Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Who goes when Sekera and Larsson return?

After missing a couple weeks of action with a back injury, Adam Larsson is a game time decision to return to the Oilers on Thursday against the Nashville Predators. While we don’t have an exact date on when Andrej Sekera will return following off-season surgery, it’s likely the veteran defender will be back within the next few weeks.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Who should end up on the outside of the Oilers’ numbers game when Larsson and Sekera return to the lineup?

When Larsson gets activated…

The Oilers currently have a full 23-player roster with Sekera and Larsson on the Injured Reserve. Cam Talbot, of course, is also on the IR, but it’s inevitable Nick Ellis, who doesn’t require waivers, will be sent down to AHL Bakersfield once the starting goalie returns, so there’s nothing to talk about there. The more interesting discussion is how the Oilers will handle the return of two top-four defenders, especially with the newly-acquired Brandon Davidson back in the mix.

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When the team was fully healthy minus Sekera for the first 26 games of the season, Todd McLellan operated largely with Eric Gryba as the team’s sixth defenceman. Slowly, though, he began to use Yohann Auvitu more. Then, when Larsson was placed on the IR on Dec. 1, he rolled with Auvitu and Gryba as the third pair, which was predictably a disaster.

In five games without Larsson, Auvitu and Gryba played together twice, but Brandon Davidson has slotted in alongside the French defender in the past three games. It’s pretty clear based on usage before and after Larsson’s injury that Auvitu has passed Gryba on the depth chart.

With that in mind, you have to assume that when Larsson is activated, Gryba is the one who ends up on the outside looking in. He’s a right-handed shot like Larsson and has struggled to be effective in his tough, physical, shutdown role this season. With Davidson and Kris Russell more effective in a similar role, there doesn’t seem to be a place on the roster for Gryba.

Gryba will have to clear waivers if sent to the AHL when Larsson returns. He’s signed for this season and next at a $900k cap hit. He won’t have a buried cap hit while playing in the AHL if he clears. I have a feeling he would make it through waivers because I’m not sure if a team would want to make a year-and-a-half commitment to a fringe player, but you never know.

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When Sekera gets activated…

Feb 3, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera (2) passes the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

This, of course, is the more difficult discussion. I’m operating under the assumption Gryba goes down when Larsson is activated, but that in itself isn’t even a certainty. I think it’s a reasonable assumption based on recent usage, though. Anyways, the Oilers have themselves a difficult decision to make when Sekera returns, barring another injury before the veteran defender is set to return.

The logical decision would seem to be putting Auvitu through waivers. The Oilers are activating a defenceman, so they should inevitably just send the seventh down, right? I’m not sure it’s that simple. I think you run a much greater risk of losing Auvitu on waivers than you do Gryba because he offers a more unique skill set, being an offence-driving defenceman. If you do lose Auvitu on waivers and, say, Oskar Klefbom goes down later on or Sekera struggles to regain form, you don’t have an immediate option to fill back in.

Could the team opt to run with eight defencemen and 13 forwards? Auvitu played as a defenceman/forward in Europe and has even seen time up front with the Oilers this season. Would the team rather try to sneak Nathan Walker through waivers instead of Auvitu? It’s a difficult decision.

Currently, the only players on the Oilers who can be sent down without requiring waivers are Darnell Nurse, Anton Slepyshev, and Jesse Puljujarvi. Obviously, Nurse isn’t going down because he’s the team’s No. 1 defender this season. I don’t see a reason to send back Puljujarvi, as he’s hitting his stride at the NHL level. Slepyshev has been in and out of the lineup, but has been a solid contributor when playing.

What say you, Nation? Who do you boot from the roster when Larsson returns in the near future? And then, who ends up on the outside looking in when Sekera returns? Does the team go out of its way to keep Auvitu around, or am I overestimating his value? Is there a clever way to manipulate the injured reserve to prolong this decision? 


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  • Rock11

    Is Russell’s deal just a No Trade or is it a No Move? He likely clears waivers cause no other GM would have been dumb enough to sign that contract. It saves Cap dollars. It is fairly clear that when everyone is healthy he is the teams 6th best D and one could form an argument that he is 7th depending on how you feel about Davidson. He can be the new Fayne. Paid well to go away but still a reasonable recall option should disaster strike.
    I know this horse has been dead for awhile, but wow is that contract bad. Every now and then you look at the D depth chart and it hits you how brutal 4 years is with the current young D having passed him by and a number of prospects that should be pushing next year and the year after. Just unfathomable that 4th year.

    • BringitbacklikeSlats

      Do you actually watch the games, or do you just blindly follow along with what the nerd herd says?
      Moron. Russell leads the blue line in points and is currently playing on the top pair. He was one of our best defenders in the playoffs last year, and has the least amount of goals go in underneath his watch. Two years in a row. You and Henderson should get on a slow boat to China and write a book about how you think hockey would be a better game hybridized with figure skating.

      • Rock11

        Yes I watch the games. I’m also not swayed by the diving, sliding shot block that would not have happened and he been able to break up the cycle and move the puck out of the zone. He’s small, not particularly skilled, cant hit, isn’t a good passer, and gives up he blueline too easy. My eyes see this. They also see the puck in his end more often than not when he is on the ice. Nurse has been dragging him along all season. If you think he isn’t 6th then who is worse.
        Davidson-sure I’ll give you that one.
        5th best at the absolute highest and I think that’s generous. Quit being an idiot getting sucked in by the flailing shot blocks and watch what happened to get to that point in the first place.

        • BringitbacklikeSlats

          This year he’s arguably been our best blueliner in tandem with Nurse.
          Klefbom up until the last week has been a tire fire and is a HUGE liability defensively. I’d argue Russell is a better passer and far more capable of separating the puck carrier from the rubber than Klefbom.
          Klefbom is a good skater and has a booming snapshot that hits the net 20% of the time. Beyond that he has several deficiencies in his game, not the least of which is thought process and appropriate decisive action in the D zone. For $4million I’d take Russell all day long.

          • Rock11

            Any argument that has Russell better than Klefbom shows how little you understand the game and that’s admitting Klef hasn’t been as good this year as last. Best sometimes to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are fool than open it and erase all doubt.

          • MessyEH!

            I wonder why no other team would sign Russell.

            Russell is the The Nail Yakupov of Defense. Invisible bees attack that mans eyes. 24 year old Klefbom vs 30 year old Russell. Does that question even need to be asked. Shot blocks and hits are required parts of the game. What’s better is smart positional play that doesn’t result in shot attempts. Smart plays to keep control of the puck, that do not result in hits, that put you out of position and out of the play.

            Russell would be an NHL defensemen on every NHL team. Just not at 4m.

            He’s earning his money this year. More than earned it last .

            The Russell fan boys/ his family need to pay attention to how Russell got into a position that resulted in him being required to block the shot. I am sure it’s bees.

        • Homer

          You Russel haters are clueless at best but delusional is a better word. I’m guessing Todd who plays the hell out of him and PC who signed him have a tad more hockey knowledge but hey thanks for your 2 cents

          • MessyEH!

            Todd has played him less this year than last. A lot people seem to forget Russell is playing his off off side. RD vs LD. That maybe why it seems he struggles regain possession. He has to work harder.

          • JimmyV1965

            Russell maybe meh, but anyone who thinks Klef or Benning have been playing better are not paying attention. At least with Klef you can argue he’s temporarily regressing because he was real good last year. This year not so much.

        • McLoochbomb

          Yeah and if he’s our 5th best d man that is also what he’s payed as. Lars Klef, Sek and soon Nurse after we sign him in the offseason are all payed better than him. (Darnell will get north of 4 million) so he’s our fifth best d man and he’s payed as our fifth best d man. See how that works???!

          • Rock11

            And in a cap world $4m for a 3rd pairing D is an absolute nightmare. This is where you need ELC guys and cheap veterans. I don’t think Russell is useless by the way. I think he is a perfectly acceptable 3rd pair D. The contract pays him to be significantly more than that and he is not, never has been, and never will be. If Nuge gets traded it will be in large part because of this contract. That is just horrible asset management by the GM.

    • BringitbacklikeSlats

      Pretty sure I’ll refer to Wayne Gretzky as a credible judgement on both talent and character. Wayne’s mentioned Russell as a positive in every spot for public record since the playoffs 2017.

      Wayne Gretzky’s opinion vs. Stats nerds in Moms basement… hmmm I think I’ll take Wayne for 500 Alex

      • puckle-head

        lol, yeah, because A) Gretzky is going to trash a player on the team he is employed by, and B) being great at hockey automatically makes you a great scout or coach. Look, it’s not just bloggers that dislike Russell’s game. If he was put on waivers or the trade block not one of the 30 other GMs with their own departments of scouting, coaching and player development would touch that contract.

      • BlueHairedApe

        Agree with Slats here. Russell has also been designated as one of the glue guys on the team. The guys love him. Chemistry is half the battle and no doubt he was crowned with that task when they had to let Hendo go.

  • Crakupov

    I would send Davidson and Gryba down. No one else wanted to trade for Davidson when the public announcement was made and I don’t think their would be as much interest in Gryba. Walker you have to keep unless you want to lose him as other teams wanted a crack and Auvitu will get snagged as well. He is a rare breed with potential.

  • McJeetz

    Davidson makes Benning expendable. Auburn might actually be better than Russell right now, but Russell isn’t bad and his contract is probably unmovable. Russell is doing better in limited minutes though. But they might dress 7 defense, and run their horses up front.

    Larsson klefbom
    Nurse Sekera
    Davidson Russell

    That looks like a playoff defense to me

    • puckle-head

      I’m not sure Davidson does make Benning expendable. Benning’s had a rough season, but I wouldn’t want to risk losing him, especially with the dearth of RHD we have. Slepyshev has been fine, but replaceable. I’d send him down.

      • acesaaron

        This makes sense because Sleppy doesn’t need to clear waivers. On merit, Cagguila is the one that should be scratched on a regular basis. Not giving very much and largely invisible in games. That’s what you want as a defenceman, not as a forward.

  • Simba99

    Ya keep them all and rotated never have enough d but what do we oiler fans know trade them all if you honestly think Larsen and sekera are going to make a difference your kidding yourself

  • McJeetz

    Davidson makes Benning expendable. Auvitu might actually be better than Russell right now, but Russell isn’t bad and his contract is probably unmovable. Russell is doing better in limited minutes though. But they might dress 7 defense, and run their horses up front.

    Larsson klefbom
    Nurse Sekera
    Davidson Russell

    That looks like a playoff defense to me