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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Are the Oilers really a trade away from competing?

Whether you’re killing company time or sitting on your couch in your favourite Connor McDavid PJs, the mailbag is back to help you get through a little bit of your Monday. I don’t care whether you’re killing company time or killing time until it’s socially acceptable to crack open a cold one, I’m just happy you’re here and sharing your day with us. In this week’s mailbag, we talk Jesse Puljujarvi, the goalie situation, team depth, and a whole lot more. If you have a question for the mailbag, you can email me or hit me up on Twitter.  Until then, I present another edition of the Mailbag.

Feb 12, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) looks to make a pass from behind Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer (34) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Jim asks – In 129 NHL games Jesse Puljujarvi has 17G, 18A, 35P, and is a -7. JP has been utilized from the first line to the fourth line, has been in and out of the press box as a healthy scratch, and has been in and out of the AHL. Given his draft pedigree, and considering those from his draft year that are outpacing him, concerns about his longevity in the NHL are warranted.

Does he make it in the NHL, and if so, what do you see for term and dollar value for his next contract?

Jason Gregor:

People develop at different times. I find people are freaking out because a few top picks are killing it and he isn’t. Where you get drafted means little to me. There is no guarantee top picks all develop at the same time. Blake Wheeler (#5 pick in 2004) isn’t a bust because he hasn’t been as good as Ovechkin and Malkin. He developed slower, and now in his 30s, he is killing it. There is no clear path for picks.

The Oilers didn’t help Puljujarvi by having him in the NHL early, and right now I don’t think he is helping himself because he would prefer not to be in the AHL. Not being ready to be a big time producer in the NHL is the norm. The exceptions are the few elite players who can do it. He is the norm. Adjusting to smaller ice, different style of play, as well as him being a very large man and not gaining his man strength likely until he is 22 is why people need patience. He might never be an elite scorer in the NHL — many first rounders and top-five picks aren’t — but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective player. His next contract is likely one or two years and around $1- $1.3 million. I’ve said the organization needed patience with him and I will stick with that, but the best thing for him today would be to go to the AHL, play a lot, get some PP time and gain confidence and produce. Or play him 15 minutes a night in the NHL. He won’t improve much playing only 10 or 11 minutes.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, he makes it in the NHL. He’s 20. No idea what his next contract looks like, but can’t see it being beyond two years. Will depend largely on what his body of work looks like at the end of the season and on who is the GM when it comes time to talk contract.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think Puljujarvi is good enough to be an everyday NHLer. He clearly has the skill to do it, it’s now just about finding some consistency and figuring out how to be a little bit quicker with his decision making. I’m not willing to give up on JP quite yet (although I’m not completely against moving him if there’s a good deal out there). For his next deal, I think it’s obvious that it will be a bridge. Does a two year deal with a $2 million cap hit make sense? I might be off base, but it sounds fair to me.

Chris the Intern:

I think he does if he’s developed by the right people. Tyson Jose just got sent down to the AHL and Jost was also in Puljujarvi’s draft year. I know it’s tough to see so many other guys from the same draft class excel and go on to be successful, but Jesse just needs time. With that said, maybe his next contract could be anywhere between $3-4 million?

Baggedmilk:

The Oilers are failing Puljujarvi and there’s no one to blame but them. Imagine doing what the Oilers do with their prospects in any other industry:

Person: “I’ve just been accepted into med-school!”

Oilers: “Congrats! You’re our new head surgeon now.”

Person: “But…”

Oilers: “Trust us, you’ll figure it out.”

Person: “I don’t know if I’m ready for that…”

Oilers: “Sure you are. You had good grades in high school so why not?”

Person: “Okay…”

Oilers: “Here’s all the money you’ll ever need. Thanks!”

2) Kevin asks – With all of the questionable trades we have witnessed on Chiarelli’s watch – I’m, wondering if anyone else within the organization has any kind of say in player movement. Struggling to get my head around the scenario whereby there is a conversation around a table and Chia says “ I say we trade player ____ for player ____” (fill in the blanks, they are numerous) and everyone around the table is in total agreement. Does Peter have a complete and final say without regards to anyone’s opinion??? Certainly seems that way. Cheers

Jason Gregor:

Chiarelli does not have free reign to make all the moves right now. He gets input from others and right now I believe people above him in the organization have a big say in what is happening. Sadly, many in the organization believe JP should be here, so even if Chiarelli is gone I’m not sold they would develop him any better.

Robin Brownlee:

Smart managers weigh the opinions of people they trust when making decisions. It’s not often everyone is in total agreement, outside of obvious cases — “should be draft Connor McDavid first overall?” GM has to have the final call. If he doesn’t, you need a new guy doing the job.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It’s definitely not 100% Chiarelli. He has a staff of assistants and pro scouts that he works with. He also has to consider the coaching staff and how they might view any acquisition (the McLellan staff nixed a Manning deal in the past). Since he is the President of Hockey Operations, he pretty much does have the final say, at least that’s what his title suggests. I know that all major moves need to be passed through Darryl Katz and Bob Nicholson, that’s just how organizations work. So it’s not like Chiarelli could wake up tomorrow and trade Jesse Puljujarvi and the first round pick without getting approval from a couple of different levels, but he is the one making calls to other teams.

Chris the Intern:

I think it’s not possible for Nicholson or Katz to still allow Chia to have full say in who gets traded. I mean I know it’s his full-time job and everything, but there’s no way those guys still have trust in Chia to handle this team moving forward.

Baggedmilk:

I have multiple problems with this question. 1) If Peter Chiarelli is in control then he needs to go ASAP because he’s doing a terrible job. 2) If there are other people approving these trash moves then they need to go too. 3) This is the Oilers so everyone will probably get promoted regardless of results.

November 23, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) moves in for a shot on goal against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

3) Brady asks – For me, one of the most interesting stories of the season has been the inability for Koskinen and Talbot grab control of the crease, and I’m wondering how you see this situation shaking out between now and the trade deadline. Since both guys are on expiring contracts, do you think the Oilers will move one of them? If so, who goes?

Jason Gregor:

If Oilers are in the mix they might trade Talbot, but they’d need to get a backup in return. Koskinen can’t play all the games and they don’t have a backup in the system they are confident could win a few games down the stretch. But I don’t see them trading Talbot just for the sake of it. If he is playing decent then keeping him make sense as they want to make the playoffs.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m not convinced one of them has to be traded although it could certainly happen. If I had to choose, I’d keep Talbot because his track record is considerably longer and his numbers are better. Not willing to bet the future on Koskinen after just 30 career NHL games.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

As long as they’re within a sniff of the playoffs I don’t think the Oilers will move either of them. I think they see Koskinen as a long-term piece and if they move Talbot, they simply won’t get anything other than draft picks for him. The only teams that would be willing to pay for Talbot are likely teams that are in the playoff hunt and want to shore up their goaltending. Those teams won’t offer anything that helps the Oilers this year, so I can’t see them making a move unless the opportunity for a pure hockey trade arises, but that’s unlikely.

Chris the Intern:

This is going to be a big conversation leading up to the trade deadline. I have an awful feeling in my gut that we’re going to trade Talbot for a bag of pucks and put all of our trust in Koskinen moving forward. If we choose Koskinen over Talbot, I’ll get over it, but I don’t trust Chia to trade any of those players. I do have trust that both these goalies are skilled enough to man our crease, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Chia sign both of them next year.

Baggedmilk:

Frankly, I don’t think either of them has really earned the starter’s role this year, though Koskinen certainly has done a better job when given the chance. If the Oilers are going to be competitive then they’ll need their goaltenders, whoever they may be, to be a lot better. They’ll also need a defensive group that doesn’t look like they should be relegated to the AHL.

Edmonton Oilers general manager, Peter Chiarelli, speaks at a season ending press conference.

4) Jan asks – I don’t know why some feel as though the Oilers are only a trade away from contending. To me, it doesn’t make sense to spend assets needed to make a big splash just to sneak into the postseason. Do you think the Oilers are taking the right approach with their “full court press” to improve?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t put much stock into “full court” press. Teams should always be looking to improve their team, not just now that the pressure is on to make the playoffs. They might be one trade away from contending to make the playoffs, but they are not one trade away from contending for the Cup, which should be the long-term goal. They will need to make multiple moves for that to happen, and I’m not confident Chiarelli is the guy to do it.

Robin Brownlee:

Depends what those assets are. If the Oilers are close to a playoff spot, don’t make a move to improve and miss the post-season, people will complain. If they do make a move and miss the playoffs, people will complain even louder. The Oilers might be one trade from contending for a playoff spot, but they’re not close to being a Cup contender and that’s what the goal has to be. Set the bar higher.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

From a business perspective, I can see why they would want to push for the playoffs this season. The owner has clearly put pressure on management to get into the postseason because he wants another run of playoff revenue. Combine that with the fact that the POHO will lose his job if they don’t make the playoffs and it’s not hard to see why they would want to upgrade the roster and try push for a playoff appearance. I agree though, they are more than one trade away from being a legit Stanley Cup contender, but one good trade could make them a playoff team.

Chris the Intern:

If anyone else was our GM, I wouldn’t mind seeing a full court press and what it could do to our team. For all we know, this team desperately needs one, except we cannot trust Peter Chiarelli doing it for us.

Baggedmilk:

The problem is that the GM probably thinks he can trade his way out of trouble despite the results showing that it’s just not the case. Personally, I would have gotten rid of him a year ago, but now they’re going to let him do his thing at the deadline and that is terrifying. This organization is getting what they deserve for allowing the terrible management to continue on.

Sep 23, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates his first period goal against Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

5) Jesse M asks – Everyone always focuses on superstars and “depth” when talking about team’s ability to win. In your opinion which teams aren’t stacked but instead are money balling the NHL and finding the most success due to their coaching, line combinations and systems?

Jason Gregor:

You do need elite players and depth to win, so I’m not sure there is a team that is winning without either. If I had to pick a team that is doing more than people expected it would the New York Islanders. Barry Trotz brought in more accountability, but they also are getting solid goaltending. Their GA is down significantly from last year, but their defensive structure wasn’t very good under Doug Weight. They lost John Tavares, but this morning they are first in the Metro and 5th overall. They also lead the NHL with eight players with 10+ goals. Depth does matter.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m not sure everyone focuses on superstars AND depth. What’s a superstar? If you have enough top-end guys, four or five like Calgary has, you can win if your depth is only OK. If you’ve only got one or two but the team behind them is very balanced, you can win. Vegas is getting huge bang for the buck through its first two seasons and might be the best example of what you’re talking about. Calgary and Tampa Bay, to name just two teams, are spending less than the Oilers.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It might not be “money balling” because they do spend a lot, but the way the Jets and Lightning built their teams is the model everyone should be following. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of expensive free agents, instead, build through the draft, keep all your assets together and then when you’ve established a strong young core, you can use some leftover pieces to fill holes and put your team over the top. That’s the NHL version of “money ball.”

There are teams like the Islanders, Hurricanes, and Avalanche who are all bottom five in payroll but still in the playoff race. They’ve spent smartly for the most part.

Chris the Intern:

The Calgary Flames come front of mind for that one. If you look at their roster I wouldn’t call them a really deep team, but all engines are firing. Yes they have a few all-stars and they’re performing really well, but their defence and bottom six are performing great too and  I hate every second of it.

Baggedmilk:

Let me answer this question like this… Yesteday, the Oilers played the Hurricanes, right? The Hurricanes suck but still have 14 players with 10+ points on their roster. The Oilers have nine. Figure it out.

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  • OilTastic

    The answer is NO!!! Until Chia can trade for/develop several more support scorers, then we don’t have a chance! But further to that, unless this franchise can figure out how to play defence, we’re doomed and this is an ongoing yearly problem that never seems to get solved !

  • GK1980

    A little off topic but I think we could all hear some good news. The Oilers record for pre-season games the last 5 years is as follows:

    30-13-4. I think that’s something we can be happy with no? That’s pretty good. I for one am really looking forward to the 2019 pre-season. Boys are champs this time of year.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    This would’ve worked last week. After this weekend, keep the pick and don’t do anything. We’re not making the playoffs, so might as well use it to draft a forward or something. We got bouchard, the hunt for a quarterback d is over. Get a winger who can put the puck into the net

  • percy

    This organization needs a almost complete rebuild, except for McD, Dri ,Klef and possibly Nurse everybody should be in play. Send Pul,Jones,Yam back to the ahl. Kiss Grez,Lowe, PC and the boys goodbye. What a f–king mess. Wake up Katz. Glad I don’t contribute to your bank acct.

  • Abagofpucks

    The Oilers need so many things that it can’t be done thru the trades this season. Nobody’s going to trade for Talbot this season he’s too expensive. We still need atleast a 1st line guy and 2nd line guy who can play hard minutes and produce. Then we get to the blue line man o man we have big problems there and the whole world knows it. Help from our developing defensemen in the system are atleast 2 years away, although Jones looks like a fit he’s not a top 4 just yet. I believe the managers of this team have no chance at making a trade that would make much of a difference this year. We all know this team is in next year land as far as getting better goes.

    • Oilman99

      There is no cap room to be able to acquire the quality of players(atleast2) required to make this team competive.unfortunately it is going to take atleast two more years of caphell to become a realistic playoff team, that will mean atleast fifteen years of mediocrity.

  • Serious Gord

    1. too soon to say whether he will be an NHLer of any significance. It is not too soon to say that the Oilers management are doing a terrible job of helping him reach his full potential.

    2. I don’t think Chia has ever had a completely free hand in the decision process on players. I think in some cases he has been told what to do – eg reinhart – Unlike the questioner, I see NO evidence to the contrary.

    3. That the oil have no solid options in place for the most important position on the team for the next 2-3 years, is yet another disgrace. Betting on either of these guys for the next few years is very risky to say the least.

    4. Nothing should be done this year that improves the teams chances this year at the expense of the team’s future. Not doing that is a big part of the reason why this team is the mess that it is.

    5. Getting a superstar addition should be treated as the windfall that it is. It should not distract from building a deep, well-rounded organization. The oil have lurched from one saviour to the next since the hall draft and look where it has gotten them.

  • Ty Guy

    how do you say “Dadbot” in Russian?

    i would really like to see a year where we have at least 4 wheels on the car…they don’t have to all be racing slicks, just there. Every year there is one tire missing…front right-center depth, back left-RH top pair d-men, Front left-goaltending, back right-scoring depth, spare-AHL depth… this ride has hit too many potholes!!!

  • Abagofpucks

    Oilers can’t compete in this NHL they just aren’t good enough and Management and the scouting staff are to blame. We can’t blame the players anymore this is all on clowns running the show who brought them in.

  • GK1980

    It’s been a tough few seasons we can all agree but I do have some shockingly fantastic news about the Oilers the past 5 seasons. Their Preseason record since 2014 is 30-13-4. That’s amazing! I for one am looking forward to the 2019 pre-season games. It’s a wonderful 2 weeks if your an Oiler fan.

  • Abagofpucks

    Katz doesn’t care about the fans, as long as the suckers line up for tickets and keep buying the over priced beef and booze he’s happy and rich. He doesn’t even come to the games himself lol.

  • GK1980

    “He clearly has the skill to do it, it’s now just about finding some consistency and figuring out how to be a little bit quicker with his decision making”

    This is a team issue not just JP’s.

  • DoubleDIon

    It depends what your goals are. If your goal is to make the playoffs and save your job you can probably make a trade that does that. The top 5 teams in the west are better than Edmonton regardless of trades made but there are 3 other spots that no one seems to want. That said, any trade that gets you in makes you worse long term. Trading JP would be stupid for you guys in my opinion. He’s like Bennett, different styles for sure, but he’s going to be a good 3rd liner at worst and had upside.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I said long ago Chia is a front man and other are pulling the trade strings, I think KLowe and MacT have way more say in what goes on on the hockey side of thing then we are all led to believe.

    Jesse coming back to edmonton is a big maybe, if you were him would you want come back to the place where your career is gaining no traction? I see him going oversea’s to play unless he is part of a trade package.

    Sure the Oilers could trade Talbot but they will need to pakage him with someone to get something, Talbot alone woont get much of a return based on last season and this season and if the Oilers hang on to Talbot I dont see him signing back here, he wont want to be second banana. If the Oiler trade Talbot they going to ride with Koskinen who is having his own issues, but are his issues short coming in his game or more bad goalie coaching and bad habits via Dustin Schwartz, hire a guy with no NHL experience who had a good career in the WHL and at the UofA AA and got the job after the Oilers fired Chabot and promoted Schwartz from being the Oil Kings goalie coach to the Oilers goalie coach….dumbest move ever and it shows

    The Oilers are a ton of trades away and the more trades Chia does the harder it will be for the team to dig itself out of the hell it is in and Katz keeping Chia on as puppet and not firing Low and MacT along with Chia and Howson shows thing organisation is too comfortable with the old boys and not willing to make and meaningful changes within the organisation do that the hcokey operations can start to change the product on the ice, but it wont happen with the old boys calling all the shots and letting them dictate how they think it should all be done

    • Outstanding job by management , what I mean by that is no one else could screw it up this badly. Turned W Gretzky into a punchline, made T-Mac look like he was suddenly a bad coach, doing the same thing to Hitchcock now. Fire all the qualified people and keep the imbeciles. There is one flag left at my house on the front step. It comes down today and into the basement , where all my memorabilia will stay until Lowe and all his loser buddies are flushed PERMANENTLY from the franchise. Did not even like Eberle, but turn him into Strome, which turns into Spooner, which ends up with Spooner on waivers. This management team cannot find it’s own a*s with both hands. Lowe, Mac-T, and Howson are still running this franchise( into the ground), despite what all the lapdogs would like us to believe.

  • Oilers_1978

    hell no…
    team requirement even to start competing:
    1. whole new management…(outside the old boys club)
    2. complete new roaster outside of a few:
    *** – mcD – ***
    Leon – Nuge – Chiasson
    JJ – *** – JP/Yam
    *** – Brodziak – Kass
    Klef – ***/Larsson
    Nurse – Larsson/***
    Russel/Sekera – ***
    ***
    koski/talbs

    how this is a one trade away from playoff team…/

  • The Immortal

    Problem with gregors campaign against jesse:
    1) is its not the kids choice to be here, its the organizations.
    2) The Oilers best rw (and this doesn’t say much) is playing in the USSR..Slepy…such is the depth on the oilers
    3)Yamamoto is a waste of a pick..The small guy overachieving story doesn’t translate to the nhl
    4)Rattie has AHL speed and is like the rest of our rw’s a force to be reckoned with..not
    5)Gregors argument to send JP to the AHL applies to most of our forwards
    6)Would you really expect this organization to do the right thing anyway? Save one year they’ve been crap for 25 years or so..

  • Gary Chalmers

    Make all the trades you want, the problem with this team is lack of willingness to engage from the opening face off. They come out slow, give up the first goal and are chasing the game the whole night. Why they cant consistently compete for a better part of 60 minutes is beyond me, they all know when the games start, especially at home. They played around 15 minutes of the game against Calgary, and around the same against Carolina. If something goes wrong they cant recover, are they just fragile mentally, or a team that will quit if you show a willingness to outwork them? Its more between the ears for me than a player personnel issue.

  • Burnward

    Not trolling, don’t get mad. But was just listening to 1260 this morning and thought the discussion on ticket renewals was interesting. When are the deadlines for those who are top tiererers.

  • Beut

    The only way it seems that this team will actually clean house is if we fall all the way back to the bottom. We’re already in the bottom 10 again and not a peep from Nicholson, so we might as well go ahead and let Chia make another trade and we’ll be closer to getting this painful process over with.

  • KootenayDan

    I live in BC but the Oiler fan base is a resilient bunch probably some of the best hockey fans in the world and they do not deserve this bad a team. Chiarelli got his chance and blew it, time for someone else to fix the mess. I have been a fan for 45 years since the WHA days and I can’t watch anymore it’s like watching a train wreck on groundhog day and it actually depresses me. On game day I go to my man cave with all my snacks all excited and filled with hope only to be dissapointed over and over going on years now. Anyone else feel the same?

  • camdog

    Headline at TSN about how Larsson has lost his game. Tough to read, I like him as a hockey player, but it’s been really tough watching him for awhile now. He sounds like he’s healthy so maybe he’s just gassed. They need Klefbom back badly.

  • Big Boss

    I cant believe the writers on Oilers nation STILL believe Puljujarvi can become a top 6 forwards. While he certainly has all the physical tools to be a top NHLer, what he lacks and what will hold him back is between his ears. He just doesn’t get it. Trade him now before the rest of the league comes to this conclusion (BTW, Columbus knew this on draft day).

  • camdog

    A 3.1 million (4 actually – Rangers covering 900,000) dollar forward just acquired in a trade, put on waivers today… Maybe he’ll get his confidence back for next year. Just another day for rival fans to laugh at PC ‘s Oilers…

  • ed from edmonton

    1. JP could be anything from Shane Doan to Magnus Puljaarvi, we don’t know yet. Unless he has a nig last 30 games his contract should be siiler to what Cagulia got.

    4. I guess it depends on what is meant by contending. Despite the difficulties the Oil and not out of contention for a playoff spot, so adding a piece would be expected to help them contend for a playoff spot. But if contending means contending for success in the playoffs, they are more than one player away.

  • Schmidt Head

    Given Chia’s past history, I’d say there’s an excellent chance that we’re one trade away from contending……..

    The OTHER team in the deal contending, that is!!