Rather than spending all of his cap room to get one bonafide top-six winger, Ken Holland opted to buy himself multiple scratch tickets for the 2019-20 season. It would have been nice to acquire a sure thing to inject into one of the top two lines, but I don’t mind Holland’s logic of staying away from adding yet another ugly contract on July 1.
Unless something dramatic changes between now and October, we have a pretty good idea of what the Oilers’ roster is going to look like next season. Maybe we see a Milan Lucic for another bad contract swap, maybe we see the disgruntled Jesse Puljujarvi get his wish to be moved so he can have a fresh start, or maybe we see another bargain bin addition or two in free agency. But this is more than likely what we’re looking at.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. How should the Oilers patch together their top-six forwards? Are there any scratch tickets here who can produce big winnings?
Where to put McDavid and Draisaitl
The first big question when it comes to putting an Oilers lineup together is the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. When Draisaitl signed his eight-year deal worth $8.5 million after his excellent showing in the 2017 playoffs, it was expected he was going to be the secondary punch behind McDavid on the second line, being the Evgeni Malkin to McDavid as Sidney Crosby.
Draisaitl has drawn some criticism for his inability to carry his own line without McDavid. I would suggest that a lot of that comes down to him not having good winger options more so than Draisaitl being a poor second centre. Over the past two seasons, though, McDavid and Draisaitl have been so impossibly good together that it’s been difficult to split the two up. The result has been Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dragging a lot of dead weight around on the second line behind him.
One thing that hasn’t been tried much before is stacking a second line of Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins. While it would leave McDavid without a star complimentary player, it would make the top non-McDavid line as good as it can be, which is something the team has struggled with in the past.
Regardless, the Oilers have three true top-six forwards however you decide to organize them and they need to find three more players to fill the holes around them.
- Alex Chiasson managed to turn a PTO into a two-year contract thanks to a breakout 22-goal season. That said, while Chiasson scored a career-high last year, only six of them came after the new year. He showed chemistry with McDavid but might fit best in a bottom-six role.
- Zack Kassian was the opposite of Chiasson. He scored a career-high 15 goals last season but 13 of them came after the turn of the new year. Kassian found chemistry on the top line with McDavid and Draisaitl, giving the skilled pair a much-needed crash-the-net type forward. It’s easy to forget but Kassian was once a high draft pick and he has the skill to hack it on a top line.
- Sam Gagner was acquired mid-season in a bad contract for bad contract swap, Gagner produced a modest five goals and 10 points in 25 games with the Oilers. He’ll surely be a help on the power play, but might also be an option as a trigger-man in the top-six. He has skill and can produce offence, especially in a sheltered role.
- Joakim Nygard is the wild card heading into 2019-20. The undrafted free agent put up 21 goals in 51 games last year in the SHL, which ranked second in the league. Apparently he has amazing wheels which could make him a sensible fit alongside McDavid.
- Markus Granlund is listed as a centre, but he plays best on the wing. He had the best season of his career in 2016-17 playing the role of long lost brother on the Sedin line in Vancouver, scoring 19 goals in 69 games. He has pedigree putting up numbers playing with elite talent, so he could make a good trigger-man on a McDavid line.
- Jesse Puljujarvi has been a major topic of conversation all summer. He asked for a fresh start, Ken Holland said he would try to make something work but wouldn’t force it. Word came out that the former fourth-overall pick would play in Europe if he had to, then Puljujarvi’s agent backtracked on that statement. It’s the middle of July and he’s still an Oiler, so is a fully-healthy Puljujarvi an option in Edmonton’s top-six? We all know he has the size, speed, and skill to keep up in that role, he just has to put it all together.
- What about a prospect like @Tyler Benson or @Kailer Yamamoto? I could see either player with the team at some point during the season, especially if injuries make call-ups necessary, but knowing Ken Holland, I doubt we see either prospect crack the roster out of camp. I have a feeling that Holland went the depth route in free agency to help ensure that he could overripen his prospects in the AHL rather than rushing them as we’ve seen in recent years.
What say you, Nation? Which scratch ticket do the Oilers have that’s most likely to be a winner? Should McDavid and Draisaitl be split up? Is there enough here to make a decent top-six? Is there anything else I should be writing about in mid-July other than line combinations?
After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.
- When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
- Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
- How much – $1000/team
- Teams – Groups of Four (4)
- How – Book your team here
As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.