The Derick Brassard era in Edmonton was short-lived. Former Oiler Georges Laraque came on Twitter and said the Oilers had inked the veteran centre to a one-year deal, but it was a false alarm and he ended up signing with the New York Islanders instead.
Derick Brassard is signing a one year deal with the Islanders.
— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) August 21, 2019
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal. It would have been nice for the Oilers to grab a decent buy-low, reclamation project like Brassard, but they aren’t missing out on that much. What it does suggest, as Dusty Nielson discussed the other day on Inside The Nation, is that Ken Holland is most likely still interested in adding depth down the middle.
As of right now, a glaring hole when putting together the Oilers’ lineup for 2019-20 is the team’s third-line centre. The team is set with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as options for the top-six, and Colby Cave, Kyle Brodziak, and Jujhar Khaira are fine options for the fourth line, but the third line is a bit of a mystery.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SATURDAY EDITION question. Who should the Oilers to flank the third line? Is there an internal option for the third-line centre role? Or does Holland need to go out and make an addition to shore up the position?
There are a handful of darts to throw against the board already part of the organization who could fill the third-line centre role.
Kyle Brodziak was once the quintessential third-line centre, capable of shutting down the other team’s top forwards while also chipping in offensively. That isn’t the case anymore. Brodziak looked like he was toast last season and might end up on waivers before the season.
Colby Cave was claimed on waivers in the middle of the season last year. He’s a good skater who can thrive in a checking role, but he brings virtually zero offence to the table. Cave is best suited as a fourth-line centre.
Jujhar Khaira has gone back and forth from centre to the wing over the past couple of years. He scored 11 goals in what appeared to be a breakout season in 2017-18 but regressed down to just three goals in an injury-riddled 2018-19. There’s a lot of potential there but asking Khaira to take on the third-centre gig is a big ask.
Gaetan Haas was an interesting off-season addition from the Swiss League. Haas put up good offensive numbers in Switzerland but he’s also been praised for his excellent two-way game. It’s hard to project how European free agents will perform in the NHL, but Haas is an option.
Cooper Marody had an excellent season in the AHL last year and could force his way onto the NHL roster this fall if he plays incredibly well. Still, given his age, Marody has a big hill to climb to crack the team out of camp.
Another option is rolling McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins as the team’s three centres. I really doubt this happens as McDavid and Draisaitl have become such a powerful duo on the top line.
The only really interesting option left on the free agent market is Brian Boyle. I’ve liked the idea of adding Boyle all summer. He’s known as a great leader and personality, he can take on heavy minutes in the defensive zone, and he can also produce offence. Boyle scored 18 goals last year between New Jersey and Nashville, seven of which came on the power play.
There’s always the possibility of a trade. We don’t often see trades at this time of year, but given the strange RFA landscape, anything can happen. Perhaps Holland can turn Jesse Puljujarvi into a good third-line centre.
Given Edmonton’s internal options, I would guess the team throws all of those aforementioned darts at the board to see what works. Maybe Khaira can take a step forward, maybe Haas hits the ground running in North America, or maybe Marody steals the spot. If none of these options work out, we could see Holland make a mid-season deal to shore up the position similar to the David Desharnais addition in 2017.
What say you, Nation? Who do you think is the best option for the Oilers’ third-line centre?