With the NHL Draft less than a month away, there are still plenty of unanswered questions in Oilers-land that will need to get sorted out. Today, I wanted to look at a few things that have been rolling around in my mind that as we approach this year’s draft.
ANY OTHER CHANGES?
When Ken Holland came to town, he said there would be changes and we’ve already seen that happening with the likes of MacT moving to Russia and Duane Sutter getting the boot, but I can’t help but wonder if there are more moves coming. When Peter Chiarelli rode into town on his rose coloured donkey, he made changes to the amateur scouting department shortly before the draft after they had finished all of their meetings, and I wonder if we’ll see something similar from Holland. Now, if I’m being fair, I should mention that the Oilers’ amateur scouting has been much better over the last few years and that could bode well for the men employed in that department. We already know that Holland wants to keep Keith Gretzky aboard, a move that makes sense to me given what we’ve heard about Kretzky’s work, but we still don’t know whether or not he’s accepted whatever role Old Dutch has asked him to fill or what’s going to happen there. Outside of KG, could there be movement with personnel that we don’t even know exist or what they do?
DAVE TIPPETT + WHO?
At this point, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Dave Tippett will be the next Oilers’ coach but what we don’t know is who he’ll bring with him. I’ve seen names like Jim Playfair and Mark Lamb get thrown around a little bit, but I wonder if there will be anyone from the current staff that sticks around. Would he want to build off of the foundation Trent Yawney has been laying with the defence? Would he want to retain the experience and familiarity offered by Glen Gulutzan? According to what I’ve heard, Manny Viveiros was popular with the players and could bridge the relationship gap between the team and its new bench boss so it might make sense to keep him, but, admittedly, this is me just thinking out loud. Considering the amount of smoke that’s surrounding this fire, I imagine we’ll know more about who will be staying and going in the coming days.
THE TOP SIX
In 2018-19, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins accounted for 119 of the Oilers 232 goals which works out to 51% of the team’s total offence. Add in Alex Chiasson’s 22 goals and that number jumps to 61% which is obviously not nearly good enough. Needless to say, it’s pretty tough to win hockey games when the bulk of your offence comes from three or four guys and it’s a situation that Holland will need to address sooner than later but how he gets that done will be anyone’s guess.
A couple of weeks ago, Cam wrote about the possibility of selling high on a guy like Darnell Nurse to fill a void in the top six and, based on the comments, it’s an idea that many would at least consider.
There are a few reasons dealing Nurse makes sense for the Oilers. First and foremost, is his contract. Nurse has one more year left at $3,200,000 on the two-year bridge deal he inked right before the start of last season. If he puts up another 40-point season, he’ll be in line for an extension well north of $6 million.
Beyond that, the Oilers have a glaring need for another play-driving forward and the reality is you have to give in order to get. Nurse’s breakout season would give the Oilers an opportunity to sell high and acquire a quality, young, controllable forward, which is something they badly need. With prospects like Caleb Jones, William Lagesson, and Dimitri Samourokov seemingly not far from regular NHL duty, there’s no better time than now to sell high.
Now, before you get all fired up in the comments section, I’m not saying that the Oilers should or shouldn’t trade Darryl as a means to help fix the offence, but I do feel like this is the kind of move that’ll probably happen if the team is going to make the big swing needed to land a bigger name. Is this the year we finally see one of Lowetide’s long-anticipated 3-for-1 deals? Will we only get more tinkering and band-aid solutions? Will Holland dabble in free agency to try and find the next Chiasson to moonlight as a top-six stopgap?
Over at Canucksarmy, Jeremy Davis put together a list of consolidated draft rankings leading up to this year’s draft in Vancouver and I can’t help but wonder who is going to end up with the Oilers in the eighth slot. Yeah, I know it sucks that we’re back in the same old spot of caring too much about the draft again, but the reality is that the Oilers are probably going to land a pretty decent pick in that slot if they choose to use it. To me, it’s a no brainer that Ken Holland should walk up to the podium and select the best player available, but there’s also a chance that he may look to package the pick up with something else to plug one of the many holes that were left by Peter Chiarelli.
Looking at Davis’ list, the names that land in the Oilers general vicinity are Alex Turcotte (5), Dylan Cozens (6), Kirby Dach (7), Matthew Boldy (8), Trevor Zegras (9), Peyton Krebs (10), Cole Caufield (11), and Cam York (12). Of those eight guys, all but one (Cam York) are forwards with varying skillsets and would surely be positive additions to an otherwise shallow depth chart up front. We all know how this team is gagging for offensive depth, so it seems unlikely that they would pass up this opportunity to stock the shelves with a skilled forward. That said, there are also a lot of seemingly unmovable contracts on the roster and who knows what other teams would be asking for as a sweetener to even consider trading for one, so maybe the first pick gets tangled as a means to get around that?
THAT DAMNED CAP SPACE AGAIN
According to our friends at PuckPedia, the Oilers will have about $9.33 million to play with which isn’t a whole lot considering the work that needs to be done to sign some players and overhaul the roster. We all know about Milan Lucic’s deal and we can talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but I honestly don’t know how many teams will be willing to take that on without the Oilers getting an anchor thrown back their way. Does such a team even exist? I have my doubts. So with that in mind, I can’t help but wonder what Holland is going to do to give himself some wiggle room.
Would he look at clearing out a Kris Russell or Andrej Sekera (or both) to free up not only cap space but a spot on the roster for one of the up and coming d-men from Bakersfield? With Caleb Jones looking like he might be ready for primetime, I think it’s fair to look at the back end to see what can be done and we all know that the draft is the time and place for a lot of these bigger deals to get done. Al I know for sure is that the Oilers’ to-do list is longer than their budget right now and that’ll have to change if they’re going to make any real progress next season.
WHAT SAY YOU?
Like I said off the jump, these are just a few of the thoughts that are rolling around in my mind now that we’re less than a month away from the draft and I’ll be very interested to see how things play out. Now that I’ve emptied my brain, I’m curious to know what you guys think and what are the biggest questions you have as we roll through the offseason. Is there something specific you’re looking forward to seeing how it gets handled? Something you’re nervous about? Let me know in the comments section and we can get to work on solving these issues together.