The Edmonton Oilers need wingers. Alex Chiasson was their highest scoring natural winger with 22 goals and 38 points. Both Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins spent significant time on the wing with Connor McDavid. If we assume one of Draisaitl or RNH is a winger next season, the next highest scoring winger signed for the 2019-20 season is Zack Kassian and his 26 points.
I’m expecting Draisaitl remains on McDavid’s wing. I’m a big believer in the Oilers running McDavid and Draisaitl on their own lines, but the Oilers have always gone back to McDavid and Draisaitl. He’s a winger at this point.
Players Under Contract for 2019-20
|LINE 1||Connor McDavid||Leon Draisaitl|
|LINE 2||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins|
|LINE 3||Sam Gagner|
|LINE 4||Milan Lucic||Colby Cave||Zack Kassian|
Jujhar Khaira, Jesse Puljujarvi, Tobias Rieder, and Ty Rattie are restricted free agents. Khaira’s a useful depth player, but he needs to score more than three goals next season. Rieder and Rattie won’t be qualified. Puljujarvi has to be in the NHL because he requires waivers for the AHL now. A trade seems likely.
Alex Chiasson is an unrestricted free agent. The Oilers might re-sign him, but it’s unlikely he scores 22 goals again. He’ll command a bigger salary, but I’d explore other options instead.
As the Oilers usually do, they look for solutions inside the organization before going elsewhere. Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian had some success later in the season but I’d aim higher than Kassian for that complimentary role. Kassian had a good stretch with McDavid, but he’s a fourth liner otherwise. Can he fill the same role Patrick Maroon did a couple of seasons ago?
Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody are obvious candidates. Benson scored 66 points in 68 games in his first professional season with the Bakersfield Condors, while Marody had 64 points in 58 games. Marody plays center, but many centers end up on the wing in the NHL.
After rushing Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto, Bob Nicholson is preaching patience and ‘over-ripening’ prospects. The Oilers have mismanaged prospects before, but a player shouldn’t be held back arbitrarily if he’s ready. Benson and Marody shouldn’t pay for the sins of Oilers management. Tyler Toffoli only played 77 AHL games. Benson’s at 73.
Puljujarvi is another option. It’s easy to forget the fourth-overall pick in 2016 is only turning 21 in a couple of weeks. Puljujarvi’s story isn’t over but his time in Edmonton might be. He might be an important part of a package to acquire a useful winger, or defenceman.
The Oilers’ cap problems will limit their ability on July 1st. The new general manager will need to move money out to add in free agency, but they can still add a winger or two.
Edmonton won’t be players for Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene. Even Jordan Eberle’s playoff success likely prices him out of a reunion with the team that drafted him.
There are some lower-tier options who can play with skill. I’ve always thought Brett Connolly would be a solid buy-low option for right wing. His 22-goal 46-point season will get him a raise from his $1.5-million cap hit, but this is also Connolly’s first 30-point campaign. Connolly turns 27 in May.
Joonas Donskoi had 14 goals and 37 points with San Jose. Donskoi is another right wing who shoots right and has tons of speed, and just turned 26.
Richard Panik’s bounced around a few teams recently, but can play a role beside skilled players. Panik shoots left, penalty kills, and has at least 14 goals the past three seasons.
Carl Hagelin had a tough season, but recovered a bit in Washington. Hagelin has much-needed speed and won’t get the same $4 million he currently makes.
Trades and the Edmonton Oilers haven’t gone well.
The Oilers don’t have a lot of assets. Add in their limited cap space and most trades have to include low-salary players or money going out.
You can make trades without significantly losing the deal.
Mike Hoffman, Alex Galchenyuk, Max Domi, Jordan Martinook, Vinnie Hinostroza were all traded last summer. They all scored at least 15 goals in 2018-19.
Maybe the Oilers use their first-round pick for a young winger signed long-term?
2019-20 Edmonton Oilers Projection
|LINE 1||Connor Brown||Connor McDavid||Leon Draisaitl|
|LINE 2||Tyler Benson||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Brett Connolly|
|LINE 3||Carl Hagelin||Cooper Marody||Sam Gagner|
|LINE 4||Milan Lucic||Colby Cave||Zack Kassian|
Using EvolvingWild‘s contract projections, the Oilers could fit in Connolly at $3.43-million for three years. Hagelin at $2.41 million is doable as well, but I doubt Hagelin gets three years. The Oilers can add two medium-tier free agents on the wing.
The Oilers need at least two scoring wingers, but probably three. Three additions might be difficult, but overhauling the wings is crucial.