In his end-of-season availability in mid-May, Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli indicated a strong preference for incremental growth over aggressive moves in the summer. Whether he actually means that, or whether he’s just keeping expectations low and his cards close to his chest is a hard question to answer.
An easier question is the one posed in this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday: Is slow, incremental growth the correct approach to this summer?
Chiarelli appeared surprised when he was asked (16:10 in the video above) about the desirability of making a major championship push next season, in the final year of Connor McDavid’s entry-level contract.
“We won a round,” he replied, pausing for a moment.
“The key to your question is ‘are we expediting things?’” he continued. “I don’t think so. Nothing has really changed in the way we’re going to approach building this team.”
After pointing to the difficulty in making moves because of the salary cap, and the desirability of letting young players currently on the roster grow into their roles, the Oilers GM stressed the need for patience.
“So trying to team build,” he said “but we’re still going to be patient, but we can still have success and we can still have incremental success because if we stay the course these young guys will contribute and we’ll still get the meaningful contributions from the current team.”
An incremental growth team
What does an “incremental growth” team look like? Much like last year’s team.
Edmonton may (or may not) trade Jordan Eberle. If they do, it will probably for a lesser forward with a lesser cap hit, rather than for a higher-end defender. The reasoning is straight forward: Chiarelli has publicly proclaimed his preference for a 7-3-1 approach to expansion, and that approach precludes an Eberle-for-D trade before the draft. After the draft, it’ll be easy to get defencemen, but probably not the kind of defencemen Edmonton would want for a player of Eberle’s talent.
Edmonton would lose a player to Las Vegas. I think Jujhar Khaira makes the most sense for the Golden Knights based on probable protected lists (lots of D available, not a lot of centres) though of course Laurent Brossoit and Griffin Reinhart are options. Kris Russell would be back, signed prior to July 1 but post-expansion. The Oilers would probably trade for a stopgap while Andrej Sekera got healthy, and perhaps add as depth piece or two to the roster. I assume they’d also find some way to rid themselves of Benoit Pouliot’s contract.
The end result might look something like this:
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing||Left Defence||Right Defence||Goal|
|P. Maroon||C. McDavid||L. Draisaitl||O. Klefbom||A. Larsson||C. Talbot|
|M. Lucic||R. Nugent-Hopkins||A. Slepyshev||D. Nurse||K. Russell||L. Brossoit|
|D. Caggiula||R. Strome*||J. Puljujarvi||K. Quincey*||M. Benning|
|Z. Kassian||M. Letestu||N. Kulemin*||A. Sekera||G. Reinhart|
|R. White*||I. Pakarinen|
New additions are marked with an asterisk, but the specifics aren’t that important: the key thing is that the additions (outside of the player coming back in our still-hypothetical Eberle trade) are all of the lower-end variety. There’s no attempt to add a dynamic puck-mover to the back end or a new cornerstone piece up front.
The growth here will be expected primarily to come from young players: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but also Jesse Puljujarvi and Anton Slepyshev and Matt Benning and lots of others.
The question this week is whether that’s good enough, or not. Do the Oilers need to make a major push to try and win before McDavid gets expensive, or should patience be the order of the day?