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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Does Evan Bouchard crack the opening night lineup?

Happy Canada Day long weekend, Nation! I hope you’re all using your day off to be as productive as you want to be, and if you’re working today then I recommend that you tell your boss your old pal Baggedmilk has declared that naps be mandatory from between 1-4pm. Getting back to business, it’s mailbag time again and I thank you for being here and being a part of the process. As always, I’ve taken five of your questions and sent them off to our panel of writers to give you a free dose of their worldly wisdom. Without you guys the Mailbag doesn’t work, and I need questions for next week so if you have something you’d like to ask you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter. Without further adieu, the Mailbag.

Edmonton Oilers defensive prospect Evan Bouchard speaks to the media after development camp session.

1) Braden asks – Looking at the current depth chart and defensive options available, do you think Evan Bouchard cracks the opening night roster?

Jason Gregor:

Is he on the ice? No. Could he be on the 23-man roster, yes. I think the Oilers will keep him around for a few games, but ultimately he goes back to junior at some point.

Robin Brownlee:

Guessing before free agency and off-season trades are completed, before training camp and pre-season? Sure, he makes it opening night.

Matt Henderson:

I think there’s a decent chance he can play his way into a 9 game look. The right side of the defense is weak and depends on Russell and Benning. So yeah, there’s a chance even if small.

Chris the Intern:

There’s no doubt he will get an extremely long look. There are sure to be defensive changes this summer still to come, but with our current lineup (Nurse, Larsson, Sekera, Russell, Benning, Klefbom) I don’t think Bouchard makes the cut.

Baggedmilk:

I mean, probably. We obviously need to see how training camp and the pre-season go first, but I would imagine that the Oilers will give Bouchard a long look before making the final decision. Actually, they’re in a tough spot with him because it’s not like he has much left to prove in junior and he’s unable to play in the AHL, so it’s either the NHL or back to London. There should be a rule that you can play one or two junior aged players in the AHL if they’re good enough, and I think Bouchard is probably good enough. Back to the question, I think the Oilers give him nine games and go from there.

Dec 23, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera (2) skates against the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Jayson asks – Considering it’s free agency weekend, I’m wondering who you think have been the best and worst free agent signings the team has had over the past five years?

Jason Gregor:

The best might have been the Letestu signing. It was only three years. He produced well for what they paid, and then they traded him in the final year for a young player who might become a depth player.

Worst. Many didn’t pan out. Any contract that is five plus years to a UFA rarely looks good. Pouliot didn’t. Sekera and Lucic need to rebound or they won’t end well either, although when they signed Lucic it was unlikely the contract would end well. But the worst, even though it was only for two years, was paying Nikita Nikitin $4.5 million/year for two years. He played 42 games the first year and had 10 points, and then the second year he played 11 NHL games, but spent the majority of the year in the AHL. So the Oilers paid Nikitin $9 mill to play 53 games and produce 11 points. That is Horrawful.

Robin Brownlee:

Like the signing of Kyle Brodziak right now. As of right now, Lucic is the worst. 

Matt Henderson:

 I liked the Sekera signing until his knee was destroyed. I’m going to count Russell as a UFA and lump him with Lucic as disasters.  Those two deals really hurt Edmonton’s ability to improve during these prime McDavid years.

Chris the Intern:

Some of my favourites: Tyler Pitlick, Sam Gagner, Milan Lucic (minus the contract, obviously), Mark Letestu. Some of my least favourite? Nikita Nikitin.

Baggedmilk:

I liked the Andrej Sekera signing a lot at the time and still do if his robot leg can manage to update its software from where it was at last season. Sekera went through a pretty major surgery and the Oilers desperately need him to get back up to form. As for the bad, Nikitin was an awful deal all around. MacT actually traded a pick to get the “privilege” of talking to Nikitin before anyone else could. If Milan Lucic gets traded, that could also go down as one of the worst. He came with swagger and potentially goes out with a limp.

3) Garrett asks – I want to know whether or not the writers think that starting the season off in Europe is a good idea? I know that the NHL wants to grow the game and all of that, but, to me, it seems like having to travel that much just for a single regular season game puts the Oilers at a disadvantage. What do you guys think?

Jason Gregor:

It isn’t ideal. The Oilers will be on the road for 19 days and only have eight points up for grabs. It is a lot of travel to Germany, Sweden, then back to Boston, New York and Winnipeg. It will be great for Draisaitl to show his teammates his hometown. I’m told he already has some things planned for the team, and Klefbom and Larsson are thrilled to play in their home country. It might help with team bonding, but it is a risk to travel that far, be on the road in numerous cities for only a total of eight points. The key will be how the organization monitors the fatigue level of the team when they return home. Todd McLellan will have to listen to his leaders, and if they say the group is tired he will need to adjust his practice plan accordingly.

Robin Brownlee:

Don’t like it. Takes teams out of their usual routine and players are creatures of habit. I see it as a disadvantage.

Matt Henderson:

 I’m not a fan of all the implications but they should be able to survive a weird start. Overall I’m kind of meh about it.

Chris the Intern:

I’m content with it. If it’s going to happen I’d rather it happen right off the hop so they could easily bounce back if something bad happens. HOPEFULLY, the travel doesn’t really affect them. They have like a five-day break in between so no worries.

Baggedmilk:

Yeah it seems weird to do these games now. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a game in Europe right before the All-Star break or something like that? Then the teams playing would be heading into a break rather than into the start of their season. I’ve travelled a lot and jumping timezones can bung you up so the Oilers had better hope they can overcome that part of it quickly. It’s one thing to jump seas when you’re on a holiday, it’s another when you’re expected to play sports at the NHL level.

Feb 19, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays the puck against the Minnesota Wild during the third period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

4) Sarah H. asks – John Tavares was obviously the major prize from NHL free agency and I wonder whether or not everything thinks he’s worth the hype and substantial contract that will be coming his way?

Jason Gregor:

Very good player. But no, he will be overpaid significantly. He likely is getting $10-$11 million/year and if he is paid that much he will need to produce 70+ points every year. I think he can do that for the first three, maybe four, but then it will be a big challenge for him to give his team a good point/$$ ratio.

Robin Brownlee:

No. UFAs are always overpaid. Whether most of his contract is in bonuses or not, the bottom line is he’s getting $11 million per year. He’s being paid like one of the 10 best players in the league and he’s not one of the 10 best players in the league.

Matt Henderson:

No, I don’t think he’s as good as the hype around him, but he’s still very very good and those players don’t become UFAs. He isn’t worth getting paid a hair less than McDavid, but if the cap keeps going up and the Leafs aren’t dumb then they can make it work.

Chris the Intern:

He definitely hasn’t played the way he was expected to in the NHL since his draft. I think on a different team he could play up to expectation but if he gets paid north of 10 mil, I would be hesitant to consider it being worthwhile.

Baggedmilk:

Let me start off by saying that John Tavares deserves to get every single penny he can. Dude is a hell of a player and he’s going to make a difference wherever he goes. He’s earned the right to shop himself and he’s going to see some Brinks trucks backing up to his house in the near future. That said, I think that this contract is going to look really bad in a few years. JT is turning 28 years old this year and he’s going to be making huge money for a long time. It’s going to be fine for the first couple of years, but I’m waiting for the year 4-5-6 reaction. It’s likely to be a much different story.

5) Judah asks – What do you think of the Habs taking Kotkaniemi 3rd instead of the more expected candidates of Brady Tkachuk or Filip Zadina? Did they make the right choice going for positional need?

Jason Gregor:

Too early to tell, but the problem for Montreal is Kotkaniemi won’t have much skill to play with. How can they shelter him, especially if they trade Max Pacioretty? They will need to be extremely patient with him and realize many top European forwards, excluding Patrik Laine, take time to develop. Aleksander Barkov, 2nd overall to Florida in 2013, scored 24 and 36 points his first two seasons, then he jumped to 59 in his third season and 78 in his fifth. Montreal must be patient and they need to find some centres who can play ahead of Kotkaniemi and shelter him from the tough minutes.

Robin Brownlee:

If Montreal’s scouts were in agreement they wanted him there, other rankings, “expected candidates” or what you and I think don’t matter a bit. He was rising fast leading up to the draft and there’s every possibility the Habs had him rated that high already. 

Matt Henderson:

Time will tell, but I’m guessing this blows up in their faces. And big. Drafting for need to grab a guy most people rated quite a bit lower is trading the boat for what’s in the box.

Chris the Intern:

Pretty shocking. They went with what would suit their organization best and I respect that. We can speculate all we want right now but we won’t REALLY know if it was a good idea for a few years.

Baggedmilk:

Who cares about what Montreal did — the Oilers lucked out and got Bouchard at 10! Besides, is it really so surprising that Marc Bergevin did something weird?

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  • Spydyr

    Looking at the current depth chart and defensive options available, do you think Evan Bouchard cracks the opening night roster?

    Of course he does it is the Oilers way.

  • percy

    Same as Dri, let him developed . Do what’s best for his development not what’s best for the team . It will pay dividends in the long run. I think giving him a few games at the start won’t hurt, gives him a chance to see what it’s like in the bigs.

  • 18% body fat

    in the next CBA the 8 year max needs to be redone, it you are under 23 a 10 year contract should be allowed or under 21 a 12 year.

    I get why they elimanated these, but ideally a players contract ends at 35. Than they can fish for some small contracts at the end of their career. Too much money being wasted on the 29-32 guys contracts.

    Only the elite of the elite make it through their third big contract,

      • crabman

        @Spydyr,

        Every new CBA there are changes to the signing rules, this time will be no different. I actually don’t see why the NHLPA would have a problem with younger players being allowed to be signed longer than 8 years. It would just give it’s members an opportunity to sign longer and have more longterm job security. 18% body fat didn’t suggest shortening how long older players could sign for, so the players wouldn’t be giving anything up to make that change.
        The bigger change I expect to see is a change in the structuring of contracts. I don’t see teams being able to pay players almost entirely in signing bonuses going forward. Those contracts that are as front loaded as allowed, with high sogning bonuses are buyout proof and only benifit the players as they get paid that money even if there is a work stoppage. That is a change the owners will be fighting for and one the NHLPA will fight back against.
        Longer contracts for younger players wouldn’t be an issue for them.

      • Chris Prongers Rake

        Try to move Kassian for picks, hold off on Brodziak, Reider and Gravel. Keep Montoya, avoid throwing money at unproven back up netminders and through money at Neal to get a number 1 right wimger

        • Spydyr

          Kassian still may be moved. If he does not move quickly on Brodziak, Rieder and Gravel they end up somewhere else. Montoya crapped the bed last season. Although he paid too much for a KHL goalie he picked up a goalie with a possible upside. Neal just signed in Calgary to a five-year contract worth $28.75 million.The Oilers do not have that kind of cap space.

      • Armchair genius

        With the Calgary #Flames signing FA forward James Neal to 5 year/$5.75M per contract, we now show the club with $12.8M in projected cap space with a tentative roster of 18 (12F/5D/1G).

        Notable RFA’s unsigned (9 total):

        Lindholm
        Jankowski
        Hanifin
        Kulak
        Hathaway
        Gillies
        Shinkaruk
        Looks like BT is asleep at the wallet. Rumour has it that both Hanafin and Lindholm want 5m per. Leaving you with little left to sign the rest.

        • Armchair genius

          The fLames remind me of the Leafs when they would sign FA and make trades to shake thing up, but never really competed due to lack of chemistry?!?! Even if the Oil don’t make the playoffs this year, which I hope they do, I’m fine with the development I see coming down the pipe. Call me crazy, but I think our future looks pretty damn good!

          • MontanaMan

            Laugh at posts and unbiased Spector columns that Chia did a good job in free agency. He did nothing and still has the worst contract in the league hanging over his head for the next 5 years. Lottery pick next year.

        • ed from edmonton

          Hannifin is a lot like Nurse, looking at his first post entry level contract. Hannifin has marginally better stats than Nurse. $5M for a long term contract seems reasonable or maybe 3-4M for a bridge. $5 M for Lindholm would be a overpay for a mid 40 point guy. The other RFAs are all bargain basement guys.

          BTW signing Rieder likely means the Oil can only afford to offer Nurse a bridge deal starting with 3.

        • Burnward

          He’s got 11 million ready to be shipped out in Brouwer, Stone and Frolik.

          Rumour is that you guys are getting a little nervous about the BEATDOWNS about to roll your way.

    • ed from edmonton

      Yes i.e. Koskinnen, Rider and Gravel. Certainly not the sexiest of signings but the short answer is yes. Also with Brozniak signed we will probably see Khaira used as a winger rather than center. I’m surprised you asked the question, have you just waken up from a coma?

  • Although Bouchard can play this season on the Oilers because of their weak defense I hope he spends a year in the minors learning how to play the NHL game. In true Oiler fashion they most likely rush him into the line-up before he’s ready.

      • Diamond Dick

        So, the real question on Bouchard should be framed as: will playing another year in the OHL be better for his development vs sheltered minutes in the bigs? A thoughtful question as opposed to: him playing with the big club because it’s “so Oil”.

  • Spydyr

    Folks keep in mind only the first day of free agency is over. Today is the first day to move players who just received their signing bonus(Lucic) and there will be another week or two of moves before the GM’s retire too their cottages for the summer.

    The team is not set for next season yet. Although I am not a Chia fan i’m not going to make up on mind on his off season moves until the team is set.

    • ed from edmonton

      If the Oil move Lucic, which I think is very unlikely, the trade is unlikely to be anything move than a salary dump. i.e. problem contract for a problem contract or a negative return trade. That is Lucic plus 2nd rounder for a 5th rounder or something like that. Bottom line is that moving Lucic at this point will not improve the team for the upcoming season. Best case scenario is for Lucic to return to his pre January 2018 form.

      • Spydyr

        Maroon has still not signed anywhere last I checked. How do you feel about moving Lucic in a salary dump there are some teams with a ton of cap space left and signing Maroon?

        • ed from edmonton

          This looks good in theory but ” a salary dump” is not zero cost. Also Lucic has a NMC and had not asked to be moved. Lucic not playing with the Oil next year is highly unlikely.

  • Gary

    Too many fans worried about Calgary.
    We will be better. Minus NHL MVP Taylor Hall.
    Minus 25 goal man Eberle.
    Minus top 4 defence man Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz.
    Minus starting goaltender Dubnyk.
    Yup.

      • IRONman

        Why is Nurse not signing? Dump Lucic because he will not be fast enough and 6 million gets a guy like Neal (21 plus goal since 2009). People need to stop Dreaming about Lucic 2011, new nhl is speed. Be real. He does not cut it anymore

    • Dirtbag Daddy

      We miss some of the players for what they are capable of doing. However what happens in the dressing room stays there. I heard rumours that Hall was moved for other reasons and we all witnessed what Eberle can give you in the playoffs. If what they say is true I hope the Flames end up with both players.

  • The Future Never Comes

    I’ll simply answer the Evan Bouchard question regarding cracking the lineup: We are not sure because we have not seen him play a single day with NHL players.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    1. Yes, but only for 9 games. Then Benning takes his spot.
    2. I’ll get trashed to hell, but I LOVE the Lucic signing. Have been a fan of it since day 1 and I will stand by that statement. He brings what Edmonton lacked for 10 years. And please guys, don’t let last year set the norm for him. He’s a 50-60 point player and a 20-25 goal guy.
    3. I don’t like it. Having travelled to Europe myself, it’s not going to be easy on them, even with that 5 day break. Still, at least to gives me an early scapegoat for if the team struggles off the hop.
    4. God-damnit Toronto. Thanks to you, your fanbase is now even more annoying than it was before. I fully expect Toronto to be pegged Cup champions every year now.
    5. We’ll they did need a center…but they probably reached with this one.

    • Natti_89

      I agree with everything you said. I like you! And yush, Looch will bounce back. As long as he’s not run out of town. I can’t wait to see the posts on this site 180 when he starts ripping it up and putting people through the boards

  • CMG30

    The JT signing is both good and bad for Toronto. Good in that they got a very good player. Looks like they’re loading up for a cup push. Bad in that this will cause problems with Matthews, who is already a better center thant JT. It will give them cap trouble in the medium and long term and it will be a boat anchor in the final few years.

  • Leo Tard

    To answer your headline, and, judging Chias press conference, the answer is yes. The Oilers EXPECT him to make the team. The free agents signings signal this since there were no right handed dman signings.

  • JayTee

    Looch, Russell, and Kassian in particular need to have solid seasons to raise their value a bit so we can offload them. Hopefully Bear and Jones can step up in the 2nd half of the season and contribute, thus leading to those veterans’ departures.

    As for Bouchard, give him 9 games and send him back to London and play him at the WJHC’s.