Photo Credit: (Photo: Ed Mulholland, USA TODAY Sports)

WWYDW(SE): Third Line Centre

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.

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.

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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.

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What, me worry?

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.

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What to expect from the Oscar Klefbom this summer

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? 

      • All Ice

        Trash all you want dreamers but it’s simple math. 2.5 mil will not get you a legit top six player. It will get you a 3rd line centre that keeps nuge in the top six. Wait one season for additional cap space and start to work on top six wingers if no one has stepped up it developed into the role

    • Schmidt Head

      I’m sure they’d love to do nothing better but it’s a little tough to do when the cupboard’s as bare as ours.

      We need probably 2-3, maybe 4 wingers to make things right but only one center and only till next year when some more cash will become available.

      You have to do what you can do with what you’ve got.

      • Kelly Youngblood

        I’d hardly call the cupboards bare. There’s 3-4 legit forward prospects and just as many D-men in the system. Not to mention Puljujarvi. I’ve said before that Brayden Schenn is a guy Edmonton should target. UFA next year.

    • Ken Holland

      Cap space is going to be much more valuable in a few weeks. Many teams will be in desperation mode to sign their RFAs and some good players should shake loose.

      This is when value increases significantly for a player like JP.

      Patience is key in this situation. Holland knows what he is doing.

  • Lowe enuf

    I have faith in Ken Holland to find a solution. He has demonstrated excellent judgement so far. Unloading Lucic makes him a genius in my books. Unloading him on Calgary pretty much assures him of immortality!!!

  • The future never comes

    My instincts say Holland is going to pull off some kind of Pulju + package to acquire a center after training camp beings. As he likely wants to see the Haas’s and Marody’s of the world get an audition at that spot first.

  • KootenayDan

    Surely some team has cap issues and would make a trade to dump salary and get a low cost future of some sort. I would like to hear some possible trade suggestions for a third line center that the team can afford or the other team willing to retain some salary.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    There are still guys who are going to be looking for a spot who dont have one, because some teams just dont have the cap and some dont want to be too close to the allowable number of contracts. Holland has said he doesnt want to be tight to the cap. If he find someone ccheap the great if not then I would say start the season as is and wait and see how things shake out

    When camp starts we will get an idea of how things will start to shape up after some time together and then into the pre season. Marody will be pushing for a job and I wouldnt count Khaira out of the mix last year he was hurting and you could see it in his play, hopefully this year will be better for him. Cave didnt do bad on the face off dot, and he makes plays but he isnt a huge play maker like some centers but he isnt really detrimental on the ice either and he is cheap

    Holland can always bring guys in on a PTO as well and see where things shake out, Brodziak I suspect will be a designated sitter more often than not, his foot speed and age are catching up to him

  • Cooper Marody was better than a point per game and +31 in AHL last year. If Puljujarvi had those numbers we would be anointing him as one of McJesus’s permanent disciple’s. Cooper earned the #3C spot. Why not bring in Maroon to play with him instead of replacing an already capable internal option?

  • The Oilers should sign a cheap, veteran center that played on teams with winning attitudes, or split up Draisaitl and McD. It’s time to see if McD can carry a line on his own and play as successfully as he did last season with Draisaitl. This could happen only if his leg is 100%.

    • Vertigo

      ” It’s time to see if McD can carry a line on his own”…………..what part are you not sure of? I’d say you win the award for August “clueless comment ” of the month. Now go play in traffic.

  • Bond 0097

    I would rather go with what we have now and see what happens, unless there is still a cheap faceoff ace out there. We have brought in FAR TOO MANY slugs that haven’t worked out, Manning, Petrovic, Reider, Lucic, Brodziak. Let’s try Marody or Haas and if they aren’t working out maybe Sam, but only after that look at bringing someone else in

  • Jimmer

    More important that the 3rd line centre…is who will be a #1 RH Centre on the PK. If you start your PK with Nuge and Boyle up front you might actually have a chance of having a decent PK for once…which again if far more important.