The Oilers didn’t have the lottery balls fall in their favour last night (as Taylor Hall continued his streak of dominance at the draft lottery) and will select eighth overall at this year’s entry draft. Now that we know where the Oilers are selecting, we can explore the two options ahead of the team at the draft: keep the pick and add a quality prospect to the system OR trade the pick for help right now.
Keep the pick
The Oilers will have a good prospect available to them at eighth overall. It won’t be a slam dunk like Jack Hughes, who the Devils will take with the first pick, but there will certainly be a quality player to add to their system at that spot.
In recent history, Adam Boqvist, Casey Mittlestadt, Alex Nylander, Zack Werenski, William Nylander, Rasmus Ristolianen, Derrick Pouliot, and Sean Couturier have been selected with the eighth pick. Couturier has evolved into one of the best two-way centres in the game for the Flyers, William Nylander is an excellent winger in Toronto, and Werenski is a top-pairing, offensive defenceman in Columbus. The jury is still out on Boqvist, Alex Nylander, and Mittlestadt, but, for the most part, quality players are being drafted and developed at eighth overall.
Looking at some mock drafts, the Oilers will likely have players like WHL forwards Peyton Krebs and Kirby Dach, OHL right-handed defender Thomas Harley, and American forward Trevor Zegras available to them at eighth overall. While there’s a clear top two in Hughes as Kappo Kakko at the top of the draft with a drop-off after that, the Oilers are still guaranteed to have a good prospect available at eighth.
Edmonton’s biggest need right now is simply adding high-quality talent to their system. They need defencemen who can move the puck and forwards who can produce offence. I wouldn’t expect anyone drafted at eighth overall to come in and be a game-changer next year, but the Oilers, if they decide to keep the pick, will add a quality, cost-controlled player to their system.
Trade the pick
Trading the pick would help the Oilers improve their team in the immediate future. As I said above, the 2019 eighth-overall pick wouldn’t be a game-changer next year. We’ve seen the Oilers take a more conservative approach with recent picks like Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto, which is better for their long-term development.
If the Oilers want to add that coveted puck-moving defenceman in order to be better right now, they could use the eighth overall pick as the centrepiece of a trade. They could call up Colorado and ask if they would budge on moving Tyson Barrie or ask Philadelphia if they would move Shayne Gostisbehere. They could also dangle the eighth overall pick to find a good, young forward. Toronto has a cap issue ahead of them, and maybe they could free up William Nylander, who would look great alongside Connor McDavid.
Another option that has been discussed is using the eighth overall pick as an incentive to help dump an albatross contract. Teams like Ottawa need to take on cap hits in order to reach the salary cap floor next season, and they might be inclined to take on Milan Lucic’s horrendous contract if the Oilers sweetened it with their first-round pick. Remember, Ottawa gave Colorado their first-round pick this year in the trade for Matt Duchene.
What to do?
Given Edmonton’s situation, keeping the pick makes the most sense. I wrote a few months ago that the best way to navigate the mess the Oilers are in is simply by being patient. Obviously, nobody wants to wait around and go into some kind of rebuild or retool, especially with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at the top of their respective games, but that’s simply the only way to work through Edmonton’s two biggest issues — cap hell and a lack of high-quality talent.
Given their cap situation, it’s difficult to add talent either through trade or free agency. That’s why we’re talking about the possibility of laughable trades like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for Rasmus Ristolainen. The Oilers are in a situation right now in which they need to give back salary in any deal in which they take on salary. They could also use the pick to help shed salary, but is getting rid of Milan Lucic worth losing a quality prospect? The most realistic way to add talent to the system would be through the draft and the eighth overall pick would give the Oilers a quality, cost-controlled asset to add to their already-solid system.
What say you, Nation? Should the Oilers keep the pick or move it in a trade to get better right now?