The days leading up to the regular season, for me, are always much more interesting than anything that happens during the preseason. Preseason results often lead to overreactions from both fan bases and front offices and today was the day we got to see which front offices decided to overreact.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 30, 2019
I’ll go through some of the really interesting names that other organizations decided to move on from but first, I wanted to share some thoughts on what the Oilers did today.
THE OILERS MOVES
The decision to put Sam Gagner on waivers really surprised me. He came over to the Oilers last season and produced ten points in 26 games. He was one of their better offensive producers towards the end of the last season. It sucks that he makes $3 million but at this point, that shouldn’t really matter too much. Putting him on waivers only saves the team around $1 million.
If they wanted to do something about his contract, they could have bought him out this summer and re-signed him for the league minimum, similar to what Calgary did with Michael Stone. If they would have gone with that move, Gagner would have cost them just under $1.7 million this season and carried a $1 million cap hit next season. They didn’t do that which shows me that the decision today was made because they don’t think Gagner is good enough to help their roster.
He hasn’t been great during the preseason but at the same time, he wasn’t terrible. We heard that he was a great presence in the room last season and we know that Dave Tippett is familiar with him. I’m just simply not a fan of this move. I liked Gagner more than I like Markus Granlund during the preseason.
The Brandon Manning move was much more expected. He’s going to stay up as the seventh defenseman until Joel Persson is healthy but I see no problem with running him through waivers to see if some team out there wants to take a gamble on him. It would be nice to lose his cap hit but just looking at the other names on the waiver wire, I will say that there is close to no chance that any team claims Manning.
They also sent down William Lagesson which didn’t surprise me. He had a really solid camp but he shoots left and looking at their depth chart, I just don’t see a spot for him. The Oilers left-side is pretty set with Klefbom, Nurse, and Russell so, in my opinion, their seventh defenseman should be a right-shot. It’s much more likely that they’ll need to slot a player in for Matt Benning or Ethan Bear than it is they’ll need to give Russell or Nurse a night off. I know Manning shoots left, but he’s just a placeholder until Persson is ready.
One thing to remember while sifting through the plethora of names available on waivers is that if you’re going to claim a player, you need to be ready to eat their whole salary and you need to have room for the player’s contract.
So the Oilers can’t afford someone like Sven Baertschi, who is owed over $3 million for the next two seasons. I like him as a player, he continually scores around a 20 goal pace despite always being hurt. If a team had a healthy Baertschi, I think they’d be very happy with it. The Oilers simply aren’t a fit.
One name that I really like on the waiver wire is Daniel Sprong. I’m not sure what Anaheim didn’t like about him in camp, but he scored at nearly a 25 goal pace in 47 games with the Ducks last season. He’s known as a bit of a one-dimensional player but that one-dimension is goal scoring. The Oilers need goal scoring. Sprong is 22-years-old, makes the league minimum, and scored more than a lot of Oilers forwards did last season. This is a bet worth making.
The other big stunner on the waiver wire was the Penguins opting to go with 24-year-old Tristan Jarry over 28-year-old Casey DeSmith. There were rumours that the Penguins were trying to trade Jarry for nothing more than a mid-round pick this summer and couldn’t find a taker. I understand why they went with the younger option in Jarry but I’m also surprised that they couldn’t find a trade for Casey DeSmith, who has posted a 2.66 GAA and a 0.917 save percentage in 50 NHL appearances.
I believe that he would be a better option than Mike Smith but I don’t believe Dave Tippett or the Oilers will give up Smith before his career with the team even starts. They simply don’t have a spot for DeSmith and I can’t see them making a spot for him even though last season he was better than both of their current goaltenders.
One last thought: I’m not a big fan of Dave Tippett having Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on three separate lines. I don’t believe they have the depth on the wings to support this lineup structure and I fear that Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl will both see big drops in production if neither of them gets to play with Neal or McDavid.
Also, and I will fight on this until I’m proven wrong, McDavid and Draisaitl were one of the most lethal duos in the NHL last season. Why would you want to break that up? To me, this is overthinking a problem. The issue is that they don’t have a quality fourth line centre if Riley Sheahan is on the third line but to me, the solution is to trust one of Cave or Haas to give you ten solid minutes a game. The solution shouldn’t be to give Nugent-Hopkins lesser linemates and break up a dynamic duo.
Now, Sheahan being hurt certainly throws things off and might shed some light on why Tippett feels the need to put the Oilers three best centres on separate lines. If anything, this just shows how little depth the Oilers have.