In a summer that gives us all kinds of opportunities to disagree, a universal positive is the signing of free agent Jussi Jokinen. Added to veterans Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic, the LW position has encouraging experience and depth. I think Drake Cagguila and Anton Slepyshev may also get some playing time on the left side, possibly Jujhar Khaira too. Unlike the right wing (we looked at that position here), the Oilers have some established and proven options on LW, many of whom are interchangeable.
- Patrick Maroon. Based on last season, Maroon can go one of several ways with the Oilers and be effective. However, the overwhelming success he enjoyed with Connor McDavid has to be a strong consideration. Maroon was 2.88 points-per-60 minutes scoring at 5×5 and had a Corsi for 5×5 of 52.9 with Connor McDavid. Without McDavid? He was 1.13 and 54.1.
- Milan Lucic. I’ve watched his entire career and 2016-17 was a real surprise on several levels. Lucic was fantastic on the power play, scoring 7.04 points-per-60 minutes on 5×4 powerplays. That was good for No. 6 among all NHL regular forwards. This is not a traditionally strong area for him, so the uptick was surprising and welcome. On the other side, he scored just 1.22 points-per-60 minutes at 5×5 even strength, including a disappointing 1.46/60 with Connor McDavid. I’m tempted to suggest the Oilers might try Lucic-McDavid again, but with Maroon already available it seems an unnecessary second look.
- Jussi Jokinen. An astute signing by Peter Chiarelli despite a season that was in some ways disappointing. His boxcars (69gp, 11-17-28) were well off his previous season (81gp, 18-42-60) but I think it’s reasonable to expect recovery. Jokinen is an excellent possession player, and through the brilliant site Puck IQ, we are able to drill down on exactly what Jokinen was up to last year in Florida. According to Puck IQ, he was 46 percent against elites (38 percent of 5×5 TOI), 50 percent against middle (40 percent of 5×5 TOI) and 51 percent against the gritensity (22 percent TOI). The important number here is 38 percent against elites, meaning he played in the heart of the game.
- Drake Caggiula. He closed well at the end of the regular season (3-3-6 in his last nine games) and he was injured early, so Caggiula’s year-end stats may not reflect the actual player. His 5×5/60 (1.04) ranked No. 299 among 354 NHL forwards who played 500 or more minutes. He was scoring at about the same rate as Tommy Wingels, Torrey Mitchell and Chris VandeVelde. I think we need to see him for a healthy season to know what the Oilers have in Caggiula.
- Anton Slepyshev. I’m not sure which side he’ll play, so will list him here. Anton Slepyshev scored just 1.34/60 5×5 last season, but scored 2.20/60 at 5×5 away from Drake Caggiula. He was also fantastic on a playoff line with Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic, we may see it again in the fall.
- Jujhar Khaira. Matt Hendricks wasn’t signed and that means there is a spot open for a player with similar skills. Khaira can handle the physical aspects and has worked on the PK, we’ll have to wait and see if he can fit into that role this fall. Khaira is waiver eligible.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
This estimates Leon Draisaitl signing at $8 million and represents an educated guess as to depth charts, overages, buried contracts, et cetera. I think we’re going to see Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Strome swap positions a lot and the LW position is going to be the steady slot among the forward group. Maroon-McDavid, Lucic-Leon and Jokinen-Nuge make sense from here, with the RW’s moving up and down as required.