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5 Questions leading up to the NHL Draft

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?

THE PICK

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.

  • 0W-20

    Have to move 2 bodies from the 4-6 Dmen group without taking back more cap or longer term (suggesting Russell and Benning) and cannot make any buyouts because they only prolong the cap implications (bury Manning and his salary drops off the books in 20-21). I’d trade Benning for Connor Brown (assuming Toronto agrees to the swap) and send Russell to Winnipeg for Mathieu Perreault or to Ottawa for Craig Anderson.
    Maybe Boston will take Lucic for Backes? I’d also do the Lucic for L. Eriksson with Vancouver as an exchange of albatrosses simply because Lucic’s contract is a year longer.
    I think Holland can start to unwind some of the cap knots that Chiarelli tied up so we can keep Darnell Nurse and other futures that come up through the farm system. Trying to fix a flawed roster through free agency signings is the wrong approach so draft and develop and keep the good players.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I would like to know what plan B is for a coach if Tippett ‘Nylanders’ the Oil. Considering they didn’t even ask permission to interview Nelson, do they just promote Gulutzan?

  • BrandieBear

    I think the best way to fix this team is patience. I know it’s not what any oilers fan wants to hear but it’s the truth. We need to allow our prospects to develop and have some of our contacts come off the books. I would love to see some of our albatross contracts be traded away in smart deals and if we can do all three of those things we will start to move towards a bright future.

    As for moves I would make I would like to see the team keep Nurse unless there is a great hockey deal where we are far and away the winners. Outside of that we shouldn’t trade away or young talent. What I would consider doing is smart offer sheets with the 2nd and/or 3rd round picks. Players like Kapanen and Johnson’s names are out there already. What about Vrana (Wash), Lebanc (SJ) or Konecny (Phil) are RFA this year. I know those teams have more important players to sign and may have cap issues resulting in these players possibly being available. Based on what o was able to find these guys should be able to be offer sheeted for a 2nd or 3rd pick as well. Might be a smart play for Holland to look at this years RFAs and try to improve that way as long as the ask isn’t huge and we can clear some cap. I’d chase a bigger target Meir (SJ) or Karlsson (VGK) if you can bridge them for $6m or under. If you can get them for that range it keeps you at a 1st & 3rd in 2020. If the ask is more it would be tough to surrender the cap space and picks IMO

    • OilTastic

      problem is that we’ve tried patience with the decade long rebuild without success so the Oilers should try to speed things up a bit and sacrifice a little future now for players that would help now. but not all of our youth !

      • BrandieBear

        I can agree with that. Thats partially why I like the offer sheet option. We might be able to sacrifice picks in 2020 for help. Second and third round picks can be very hit or miss historically so trading them for more proven talent seems like a safer play. I’d be willing to sacrifice to get more immediate help. I think we could find some middle six and bottom six help with RFAs.

        Also to screw with the flames we should offer Ridditch a contract and really heat up the BoA. I’m not serious about this but it would be funny

      • Big Nuggets

        We have never tried patience. Fans have demanded trades every offseason. We have been forced to be patient as fans due to incompetent management, but the Hall trade, the Eberle trade and the Reinhardt trade were the opposite of patience. At least MacT didn’t sell low on the kids, although he made numerous other mistakes. I think MacT was the last GM that tried to be patient but the failure to draft well and seeming neglect of development meant there was no calvalry coming to justify being patient. Now we have a prospect pool as well as expensive contracts that should be much easier to move next offseason. Namely Sekera and hopefully Lucic. If Sekera stays healthy for a year his stock will go way up. He’s a good defenseman that has had some bad luck. After the bonus payout for Lucic next year he will be relatively inexpensive for teams that don’t want to spend actual dollars but need to stay above the cap floor. Trying to force deals for these players this offseason could be a bad move when next year the potential trades would be much more palatable. I think Russell will have trade value this offseason and although I like him, he appears to be the obvious candidate to be traded.

        As for all the commenters advocating to trade Nurse it sounds like a poor decision to me. There’s always the potential for a blockbuster trade involving Nurse, but in general I’d prefer to keep him. He has literally improved every season so far, just about to hit his prime, always healthy, good friends with the star forwards, sticks up for teammates, has never had a puck-moving defense partner and we have a few on the way. If they really need to trade a quality defenseman I would trade Klef ahead of Nurse. I’m a Klefbom fan too but I see more in Nurse and Klef really does get injured a lot.

  • KootenayDan

    Looch is at the very least a nuclear deterrent, why trade that for someone else’s bad contract that contributes even less. The high first round pick will probably be a player and has added value for the expansion draft. The team just needs to be smarter finding players for bottom 6 roles, maybe the shakeup in pro scouting will help. The changes in my mind is amongst Benning, Sekera and Russell for cap relief or finding a top 6 winger.

  • billsbills

    FFS, yes we need to score more goals. But the team had the 7th highest goals against. Stop talking about selling high on nurse as something that makes sense. It makes none, zip, zero zilch. He’s one of the top three defencemen on this team and you want to trade him for scoring????????

    The only trade with Nurse that makes any sense, is if you’re getting a true legitimate in his prime top pairing defenceman in return.

    This team cannot fill a hole in their top six by creating a massive crater on the back end.

    Just stop it. Everytime a blogger here says it, you lose legitimacy. You and this site.

    • the reasonable person

      How did a single person dislike this and how has there been multiple articles that raise trading Nurse as a possibility. Stop it now ON or anyone with a brain will move on from your site.

  • Oil Vice

    I don’t like that we’re talking about trading Nurse. After all these years starving for good d-men we should know that a good d-man is much more valuable than a good forward. He’s about to play the best hockey of his career. If anything we should be moving out prospects with Lucic and Russell if that’s what it takes to relive cap pressure. Not trading a guy we’ve developed for this long, who’s ready to roll into his prime along with McDavid

  • Kevwan

    Lucic and #8 for Reimer and #13. If all the players that Brownlee mentions are gone at 13 take Philip Broberg. 6’3″ 200lb Swede recently named top DMan at the U18’s.

    I love the way Nurse plays. Tough and skilled and way to hard to replace. I’d just keep him. If they do trade him they better get a young, absolute star winger back

    I’d trade Russell before Sekera. Russell probably has more trade value but Sekera is better for mentoring the kids.

  • CalOil

    This blog moans the Lucic deal all day and all night. The problem is the team gave up too many goals last year not that the 3rd line winger is overpaid by $4M. Next year’s cap is $83M, Lucic’s overpay is about 4.8% of the cap, or about the savings we will get on Leon’s contract.

    • ed from edmonton

      Agree, the Lucic contract is a problem but by no means the biggest problem. All the wild scenarios to trade this guy are a waste of time. Holland will need to work around an overpaid 4th liner as best he can.

  • Schmidt Head

    I was, and still am, mostly ambivalent about Ken Holland but I’m not going to be comfortable as long as KLowe and Howson are still in the organization.

    I know, I know; Holland has “full autonomy” (sure, he does) and KLowe “isn’t involved in player personnel decisions.” I didn’t believe it then and I still don’t! As long as he’s around, you’ll never make me believe he’s not involved. Unless of course, the Oilers start challenging for the Cup on a regular basis. Then you can be SURE he’s not involved!

    It is for those reasons, that I’m extremely nervous about any kind of Nurse trade talk or major signings. There is an intelligent case to be made and a smart GM could make them work in the right circumstances BUT…..

    The Oilers have a long and painful history of NOT making the intelligent moves and I’m not yet sure we do have a smart GM. At least not as long as any…. and I mean ANY… of the old guard are still permitted in the building!

        • Oilcountry97

          I dont buy that. Lowe isnt working in the on ice side of things. Saying Lowe is a reason why the teams sucks is just looking for an excuse. Im not a big fan of the guy for those comments about teir 2 fans but i dont agree with people saying he is the reason the team sucks. Chiarelli is why the team is where it is at now

    • billsbills

      The team sucks because they forgot that defence wins. They built a front heavy lineup and did not ice a legitimate NHL caliber defence for 10 years.

      Finally they sign Sekera, Trade Hall for Larsson, have an up and coming Nurse and a healthy Klefbom and they make the playoffs.

      The defence was shallow but capable. But with a shallow defence you run the risk of injuries depleting your lineup.

      They built the team backwards. Defenceman take longer to develop.

      But hey, let’s trade Nurse.

      Genius

      • All Ice

        Never said 13 years in hockey ops. The fact is throughout the last 13 years (Chia was in charge for the single playoff showing by the way, not to excuse his terrible performance) Lowe has been around as a direct or indirect influence on a terrible team. He is not the only reason it’s been terrible to be a fan but he has been a part of it in some way or another. From the “Rings” comment, tiered fans comment, hiring of GM’s or even Oil Change, which I’m still struggling to forget. Throughout that time I have rarely heard of a positive moment of him with the team but plenty of terrible. Eventually he’s gotta go if only from a accountability standpoint

        • Oilcountry97

          Yes he has made some ridiculous comments i agree. He has also made some bad moves in his time in management, the souray ordeal was a pretty bad one but he also put together some decent hard working teams in his earlier years as gm and also the team that made a run to the finals. I just dont believe he has had much say in how the team is run for quite some time now i dont think at all in chiarellis run as gm and since chia came in he completely gutted the team with his horrible moves and that is why the team is where its at now. I just dont believe lowe had anything to do with the last 4 seasons or so

  • CMG30

    The way you work out of the Lucic deal is to swap him for another boat anchor, but one with a shorter contract. Then swap that boat anchor for the next and so on till you’ve cleared 3 to 4 years worth of boat anchor contract time.

  • RJ

    Over the last four seasons, Klefbom has played about 72% of possible games. He’s only ever played a full season once. Nurse’s best season for points is better than Klefbom’s.

    Nurse is at the point in his career where he can be expected to improve year over year for four-five more seasons.

    Yet Oilers bloggers want to trade Nurse as opposed to Mr. Glass. It makes no sense to me.

    Trade Klefbom if you want to add a piece.

      • IRONman

        Will nurse take 6 million over 8 years after July 1?? How much will you pay nurse? If we draft Byram I would look at moving out Sekera or Klefbom. Nurse is in demand that’s all. But sign him for 6 million keep him

        • Joy S. Lee

          Nobody knows what his bottom line negotiation will be, yet. I would pay him whatever he’s worth, and try to lock him in for the longest possible term. I could work around contracts like his, in fact, bring us more like him. That’s what I would do.

          • TKB2677

            You forgot to mention that Nurse is barely 24, doesn’t have 300 games under his belt and hasn’t even peaked or reached his prime.

            I still don’t understand how some Oilers fans think trading Nurse is a good idea.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      If I was the GM, Klefbolm would be the D-man I would consider trading.
      Nurse, Larsson, and Caleb Jones are the future backbone of the defence. Bouchard, I’m still patient with to improve his skating (I certainly wouldn’t rush him). Really like to see how he performs in the AHL this season.

      • Joy S. Lee

        I wouldn’t really want to trade Klefbom, either, but agree I’d ponder that one before considering Nurse. I am glad to see others here on the same page, it wasn’t so clear-cut a couple of years ago when I said the same thing. Trading the best defenseman in an organization is seldom the answer to getting ahead.

    • Joy S. Lee

      Never mind… but pretty annoying to post what I (at least) imagined as an articulate, well-thought out response, only to see it disappear into the wind.

  • OILERSORDEATH

    I know I’m a little high but is MacKinnon signing with the Oil really a pipe dream? If TO can have Tavarez and Matthews why can we have MacKinnon and McDavid? Call it the Mcdeadly duo. Just dreaming I guess

  • Tonya Harding Compete Level

    Stop trading Nurse. He skates like the wind, can make a pass, has size and skill and snarl. And he plays D. And we drafted and developed him. He’s a part of the solution not the problem.

    It’s stupid. Stop it.

  • the reasonable person

    As has been said the trade Nurse articles have to stop. There is just no scenario in which that makes sense. People need to accept that Chia royally messed things up and to look forward to 3 years from now if Holland does a good job. Until then expect nothing and be happy with squeaking into the playoffs. Build this right. Nurse is a cornerstone, Nuge is the guy that could make sense to trade if you’re getting blue chip young scoring prospects or very high draft picks back (or proven scorers with team friendly contracts with term).

  • Oilersrule

    I’ve been hearing Toronto is interested in Jesse for kappanen and Benning for Connor brown. Apparently the Oilers have not developed him properly and there is no reason a guy with Jesse’s size, skating and shot should not be at least a 2nd line guy. Im not sure if it’s possible but I think that could be a win win for both teams ?

    • TKB2677

      If what you are saying is correct, I would do those trades. I fully agree that Puljujarvi was not developed correctly what so ever but when I watch JP play, WOW does he look far off. There was a time when JP was ranked 2nd overall for that draft. When you are ranked that high, you aren’t supposed to be as big of a project as JP is. Typically when a player is drafted in the top 5, if he doesn’t make the NHL right after his draft year, it’s usually the next season. Based on how JP looks, I don’t even know if 3 year in the minor would have been enough to make him just a full time NHLer.

  • Kepler62c

    Ya, let’s trade a guy before he puts up another 40 point season because then we’d have to pay a Dman to play for us who put up two back to back 40 point seasons, and of course we wouldn’t want that player on our blueline.

  • gwright

    I don’t get the argument that Nurse getting a raise means we should trade him. If he deserves a raise it’s because he’s good. Why trade someone that is overperforming their current contract? Yeah he’s getting a raise, but Manning and Gagner are coming off the books that year. More than enough to afford the upgrade in salary with room left over for someone else. And then the next year Sekera comes off the books. Klefbom, Nurse, one of the young lefties seems like a great left side of our defense.

    If you trade Nurse, who are you putting in his spot? More importantly, who is your second choice? Because if the first choice is already in the NHL, the second choice is gonna be stepping into the lineup when injuries happen. Can you imagine a lineup of 1 vet and 2 rookie LDs?

  • Ben918

    I like Nurse but it is crazy to think he is worth over 6 mil a year. I know contracts go up over time but he is still extremely inconsistent and not outstanding defensively or offensively. He is looking more and more like a career 3-4 defender and paying him first pairing money would be a waste for the Oilers who have lots for second and third pairing players. Better to pay Karlsson 9 mil than Nurse 6 mil.