The Edmonton Oilers have five games left and then the offseason begins. Roster moves don’t happen until June, but some coaches and general managers go, college free agents sign and the lottery balls are drawn to see who gets the first three picks in the draft. What is the Oilers’ biggest need going into the summer?
Three seasons ago the Oilers had Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and David Perron on their roster. Now, well, they don’t have anyone close to that on the wings.
They’re on pace to have no full-time winger score 40 points this season. Part of that is because Leon Draisaitl has split time between centre and wing. Same with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as of late. Patrick Maroon likely hits 40 in Edmonton if he’s not moved at the deadline. Still, their lack of scoring wingers is alarming.
Maybe RNH plays mostly LW next season, but the right wing is still a huge concern, and no, counting on Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto is not what winning team’s do. The list of upcoming free agents doesn’t show much beyond John Tavares or Evander Kane. They’ll need a better cast of wingers to support their centres next season.
The Oilers strength is at left defence. A combination of Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, and Andrej Sekera fills out a pretty good left side. A right side of Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, and Matt Benning, however, isn’t enough.
Larsson can play a top-four role, although his skill is limited towards the defensive side. Russell is a third-pairing defenceman that shouldn’t be playing as much as he has. They need a defenceman that can move the puck and play top-four minutes.
Finding a right-handed defenceman that can play top-four minutes would be difficult, but necessary. The Oilers could use a winger, but defencemen play and impact the game more than wingers. Benning’s been the Oilers’ fifth defenceman this year and he’s averaged more minutes per game than every Oiler forward not named McDavid, Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins.
A backup goalie that can play 30 games
The Oilers need a backup that can play if needed. Al Montoya isn’t that. He’s had some good games, but they need someone who can push Talbot and provide cover in case of injury or poor play. Out of 69 goalies to play 50 games since 2013-14, Montoya is 51st in save percentage.
This means not playing Talbot close to 70 games again and having a stronger option than Montoya or Laurent Brossoit.
A new general manager
No team should miss the playoffs with a centre scoring over 100 points. Peter Chiarelli hasn’t built a team good enough around McDavid. He’s lost a significant trade each offseason as Oilers general manager.
His focus on size and ‘heavy hockey’ is misguided in today’s league. The Oilers need a general manager that utilizes the skills of their best asset, Connor McDavid, and his speed and skill. He mismanaged the Oilers’ cap situation, leaving tonnes of space going into the season, as well as adding difficult long-term deals to free agents.
General managers usually get more than three seasons and at least one coaching change before getting fired. Having McDavid in his prime means an organization shouldn’t operate on normal terms.
I see a right-handed defenceman that can play in the top four and move the puck well and a new general manager as their biggest needs. They need to improve their defence, win trades, and sign some value deals. Chiarelli has lost too much value as Oilers general manager.
McDavid will do his thing with just about anyone. Maybe RNH and Draisaitl form a solid line or RNH continues to play alongside McDavid. The Oilers have options with RNH and Draisaitl’s versatility. A couple good wingers shouldn’t be too difficult to acquire. Defence and management is where the Oilers should focus.