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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What to do with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

What have we here, my friends? A brand new mailbag for a brand new week! I hope each of you had an excellent weekend and that you used the time to live your best lives. With everyone back at work for another week, I wanted to put together something to read and help you kill off a few minutes of company time and ease yourselves into a new week. As always, I’ve sent your questions out to our stable of writers and waited for all of their worldly wisdom to come back to me. As always, I need questions for next week, so if there is something Oilers related (or not) that you want to ask, feel free to hit me up by email or on Twitter. Enjoy

1) Kai from Germany asks – Is there a chance the Oilers could call up a goalie from the farm this year? In my opinion, the Blues season was turned around after Jordan Binnington’s call up. I read somewhere, that he was considered the No. 4 goaltender in the Blues’ system before the season started and he was already 25. So, might there be a diamond in the rough or even a youngster who could be called up if Smith and Koskinen don’t perform well?

Jason Gregor:

Shane Starrett is the only option I see for a goalie recall. He had an excellent second half last year, but that was only a few months. It is important to remember Binnington’s season was a major outlier. Even the Blues didn’t know he’d play that well after being recalled. If the Oilers get great goaltending it will likely come from one of Smith or Koskinen.

Robin Brownlee:

Is there a chance? Sure. The turnaround in St. Louis was a team reversal of form. When GM Doug Armstrong refused to break up the team to shake things up, the players knew it was up to them. No help was coming. Binnington played a big part in that by taking over from Jake Allen with a great 15-game stretch. Might somebody like Shane Starrett, who is older, come in and do the same if Smith and Koskinen flounder? I suppose it could happen, but you’re not going to see a worst-to-Stanley Cup scenario here. The Oilers aren’t as good as the Blues.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

On the surface, Shane Starrett fits the mold of a 25-year-old goaltender currently buried in the organization’s depth chart but there’s a difference between him and Binnington. Binnington was a highly touted prospect at one point and posted five consecutive seasons with both a GAA under 3.00 and a save percentage over 0.900 in the AHL. Starret has posted a GAA below 3.00 in both of his two AL seasons, but he doesn’t have the professional experience that Binnington does. I think Starrett has some NHL potential, but I wouldn’t be expecting to see him in the NHL this season unless there’s an injury.

Baggedmilk:

Honestly, I have no idea. I know Starrett had a solid run last season when the Condors went on their heater but I don’t know if he’d get the chance or not. Would he be the best bet? Maybe? What the hell do I know? Goalies are voodoo, man.

2) Kyle asks – In the summer of 2021, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is set to become a UFA (the Nation weeps). What do you think the Oilers’ offer will be to retain his services? Do you think other teams will be interested in RNH? Will he re-sign in Edmonton?

Jason Gregor:

A lot can change in two seasons. Very difficult to say what offer would be and if RNH will remain in Edmonton. A lot of it has to do with how he plays during the 2020/2021 season. If he has a really good year entering free agency he will get a bigger deal. If he doesn’t, then the offers will be lower. I honestly don’t know if he will remain in Edmonton or what the offers would be, because so much can change in two years in the NHL.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s the summer of 2019, so you’re asking about what might happen two years from now. Way too many variables to make a reasonable guess. Will he even be here then? What will be his role and how will he perform over the next two seasons? What does the rest of the team look like by then? What’s the cap?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

There’s no doubt that other teams would be interested but I think the Oilers will be able to keep him around. It will cost a lot of money, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Nuge is worth it. I would like to see a seven or eight-year deal worth somewhere around $7-8 million based on how these next two seasons go. I would have no problem giving a reliable, durable, and consistent player like Nugent-Hopkins that kind of term and money.

Baggedmilk:

#KeepNugeForever. Thank you. But yeah, of course other teams would be interested in him. The dude is a polished two-way player that seems to be getting better. If the Oilers can make it work, they need to keep him and keep those three centres together for as long as possible.

3) Vetinari asks – One year from now, as the roster presently stands, we have about 14 pending UFAs and 12 pending RFAs (or over 50% of our 50 man roster)—is this something to be concerned about or will it allow Holland to put his stamp on this team by July 2020?

Jason Gregor:

Concerned? Why? Their best players, excluding Darnell Nurse, are all under contract for next season. Of the 14 UFAs, Zack Kassian and Mike Smith would be considered the most important (today), and Nurse is the only RFA, who will demand a hefty raise. If Matt Benning of Joel Persson has an outstanding season, they might get a financial bump, but I don’t see any cause for concern.

Robin Brownlee:

No, it’s nothing to be concerned about on August 19, 2019. Outside the obvious keepers, Holland needs time to see who he wants to keep and who can go. He has yet to see the Oilers play even one game as GM. He needs to see where, or if, people fit.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Concern? Oilers fans should be incredibly excited about that. The Oilers will have both roster and cap flexibility which will allow their veteran GM to go out and shape this roster the way he likes. They’ll likely bring back some players but this will present them with a great opportunity to re-shape the pieces that surround their core. It’s also great news for the upcoming season. With all of these players heading into contract years, the Oilers will have plenty of motivated players.

Baggedmilk:

I actually see this as a blessing. Get rid of a bunch of Chiarelli’s guys and bring in your own. Win win.

4) Gregg asks – Do you think there are any free agents still available that would help the Oilers provided that Ken Holland can make the money work? If so, who?

Jason Gregor:

Brian Boyle intrigues me as a bottom-six centre. Derick Brassard is another one, and he has more offensive upside, but he doesn’t kill penalties. If I could I’d bring them in on a PTO at this point. No need to sign them to a deal until I see how they look in preseason.

Robin Brownlee:

No. That could change by way of PTO’s and lower offers a month from now when we’re closer to camp, but now is not the time to throw money at somebody who is still out there waiting for a contract.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

If he can make the money work, I would love to see one of Brian Boyle or Derick Brassard in an Oilers jersey. Good, experienced third-line centres who can help on both the powerplay and penalty kill. He doesn’t have the money right now, but as the summer continues, he could make something happen. Would I love Jake Gardiner? You bet but that’s not realistic.

Baggedmilk:

Since everyone has already said Brian Boyle and Derick Brassard, I’m going to go with Tobias Rieder. Thank you.

Apr 11, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing James Neal (18) during the face off against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period in game one of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

5) Yves asks – If you’re going with your gut right now, how many goals do you think James Neal will score with the Oilers?

Jason Gregor:

Interesting question. The range on Neal’s production will vary a lot I suspect. I think last year was an outlier for him. For ten years he consistently scored 21+ goals. He will get a lot of top-six TOI this season and he will play with a left shooting centre whether that is RNH or Connor McDavid. I’ll say he scores 21, but I won’t be surprised if he gets closer to 25.

Robin Brownlee:

He scores 22.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

23. It’s going to be a good year for The Real Deal James Neal.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going with a conservative 20 goals so that I can lose my mind if he gets anything more than that.

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  • country mac

    for all those who loved the idea of Hall for Lucic and Larsson, here is an unpopular idea

    Nuge for a first round pick in his last year, and sign hall,

    So its Nuge for Hall and a first, be dumb to turn that down right.
    Or if he wants to leave as UFA it would be Hall and a first for nothing.

    Lots of dead cap space gone next year and if you can move out Russel, we might be able to have more nice things again. Just make sure you know what to purchase.

  • DannyGallivan

    Assuming Drai stays on the wing, need a 2nd line center. Good centers are more difficult to find than wingers. Why trade our second best center? Stupid.
    Next year there is a huge opportunity to get rid of the deadwood and get cap space! Yeah

  • ed from edmonton

    1. Neither Koski or Smith have credentials that suggest they can be good enough this year to give a team to a playoff spot. A “Binnington” might be their only hope. I don’t know which is a better chance.
    2. Question foe next year.
    3. This will give Holland a chance to reshape the roster.
    4. Unlikely, unless a PTO works out.
    5. I will remain an optimist about Neal until proven otherwise. 15-20 goals.

  • Fireball

    Sign RNH as soon as it’s possible. I know he is 2 seasons away from UFA and a lot could happen., but RNH has been trending up for years. Sure you can manipulate his stats and say he’s had down years but his overall game has improved every year he’s been in the league. He’s shown he can provide offence when put in the right situation and his a solid 200 foot player. I’d suspect he keeps trending in the right direction. The only knock I can find on him is his face off percentage. That’s something that Tippet said he plans to work on with the team. I’d been saying the Oilers should bring in a skills coach / face off specialist for many years. At least the head coach is a knowledging the need for it to improve. As long as RNH doesn’t die I’d be signing him on a 5 year deal the day the window opens. PS Holland has his best two forwards signed with No Trades, I think Holland needs to take a hard stance on them with secondary forwards and not hand anymore out. They do not serve the team in anyway shape or form. I know people will say you have too., but I believe teams need to impose their own limit on it and the less you have the better. The trend has been players on them contracts tend to faulter in the later years and handcuff the team. I wouldn’t give them to more than 2 forwards 2 Dmen and a goalie. Even then only if they are in your long term plans for the duration of the contract. People tend to sign what ever they have to for the now and don’t care about the long term ramifications. At least I would not give them to the ones who aren’t your best and who are going to be over 30 during that contract.

      • Fireball

        The Cap situation will be very favourable to the Oilers in the coming years. Zero reason to worry. Starting as soon as next season it will become a area of strength!

          • Fireball

            I’ve said the Oilers have been mishandling their young goalie prospects for years.. who ever is in Charge of it should be fired !! They haven’t been able to get them into the NHL. When they do it seems like yo-yo affect.. I recall LB coming up standing on his head only to be sent back down.. or not getting the next start., I don’t care if they are 18 or 34 if a goalie stands on their head there’s no reason not to run with them. Can you imagine going to work performing better than everyone else.. or at least the other person in your position but being told you need a lot of work before your ready so were demoting you ?? It has to crush the young men when you do that.. Pat Roy was a nobody and won the cup in his rookie year.. Marty Brodeur was a nobody can you imagine if they’d been sent down and told you need 3-4 more years before you can play in the bigs !! Goalie is about wins and losses.. battling.. making one more save than the other guy.. even save percentage can be misleading.. I know the stats support that a good save percentage leads to wins but wins are wins. The spots are filled this year and without major injury or one or more goalie completely being a bust I don’t see how any of the kids get a shot., but if they do I sure hope they get a fair shake.

  • CaptainCanada94

    Some constructive criticism for Brownlee:

    Why do you have to come across so condescending every time you comment or respond to fans questions or comments? Been following OilersNation for 3+ years and it is a constant theme with any response to readers.

      • CaptainCanada94

        The example that stands out most this week is “It’s the summer of 2019, so you’re asking about what might happen two years from now.”

        Read any of the other writers responses, there is big difference in your tone vs theirs. More often than not, as the reader, I feel your responses are arrogant, often short in nature & passive aggressive, trying to make the reader feel inferior. Now, I could simply skip your responses if I am that annoyed by them, however I do value your expertise and often agree with your content. The delivery is harsh and not encouraging for the participant.

        • “Encouraging for the participant . . .” Mercy, you’re a snowflake punchline waiting to happen. I answer the questions as best I can. If I don’t know, I say so. If I think the question is difficult to answer with any certainty — in this case because of the time frame involved — I point that out. If I think the questions are downright silly, as they occasionally are, I point that out. If you perceive everything that is said in a matter-of-fact way as condescending, that’s your issue, not mine.

          • CaptainCanada94

            I agree that is very difficult, but that is the point of the question… perhaps play out some scenarios or variables that will effect the contract situation. Instead it is a condescending comment where the person feels dumb for asking the question. It is not just this response, go back and read other Mailbag Questions. Every week it is the same theme in response to readers questions.

            I also have zero issue… As I mentioned, I can very easily skip your content. Just thought I would provide you with some feedback on how your responses are interpreted. If there is one reader who feels that way, there would be more… Also to get defensive and throw-out snowflake is pretty well the response I expected.

            I thought maybe you were naive to your tone, but based on your response, I’d say the arrogance is 100% intentional!

  • Derzie

    The kool aid runs thick and syrupy in Oiler country. Did any of you actually WATCH James Neal last year? Skated in quicksand and was turnstiled at every turn. 20+ goals? That’s rich.