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Photo Credit: Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: How did the first round alter your perception of the Edmonton Oilers?

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.

  • A-Mc

    Draisaitl’s next contract and the 3C position are the only things that have increased in importance for me for this season.

    Draisaitl’s play has put him into a position where he may be more costly than the Oilers would have originally liked. We need to watch our cap space from here on out, and i’m concerned about the type of money we may need to pay him.

    3C is a bit of a concern if Drai moves to his proper 2c spot. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to have your 3C making 6M a year, but I’m certainly not advocating a nugent-hopkins trade. We need to figure out who contributes to the team through out the season and into the playoffs, and then put money into those guys. The rest of the players are filler, of sorts, and we need to have those guys on cheap contracts.

    OH, Eberle is someone that is more on my radar now since the playoffs have started. Maybe it’s because of the team(s) we’re facing, but Eberle hasn’t shown 6M in value thus far. He was a passenger for much of the regular season and now he’s carrying that over into the playoffs. If he’s not scoring, he needs to be doing something else well, and i haven’t seen him provide much value.

    • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

      Team resiliency: The Oil showed a lot of after that 7-0 game to win the next two. Wasn’t sure how they’d respond.

      Second, even though he went pointless, Nuge’s two-way play was invaluable. Eberle played well too, but of the two, Nuge is the keeper. He probably makes too much for his production, but the Oil would do well to keep find some way to keep him. Decent centres are not easy to find, and we saw how bad the Oilers were when they were a “donut team.”

  • Alberta Ice

    I like the way the TEAM is playing. You never win with one superstar alone. Kudos for the TEAM and the Captain and the Coach and Chiarelli for bringing this TEAM together this year. You are only as strong as your weakest link.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Keep the team that Chiarelli built. It’s got spunk.

    Ebs – although I love the guy – is going to run into the economic reality of Drai and McD’s contract negotiations. Probably won’t be room for another $6M man. Nuge will always have a home but will probably need to take a haircut. But we should have at least one more year with both to either live em or hate em.

    Keep Khaira unless he’s picked up by the Knights. Pakarinen unfortunately is trade-bait but Pete will probably find a happy buyer.

    Russell’s a keeper just to keep Matt Henderson spitting.

    Desharnais is a band-aid and will probably be on his way. Although he’ll always be a hero in Edmonton for game 5.

    Just my two cents.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    I feel what we learned is the worst (game 4) and the best (game 5 ot) hockey this team is capable of. And the good news is the best followed the worst which shows me character & mental toughness. The type that can carry this team a long way.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Yes. Things have changed.

    The window of opportunity. We thought we were going to be walking towards it and maybe looking out of it this year. The regular season success (they missed the division title by [THIS] much) cracked it open a bit. The series win over the Sharks opened it up even more. And the fact that the old powers in the West (Blackhawks, Sharks, Kings) have all stumbled and are starting to fall have pretty much shattered the window. There is no window. It’s just a gaping hold in the wall. Our time is NOW.

  • JBear

    This current success has changed my mind a lot but for some reason, I’m not surprised they are winning, I’m almost stoic when watching the games (or maybe just frozen in anticipation and nervousness). Unfortunately, we won’t be able to keep this team together for too long. Pouliot and Eberle (sad face) will have to be gone prior to their contracts expiring to make room for Drai, and McDavid’s contracts and to make room for Puljujarvi.