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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Let’s Talk David Desharnais

It’s mailbag time again and that means I’ve taken your questions, fired them off to our writers, and waited for the magic to happen. Can the answers in this week’s mailbag enrich your lives? We shall see, but I feel pretty confident in saying absolutely yes. As always, I need questions and if there’s something you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Blake asks – I know it’s only been a short sample size but what are your thoughts on David Desharnais and what he’s brought to the team?

Jonathan Willis:

I think he’s been valuable offensively. As I write this (prior to Thursday’s Colorado game) he has four points in nine contests. Having said that, I think he’s a somewhat one-dimensional player, and his line has been carefully sheltered and still relies on shooting percentage. With Benoit Pouliot rejuvenated and Zack Kassian playing well, Edmonton has two of the three necessary players for a strong third line. Unfortunately, I still don’t think they have an answer at centre.

Jason Gregor:

He has been okay. He is helping in the faceoff dot and is chipping in offensively. His line’s play has slipped a bit, but overall I think he’s added more to the team than Davidson would have at this point.

Lowetide:

I like him a lot in the offensive zone, he reminds me a little of Derek Roy who came in and had offensive success with Oilers later in 2014-15. Like Roy, he doesn’t appear to be an exceptional center without the puck, but early days and it does take time to adjust. 

Matt Henderson:

So far I think Desharnais looks like a good fit at 3C. The last couple games have been tough for the whole team so that sample size you mentioned isn’t big enough for me to overlook it completely. That said, he looks like a player with more jump in his legs than Canadiens fans let on at the trade deadline.

Robin Brownlee:

He’s been exactly what I thought he’d be. Handy in the circles and chipping in offensively.

Cam Lewis:

Desharnais certainly wasn’t anywhere near the ideal player that the Oilers were looking for at the time, which was a big, defensively responsible, right-handed centre who could win draws and be effective on the penalty kill. But still, he’s been a very nice add to the team, because (despite the fact he isn’t that aforementioned description of Brian Boyle) he’s a battle tested, legitimate NHL centre who’s an upgrade over Drake Caggiula in tough games down the stretch. I don’t watch the Canadiens at all, but based on numbers, he’s found a second wind in Edmonton, which tends to happen when players change scenery like this and get a fresh start, and he’s turned the third line into much more of a threat than it was previously.

Chris the Intern:

I think he’s been great. He loves to be creative with the puck and he loves to create scoring opportunities. He’s not just another third line grinder. He adds great depth offence.

Baggedmilk:

I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. Is there room to improve? Always. That said, Desharnais has stabalized the third line in a way that Caggiula or Lander couldn’t do and it shows in the results. All of a sudden, the line of 💩-Lil D-Kassian is a threat to score and that’s something that wasn’t happening before.

2) Anthony asks – If the Oilers can manage to do some damage in the playoffs do you think that will affect Chiarelli’s plan going into the summer? I’m thinking specifically in terms of player movement on guys like Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins.

Jonathan Willis:

I think it’s less a matter of team success than it is success for those two individuals. Regardless of how well the club performs, Chiarelli has some careful salary cap maneuvering in front of him, and the question is less “should he save money?” and more “which specific salaries should be on the chopping block?” Either player could do themselves a world of good by looking indispensable when the postseason rolls around.

Jason Gregor:

It depends on how players play. The challenge with RNH is it will be very difficult to have a third line centre making $6 million. Unless they plan on leaving Draisaitl as a winger full-time, I see RNH as the third line centre and that is very expensive proposition. The Oilers aren’t blessed with an abundance of skilled right wingers. Eberle is having an off-year, no doubt, so the return this summer would likely be very low. I think Eberle might get another year unless Chia finds a trade that makes sense. I don’t see him just giving away Eberle for nothing.

Lowetide:

One suspects PC will eventually have to move one or the other due to cap issues, but that doesn’t mean it will be this summer. A strong performance by one or both could certainly have a positive impact.

Matt Henderson:

I hope that there is no player movement when it comes to RNH. He’s having his worst offensive season, way below his established numbers, but he has an important role here. A long playoff run COULD provide a huge boost to Eberle’s value and that would be welcome. If someone else in that $6M club has to go, I vote the winger who lost his job to Draisaitl.

Robin Brownlee:

Playoff performances will factor into player personnel decisions, as they should. If the Oilers win a round or two and RNH and Eberle play significant roles in that, how can it not impact moves Chiarelli may be contemplating?

Cam Lewis:

After the trade deadline, Chiarelli suggested the team was in some kind of long-term plan, and this season was a beginning phase of it. If there was ever a time to a accelerate that, it would have been this deadline, to capitalize on McDavid and Draisaitl’s cheap years, but it didn’t happen, so I doubt that the front office will sway from the plan they’ve set up regardless of playoff performance.

Chris the Intern:

I have a bad feeling Eberle’s just being used right now to create value for himself, and that he’ll be gone this summer. I HOPE this isn’t the case, but I don’t think a great playoff performance will affect Chia’s plan.

Baggedmilk:

What’s going to affect their future with the team is how Chiarelli manages the cap. Can he get rid of contracts like Pouliot ($4 million) or Fayne ($2.675 million in the minors) because that would go a long ways to relieve some pressure.

3) Alexandre asks – I heard Jason talking to Ryan Rishaug about whether or not Pat Maroon should be fighting as much as he does. As a secondary question, isn’t Pat Maroon doing all of the things that Milan Lucic is being paid to do? 

Jonathan Willis:

Milan Lucic’s first season in Edmonton has been pretty disappointing overall, though a career-best performance on the Connor McDavid power play has kept his point totals from cratering. Patrick Maroon has been a revelation, and yes he’s done an ice job of addressing the power forward role on the McDavid line, a job that was handed to and lost by Lucic. Having said that, Lucic has been better of late, and there are some things (his personal 5-on-5 shooting percentage is in the tank, he’s not getting second assists, etc.) that suggest this may just be a down year. Edmonton needs both guys rolling when the playoffs start.

Jason Gregor:

Maroon has had a great season, no question. He has excelled playing with McDavid. The reality is more players are willing to fight him than Lucic, but it is also true Maroon has been more consistent overall. Lucic’s play has improved the past month, and I’m curious to see if he feels more comfortable in his second season in Edmonton. But no doubt Maroon has had a better campaign.

Lowetide:

Maroon is at a point where he is too valuable on the ice to spend five minutes out of the rotation. As for what he brings versus what Lucic brings, they are similar players and Maroon is absolutely having a better year. I don’t think that means the Oilers are disappointed they signed Lucic, though.

Matt Henderson:

Yes. At a fraction of the cost. Good news is that Lucic since March 1 has been producing well, so maybe he’s coming around. Pat Maroon is going to earn a nice new contract after next season.

Robin Brownlee:

Interesting you’d frame the question like that. Is duplication of toughness and scoring an issue? I don’t think so. If the contracts of each player are what you’re getting at, it’s pretty easy to see why there’s a disparity based on their careers up until their arrival in Edmonton.

Cam Lewis:

Yes, he is. This is what made the Lucic signing somewhat curious over the summer, because the Oilers were dolling out big dollars to a guy who could provide size and stretch alongside Connor McDavid, when they had that in Patrick Maroon already. That said, nobody could’ve expected Maroon to click as well as he has this year, and good on him for putting himself in the opportunity to do so by getting into great shape last summer. I’m not a huge fan of discussing intangibles, because I believe most positive contributions a player has to the team show up in the numbers, but it’s pretty obvious Chiarelli wanted to bring in Lucic not only for his on ice play, but his presence in the locker room, too. Right or wrong, I don’t think the fact Maroon, an equally big and tough guy, would change the fact that Chiarelli wanted his key cog from the Bruins days on this new team of his.

Chris the Intern:

It’s pretty wild to think about that. For now I’ll just imagine Maroon is making Lucic’s salary and Lucic is making Maroon’s salary. Lucic has been performing well as of late, but if he gets up to his normal play it will be awesome to have two of those types of guys.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t mind when Maroon throws down when he’s defending his teammate or something like that, but he could pick his spots a little bit better. The guy is so funkin’ respectful of others that he’ll say yes because he thinks it’s the right thing to do, and, at this point, I don’t think he has to fight if he doesn’t want to. He’s doing all the things we wanted Lucic to do and I hope that Looch’s late season turnaround is indicative of what we’ll see from him going forward.

4) David asks – In your opinion, do you think that NHL players won’t actually go to the Olympics or is Gary Bettman posturing publicly?

Jonathan Willis:

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Gary Bettman over the years, it’s that he isn’t afraid to walk away if he doesn’t see a deal he likes. That’s why he’s overseen three lockouts. In this case, the NHL obviously doesn’t see a lot of value in playing in Korea, and given the time games will be on I can understand that. If I had to guess, today, I’d call it 60/40 that the NHL does not go.

Jason Gregor:

The NHL has a press conference in China this week. They will announce a big partnership with them to grow hockey. The 2022 Olympics are in China. Bettman might feel the NHL holds the cards now, but if they don’t go in 2018, the IOC will hold all the cards in 2022 and the NHL will be begging to get in then. It would be typical Bettman if NHL doesn’t go in 2018, but the good news is there is a tentative deadline for April 30th and we all know Bettman loves deadlines. I think he is posturing, but I also believe he is stubborn enough to think the IOC will cave. The Olympics will survive without the NHL and vice versa, but the NHL loses an opportunity to gain new fans by not going.

Lowetide:

The NHL wants to test the NHLPA to see if there has been a softening since the last agreement. The PA has a very strong negotiator now and this is (imo) a feeling out process. Kind of like the early moments of a boxing match.

Matt Henderson:

They always posture publicly and they always seem to find a way to go. The only thing is that if the Olympics were in a traditional hockey country this year the NHL would have more leverage. Something tells me the Hockey wasn’t going to draw as big this year as normal.

Robin Brownlee:

Posturing? Bettman wants some costs covered. That’s negotiating.

Cam Lewis:

I think the writing was on the walls for the NHL at The Olympics in 2018 when the league announced the re-birth of the World Cup of Hockey. The NHL obviously wants the international aspect of hockey to be a thing, but they don’t want a massive three week gap in the middle of the season in which players go overseas and risk injury. Whether it’s good for the game, good for the players, the fans, whatever, is irrelevant to them, unfortunately, because their top priority is the National Hockey League, which is why they’re forcing an international tournament on us that’s significantly more strategically placed on the calendar (and that they can, ya know, profit off of and control completely) than The Olympics.

Chris the Intern:

Bettman better be lying to us! Until he actually says ‘no’, I won’t hold my breath on what he says.

Baggedmilk:

The players say they want to go. The fans want them to go. The owners pay the bills and want to protect their investments. Isn’t it funny how business can always get in the way of fun? As for whether or not he’s posturing, who knows for sure? Like Jon said above, the NHL has seen three lockouts on Bettman’s watch so it’s not like he minds pissing everyone off.

5) Andrew T. asks – If you were George McPhee at this June’s expansion draft, would you be hesitant to help division rivals rid themselves of albatross contracts – regardless of the sweetener? Helping, say the Kings, get out from a garbage deal like Marion Gaborik or Dustin Brown, makes it that much harder to become a good team if you’ve helped the Kings out too much. Thoughts?

Jonathan Willis:

No, I wouldn’t be worried about it, as long as it’s the best deal for Vegas. There are a couple of different reasons for that. The first, specific to Vegas, is their own timeline. Realistically, I don’t see the Golden Knights really being a serious threat for several years, which means they don’t have to worry too much about immediate repercussions. The second, which is more general, is that it’s a 31-team league. If you do a trade that helps you and division rival X, it moves both of you up relative to those 29 other clubs. Even a win-win trade within the division helps you and one of your rivals move ahead of the other 5-6 teams you’re competing with.

Jason Gregor:

Vegas isn’t taking Dustin Brown’s five-year deal. Even a first rounder isn’t worth $25.5 million dollars for a player who can’t play. Same thing with Gaborik. Maybe if they had one year left on their deals, but Brown has five and Gaborik has four years remaining. McPhee will make some deals, but not ones which cost his owner $15+ million just to get an extra draft pick.

Lowetide:

McPhee will make his best deal no matter the opponent I expect. As the Golden Knights become more competitive, those considerations will come into play. LV may want to contend right away, don’t think they’ll have enough scoring.

Matt Henderson:

It depends on what the Knight’s strategy is. If they think they are going to actually compete right away then albatrosses are not good. If the plan is to be awful for a few years and collect picks (Oiler Mode) then albatrosses are OK. The bigger the albatross, the more it will cost. Alternatively, that might not be lucrative enough. If it’s just extra fourth rounders then that’s not good enough. They might prefer to take the BPAs and auction them off to the highest bidders.

Robin Brownlee:

Las Vegas isn’t going to contend for anything for 3-5 years and they aren’t going to get many players in the expansion draft who are established right now who will help them over the span of that time frame. Load up on draft picks and young players and build from there.

Cam Lewis:

Absolutely. My goal would be to acquire as many draft picks as possible over the first few years of the franchise’s existence in order to build a deep system. Let’s be honest: The team is going to be very, very bad for its first few years regardless of who it ends up with in the expansion draft. Even the solid, veteran players are likely going to be disgruntled having to pack up and move to play for a new, awful team in Las Vegas, so the Knights are better off doing everything they can to build a deep system where they can draft and develop their own players that have some sense of identity in playing for the organization. You can do so by taking a Dustin Brown or David Clarkson contract in exchange for a first or second round pick, and I figure that’ll have more value than a replacement-level player who wants out at their first opportunity.

Chris the Intern:

If I’m McPhee I would probably take a good player with a bad contract even though it’s helping out future pacific division rivals. He needs to try do anything possible to not make that team as much of a garbage fire as they’re expected to be.

Baggedmilk:

If I’m George McPhee I’m ripping the best players I can from every team regardless of position and trying to make trades from there. (BOLD!) With my strategy, McPhee will either put together a decent team or end up with the absolute worst mix of players that anyone could ever have. “How the hell didn’t we get a goalie?” I don’t know what kind of trade offers he’ll get but if he can manage his cards and play them well George McPhee might be able to use what he steals from Peter to pay Paul to upgrade various spots on his roster.


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  • Is it April yet?

    Desharnais has been more useful in his role than Brandon Davidson was in his if you want to break it down that way. He’s also afforded Letestu the opportunity to reap the rewards of evolving into a strong utility player. What’s lost on many is that Peter Chiarelli has a pretty good idea where the dominoes are gonna fall further down the table when acquiring certain types of players.

  • Rebuild3.0

    oilers would be dumb to keep trading their players after down years. if they don’t need to do it right away then why do it when eberle or rnh are having down year?

    • ed from edmonton

      That’s what people kept saying about Yak. PC was lucky to get what he did for him. There is no doubt that $6M for a center who may generate less than 40 points and isn’t particularly strong in any other facet (i.e. physicality, face offs, defensive) will be an ongoing problem. You can say much the same about Ebs, but he does put up more points than RNH.

    • someguy

      And who exactly is going to replace Eberle in the lineup? There are a lot of different factors at play, we can’t just say “Hey let’s trade so and so now because their value is high….”

  • Billy Charlebois

    I love watching Olympic hockey, but I think I have to side with the owners on this issue. It’s a bad business deal for them. The IOC seems very stubborn and arrogant on this issue.

  • paul wodehouse

    …the Olympics in 2018 in Korea are absolutely a suicide mission…too close to that maniac to the north AND why would the IOC give in to paying the shot for the pros to come in anyway …that would be a first…health insurance emergency transportation out and Death Benefits is what I’d asking for if I was the NHLPA…and no way does the IOC ever hold all the cards for getting them back to China in 2022…Nuge and 14 need to go! PC knows what he’s doing …he can get some GREAT returns on those two and not blink an eye … IMHO I want Jeff Carter to start …then a 50 point BANGING right winger …softgels ain’t gonna win a Cup next year …

    • Is it April yet?

      Nuge and Ebs don’t need to go…they gotta go. Draisaitl is playing his way into 6 mill long term, Maroon’s going to be around 5mill and Talbot’s deal expires the year after next. Haven’t even mentioned McDavid yet. Nuge and Eberle are gone and we’re not going to get much in return.

      • Not a First Tier Fan

        Any chance we could talk Nuge into taking a hometown discount. I agree $6M might be too rich for essentially a third line center but $3 – $3.5M might be doable…

        Guess that’s more wishful thinking than reality but you never know… Eberle I’m sure, wouldn’t even consider that and would want to test his value on the open market. and he’d get offered more than Oilers can afford in a few years, I’m sure. Which means you’ll probably see him moved either this summer or next..

        • someguy

          Why is everyone assuming Nuge is the 3rd line center now? He’s the 2nd line center and Dr. Drai is the 1st line RW. That’s a formula that’s working for the club, I see no reason we wouldn’t move forward with that.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            Point taken. I might start calling him the 2nd / 3rd line center. Draisatl is on the RW yeah, but sometimes you’ll have the situation where he has to be dropped down to center the second line. That bumps Nuge down to the third. Its not a bad thing… that kind of lineup flexibility must be a godsend to McLellan… depth is good.

        • Thumby

          Nobody is paying Eberle or Nuge 6 million ever again…sorry fanboys. They are good players but max value at 3.5-4 million IMO – Nuge is worth more as he’s a Center. Too bad we didn’t hold our 2nd postition in the draft and get Laine, he’s a true sniper with size and would have got 50+ this year with McD. Anyway, I’m still jacked and I’m hoping Ebs and Nuge can find another gear in the next month and redeem themselves….

  • madjam

    Playing McPhee : I load up on the best two goalies and 6-8 defenseman I can muster from the group , and then maybe consider trades , etc. on forwards from rest of group . They should be strong and very competitive on the back end to start . Oilers will probably lose one of Pouliot or Letestu , with a slight chance of losing Reinhart . Will Oilers try to put Eberle in play , but not a younger Hopkins – probably not for Vegas ?

  • polsy

    The Maroon/Lucic thing:

    From a matchup perspective opposing teams look at the Oilers and see a large, goal scoring, punishing, superstar protecting, mouth front presence, skilled Left wing beside McDavid. Matchup nightmare. Maybe take him out with a fight, take some pims on him?

    Oh. They have a second clone of him, and he’s out there on the power play pumping us.

    Brownlee nailed it when he asked if duplication of these skills were a problem.

    • Derian Hatcher

      Sigh…I have tried to like this website format but like “new” coke, mullets, and skinny jeans, It’s just not working for me. I know you boys are trying your best, but the old format is the real thing. Articles content is top notch, comment section…not so much. Just my two cents.

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        I think it’s helped the site.

        Look at the comments on this blog. Actual paragraphs with lots of thought put in.

        It’s better than “duhhh. fist donairs”

      • 813.52

        You are right, Randaman. Here’s my 2-cents at being constructive, rather than destructive.

        Statistics down the left side are unnessary. Adds to clutter, besides, they are are easily accessible and in more depth elsewhere.

        Why are there articles for other Nation sites prominently displayed down the left side? They are given the same visual weight and size as the main OilerNation articles, and besides adding to clutter, they only serve to entice the viewer to leave this site to go to another. This is OILERSNATION.

        Which brings me to . . . the NationNetwork logos across the top have more visual weight and prominence than the OilersNation logo tucked off to the left. Confusing messaging.

        We all understand the need for ads, but why not run them all down the right hand side, rather than the confusing mess down both sides. Do a solid to the people paying the bills.

        Font is way too large for “conversation.” Feels like I am being yelled at all the time, so I don’t spend a lot of time on this site anymore.

        In my opinion, this WAS the go-to site for up-to-the-minute Oiler news. Now it’s just an aggregate of 3 and 4 day-old old stories.

        Another suggestion: The top article everyday should be a “Daily Open Thread.” No written articles . . .just let us talk, which is what this community is about anyway. I’m sure the most up-to-the minute news and conversations will find their way here. This will also allow the excellent articles to “breathe” a little and stand on their own with comments mostly pertaining to that particular topic.

        A new Open Thread at started at midnight every night would guarantee fresh daily discussion.

        Did I mention the bad font decisions?

        Less filler, more meat. Make ON great again!

        ps . . . this Reply box that I am typing in is way too small to organize one’s thoughts more than one sentence at a time.

  • madjam

    Here is the backend I see Las Vegas with : Goalies : Fleury or Murray -Pitt. , Neuvirth – Phil. , Howard or Mzurak – Det . . Defence : J.Faulk – Carolina ( they either deal him or lose him to Vegas) , Dennis Savard -Columbus , Dumba or Scandella -Minn. , M.Methot -Ott. ,B.Coburn – Tampa , T.Hickey -NYI , K.Klein -NYR , J.Manson -Anaheim , K.Miller-Boston . I would say Vegas going to be very competitive on backend .

  • Sammy p

    I think that when it comes to estimating Lucic ‘s value to the club,a lot of people are missing the point.
    His presence on the ice and in the room wearing an Oiler jersey has brought new found courage and the will to compete to those players who were faint of heart,and god knows we had our share of that type over the past ten long years.
    Any scoring that Lucic contributes is a bonus,his main contribution is just his presence in the lineup.

  • Randaman

    The play-offs will dictate which direction PC goes with Nuge and Eberle. Personally I trade the proverbial teenager. He is far too easy to push off the puck and looks like a kid out there sometimes. I honestly thought he was a faster skater than he has shown this year. I also have to add that Landeskog has showed me why he should have been taken #1 that year.

  • Andresito

    I dont get the hate for lucic anymore. Hes been great recently when it matters most. I love maroon too, but lucic has more points than him, same amount of goals as hall and is a great guy in the locker room. Lets cut him some slack. The ppl that thought he was going to get 80 points because hes playing with mcdavid were on cloud 9.

  • Total Points

    Don’t expect RHN’s and Eberle’s points to get better next year. Todd M has them playing a different game as they now have to play a 200 foot game.

    This has effected their numbers and will continue in the future

    • someguy

      Who cares? Everyone is expected to play a 200 ft. game nowadays, that’s the way of the NHL. Ebs was thrown into the fire in his younger days because there wasn’t anyone else around to mentor him other than Shawn Horcoff. Also, if you actually checked his stats it’s worth noting that he’s only 2 points off his total from last year and has 9 more assists than he did last year. Sounds like his drop off is exaggerated to me…..

  • @Hallsy4

    Ebs, by his play as a whole (although he seems to have been better as of late with not as many gaffes?), always seems to be playing his way out of town. However, the situations beyond his control always seem to keep him in town. By that I mean that Better value back for Hall and the availability of Lucic available, made him stay this past offseason. This upcoming offseason he may stay because of a) his contract b) a lack of replacement on wing, JP may need more time developing, although Drai has kind of replaced him depending on how you look at it. Ebs hasn’t been bothering me as much lately, maybe because of the winning, but I’d still like to see him traded… he must be able to bring some sort of decent return. Nuge, I don’t know, I’m not opposed to trading him, but there’d have to be a good return.

    • someguy

      Jordan Eberle is not as useless as you think he is. He’s still the 22nd best RWer in the NHL today, that has value. By the way, he’s just ahead of Jakob Silverberg and tied with Kyle Okposo and Patrick Eaves. That puts him in top 15% of all RWers in the game. You don’t throw a piece like that away in trade for nothing – besides which who would be replacing him? Leon Draisatl? And then who? Jesse Puljujarvi? Anton Slepyshev? Zack Kassian? That’s a huge dropoff. I really wish people would stop ragging on Ebs, his so-called demise is still very much exaggerated.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    I didn’t realize till just now that the Golden Knights are going to be in our division. Lol. Connor and Co. can hopefully rack up some points against them.