The bad news? Pretty much everything to do with the Oilers 2017-18 season that doesn’t rhyme with Fawner McNavid. The good news? With the best player in the world leading the way and some solid secondary pieces already in place, Edmonton is not far away from once again being a force in the Pacific Division.
Look no further than the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils who, on the heels of career seasons from Nathan MacKinnon and he-who-shall-not-be-named, respectively, found their way back to the postseason after absolutely abysmal 2016-17 campaigns.
The Oilers have that cornerstone offensive piece in place, obviously, and this offseason presents the opportunity — maybe the last for Peter Chiarelli — to add the right personnel to the mix via trade and free agency, or potential offer sheets to some intriguing UFA’s.
Here’s a player from each Western Conference squad the Oilers’ front office should consider taking a run at (though it should be noted some of these ideas would require clearing out some cap space):
Brandon Montour, RD, Ducks (RFA). The 24-year-old right-shot blueliner is a smooth skater, makes a great first pass, and has strong offensive upside with 32 points last season including five game-winning goals.
Darcy Kuemper, G, Coyotes. A very solid back up goaltender option if the Mikko Koskinen signing falls through which, at the time of this posting, has yet to be confirmed. Even if it does, Keumper comes with a cheap price tag and you can never have to much depth in goal.
Dougie Hamilton, RD, Flames. Another smooth-skating, right-handed blueliner who can push Adam Larsson down to the No. 2 slot on the right side while providing the ability to quarterback a top power play unit. Would the Flames let him land in Edmonton? Probably not, but maybe.
Anton Forsberg, G, Blackhawks. See Kuemper above.
Duncan Siemens, LD/RD, Avalanche (RFA). The 24-year-old defenceman is a left-handed shot who can play comfortably on the right side of the ice. He proved himself to be one of the best of Colorado’s deep blue line prospect pool over the final month of the campaign and into the playoffs when injuries cannibalized the team’s defence corps down the stretch.
Antoine Roussel, LW, Stars (UFA). This guy sucks to play against, is a fantastic penalty killer (an area the team can desperately use some help in), and should come with a price tag no more than a couple million bucks per season.
Oscar Fantenberg, LD/RD, Kings (UFA). In my humblest of opinions, Fantenberg is a diamond in the rough — a late bloomer if you will — and has a potential to be a very low risk, high-reward blueliner if put in the right situation. He can play both sides of the ice and would pair well with Either Darnell Nurse or Adam Larsson.
Nino Niederreiter, LW, Wild. If the Wild are desperate enough to shake up their top six by retaining a bit of the 25-year-old’s salary, then of course Niederreiter would look great on the left side of the team’s second unit over Milan Lucic or Jujhar Khaira.
Calle Jarnkrok, C/RW, Predators. Currently a fourth-liner with top-six potential, the 26-year-old Swede put up 32 points in limited action last season on a very deep Predators team. Given an opportunity to play a more impactful role, Jarnkrok has a chance to be a steal.
Timo Meier, LW, Sharks. A very solid winger who may be hard to pluck away from a division rival, but the upside Meier has and what he can provide from the left side of the ice up front makes it an option definitely worth exploring.
Vince Dunn, LD, Blues. Offensive upside, smart, cheap. Chiarelli would need to work some magic, but finding a way to acquire the 21-year-old left-handed blueliner from a ready-to-win-now team in St. Louis should be at the top of the front office’s priority list.
Chris Tanev, RD, Canucks. Rumours have been swirling on-and-off for months of Vancouver’s desire to flip Tanev, and the Oilers should pounce. Locked up for two more years at a relatively cheap $4.5 million per, the right side of the team’s defence would immediately improve drastically by plugging the 27-year-old in ahead of, or right behind, Larsson.
James Neal, LW/RW, Golden Knights (UFA). A perennial 25-30 goal scorer with the potential to tally 40, Neal loading up on McDavid one-timers from his off wing all season long would be a thing of beauty. Neal, alongside the captain and Nugent-Hopkins, could be one of the best top lines in the entire league. Unfortunately, the cap issues make this one unlikely unless a high priced player gets shipped out.
Paul Stastny, C, Jets (UFA). Literally a perfect third-line centre. Keep Nuge with McDavid, Draisaitl comfortably in the No. 2 slot, and Stastny — a very good two-way guy — can anchor the third unit and be a force on the penalty kill and in late-game defensive situations. The problem? Again, cap space.