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Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Hits Oilers @ Sharks: New lineup

The trade deadline is over. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli made three trades leading up to yesterday’s 1 p.m. MST deadline. He moved Brandon Davidson on Saturday, Mark Letestu on Sunday and Patrick Maroon on Monday all in separate deals.

The Oilers got a Pontus Aberg for Letestu, a 2019 third rounder for Davidson and a third rounder and NCAA prospect J.D. Dudek for Maroon. I didn’t expect any major moves or massive returns, and now the Oilers will focus on their final 20 games. These games are more meaningful than some have suggested.

1. I don’t agree with those who state these final games mean nothing for the Oilers. How can you believe the final 28 games (when Oilers were unofficially out of playoffs) of an 82-game season mean nothing? They aren’t making the playoffs, but these games are very meaningful to many of the young Oilers. They present an opportunity to get better, and with so many Oilers still in the infancy stage of their NHL careers, they can benefit from playing more games and being injected in different scenarios.

2. Darnell Nurse (177 games), Matt Benning (119), Drake Caggiula (108), Anton Slepyshev (84), Jujhar Khaira (74) and Jesse Puljujarvi (73) can use these games to improve and learn. Khaira is playing centre regularly now, and he’ll use these games to improve his defensive zone reads. Slepyshev is finally healthy and getting more opportunities. It looks like he’ll play with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, and could show everyone he is ready and capable of handling more minutes. Caggiula will try to find some consistency. Puljujarvi is getting more ice time, but he can use these games to earn even more opportunities in the future. Benning and Nurse can benefit from more games, and while the Oilers won’t be in a playoff hunt they will face many teams who are.

3. With the Oilers out of the playoffs, I’m starting to get texts, tweets and emails saying scoring now means nothing because the pressure is off. Many of these are in relation to Ryan Strome, who has five goals in his last five games after going goalless in 20. I’ve never really believed the “no pressure when out of the playoffs” theory. Players always want to succeed, and often you can tell a lot about a person when they continue to show up when things aren’t positive. It is easy to play when the team is winning and things are great — you go to the rink excited every day — but there isn’t much excitement surrounding the Oilers. They’ve had a disappointing season, and it would be easier to mail it in than to show up and keep battling. And while the Oilers aren’t playing for the playoffs, many nights their opponents will be, and the Oilers will have to try to match their intensity and desire.

4. For those claiming Strome is scoring because there is no pressure, will you say the same about McDavid? He has scored 12 goals (13 games) in February, most in the league. He had 15 goals between October-January (49 games). I doubt anyone is suggesting McDavid is suddenly scoring goals because the playoff pressure is off. Prior to this month, the most goals he’d scored in any month was seven (March, 2017). He’d scored six goals twice and five goals in a month five times. It is possible McDavid is learning how to become a more effective goal scorer in the NHL, and it isn’t just because they are out of a playoff race. Every game presents an opportunity for players to learn, grow and develop. I’d argue that with such a young roster, and the reality that most of this group will be here next season, these final 20 games, plus the previous ten mean a lot, regardless of their position in the standings.

5. McDavid has 54 shots in his last 13 games, for an average of 4.1 shots/game. In the first 49 games this season he averaged 3.1 shots/game. In his rookie season, he averaged 2.33 shots/game and last season he had 3.06 shots/game. He has started to shoot a lot more recently and he is scoring more. Even the best players in the game find ways to improve in the early years of their career. Every other young Oilers player should be taking note, and that’s why these final games are meaningful.

6. Many have wondered about Strome’s next contract. He currently carries a $2.5 million cap hit but is making $3 million this season, so the Oilers would need to make him a qualifying offer at $3 million to retain his rights. However, they can sign him to a contract prior to the QO deadline, similar to what they did with Zack Kassian in the summer of 2016. Kassian made $2 million in 2015/2016, and would have needed to be qualified at that price, but he and the Oilers agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million on May 19th, 2016. I suspect the Oilers and Strome will do something similar. Many players take time to get comfortable on a new team. Strome has looked much better lately, even before he ended his 20-game goal drought, playing centre. I’d keep Strome at centre and have him as the third line centre next year. Strome has two RFA years remaining. A one-year deal at $2.5 million is what I could see happening.

7. With Strome in the middle, I’d play Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on left wing when he returns this season. With Patrick Maroon gone the Oilers need a left winger, so why not try RNH on the left side with either McDavid or Draisaitl? It doesn’t make financial sense to pay a third line centre $6 million, but if RNH is playing LW in your top-six, and producing, then his contract can match his production. He will return in early March and I’d play him on the left side in every game to see how he does.

8. McDavid leads the NHL in goals, 12, and is second in points, 20, (Malkin has 21) in February. Leon Draisaitl is tied for seventh with 17 points. They have each had a good month, and they are doing most of their work at EV. McDavid is tied with Malkin with 17 EV points and Draisaitl is third with 14. The Oilers PP continues to be dreadful, and if these two could find a way to revive it their point totals would be even more impressive.

9. Evgeni Malkin has 21 goals in his last 20 games. It is the second time in his career he has produced a stretch of 20 goals in 20 games. The first time was from January 13th to February 26th, 2012. The only other player to score 20 goals or more in a 20-game stretch since is Alex Ovechkin. I bring this up because McDavid has 12 goals in 13 games. He needs eight in his next seven to do something that is very rare in today’s game. It also illustrates how difficult it was to score 50 goals in 50 games. Scoring 20 in 20 is hard today, and if you want to use era-adjusted scoring, 50 in 50 is still incredibly impressive.

10. Speaking of goal scoring: the top two picks from the 2016 draft have produced almost identical numbers through their first 135 games.
Auston Matthews has 68-51-119 points. He has taken 439 shots. He has played 2,416:08 TOI, with 317:15 on PP and 2,096:16 at EV. (17:53 TOI/game).
Patrik Laine has scored 67-48-115 pts. He has fired 381 shots and has played 2,336:02 TOI with 399:51 on P and 1,934:40 at EV. (17:18 TOI/game).

Laine is 19 while Matthews is 20 years old. Both have had excellent starts to their careers. Matthews plays centre and has more responsibility, but it is comical how many Toronto writers/bloggers will try to push how Matthews is one of best goal scorers (era adjusted of course) in NHL history, but don’t mention Laine. Classic. Laine is younger and has one fewer goal in the same amount of games. I like both players and it will be fun to watch their career paths.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

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Source:  Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 02/27/2018 – 9:15 am MST

  • Oil-In-the-Blood

    Positive article, refreshing to read. 🙂 lots of negativity around….
    I think Strome is a decent bottom 9 player and thats all, which in fine, depending how he plays the rest of the season at center for the right price def bring him back, no overpay though… Nuge at wing would be interesting, he has skill so test it out up top for sure… we def need to bring in another high skill winger if we can, somehow. As for D, an edition would be great but secondly HOPEFULLY Sekera will be healed also because he isn’t full speed at all. Drai finally looks like he is recovered from whatever was going on there, he can play.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    It’s tempting to compare, but that isn’t the reality of NHL trades. 1) Dealing from a position of weakness never helps (Maroon) and our GM got out-waited. 2) The Letestu deal was for a specific player to a specific team for a specific role, so Chiarelli had more negotiating power. 3) Getting a prospect from a very deep team is much easier. Deep teams need pieces to win now. 4) The timing of the deals was different and Chiarelli was never going to sign Letestu, but likely tried to sign Maroon (Friedman posted that Maroon’s agent was looking for 4mil x 5yrs with NMC).

    GMs can “lose” trades, but improve their teams by filling specific needs.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        Crap… More clarification: I mean that the CLS overpaid for Letestu (lost the trade), not that our GM did a good job on the Maroon deal. I need more coffee.

        • jultz=2cups!😂😂

          Are you saying Columbus lost the trade? Before Aberg even plays a game? Letestu scored a goal last night and Columbus best Washington 5-1. If we’re basing this trade day by day I’d say Columbus won the trade. They are definitely better with mark in their lineup. Very versatile player. You know what you’re getting. Do we know what aberg brings to the table?

          • Beer_League_Ringer

            Yes, on paper, that is exactly what I am saying and you made my point beautifully. Letestu is slow, 33, and has nowhere near the upside that Aberg has (more on him in a minute). Blue Jackets lost the trade on paper, but don’t care because they improved their team.

            Pontus Aberg:
            -Was supposed to be on the roster for Sweden in 2012 WJCs (Klefbom was on that team), but got injured and replaced. Sweden won gold.
            -Drafted 35th overall by a good organization, with a decent draft record, and strong depth.
            -Has produced at ~0.75ppg in the AHL for 2 seasons
            -Shoots right and plays left wing, has speed, a good shot (shoot first mentality), and very good puck-handling skills
            – 24 years old on a value contract
            -#1 thing Aberg brings? POTENTIAL and zero risk.

    • RJ

      To be clear, the Oilers’ trade was Letestu for Aberg (Preds). The Preds then traded Letestu to Columbus.

      Columbus did trade specifically for Letestu to play a specific role and they gave up a fourth rounder to get him. Chia had no extra negotiating power without Columbus because he didn’t trade Letestu to Columbus.

      If you’re going to give Chia credit, then picking up a prospect who has scored 20+ goals in the AHL more than once for an expiring contract was decent. The Preds had to move someone since Fisher is unretiring. There were a few comments I saw from Nashville that Edmonton was a perfect destination for Aberg because he will be able to get the ice time he couldn’t buried in Nashville.

      But we will see. If TM doesn’t give him TOI then it won’t be any better for Aberg in Edmonton.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        Of course I know. However, the trade was worked out in advance… Geez. C’mon man, you think Letestu was traded twice in 12 mins and it wasn’t worked out between the 3 teams? Don’t let your dislike of PC (I don’t like him much either) cloud your judgment when he does get something right.

  • Name

    Why don’t we stop trying to find someone to work with McDavid and leave Draisaitl there? Nuge is an above average 2C, leave him there and let DraiDavid roll on.

    I just don’t think it makes sense to move away from something that is extremely effective, to try and find something marginally effective and then have to worry about too much money spent at C.

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      I can agree with this but Drai was been really good lately playing 2 c. Also just want to see Nuge play with McD. Maybe he has good chemistry as well just that it has never been tried.

      • Name

        Fair point, but the grass isnt alwasy greener. Maybe we should ‘accept’ our NHL best first line combo, and search for a reasonable second line compliment for Nuge? I think this would be an easier, more cost effective approach.

        We already have the best winger for McDavid, why are we trying to move away from him?

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I believe that RNH is part of the solution here regardless of where he slots in. McD’s wing? Yep, RNH has the shot, the smarts, and the speed. 2C? Definitely, he’s proven he can carry his own line. When you have any combo of McD, Drai, and RNH in your top 6, you’re in good shape.

      Anyone know if Pontus Aberg is playing tonight?

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        I agree with some of the above posters that maybe it’s time to just leave Leon at McDavid’s wing and search for someone to play along side Nuge? Depending on whom we get at the draft, I’m gonna say that Pool ‘s job isn’t safe for the future here if he can’t produce. It’s early yet I know but I hope Pool won’t turn into Nail 2.0

  • btrain

    I have no problems with Strome as a depth forward. He brings a lot of utility and in many ways could be an improved version of Letestu. However, just like it is not wise to base your overall impression on Strome for his 20 game goalless streak, its equally unwise to base it on a sudden spike in production. At the end of the day Strome is still on pace for 15 goals and 37 points, which is barely up from his pts/game average over the last couple seasons and far off Eberle who is already sitting at 45 with 19 games to go. I am not saying this to take anything away from Strome, just to illustrate that the overall picture has not changed much over his last 3 seasons. Therefore, as Gregor pointed out, he shouldn’t earn his qualifying number. However, will Chia agree? Or will he see the 5 goals in 5 games as a sign he was right all along, and hand Strome his 3 mill just to avoid the negotiating part of his job once again.

    • oilerjed

      I wonder how much moving over to the East has been a factor in Eberles season this year. Not as many heavy teams to play against, more his style of hockey. Anyone know his splits vs east or west teams?

  • 24% body fat

    Lets not forget this GM was going to sell Low on Slepyshev, who has had the worst icetime of all the players, so that he can keep Cagullia who is just plain the worst of all the players.

  • Consultant

    By my eye Strome has actually been pretty good. We harp on him because we lost the trade but he has been as advertised. A decent young 3rd line centre who competes. He is smart enough to play some 3 on 3 minutes… They need to stay the course on him and get him signed to as cheap of a deal as possible, that was the whole point of acquiring him wasn’t it? I would do three or even four years if a good average price could be had, like 2.0 – 2.4 or something like that, if they could swing it. The trade for him was about cap space so giving a longer deal might lock in some cost savings in the years ahead when we know we will need value contracts. Otherwise he’ll have an improved year next year then the price will just go up of course…

    • arab05

      I totally agree with you. Whoever thought Strome was going to come in and replace Ebs’ numbers is a moron. The reason why I hate this trade is because PC frees up cap space and then doesn’t use it!

      • RJ

        I don’t think anyone said he’d replace Eberle’s points. What was said was that he’d be given the chance to be the 1RW beside Connor or the 2RW by Drai since he had more experience than any of the Oilers’ RWs.

        That never really went anywhere.

  • Connor McFly

    JG this was an excellent analysis of the Oilers situation. You have too much common-sense and insight. The only problem is the current management and coaching are short of any of those qualities. In two- plus seasons Chiarelli et al have bled talent and skill out of this team. Chiarelli has lost on almost every move he has made. I don’t want him or any of his crew doing any more damage to this team. Do you think Keith Gretzky has the ability to be the next GM even though he was with Chia in Boston?

  • hammer313

    Lucky if Deduk plays in the ECL! If it’s a contract player, than WHY?? This gm is an a##hat! Why instead of Einstein gm’s, we get Lenny’s?! I hate these people in this organization and their lame excuses! It’s always something, Chimera, at 65 years old got a NHL player! Makes me so frustrated, pay me half what Charelli gets and I’d do 100% better!

    • oilerjed

      the up votes for this comment are a good indicator of the mindset of commenters on ON these days. Deduk was clearly a throw in and Maroon wasn’t bringing anything back in return of real value. You can count the number of goals he has scored away from Connor on one hand and still be able to throw up a peace sign. Chimera has multiple seasons of playoff experience and can kill penalties.
      It seems Maroon and his agent may have over estimated their value to the Oilers, it will be interesting to see what he gets in the off season when any team has a free shot at him. I for one would be surprised of he gets more then 3-3.5 for three years. We will see.

  • SailorD81

    I’ve been thinking for a while now that one of the bigger things for the Oilers to figure out in the offseason is exactly what the plan with Drai is, Is he going to be a RW with Connor going forward or centering his own line? Then they can figure out Nuge, playing him on the LW isn’t a bad idea but you can’t have him playing C behind Connor and Drai. 6m is just too much for your 3rd line center. I hate the thought of trading him but at this point PC has pissed away most tradable assets. If someone like Faulk in Car. is available you have to listen. But then again we are talking about PC making a trade so…