In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we want to know how the first round of the playoffs has altered your perception of and preferred plan for the Edmonton Oilers.
We still can’t be totally sure of how good this team is right now, but with the Oilers topping off their first playoff appearance since 2006 with a playoff victory over last year’s Western champs it’s clear that team improvement is happening more rapidly than was generally expected.
So far in the salary cap era, the great teams tend to go from really bad to really good shockingly fast. Pittsburgh and Chicago, in particular, won their first Stanley Cups with star players still in their entry-level deals. There are lots of reasons for this, including the flexibility afforded by having top players on cheap deals and the fact that players who still drive the bus at age 30 tend to do so at age 20 as well.
When I’ve made this point in the context of the Edmonton Oilers in the recent past, there has typically been a lot of pushback. There should be less now that it’s apparent the Oilers might be capable of a long playoff run as early as right now, with yet another season on Connor McDavid’s entry-level deal to come.
So: How does this accelerated timeline change the long-term plan?
For starters, has your view on the team’s pending unrestricted free agents shifted? The list includes playoff regulars Kris Russell and David Desharnais, black aces Eric Gryba and Matt Hendricks and the injured Tyler Pitlick. Have any of them worked their way into, or out of, the long-term picture?
The bigger decisions might be the restricted free agents. Leon Draisaitl deserves special mention here, as his contract is up this summer. I’ve generally favoured a bridge deal because Edmonton has some leverage (Draisaitl is still five years away from unrestricted status) but the longer he plays well the more tempting it becomes to lock him up long-term.
Then there’s Zack Kassian, who we looked at in late March. At the time, I suggested something like a $1.75 million cap hit over two years, and still think that’s the preferable approach for the Oilers. Do two goals in the first round change that, though? And do Iiro Pakarinen and Jujhar Khaira still merit roster spots next season?
Perhaps most importantly: Does Edmonton need to be more aggressive this summer in landing specific players or shedding unwelcome salaries?
Let us know in the comments what you’ve learned from the first round and how it’s changed the way you view the team.