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Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Strome to play centre?

General Manager Peter Chiarelli was asked about Ryan Strome and if he sees him as a winger or a centre?

“I think naturally he is a centre. I’ve talked to him three or four times in Chicago (at the draft) and at the airport in Toronto and I think he prefers to play centre. Based on what I’ve seen of his play in junior and in the NHL I think he is probably a centreman. Having said that, he has the skills, shot and stick sense to play on the wall. We will see what we have at the time (start of the season), but I have spoken to Todd (McLellan) about Strome playing centre and/or wing,” said Chiarelli.

Strome would like to play centre. He feels most comfortable there, although I guarantee he wouldn’t be upset if he was given an opportunity to play on Connor McDavid’s right wing.

Can the Oilers play Strome down the middle? Would it benefit them?

Chiarelli made it clear he has some other moves he could make once he finalizes the contracts for McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Most assume when both are signed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ time as an Oilers will be short-lived. Not because he is a bad player, but because making $6 million as a third line centre doesn’t jive in a salary cap era when your top-two centres could be making between $19-$21 million.

Or maybe there is financial room for RNH if they plan on playing Draisaitl on the wing.

Based on today’s roster and Chiarelli’s comments regarding Strome we could see these lines on opening night.

Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl
Lucic-RNH-Slepyshev
Caggiula-Strome-Puljujarvi
Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

The top line had great success late last season and starting them together to ensure another good start makes sense.

Slepyshev opened some eyes in the playoffs. He has more experience than Jesse Puljujarvi, and along with RNH and Milan Lucic they would be matched up against one of the top-two lines on the opposition.

Strome’s line would be very young. They would be matched up against the bottom two lines, especially at home. Strome hasn’t played much at centre over the past few seasons, so if they plan on playing him there I hope they put him at centre from day one of camp and all of the preseason. Even though he is most comfortable down the middle, he will need some preseason games and practice time to sharpen his centre skills. McLellan could swap Caggiula with Maroon if he wanted some more experience on Strome’s line.

Jujhar Khaira replaces Matt Hendricks on the fourth line and adds some more size. Khaira will battle with Iiro Pakarinen for ice time. He’ll need to be more consistent this year to stay in the lineup. Khaira needs to play. He only played 15 games in 2017, ten in the NHL with the Oilers between January and March, and five in the AHL during the same time span. He needs to force McLellan to keep him in the lineup, just like Tyler Pitlick did last year. Khaira needs to come to camp determined to win a regular spot in the lineup.

OTHER OPTION

Mar 16, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates after scoring a goal against Boston Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin (35) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a firm believer Draisaitl is capable of being a driver on his own line. He doesn’t need McDavid, although it obviously helps, and I’m sure we will see Draisaitl down the middle at some point this season. He was dominant in the playoffs vs. the Ducks when McLellan moved him to centre and I’d like to see him there this year. I understand if it doesn’t happen on opening night. The Oilers have a very favourable October schedule. They only have ten games and lots of practice time. They need to take advantage of it, especially when they have 16 games in 30 days in November.

The line combos look much different with Draisaitl down the middle.

Maroon-McDavid-Strome
Lucic-Draisaitl-Slepyshev
Caggiula-RNH-Puljujarvi
Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

These combos would allow RNH to play softer minutes and hopefully rediscover his offensive creativity. I expect Drake Caggiula to have a very strong sophomore season. He was injured in training camp, missed the first 18 games, and then had to play centre, something he hadn’t done in three years in College, yet Caggiula never looked beaten down. I like his speed, his quick release and his tenacity.

Playing him with either RNH or Strome against bottom six forwards could be very beneficial.

Puljujarvi is the wildcard for me. I hope they protect him and bring him along slowly. I’d have him on the third line and 2nd PP unit to start and hopefully, he finds some offensive success. Playing him higher in the lineup means he’ll face top pairing defenders, and it is much harder to produce against them. If he can produce even 15 goals I’d consider that a good year.

I could see him being a slower developer, which is fine, and in year three of four starts to dominate. I don’t care much where a player was drafted. Don’t try and force a player into a bigger role based on where he was selected in the draft. Play them based on how their play stacks up against NHL players.

Strome’s versatility could be very beneficial for the Oilers. It is great he wants to play centre, but he’ll need to prove he can do it effectively. Many young centres coming out of college or junior believe they are best down the middle. It can be a mental challenge to accept they might be better suited to play the wing in the NHL.

Can Strome play centre effectively? I don’t think we’ve seen enough to know for sure, but with McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton, the Oilers don’t have to force it. If he plays well in the middle it will give McLellan more options, but if he gets a look on McDavid’s line he might suddenly feel right wing is the best spot for him.

PARTING SHOTS

I wouldn’t get too worked up over the Draisaitl contract negotiations. Every negotiation is different, but many players haven’t signed until late in the summer, during training camp or even after the preseason.

Last year Nikita Kucherov didn’t sign until October 11th. He ended up signing a three-year deal worth $4.76 million/season.
Johnny Gaudreau didn’t sign his six-year, $6.75 million/year deal until October 10th last year.
Sean Monahan signed his six-year, $6.375 million/year deal on August 19th last summer.

In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, PK Subban didn’t sign his 2nd contract until January 28th. He missed the first six games of the season, but he ended up winning the Norris Trophy. He needed a new deal after the 2013/2014 season, and he didn’t sign his eight-year, $9 million/year deal until August 2nd, 2014.

Jacob Trouba sat out the longest recently. He and the Winnipeg Jets never agreed to an extension until November 7th, 2016. They finally agreed to a two-year, $3 million/year deal. He and his camp even asked for a trade, but it never happened. Players exiting their entry level deal don’t have much bargaining power. Draisaitl can’t opt for arbitration, and the contract comparisons for him vary between Mark Schiefele($6.125 million), Monahan, Gaudreau and Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million/year).

His agent will ask for more, that is his job, but if no team submits an offer sheet, which is unlikely, then Draisaitl’s bargaining power drops. Some negotiations take longer than others, but it doesn’t mean the player and organization are at odds. It is simply business.

Chiarelli values Draisaitl. They believe he is a big part of their future. Draisaitl likes Edmonton and is very close to McDavid and Darnell Nurse. He wants to be in Edmonton, and while I’m sure you will read a lot about salary demands as the summer progresses, I’d be shocked if a deal isn’t done before the season begins on October 4th.

**Speaking of deals. Expect the Oilers and McDavid to announce extension this week.**

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Explicit

    Just the amount of different options McClellan has now is wonderful. I’m a big fan of chiarelli and how he’s putting this team together. I’ve never said that about any oiler gm in a very long time

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ^me too and the bonus with Strome is that he’s a right shooting center who was put on RW in Brooklyn. i have heard before that he’s prefer to play center so this might just solve the endless searching for a RC if things work out OK?

  • GreasyOilChef

    Why is TM so reluctant to give RNH a shot on the wing with McD or Drai? I know he didn’t seem to get it going all season long but TM of all people should’ve seen how well he played with other great players….I would rather see McD, Drai, and Strome as our top 3 centres and see RNH get those top 6 minutes as a winger and see what he can do…

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    We’re hearing reports that Leon is asking for $9M+. That is crazy. I agree that there’s no need for panic and that this is all part of the negotiations.

    That said, if $9M+ is true, Leon’s camp is starting from an awfully high (and imo entirely unreasonable) number. The fact that his demands are “leaking” to the press is also a little worrying:
    – if it’s Leon’s agent that is leaking, they are trying to “shop” for RFA offer sheets
    – if it’s the Oilers that are leaking the “$9M+” number, then they might be trying to win the fans over and might even be signalling a Leon trade.

    Anyway. Again, I agree that there’s not much cause for concern. Yet.

  • freelancer

    That foward group looks alright but a couple big issues from my perspective. First is my hesitancy to have Slepeshev start in a top 6 role and unless Puljujarvi develops quickly there are no other strong options on the right side.

    The second is this team is one injury away from catastrophe. Last year the team had solid call-ups in Slepeshev, Khaira, and Caggiula (on roster but was a healthy scratch). This year if any of those players underperform or get injured who is the first realistic call-up that can play at the NHL level?

      • freelancer

        Except that this roster has way more question marks than the one from a year ago. Last year the forward group for the Oil started as

        Lucic-McDavid-Eberle
        Pouliot-RNH- Slepeshev
        Maroon-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi
        Pitlick-Letestu-Kassian

        Klefbom-Larsson
        Sekera-Russell
        Nurse-Davidson

        And what happened? Lucic struggled with McDavid, Pouliot struggled with everyone, Slepeshev wasn’t able to produce in a top 6 role nor was Puljujarvi, and Davidson got injured game one. The team was able to move Draisaitl to wing, Benning came in and surprised, Caggiula came in and played third line centre and later wing.

        As it stands now the roster is set, the guys that had to fight to stay on the roster last season have their names written in pen for opening night. I don’t see any of the AHL names with the exception of Rattie fighting for any meaningful NHL minutes and the defense in particular with the loss of Sekera for potentially the first half of the season is teetering over the edge.

        • oilfan4ever

          What is wrong with having a relatively set starting line up? I certainly don’t want to go back to the good old days when we were trying to plug AHLers into the many holes we had in the line up. How many new guys do you think are starting in Anaheim, Nashville, Washington???

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            fans are likely worried that rival teams like the Lames and Stars have had to add a lot just to reach our level and we’ve had to apparently wait until the McD/Leon contracts are signed until we can make any more moves and by then all the good UFA’s could be gone.

    • Nanook

      I would think if he was asking lower then the deal would already have been completed. If he asked 8 he would reasonably expect to get anywhere in the 7.5-8 mill mark and accept it. The fact he hasn’t signed yet leads me to believe the number is closer to the 9 mark and the gap is farther than either are willing to budge so far. It may still be rumor, but its reasonable to consider it as true.

  • A-Mc

    I have a feeling that Strome will work out well in Edmonton. I dont think he’ll be a full time Center, but i could see him and Nuge trading off on the same line based on who the opposing center is. LH / RH options.

  • Coltrain

    This is bang on Jason.

    Here’s your home line up…
    Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl
    Lucic-RNH-Slepyshev
    Caggiula-Strome-Puljujarvi
    Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

    Here’s your road line up…
    Maroon-McDavid-Strome
    Lucic-Draisaitl-Slepyshev
    Caggiula-RNH-Puljujarvi
    Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

    Allows TMac some flexibility when he no longer has the ability to match lines. When at home Strome can play his centre position against soft opposition until the team sees they can trust him on the road. I also don’t mind the wingers that can be mixed and matched depending on their current streak, etc.

  • Muddy

    I realize Chia loves the younger players but that RW is awfully inexperienced. I’m a fan of signing either Iggy or Jags to a one year 1 million dollar contract. Really nothing to loose here and the wealth of experience those two bring is enormous. Iggy on the PP might be worth the dollars alone. Anyway thoughts?

  • The Whispererer

    Looks like a lot of square pegs and round holes. Roster needs a makeover IMHO. I’ll give it a shot; what the heck…i’ve taken lots of shrapnel on these boards and i’m still alive.
    The following moves are somewhat inter-dependent and conditional on having the necessary cap space after McDavid and Draisaitl re-sign.
    Step 1
    James Neal plays both wings and has never scored less than 21G, even in the lockout year. So…Maroon + Fayne + pick/prospect to Vegas for Neal; i would try to broaden it enough to get them to include Miller (or Reinhart ?) but not a necessity. Neal is a much greater bet to score 30 on McDavid’s RW than Maroon is to replay anything approaching last year’s production. The 3 salaries are a wash, and all 3 players are UFA next year. If Maroon had another good year with McDavid, which is a longshot, we couldn’t afford to re-sign him in 2018 anyway so let’s sell high.
    Step 2
    I heard or read somewhere that Montreal expects to be able to sign Galchenyuk for ~$4.5. Trade RNH for Galchenyuk (to play 1LW); if couldn’t get a D from Vegas try to get Davidson or Benn incl. from Montreal. Lucic plays 2LW with Draisaitl. Caggiula and Khaira battle for the other 2 LW spots or to move up to 1st line if Galchenyuk isn’t up to it.
    Step 3
    Sign Jagr for ~$3 million, 1 year to play 2PP and 2 or 3RW with Drai or Strome. Pulujarvii, Slepyshev, Kassian battle for the other RW spots.
    Draisaitl settles into 2C and 1st PP; Strome plays 3C and Letestu 4C.

    Fitting Galchenyuk’s contact into our Cap for 2018/19 and beyond would have to be manageable.
    Neal and Jagr wouldn’t have to be re-signed as our other 4RWingers would have another full year of development.

  • Farmfreak

    Why have we not signed Iginla? Perfect fit IMO all around for the next two years…. was there the last game with LA , and he is a warrior!!! Could play RW all the way up and down the lineup

  • ColoradOIL

    Like so many of us, I trashed Chia all summer long last year. To my pleasant surprise, he probed me very wrong. I have total faith that Chia knows what he is doing and that TM can make very good use of the tools he is given. I’m not going to panic until there is a reason to do so. The line combos I saw in the article were comforting. They could be better but they could also be so much worse. I’m gonna ride this wave and see what happens. Can’t wait for puck drop in October!

  • shaner

    Is it just me or is one of there biggest issues from last year, still unsolved (terrible face-off percentage)? admittedly Drai and Mcdavid will be a year older and stronger but relying on Nuge (who has proven throughout his brief career that this is a weakness) and a new C/RW in strome, who even though he may be a natural centre might need some time to adjust…… I guess I just thought an experienced 3rd line centre would be on the shopping list (and yes I understand McD and Drai)are done before anything else. But surely there must be another Letestu type (low cost low risk, decent in the dot) forward who the oilers could get for futures or mid round picks………

  • Consultant

    As long as he is only marginally successful we should be okay. But that would be horrible if he does well, he’d deserve a raise and hence we’ll have to trade him away.
    Alright back to team planning… so we have to give away Nuge next right? Too bad I liked him, he will be a solid player for another 10 years. Let’s also hope Talbot struggles from time to time, his contract is up soon.
    All this cause we made it to the second round!!!! Thanks Connor and Leon!

  • Randaman

    I see your other option still includes Nuge. Won’t happen. He will be traded sooner than later to bring in much cheaper options. Cap world dictates this. The writing is on the wall and BM is just going to have to accept it.

  • camdog

    RNh’s role in the line up needs to change this season. He’s got a quick release, however given his role as a shut down centre he doesn’t always get many opportunities to use it. As the coach said he hopes RnH turns into a Pavelski type player, a player he converted from a centre to an all star winger. It should always be noted that if you want an honest opinion on where a player fits in the organisation the coaches view point appears to hold a lot of value. PC doesn’t really say anything, but Todd gives a little more. It’s a big year for the Nudge we have been waiting for a number of years for him to take that next step.

      • madjam

        I like Slepyshev , but his whole history shows he is not very good at scoring , but good/decent in a bottom 6 role . Puljujarvi , in far less games outscored him in Bakerfield and is even younger with plenty more space to grow and contribute . Check his records on hockey db to verify his lack of scoring prowess – not the sort of stats you would expect from any top 6 player .

  • madjam

    Yamamoto carries his scoring prowess and play making ability in Oiler scrimmage with one goal and 2 assists . He sets to make team first year with 9 game starter audition .
    First game against Calgary Yamamoto lines up with Connor and Draisaitl on first shift and shadows Gaudreau leading to their first fight of the year as Yamamoto whips Johnny . Connor and Draisaitl run rampant over the Monohan Gaudreau line the rest of the night . Will we give Keiller that opportunity ?

    • madjam

      Actually Yamamoto is pretty ambidexterous type player . He is a C/LW that is a right hand shot that could also play RW . Not ready to pencil him out of season start just yet .