WWYDW: How aggressive should the Edmonton Oilers be this summer?

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’s comments

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?

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    Man, I really hope the Chiarelli trades Eberle for Troy Brouwer. Big, gritty, tough, and due for a big bounce-back year. Adds even more meat to the roster.

  • Spydyr

    Move Eberle if you get any kind of reasonable offer. Replenish the RW depth chart either through Eberle’s trade a free agent signing or another trade. Then be patient and see how the team develops up until the trade deadline. If the continue the forward progress shown last season and are a legitimate Cup contender make a deal at the deadline for a puck moving defenceman if no one on he team has steeped up during the season. Like say Klefbom. Fill any other holes that may have become apparent through the season by either poor play or injury.

    If they are not looking like a threat for the Cup make the deals next summer. They should be entering the prime of their Cup window the following season.

  • Natejax97

    Expansion draft: try to Trade 3rd or 5th round pick to Vegas for future considerations of having them select Pouliot in the expansion draft.

    After expansion draft: see if Brian Campbell would like a 1 year contract (Sekera replacement) Resign Eric Gryba to a 2 way contract, sign Russell to a 3 year deal. Klefbom, Benning and Campbell can man the power play points. I hear Hamonic but just can’t believe NY would move him, nor do I believe that LV would do a draft and swap.

    Trade Eberle for Strome and a second round pick.

    Try to Sign Patrick Sharp to a 2 year contract (if he is healthy). Otherwise go for Patrick Eaves on a 1 year deal and pay high price.

    We can have some nice things, but 12 months from now Nurse needs a new deal, Benning needs a new deal, Maroon needs a new deal, and McDavids new contract kicks in. Give pullijarvi time to develop, if he is ready, let him play, but give the right side some veteran depth to give us stability.

    We need veterans who can put the puck in the net and I think we need to look at using an Eberle trade to replenish the Right Wing. Our Defense is pretty good. In 2 years Nurse and Benning will be ready for bigger roles and we will have 3 solid pairings. Jones and Bear will be knocking on the door in a few years as well, which is a good problem.

  • toprightcorner

    Add Williams and Vrbata to secure the right side. Williams is a grzzly vet that still score 24 goals and 50 pts.
    valuable in playoffs. Vrbata is a volume shooter that gets to the right spot, he could score over 30 with McDavid, remember him his first year with the Sedins? Vrbata, 30 goal scorer, $3 mill sounds good. This gives JP opportunity to play first 40 games in the AHL on a slow play plan. Next hole is 3C, if Hanzal can be had for $4 mill range he would be perfect. Also frees opportunity to trade Nuge if a good return is found. Add Hamonic and one of the NJD Alberta dmen and the team should be set.

    I would also be fine if all they added was 2 forwards to fill big holes on RW and right shot center.

  • Big Nuggets

    I’m sick of this idea that we need to make a big move before McDavids next contract. We need to get some talented prospects so we have complimentary players on value contracts cycling through the system while McDavid and Drai are leading the charge over the coming yeard.

    • Jonathan Willis

      They were a win away from the Conference Final this season. They’ll have to ship salary out when McDavid hits his next contract; I personally kind of like the idea of loading up and trying for a run while you have 97-29-93 as a 1-2-3 punch up the middle.

      • Big Nuggets

        they can lose the Eberle, Pouliot and Faine contracts and that should be more than enough to cover McD and Drai’s salaries.
        I’m not against making a move for next season but i dont think our chances of winning will diminish after McDavids ELC is up. Actually I think to the contrary, our D will continue to improve and as long as we can find some good young talent to fill out the roster our chances will only get better.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    All i can say is let’s hope that our new young guns( Caggiula,Benning,Pulijujarvi)will improve and have a huge spike in point totals next season, like Draisatl did. Jones and Bear are in the pipeline salivating for a look as well.Chiarelli has shown he wants to give the current roster experience at the NHL level and in the playoffs. Ebs days are definately numbered, but Nuge i think as well. We have two expensive centre’s on the top lines, so can’t afford 6 mil/yr, top six player Nuge centering the third line. What a waste of talent and cap space that would be. We owe Nuge more than third line minutes.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I wonder if Marleau would sign here for a year to play on the right side with Connor or Leon. Sure he older, but his experience would go a long way with this team. Could be a decent replacement for Ebs and put up the same points.

    If Eberle does get traded, I just hope no salary is retained as part of any deal.

  • Muleman84

    I like the idea of trading Eberle for Hamonic, then going out and getting say Bonino and Brian Campbell. That way we have Bonino as that 3rd line Center/utility player that has won Cups, can win faceoffs, Campbell for stopgap, and Hamonic to play 2nd pairing.

  • Redbird62

    My guess it that Chiarelli looks at a roster with 9 players (4 who are defencemen) under the age of 25 who were significant contributors to a team that was 2 goals away from getting to a Conference final and reasonably assumes that all have the potential to get better and some by quite a bit, so even if he does very little the team should improve. The improvement of these younger players presumably more than offsets the decline in the performance of some of the older players. Other than Matt Hendricks, none of the key players are at an age where rapid decline sets in yet. Even the regression occurs relative to the career years had by Maroon and Letestu, this could be offset by Lucic, Eberle and Poulliot (if the latter two remain) rebounding somewhat.

    I am not saying Chiarelli won’t make some big moves to try and improve the team, but he is not compelled to so to expect the team to get better. Unlike most of the off-seasons during the past 10 years, where hoping the young core improving would cause the team to move from the bottom to just playoff contention, the current youth are already part a team on the verge of being a serious contender. That now gives Chiarelli the luxury of not having to trade Eberle or Hopkins in 2017 unless he views that the return fills a need that makes the team better. The cap should not be constrain until the end of next year.

    And on the subject of Hopkins, I am still surprised at the people who want to write him off at this point in his career. In the past, there have been questions as to whether Hopkins could become like Datsyuk and many would scoff at that comparison. I think it is too soon still to say that Hopkins won’t ever approach Datsyuk level of success. Hopkins just turned 24 in April. When Datsyuk turned 24 in 2002 he had just completed his first season in the NHL scoring 35 points in 70 games. I agree that Hopkins won’t likely have the opportunity to be the guy in Edmonton like Datysuk in Detroit, since he now has McDavid and probably Draisaitl in front of him, but his contributions to this team can still grow substantially to be a player worth the $6 he is getting paid.

  • 4000miaway

    Chiarelli and McLellan already said the next step is repeating last seasons performance and be a steady playoff presence. Once in the playoffs anything can happen, but the (still young) roster needs to develop too. Buying new toys isn’t always the answer. Steady growth is probably a better way to do it than shoot for the moon every 10th year.