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Can the Oilers find a third-line centre?

For the most part, Oilers fans got very excited earlier this week when Georges Laraque tweeted that the team had signed veteran centreman Derick Brassard to a one-year deal. Brassard is coming off a down year that saw him play 70 games with three different organizations yet still, he managed to score 14 goals and as a one-year bet, he would have looked good on the Oilers third-line.

That report never came to be. Instead, Brassard signed a one-year $1.2 million contract with the New York Islanders. That means if the Islanders win the Cup this year, Oilers fans will be able to complain about the Reinhart trade AND the fact that Brassard chose Long Island over Edmonton.

Now, the Oilers are sort of back to square one. They don’t have an established NHLer on their roster that is capable of being their third-line centre.

Kyle Brodziak is too slow, Colby Cave doesn’t have the track record to be trusted in that role, and the likes of Jujhar Khaira, Sam Gagner, and Markus Granlund are better suited to be wingers. In the system, they have Cooper Marody, who could very well step in and earn the job, but the Oilers have been burnt in the past by banking on young players to handle significant roles. They can’t afford to make that mistake once again.

It might end up being a player on a PTO, and I do believe that within the next 10-14 days they will announce that a veteran winger will be coming to camp on a tryout, but I think they need to go out and sign one more NHL calibre forward who can step in and handle the third line centre responsibilities.

THE CANDIDATES

Brian Boyle

The list is pretty short simply because we’re getting to the end of August and most of the quality unrestricted free agents who can play centre have been snatched up, but there are three players still on the market that I’ve had my eye on.

Riley Sheahan: He’s the best fit in my opinion. Sheahan was originally drafted by Ken Holland back in 2010 and he spent his first four full NHL seasons with the Red Wings. Holland is known as a loyal GM so it wouldn’t surprise me if he has already reached out to Sheahan.

Last season was a very disappointing one for Sheahan. He appeared in 82 games (split between Pittsburgh and Florida) and posted just nine goals and ten assists. That would have put him tenth on the Oilers in scoring. However, in his 33 games with the Panthers, he won 54% of his faceoffs, averaged close to two minutes per game on the penalty kill, and shot just 4.44& at even strength.

Based on that, I’m willing to say that Sheahan is an experienced, capable centre who can handle penalty-killing duties and is due for a slight increase in goal scoring based on his low shooting percentage last season. On top of that, he should only cost $1 million at the most. 

Brian Boyle: There’s no denying that he is a better player and would make a greater impact than Sheahan, but I had him second on my list for a few reasons. First, I still believe he’s going to get close to $2 million on a one-year deal. He’s getting old but he still scored 18 goals last year. Some team will step up before training camp and make him a better offer than I believe the Oilers would feel comfortable doing based on their cap situation (which I will explain in a second).

Second, Boyle is now over 35-years-old, I have more concerns about his ability to keep up at the NHL level and be an effective centre at even strength than I do with a 27-year-old Riley Sheahan. 

Still, he proved last season that he can really help a team out on both the powerplay and penalty kill. He’s a proven veteran leader as well and I think the Oilers could benefit from his presence on and off the ice but I just don’t know if the Oilers could make it work from a salary perspective.

Oscar Lindberg: He’s third on my list and honestly, he might even be a PTO candidate. Last season, he scored a total of nine goals and 11 assists in 55 games played with Vegas and Ottawa. Over an 82 game season, that’s a pace of 13 goals and 16 assists. That kind of season would have put him fifth amongst Oilers forwards in 2018-19. He shot just a hair under 10% as well, so that pace is more than sustainable. On top of that, he barely played on the powerplay and averaged just over 12 minutes a game at all strengths.

Regular top-nine minutes and a role on the second powerplay unit could be incredibly beneficial to his success on the stat sheet.

He wasn’t very good in the faceoff circle last season so that’s certainly a concern. On top of that, he almost never saw any time on the penalty kill with either of Ottawa or Vegas. That’s also a concern.

For that reason, I wouldn’t pick him over Boyle or Sheahan but if both those players are gone, I see nothing wrong with taking a gamble on Oscar Lindberg for next season.

THE SALARY CAP

Right now, PuckPedia has the Edmonton Oilers with $2.5 million in cap space. That’s with them having a full 23-man roster and having already buried Brandon Manning in the AHL. If they sign a player, they need to send one down. That could free up around $1 million as long as it’s Kyle Brodziak or Gaetan Haas being shuffled out.

As long as the centre they bring in makes less than $1.5 a season, they will enter next year with $2 million in cap space. That either gives them enough wiggle room to do something at the deadline or enough space to comfortably eat whatever bonuses Mike Smith ends up making.

Ken Holland has the space to make something happen, I’m really hoping he pulls the trigger on something before camp opens up.



  • Nellzo

    While Boyle would be a great locker room presence, (think Matt Hendricks), I’d lean more towards Sheahan. Strictly because Boyle is not the most fleet of foot.

    • Ken Holland

      We have 3.5 Million to upgrade the 3C spot.

      I think we can do better than Sheahan. Keep our cap space open, dont rush it and the right move will come along.

  • GK1980

    At this point in this teams tenure it really doesn’t matter. No playoffs again might as well use benson or some other young guy in the system and see how he adapts to the NHL.

    • Nellzo

      I’d argue that’s the approach that got them in this terrible mess. Hopefully Ken (Slow Hand) Holland is taking the road less travelled in Oil Country and leaving prospects on the farm until they take a spot from a veteran player.

    • hagar

      It takes less energy to be positive than negative. Why as a fan wouldnt you at least hope they make the playoffs? Why state they wont, like some fact?
      I get why fans dont shout from the mountain tops “this is the year,” but why go into the season expecting failure? What’s the point in even being an oilers fan if that’s your state of mind?

      • Spydyr

        If your happy with the way the Oilers have performed in the Katz era that is on you. Myself I am not.

        Being positive for the sake of being positive is asinine.

        • hagar

          Spydyr, you just made up that I am happy with the past out of thin air. Doesnt make one bit of sense how you got that from what I said.

          As for being positive being asinine, if there is something completely out of your control that you dont like, and there is absolutely nothing you can do a out it, being angry about it is waaaaay more asinine than being positive.

          I have been critical of the team with the best of them, but they are taking another stab at it, and changing things all over the place. If you have zero hope, then what is the point In being here?

  • The Swarm

    Connor McDavid. Cut back on his first line minutes and play him on the third line for the difference. Teams will have a hard time defending against this. I can already see the look in the eyes of a third pairing defensemen when Connor gets the puck at his blue line in full flight.

  • WhaleOilBeefHooked

    What if Draisaitl played center again and only teamed up with McDavid when needed. Might be easier to find a winger to play with McDavid than the missing center we are looking for.

  • Jimmer

    More concerned about the PK than 3rd line centre. I pick Boyle because we need a guy that can win face-offs…especially on the right side. Our PK moving up 10 spots because we are winning 50% or greater d-zone face-offs and burning time off the clock is going to help us win more than “just a guy” who can skate on the 3rd line.

  • Fridaydapper

    Best we tank this year, get a stud prospect on an entry level contract and wait until the d prospects develop. Going to be a good draft they say this year.

  • Bond 0097

    The time is now, we’re not waiting for next year and all of the guys that were brought in will need to prove themselves and one needs to step up. Maybe bring Sheehan in because of his faceoff ability but other than that we should be good let’s go

    • ed from edmonton

      The don’t have a proven starting goaltender, 3 legitimate top 6 forwards, a maybe top 6 forward in Neal and a whole bunch of bottom 6 wingers a couple of which will need masquerade as top 6. No 3C for sure and 4C is not that great either. Lottery pick is not an unreasonable expectation.

      • Lowe enuf

        I don’t necessarily disagree with you. However had even one or two of the stiffs from the bottom six produced anything last year they could have been a playoff team. There is ample room for optimism. I am optimistic simply because we now have a proven GM who is not a panic artist. He also isn’t going to make stupid promises to a prospect. We also don’t have to focus on how Lucic is a play killing, morale destroying plug who vacuums up valuable cap space. Life is better for the Oilers.

        • Bond 0097

          Couldn’t agree more on the Lucy factor, he sucked the life out of all he played with even managing to dim the sparkle of the brightest star in the league when they were on the ice together

  • OriginalPouzar

    Riley Sheehan would be a perfect fit, as 4C, not as 3C.

    One of the pairs that Tippett has talked is Granlund/Archibald as our 3rd line wingers. I like that pairing and Sheehan would look good between them. With that said, it would be better suited as a “4th line” – while Granlund is a 3rd liner, Sheehan is a 4th and Archibald kind of in the middle.

    I’d be OK with that as the “3rd line” as it would provide more of a “skilled” 4th line with the likes of Khaira and Gagner.

  • OriginalPouzar

    With that said, assuming no acquisition, Tippett has been express about Haas and Khaira currently being the main 3C options.

    I can’t pencil Haas in there – I don’t even know if he’s an NHL player at this point.

    Khaira has struggled at center so far in his career and I would prefer him on the wing.

    It would REALLY help the roster if Cooper Marody is not only NHL ready but able to handle the middle of the ice.

    Come on Cooper, I’m rooting for you!

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Sheahan or Lindberg if we are going by this list, if Holland stand pat right now I think that is fine as well. Unless someone is going to sign fairly cheap r they come in as a PTO then fine, but I dont see Holland doing anything that will put the Oilers tight against the cap or close to the allowable number of contracts

    I have no problems if the Oilers go with the status quo and see how things shake out in camp and the pre season, I still believe Holland would like to move a couple contracts out. I dont see Haas going down to the AHL there is a better chance of sending Brodziak then Haas, and I believe that Haas has a clause that will allow him to go back to Europe in his deal

    • OriginalPouzar

      Haas has said expressly he is coming to play in the NHL and won’t accept an AHL assignment unless its a short adjustment type placement. That shocked me as I thought the signing has more for the AHL and depth. At the same time, Holland has wanted Haas for a few years now from accounts – he must see something.

      I don’t think there is an “out clause” for him to go back to Europe. SHL contracts have specific out clauses for the NHL but not the other way around. With that said, if he doesn’t “make it”, they’ll just agree to mutually terminate (rare) and he’ll head back home – off the cap, off the 50.

        • Dallas Eakins Hair

          Some guys can adjust to the smaller NHL ice surface fairly easily, but some guys have trouble with it just because there isnt the space to work with and it can throw a persons timing off when it comes to make plays or defending against them

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        I Think Holland is of the mindset that Haas will make the team, I know he has an AHL component t his deal, but I though Spec or someone else wrote that If Haas doesnt make the team that there was a clause that would allow him to go back and Europe and play because he didnt want to play in the AHL other than a short time to allow for conditioning or however they termed it. I am trying to see if I can find where that was mentioned

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        I did find where it was mentioned and tried to post the link…no go according to the filter
        So here is the text of it:
        During an interview with the Journal du Jura, Haas said. “My agent has stipulated that if I crossed the Atlantic, it was out of the question that I spend the season in the AHL.” “If it is necessary to get used to the play over there, it is clear that I will go down for one or two weeks. But if this stay were to continue, a solution would be found for me to return to SC Bern.”

  • Van isl Oiler

    There are 3 good writers on this site. Anyone who frequents this site knows who they are…the rest is just regurgitated fluff. Oilersnation.com jumped the shark a while back. I’d put a for sale sign on this thing before the value drops any further. Doesn’t matter if it’s late August, this is very low quality writing. Geg it together man.

    • Ken Holland

      It might end up being a player on a PTO, and I do believe that within the next 10-14 days they will announce that a veteran winger will be coming to camp on a tryout, but I think they need to go out and sign one more NHL calibre forward who can step in and handle the third line centre responsibilities.

      Using and 3 times in a sentence is usually not a good idea.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Oilers have to be mindful of the allowable number of contracts and I believe that number 50 and I think we are at 47 now, remember what happened when Chia had us at 50 last year and tight to the cap