Bob Nicholson recently addressed season ticket holders at an event and Redditt user “D722” posted a fantastic recap of the meeting and gave the “non-season seat holding” a glimpse into what was said and whatNicholson’ss plan looks like.
There were plenty of topics discussed, but three areas, in particular, got my attention and show what the summer might hold for the Oilers organization.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Nicholson acknowledged that a lot of top GM candidates are currently employed by other NHL teams and won’t be available for an interview until after their season is done. That could be tough for the Oilers because if they want to talk to possible candidates from top NHL teams, that might mean waiting until at least late May or early June.
If that’s when you’re starting the interview process, then it seems unlikely that a someone could be hired and develop a strong plan for the organization before the draft on June 21. Nicholson didn’t guarantee that they’ll have a GM by the draft and advised that it’s necessary to have a GM to make trades. That timeline is going to be very tricky.
On top of that, he added that the next Head Coach of the team will be hired by whoever the new GM is and that having a Head Coach in place is imperative for attracting free agents.
Again, if the new GM isn’t in place until just before or just after the draft, is he going to be able to complete a full and proper search before free agency opens on July 1st? Doubtful.
It’s a tough balance for the team to walk. They need to make sure they get these next few hires right and to do that, they need to leave no stone unturned. But, they’re heading into a massive offseason and need to find ways to improve this team before training camp in September. If the correct people aren’t in place before the draft and free agency, I think that goal becomes nearly impossible to achieve.
NEED A TOP PAIR DEFENSEMAN
This one intrigued me because if the organization thinks that their biggest need is a top pairing defenseman, I think that’s a problem. If you’re going to sink major assets and potentially major cap space into filling a hole on this roster, I think the best area to spend on is the forward group.
I’m not saying that the Oilers defense doesn’t need to be upgraded, but I think finding one or two legitimate top six wingers should be of higher priority and based off that comment from Nicholson, I don’t think it is. If they could get a top six forward and a top pairing defenseman, then all the power to them, but I don’t think they have the assets or cap space to do so.
Remember, the six defensemen that the team currently has were all around when this team had their 103 point season in 2016/17. Again, I want to stress the fact that I recognize their blueline could use another stud, top four player but I believe that getting a young, proven scoring forward is far more important.
Also, a lot of major moves are made at the draft. That’s when future assets are at their highest value. The Oilers won’t be able to take advantage of that if they don’t have a GM.
Nicholson also added that the team has seven or eight could be NHL ready. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe he meant that as they could play right now or next year, I took it as that there are a handful that have NHL potential. Even with giving him that benefit of the doubt, I think seven or eight is a stretch.
Nicholson mentioned that the organization believes the salary cap will go up between $4-5 million next season. If that holds true, that means the team will have between $11.75-12.75 million in cap space for next season with nine forwards, six defensemen, and one goalie under contract. Now, they could bring up some players who are in the AHL this year and sign some extra forwards for league minimum, but I can’t see this team having more than $4-5 million to improve the roster.
That’s enough to get either a top six forward or a decent defenseman. So they have the cap space to get one, but it will be very tight. I’m interested in knowing how they could free up a little more room.
Trading Kris Russell is certainly an option, but might be difficult given his cap hit and no-trade clause. Same with Andrej Sekera. Buying out Sam Gagner frees up $2 million almost instantly, but based off of Nicholson’s comments about how much they like Gagner’s presence in the room and how much they miss Matt Hendricks, I doubt that will happen. They could certainly try to trade Lucic, but that’s highly unlikely.
Zack Kassian and Matt Benning have been playing some of their best hockey of the season as of late and I can understand why the Oilers would be hesitant to move them now but at the same time, their combined cap hit is $3.8 million and they’re likely going to be a fourth liner and third pairing defenseman respectively.
The bottom line: the team has a little bit of wiggle room, but not enough to make a significant roster change, unless they make some very tough decisions and move on from some players that the fan base/previous regime might really like.
What say you? What comments from Bob Nicholson intrigued you? Let me know!