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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Who are the Oilers untouchables?

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a brand new edition of the Monday Mailbag which means that our writers have an opportunity for you to not only learn something but to also avoid your responsibilities for a few minutes. In this week’s Mailbag, we take a look at the price of goaltending, Ken Holland’s untouchables, and a lot more. As always, I need questions for next week so if you have something you’d like to ask you can email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter. Have a great week, everybody!

1) Steph asks – Word has come out that Ken Holland has already spoken to the Pittsburgh Penguins about Matt Murray but that the first-round pick they’d need in return is too much for the Oilers to spend. Purely as a guess based on their current assets, what would you be willing to part with if it meant getting a younger goaltender like Murray that could potentially grow with the team moving forward?

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Jason Gregor:

After speaking with Holland there is zero chance he trades a first for Matt Murray. Murray hasn’t played very well for the past three seasons. He needs to be qualified at $3.75m and he isn’t worth that right now. There are better options in the unrestricted market and the Oilers won’t have to give up an asset to sign them.

Robin Brownlee:

If I’m Holland, I’m not looking for the “potential” you mention in any trade for a goaltender. I’d be looking for a goaltender with some seasons under his belt who has proven he can play but might be stuck behind an established starter. If Koskinen is out of here after the next two seasons, as I suspect he will be, you need to get somebody who has better than a so-so chance to step in after a couple of seasons of splitting time — if you can. Right now, free agency looks like the best way to go. As always, cost plays a big part.

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Cam Lewis:

I wouldn’t give up too much, to be honest. There are a decent amount of options on the free-agent market when it comes to goaltenders so giving up an asset to acquire one doesn’t make much sense. If Edmonton strikes out on Thomas Greiss, Robin Lehner, and Anton Khudobin, I would look into somebody like Antti Raanta from a team in Arizona who badly wants to shed salary.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I wouldn’t move the pick for Matt Murray, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t move it for another goalie. If one of the goalies in Columbus are available or if there was a bigger deal to be made with Arizona for Darcy Kuemper, then I would strongly consider it. But Matt Murray, considering the season he had, is not worth the 14th overall pick.

Nation Dan:

I don’t know if the Penguins need anything more than D help? Maybe a third line C? Sound familiar? Other than a pick(s) based trade, I don’t know if there is anything we can do other than that.

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Baggedmilk:

If Ken Holland is going to make a move on a goalie that requires him to trade away some of the limited assets he has at his disposal, then he’d better get it right. This year’s draft class is supposed to be reasonably strong and I don’t know that I’d be willing to trade the first round pick unless it’s attached to an impact winger or something like that.

Jun 21, 2019; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Philip Broberg poses for a photo after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

2) Trey asks – Outside of the obvious McDavid and Draisaitl, are there any untouchables for you on this Oilers roster?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see any. But there are some highly unlikely to be moved. Bear, Yamamoto, Jones…and I say them due to their age and contracts.

Robin Brownlee:

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There is no such thing as untouchables. Wayne Gretzky was traded (sold).

Cam Lewis:

Connor McDavid is the obvious one. Leon Draisaitl is up there too. Given his contract, it’s hard to imagine winning an Oscar Klefbom trade. Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, and Caleb Jones are also very valuable given their price tags. But, ultimately, I would say McDavid is probably the only actual non-starter with Draisaitl close behind.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom (his contract is amazing), and Ethan Bear are all very very close to untouchable. They obviously aren’t on the same level as McDavid and Draisaitl, but they’re close. I’ll even add Yamamoto and Jones to this list because they’re cheap and have shown they can contribute at the NHL level. For prospects, it would take A LOT for me to be okay with trading one of Bouchard or Broberg. They’re also very close to untouchable.

Nation Dan:

Those are the only two who would never garner a trade offer worth looking at. Every other player on the team could be offered for by a reasonable team. Do I want to trade Nuge, Bear, Yam, or Brad Malone? Nope, but any deal has to be listened to.

Baggedmilk:

NUUUUUUUUUUGE! He’s a swiss army knife for this team and that’s incredibly valuable, especially now that he’s putting points in at a point-per-game basis since being moved to the wing. Why move a guy that can put up points on the wing and swing back to centre if you need him to? Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, Evan Bouchard, and Philip Broberg would also make my list.

Mar 9, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Las Vegas Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy (10) shoots the puck against Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) during the third period at Rogers Place. Golden Knights won the game 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

3) Marc asks – What do you expect from Ethan Bear in 2020-21? Since not many of us would have expected him to grab hold of a spot the way he did last year, I’m wondering if everyone is expecting another step forward or does that become more difficult since the other teams now know how good he can be?

Jason Gregor:

Small improvements are what you hope for. Mainly defensive reads. Teams will be more aware of him, and I think we saw they try to play him more physically. If Bear can play at the same level that will be a huge positive for the Oilers. It is difficult to improve, because the next steps of improvement from very good to elite are much harder than going from no expectations to very good like he did last year.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s easier to make big gains as a new player. The higher you climb, the more difficult the next step is. Part of Bear’s improvement came because he made a commitment to conditioning. That has to continue. I doubt we’ll know exactly what his ceiling is for two or three years. He just turned 23 on June 26.

Cam Lewis:

I would be happy if Bear is as good in 2020-21 as he was in 2019-20. His jump this season was massive and the Oilers need him to remain a good top-four defender.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think we should be expecting him to continue being a solid top-four defenseman with very good puck-moving skills. However, if he takes a slight step back next season, or doesn’t take another massive leap forward, no one should be upset. He’s still young and rather inexperienced. Players don’t always develop in a straight line. If Bear has a few rough stretches next season, it doesn’t mean he still won’t be a really good top-four defenseman for the next decade.

Nation Dan:

I am trying to be optimistic but there will likely be regression for some on the roster (Yamamoto, Jones, etc.) and while I think Bear is probably going to do just fine as he’s not just a rookie that came from no where. He worked hard to get here and has seen being passed by others, and I hope won’t allow that to happen again.

Baggedmilk:

I think that expecting him to play sound defensive minutes while also chipping in with a little bit of offence would be an acceptable ask. If I’m being greedy, I’d love to see a jump in his offensive numbers simply because I think he has the puck skills and shot to make it happen.

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4) Oilers fan in Van asks – This week, the Oilers signed Adam Cracknell to a two-way contract which had some fans scratching their heads so my question for the group is how important is it to an organization to have a competitive AHL team? Does it matter? If not, why sign vets like Cracknell?

Jason Gregor:

It is important, and Cracknell was brought in because he is a highly competitive and will be a good mentor for young kids. Having veterans to learn from in the minors is very important. Brad Malone signed an AHL deal, Jurco won’t be re-signed and they might not re-sign Currie. Any people scratching their head missed the point of signed  Cracknell. You need some good veteran leaders, who can also play and contribute, on your AHL team.

Robin Brownlee:

Players who travel the road Cracknell has, know what it takes to be a pro and that can be of great value to young players who are developing. Guys like Cracknell who’ve spent their careers on the fringes of NHL rosters (210 games) and in the minors or in Europe can be great assets — not because of what they say, but because of what they do and how they lead by example.

Cam Lewis:

It’s always good to have quality veterans in the minors who can mentor young players. From all I’ve heard, Cracknell is a very well-liked and respected teammate.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It does matter. It sounds old-school, but I still believe that having a winning culture in your organization is important. Having your prospects play in meaningful games in the American Hockey League is important. Having solid veterans for them to learn from when they aren’t in the NHL is important. There is no downside to the Cracknell signing.

Nation Dan:

The goal has to be to have a competitive AHL team that gives your prospects an environment where they have the best chance to succeed and have some people around them that push them to continue to grow. Adding some guys who have NHL experience gives them just that. This signing makes nothing but sense.

Baggedmilk:

I think it’s important to have a competitive AHL team because it brings prospects into an environment that expects to win. Right from the moment they turn pro, kids will be expected to win and I think that’s a much better alternative than having them get shelled on a nightly basis.

July 28, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA; A general view of Rogers Place is seen before an exhibition game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on July 28, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. Mandatory Credit: Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

5) Adam asks – It’s early but I’d like to know everyone’s predictions as for who will face off in the Stanley Cup finals and what the outcome will be? Who wins and how many games will it take?

Jason Gregor:

I took Tampa Bay last October. I took them when the season re-started, and I will stick with it. They are simply too deep. Only way they lose is if they encounter some more injuries.

Robin Brownlee:

It looks like Tampa Bay vs. Dallas to me. Almost nobody took Dallas to get past Colorado, but here they are. With Brayden Point back I’ll take the Lightning in six.

Cam Lewis:

I don’t see anybody beating Tampa Bay.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I believe the Lightning will beat the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games.

Nation Dan:

Vegas is coming back against the Stars. It’s going to be a Lightning cup win in 6

Baggedmilk:

I’m going with the Lightning to beat the Stars in six games.

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