With each passing victory, it’s looking more and more like the Oilers are serious playoff contenders. Though things are going well, there are still holes on the roster to be filled if the team is going to go on a serious run this spring.
According to Jim Matheson, Ken Holland met with the organization’s professional scouts in Vegas and he determined two key areas of need for the team. One has been discussed at length. It’s the top-six winger to play alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and James Neal on the second line. The other hasn’t been discussed quite as much. That’s the third-line centre who can play quality defensive minutes while chipping in some offence.
Ken Holland's shopping list from now to Feb trade deadline after his pro scouting meetings in Vegas: No. 3 C who shoots right and can win face-offs. Love Haas's hustle but 39 percent on draws. Second line LW winger with some consistent offensive pop to play with RNH and Neal.
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) November 24, 2019
Holland wants a quality third-line centre who can push Riley Sheahan down the lineup to the fourth line, where he’s best suited, and who can provide insurance in the wake of an injury.
The minor injury to Nugent-Hopkins made it clear just how badly the Oilers need more depth up the middle. With Nugent-Hopkins out against Arizona, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid played 29:00 and 25:48 respectively. Sam Gagner did an admirable job filling in as the second centre, but having him fill in there long-term is there was an injury wouldn’t be ideal.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday MONDAY EDITION question. Who should the Oilers pursue to be their third-line centre? How much should Holland be willing to give up in order to plug the hole? Is there a non-rental option that fits more long-term than beyond just this season?
Here are some names that come to mind…
- J.G. Pageau: This is probably the best option out there, but I’m not sure if the price will be realistic. Pageau, who becomes a free agent for the first time in his career, is having his best season for the Senators this year. He has 19 points in 23 games and he has a plus-17 rating, which is incredible given the fact he plays for a terrible team. This would give the Oilers an incredible group down the middle.
- Zemgus Girgensons: Certainly not the same quality as Pageau, Girgensons would be a much cheaper rental option for Holland at the trade deadline. Once a first-round pick pegged to become a top-six, two-way centre, Girgensons never found his offence in Buffalo. He’s become exclusively a shut-down centre, though his 47.8 faceoff percentage is fairly underwhelming.
- Luke Glendening: I mention this one because Glendening is somebody Holland is familiar with. Glendening has been a reliable depth forward for the Red Wings for the past few years. He carries a cap hit of just $1,800,000 for one more season after this one and it wouldn’t take much to pry him from the rebuilding Wings. He had a 55.7 faceoff percentage last season and chipped in with 10 goals.
- Mathieu Perreault: If Holland doesn’t want to pay a premium for a rental player, perhaps there could be a hockey deal to be made with the Jets. Mathieu Perreault is a solid, underrated player who consistently has strong underlying numbers due to his good defensive play. He has a $4,125,000 cap hit for one more year after this. Could a Kris Russell swap work for both teams?
- Boone Jenner: After going all-in last year, the Blue Jackets have a fairly empty cupboard. The team is predictably struggling this year, so a minor sell-off might be in their future. Boone Jenner has established himself as a good middle-six centre in the league and could be a good long-term solution. He has a $3,750,000 cap hit for two more seasons.
- Andrew Shaw: In the same vein as Jenner, Shaw would be a nice addition for the Oilers, but it’s hard to say if the Blackhawks are in any rush to move him. Shaw is signed at a reasonable $3,900,000 for two more years after this one and could be another multi-year solution for the position. Shaw isn’t fantastic on draws, but he brings energy, chips in offensively, and has a wealth of playoff experience, having won the Stanley Cup twice with Chicago.
What say you, Nation? Do any of these names make sense? How much of a priority should finding a third-line centre be for Holland?