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Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton’s roster starting to take shape for 2018-19

Despite not having very much cap room to work with, Peter Chiarelli has had himself a very nice free agent frenzy. Rather than chasing big additions, Chiarelli inked Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Rieder, and Kevin Gravel to bargain-bin contracts.

Brodziak, the 34-year-old defensive centre, is back with the Oilers after being traded in a terrible deal to the Minnesota Wild in 2009. Brodziak has been a very solid defensive centre in the NHL for over a decade now. He’s one of those guys who Oilers fans remember as one who got away. He chipped in 10 goals in 81 games with St. Louis last season despite playing heavy defensive zone minutes. He’s good on draws and can kill penalties, an ideal replacement for Mark Letestu as the fourth-line pivot.

Another one who got away will finally make his debut with the team as Tobias Rieder inked a one-year deal worth just $2 million. Rieder was drafted by the Oilers in 2011 but apparently didn’t want to sign due to the organization’s bevy of skilled wingers at the time. The Oilers dealt his rights to Arizona for Kale Kessy, who never came close to the NHL. Rieder is a good skating, two-way winger who can chip in some offence. He scored 12 goals in 78 games between Arizona and L.A. last season.

Gravel doesn’t have much of a track record at the NHL level as he’s only played in 70 NHL games with the Kings over the span of three seasons. Regardless, coming in at $700,000 on a two-way deal, so this is merely a depth signing.

What does it all mean?

Edmonton’s needs coming into the off-season were talent on the wings, a right-handed defenceman, and a fourth-line centre.

The team might have found an answer on the right side of the blueline in Evan Bouchard at the draft, but I don’t think he’ll get more than nine games in the NHL before returning to the OHL. I like the idea of giving him a cup of coffee so he can return to junior with specific skills to work on and an idea of what the NHL game feels like. That said, we could still see a trade in which the Oilers acquire a righty defenceman before the start of the season.

The two other boxes were checked off with the additions of Brodziak and Rieder, both of whom, given the market, signed very nice deals. Brodziak, as I said earlier, is an ideal Letestu replacement, while Rieder immediately improves Edmonton’s right-winger depth chart.

What does the depth chart look like as of right now? My guess…

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Kailer Yamamoto

Milan Lucic – Leon Draisaitl – Tobias Rieder

Drake Caggiula – Ryan Strome – Jesse Puljujarvi 

Pontus Aberg – Kyle Brodziak – Zack Kassian 

JJ Khaira – Ty Rattie

Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson

Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning

Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell 

Evan Bouchard*

There’s a lot more depth here than there was last season. Bouchard can play nine games and split time with Matt Benning and then get sent to the OHL while the Oilers replace him on the roster with Gravel or Ethan Bear depending on how they’re performing in the AHL. I have a suspicion Kailer Yamamoto will make the team, but if he doesn’t, Aberg and Rattie can slide up the lineup.

Obviously there’s a long summer ahead, but the roster for next season is starting to take shape and there are quite a few things to like. The Brodziak and Rieder signings may not be sexy, but they both perfectly fill a hole on the team.

What say you, Nation? Do you like today’s signings? How do you expect the roster to look come October? What moves would you make throughout the summer, if any?

  • BrandieBear

    I really like the depth signings today. I’d like to see one or two more depth guys added on the stipulation that we cans trade Lucic or Sekera. I feel like with the log jam at LD trading Sekera would free up cap space to pay Nurse and give us money to sign another depth 4/5 defencman. Trading Sekera to get a LD like Orpik or RD like Demelo and using the rest to pay Nurse would really help us long term

  • Leo Tard

    Yes. They fill holes. I will say this tho. Brodziak will fill th 4C role nicely and he kills penalties and Rieder is speedy and can get to pucks. The lineup as above may still not make the playoffs. Some of these players will need to spike.

    • Dan 1919

      Yep still not a playoff roster for me, still short a top 6 NHL winger and a top 4 dman.
      Hoping for the best one would think Klef, Larsson, Sekera and Nurse are a good enough top 4… and one of Puljujarvi, Kassian, Yamamoto or Lucic can have a bounce back/breakout year to bolster the team up front. If these seemingly low risk hopes were to transpire, I could see this roster making the playoffs.

      Unfortunately the reality of the last decade has taught us that going into the season unproven and “hoping,” fails miserably.

  • tberry3

    I really hope Lucic starts the year in the bottom 6 with a chance to earn his way up higher in the lineup rather than the other way around, and same for Reider to be honest, but I think the lineup you posted is probably more likely to be how things shake out.

  • Arfguy

    How about right-shot defenceman Christian Folin? Hell, I’d take a chance on Demelo. Any chance of getting Anthony Duclair? This is about as good as it can get for the Oilers. I am pretty confident that McDavid and Draisaitl can improve the offence of some of these low-cost free agents.

    • Arfguy

      Yeah, that bothers me too. Maybe the author didn’t look at it that way, but how does Tobias Rieder automatically become the second-line right winger when we have Puljujarvi?

      • Big Nuggets

        Puljujarvi could very well find a new level to his game. I am obviously hoping he does because it would be huge for the Oilers if he could. But judging from what I have seen so far he has not looked ready and I don’t always think its fair to place the expectation of vast improvements so quickly. To me he would have been better served by playing top line minutes in the AHL, and if he doesn’t have a great camp that is where I hope he plays until he shows he has figured out North American pro hockey. I suspect he will show enough in camp to justify a spot on the 3rd line. And if Lucic doesn’t play well I could see them trying a Reider Draisaitl Puljujarvi line. Which does sound intriguing, because I think Reider is an intelligent player and Drai is a beast, so they might help make things simple for Jesse.

        • Arfguy

          Of all the players that had bad seasons, Lucic is the one player I do not expect to bounce back. I can understand having bad luck with the puck, where a pass is bobbled or an empty net is missed. My problem with Lucic is that he could not skate or even take a proper shot. I saw one goal squeeze in as a result of a slap shot from him, but most of the time he could not skate with or without the puck.

    • Oilman99

      Thank god Lewis is not the coach, J J will be in the starting lineup, Yammo will be on the injured list by November if he is a starter, too fragile to survive without some time in the minors to learn how to survive against men.

  • oilerjed

    Cant imagine a line where Khaira is on the outside looking in. He was one of the Oilers most consistent players last year. I would really hate to see a lineup where he is pushed out by Cagguilla.

  • Bigdaddypuck

    The cap situation needs to be addressed and something needs to be learned from this situation going forward. What if Jesse and Kailer take off can we sign them?

    • ed from edmonton

      Yamamotot has 3 years left on his current deal, which as mid to late 1st rounder is fairly modest. If he were to “take off” he would be a value contract.

  • MrOiler

    I agree with Bob Stauffer’s forward line-up tweeted today:

    RNH-McDavid-Rattie
    Lucic-Draisaitl-Rieder
    Khaira-Strome-Puljujarvi
    Gagguilia-Brodziak-Kassian

    Extra-Aberg
    Wildcard-Yamamoto

    • The Future Never Comes

      It would be better looking lineup if Lucic was traded somehow for a actual second line. Hes tops a third liner now and on the back half last of last year looked like he wasn’t good enough to be in the league.

    • Lucic having a bounceback year would solve soo many issues for us, he’d go from being a boat anchor to actually being a solution. Just a decent 20-20-40 effort would go a long way for us. All we can do is hope him and Leon can mesh and build something strong.

  • ROILYDoGG$

    Nuge. Mcd . Rattie.
    Luc. Leon. Pulj
    Jjk. Strome. Reider / Aberg
    Cadj. Brod. Kass
    This gives speed and size on every line with Yamo starting In the farm and comimg up for injuries only. He doesn’t need to be up if these players perform and no injuries .

    • Moneyball

      Looks like a good forward lineup, except I can not see puljujarvi starting on the second line. His draft pedigree aside his ply on the ice is brutal. On his best days you don’t know he is even in the lineup. Put Rieder on the second line nd have Aberg, Kassian and puljujarvi fight it out for positioning onthe 3rd and fourth. Sendin PJ back to the AHL would be a good chance for him to develop some work ethic, his English or whatever the excuse du jour is for his lack of performance.

      • oilerjed

        Thats a bit harsh for a player just turned 20 who has played under 100 games. 20 points last season on the the third line and very little pp time. I ecpect 30-40 pts from jesse this year.

  • ed from edmonton

    With the JT lottery decided there must be a few teams that have unused cap space. Eg I see the Isles have 27M in cap space and about 5 spots to fill. Could this be an opportunity to off load the ML contract? Having said that I don’t see much of a need to off load ML at this point as the roster is set.

  • percy

    Like the signings, will be exciting to see if the two Germans can make it happen on the 2nd line. KB 4th line center and PK , looking forward to next season already.

  • Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Rieder, Aberg, and Rattie in competition to round out the top-6? Not the best but Rieder has actually proven to be a decent winger at this level and Aberg and Rattie showed some flashes here.

  • chezzychez

    stoked on this. 2 of the biggest flaws last year for the Oil were PK and scoring outside of Mcdad, Drai and Nuge. Got some help coming for cheap. Can’t believe the Nuckle heads lodged an $8mill cap hit on Beagle, Roussel and Tim Schaller hahaha

    • Tooleybuc

      That lineup looks pretty weak. Well, let me rephrase that; That lineup IS very weak. How’s that any better that what we started last season with? Swap Reider with Maroon, and Brodziak for Letestu, and I see the same team that broke camp last September… and went on to miss the playoffs. And miss by a country mile. Those 6 D need to be busted up. That’s not a reliable core. They don’t have the right chemistry. There needs to be a significant change to this group. Until Poolparty, Yamm, and Ahverg actually score 20 goals in a season, then they are NOT top 6 players, and should never be pencilled in as such. C’mon Chia, get to work. I know you have limited cap space (of your own doing) but you HAVE to get out from under some of these boat anchor contracts that you’ve ‘nevotiated’ (more like gifted) and change the complexion of this sorry looking team.

      • Oilerz4life

        Just looks like a kind of mediocre roster after a few top guys and no depth after some injuries. This team has to prove they have what it takes to face adversity which I seriously doubt. Chiarelli has done his thing for sure and forced the team right up to the cap, going to the pawn shop to fill out the rest of the line up after overpaying some vet guys or whatever he does, who knows…he’s off to the cottage for the summer now.

  • Jimmer

    Top 10 penalty kill and top 10 power play fixes everything and makes us a playoff team. I think we have a chance with he PK…but we have done nothing to improve scoring options on the PP….other than getting a healthy Sekera back.

    • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

      Sending Woodcroft to Bakersfield and hiring Viverios was supposed to be the remedy for the PP I think. If Klefbom’s shoulder heals that should help too. They were 5th in the league on the PP the year before last, with pretty much the same personnel. So it’s not out of line to think they can bring it back to that level or at least close with some system tweaks.

  • Jimmer

    Sorry but it has to be said because I AM SICK OF HEARING ABOUT TAVARES AND THE LEAFS!

    Last two seasons (avg age):
    McDavid/Draisaitl (21.5 years old) = 355 points
    Malkin/Crosby (30.5 years old) = 342 points
    Tavares/Mathews (23.5 years old) = 282 points

  • Yakubag10

    Between the Brodziak and Rieder signings, looks like Chia’s back to the fine form that saw him build the Bruins cup team. One bad move a bad GM does not make, and 2 good moves (Brodziak and Rieder) outweigh one bad move (Hall). Glad to let bygones be bygones, think this may be the year we put the past behind us

      • Big Nuggets

        true, we need a big season from Klef. Or else somebody on defense needs to step up. Nurse is a good candidate, and Sekera should at least be better than last year.

        I think concerns over scoring wingers and RHD will not be much of a factor if the PP, PK and goaltending all improve.

        • Arfguy

          Agreed. If people wish to question Klefbom and Sekera’s health, that’s fine. However, due to their health issue last year, we lost 17 points from Klefbom and 27 points from Sekera. That is a lot to lose in one season and still be expected to do well.

          I think this need for a RHD is overblown. The Oilers did just fine two seasons ago. The Leafs do just fine without a big time RHD on the power play. While it would be great to have that RHD to LHD balance, I agree that an improved PP, PK and goaltending will lead to much better results.