax, let LV take a player and we’ll move on.

  • Jaxon

    I think they can replace Letestu, Lander with a 4th line C who can win a faceoff this summer. Options available: Derek Ryan, Brian Boyle, Matt Cullen, Dominic Moore. Ryan would be an absolute steal if they can sign him to a similar contract. 30 years old currently making $600K, on pace for 34 pts, 56.6FO%, plays 14:44 per night.

  • Copper

    Wouldn’t it be wise of LV to take many veterans with contracts expiring over the next 2 -3 years? Ones they can trade for extra picks? DMen like Fayne and F like Pouliot represent a start but also extra 2rd or 3rd picks at trade deadline depending on how well they perform of course.

  • expansionnerd

    I’ve been playing alot with the Expansion Draft Simulator at http://planmyteam.com. Spent many hours playing with it.

    They have stats on user saves for the draft and more fans are protecting Letestu over Kassian and Kassian and Samuelsson are the most common players picked for the draft.