The next three weeks will be extremely busy for Peter Chiarelli and his staff. Prepping for the entry draft, working on new contracts for restricted free agents and carefully navigating a possible Lucic trade will provide the management team with a full plate.
Before we get to the busy and most important time of the year for the Oilers, let’s take a look back at what I’m deeming the five most interesting decisions Chiarelli has made so far this offseason.
MARCH 21st: TRADING FOR COOPER MARODY
Chiarelli wasted no time making his first move of the Oilers off-season. In mid-March, the Oilers sent the third round pick acquired in the Patrick Maroon trade to the Flyers in exchange for college forward Cooper Marody. The Oilers would later sign Marody to an entry-level contract in early April.
I like this move for Chiarelli because he was following through on what he originally wanted in return for Maroon. Marody is already 21-years old and is coming off a terrific offensive season with Michigan. He got a brief taste of the American League putting up three points in three games with the Condors.
Marody should be able to provide immediate offence for the Condors next season and hopefully push for a full-time roster spot in Edmonton in the fall of 2019.
NIELSON RATING: B+
APRIL 27th: WOODCROFT TAKES OVER IN BAKERSFIELD
Jay Woodcroft survived the purging of the Oilers assistant coaches and I think they found a good place for him. Woodcroft will take years of learning from McLellan down to the American League where he will have an opportunity to run a bench for the first time in his coaching career.
By all accounts, Woodcroft is an excellent players coach, which should be an ideal fit for working with younger players in the AHL. The future success of the big club will start with Woodcroft properly developing the likes of Yamamoto, Benson, Marody, Bear and Jones. If I was a betting man I’d be willing to put a few bucks on the Woodcroft experiment working in Bakersfield. His close relationship with McLellan can’t hurt things.
Shout out to my man Ian Herbers who will be re-joining yours truly on weekends down at Clare Drake Arena for some Golden Bears hockey. I’d expect Herbers to bring two more National titles to the Bears in the next three years.
NIELSON RATING: B
MAY 1st: SIGNING MIKKO KOSKINEN
I like the fact that Peter Chiarelli identified a serious need for a backup goaltender heading into next season. I don’t even mind them taking a chance on a 29-year old from the KHL. I still can’t understand though why it required $2.5 million dollars to get Mikko Koskinen’s name on a contract.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think the Oilers could have spent less money on a goaltender that has played in the NHL at some point over the last seven seasons. For the money they are paying Koskinen he will need to be a significant upgrade on Montoya or it ends up being an extra 1.5 million that you didn’t need to spend.
NIELSON RATING: C+
MAY 18th: SIGNING JOEL PERSSON
The Joel Persson signing seemed to excite a few folks until it became known that it wasn’t really a signing at all. Peter Chiarelli is basically calling dibs on Persson in hopes of him taking a step forward in the Swedish Hockey League during the 2018-19 season. There really isn’t anything to lose here for the Oilers.
Persson put up 35 points playing for the Vaxjo Lakers last season and was immediately told he would remain there for one more year. He’s a right-shot puck-moving defenseman with a terrific shot so it’s probably worth a look even if he is a long shot to succeed on this side of the pond. He was fifth among Lakers d-men last year in time on ice, so even in Sweden he’s being used a specialist. No downside to this signing.
NIELSON RATING: B
MAY 25th: INTRODUCE NEW LOOK COACHING STAFF
For the past nine years, I’ve spent four hours every morning sorting through texts ripping the Oilers for one thing or another. When the Oilers announced that Trent Yawney, Glen Gulutzan and Manny Viveiros were joining Todd McLellan’s staff I didn’t see one person disagree with the decision. It truly was an AM Radio miracle — nobody complained, except for the regular complaints we get every morning. Too much basketball talk, Creed sucks, nobody cares about the Blue Jays, LeBron is soft, Lt. Eric is a dweeb, yadda, yadda, yadda.
The Oilers added two experienced coaches who have run an NHL bench of their own but more importantly have made a positive impact as assistants in other NHL markets. They also brought in a successful junior coach who will be eager to contribute at the next level. I thought keeping McLellan around was the right decision and I really like the way they rounded out the staff.
NIELSON RATING: A
The changes to the coaching staff were the big decisions so far and I like the way they handled them. A few minor personnel moves up front and on the back end combined with a risky move between the pipes. It’s a solid start to the off-season but the real make and break moves will be made in the next three weeks. I look forward to providing you with another round of the Nielson Ratings in July.