Last week, I asked about the Edmonton Oilers’ blueline heading into the 2017-18 season. Specifically, I asked if the Oilers should sign Cody Franson to fill in while Andrej Sekera recovers from injury. He ended up signing a PTO with the Chicago Blackhawks, so the Oilers will end up rolling with what they have.
That brings us to this week’s question, which, in a similar vein, I ask what the Oilers should do with their forwards. Anton Slepyshev will miss training camp and is iffy for the season opener on Oct. 4. Slepyshev, a versatile winger who can play on the left and right side, likely not being ready for the beginning of the season will open a spot for another forward to have an opportunity with the club right out of the gate.
Should the Oilers sign veteran forward Chris Kelly, who’s coming to camp on a PTO? Should they give 2017 first rounder Kailer Yamamoto a cup of coffee? Or will a dark horse like Ty Rattie crack the roster?
Here’s what the Oilers were rolling with at their first team practice this week…
I quite like this lineup. Jokinen and Puljujarvi make sense on the same line because of language concerns. Nugent-Hopkins can likely excel with more sheltered offensive minutes. Draisaitl needs to be carrying his own line if he’s making $8.5 million. Strome adds another big body that can drive the net with McDavid and Maroon.
There are a few question marks here, though.
The biggest in Jesse Puljujarvi. The Oilers are banking a fair amount on Pulju taking a step forward this season and replacing some of Jordan Eberle’s production. Is he an NHL player? Should he be playing in the AHL? What if he struggles and has to go down again this season? Who jumps up and fills that spot?
Same goes with Drake Caggiula. He’s older and more well-rounded and will likely be better this season than last in his natural wing role, but what if Caggiula can’t contribute much offensively? If him and Pulju struggle, the Oilers suddenly look very thin on the wings.
Another is Iiro Pakarinen, who seems to have the inside edge in filling Slepyshev’s spot on the fourth line. Is Kelly a better fit here?
So that brings us back to the main question, which is who should crack the roster in place on Anton Slepyshev? And the follow-up question, how should Edmonton arrange their forwards? Who plays where and in what situations?
Chris Kelly is an interesting option because he’s had a 14-season career and can play as both a centre and a winger. But he’s old, slow, and worn down, and wasn’t particularly effective last year in Ottawa.
Kailer Yamamoto is a big part of this team’s future and the Oilers could use some skill on the wings. But he’s got the body of a 14-year-old and the Oilers are finally in a position where they don’t have to rush their prospects into the big leagues.
Ty Rattie was a prolific scorer in junior and has been solid in the AHL. He’s bounced around the league and hasn’t had a consistent chance to play at the NHL level.
Are there any players floating around free agency — other than Jaromir Jagr — that could be good fits?