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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Caleb Jones where are you?

Happy Monday, amigos, and welcome to a brand new Mailbag where I’ve taken your questions about what’s happening with the Edmonton Oilers, emailed them to our writers, and copied and pasted their answers right here on the ol’ Internet for your education and enjoyment. This week, we’re looking at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ potential extension, Caleb Jones, defensive pairings, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got one, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

Jan 24, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) is congratulated by his team mates on his goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at Bell MTS Place.

1) Kevin asks – There has been a lot of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins talk this past week and I’m curious to know what is everyone’s best guess on the outcome? Does he extend? Traded?

Jason Gregor:

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I see no reason the Oilers trade him. That won’t happen. They want to go on a playoff run. It will depend what market looks like in the summer when teams have a better sense of what financial future looks like. I think there is a chance he tests free agency, to see what others are offering, but still could sign with Edmonton after seeing what other teams offer. I think many UFAs will be taking less than they’d hoped for a year ago.

Robin Brownlee:

I’d like to see him re-signed for five years at a number that makes sense under the flat cap teams are faced with for the next 3-4 years. After that, beyond the fifth year when he is 33, I’d take a look at what makes sense then in one or two-year chunks.

Cam Lewis:

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I’ve been saying for a while it would be weird to give him a new contract before the Expansion Draft because that adds another player who must be protected. I don’t see the Oilers better off letting Nugent-Hopkins walk and replacing him with someone else but Ken Holland does need to set a limit on what this contract can be. I think $7 million over seven years annually would be fine.

Baggedmilk:

GIVE HIM WHATEVER HE WANTS! In all seriousness, I think he will get signed somewhere around $6.5 million but the term is what I wouldn’t bet on. Then again, it’s not like this franchise doesn’t have a history of stiffing Ryans over a few hundred thousand dollars.

Feb 11, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) stops Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) during the first period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

2) Jon asks – Do you think that the handedness of a defenceman and the side they play is weighted too heavily? I played (not even close to NHL albeit) and I preferred the off-side. I’ll admit there are trade-offs like board work on the backhand but these are NHL calibre players and the negatives are balanced in my mind with positives like one-timers and the ability to skate to the middle of the ice in a forehand shooting position.

Jason Gregor:

It is more about in the D zone, having to try and get the puck out on your backhand. I think it is more about defending than worrying about one-timers or the offensive side. I think puck movers have a better chance to handle playing their off wing. But if a player has always played RD, they are used to turning to their right more while defending attacking winger. Playing LD, now they have to always turn to their left. I believe it is more about defending, and for most players playing their off-side is more challenging.

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Robin Brownlee:

It certainly gets focused on more now than 10-15 years ago. Honestly, I think it depends on the player. Some guys are only comfortable on one side. Others can play both with no problem. Ability to turn, pivot and skate factors into it too. Offensively, guys who can walk the line on the forehand or backhand can always get the puck into the middle of the ice.

Cam Lewis:

I think it’s one of those fine detail things that varies from player to player. How comfortable are you pivoting on a certain side, picking up the puck on the board on your backhand vs forehand, and so on. More fine-skilled players, I figure, are likely to excel on their off-side.

Baggedmilk:

It makes sense why you would want guys on their correct sides, but I don’t know how much difference it would make to a legitimately skilled defenceman that can handle the puck better than most.

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Sep 17, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) skates against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

3) Mathieu asks – Evan Bouchard seems to be easing in well on the blue line for the Oilers and I’m wondering what is everyone’s first impression of how he’s doing so far this season?

Jason Gregor:

He has been fine. In the offensive zone he looks NHL ready. He will need some more refining in his D zone, which is to be expected. Getting some NHL games will only help his development.

Robin Brownlee:

Shows good poise and patience for a young player. Has the ability to get the puck through to the net with either a wrist shot or the slapper, and he’s got a bomb. Still has to mind his gaps defensively and engage physically in front of the net. Being in the right spot is one thing, doing something when you get there is another.

Cam Lewis:

He’s come as advertised. He moves the puck very well and controls the game well from the blueline in the offensive zone. As usual with young defencemen, there are issues on the defensive side still, but I’ve found Bouchard’s play to be a very positive aspect of the team this year.

Baggedmilk:

I love Bouchard’s puck skills and his willingness to shoot from everywhere. In the long run, those skills are going to make him an invaluable asset to this organization and I’m looking forward to watching him get there. In the interim, Bouchard is bound to make the kind of mistakes that rookies make and I think we all have to be patient with him as he learns the craft.

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Caleb Jones (82) in action during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

4) Steph asks – Caleb Jones hasn’t played much and it’s confusing to me based on the struggles of some of the other LHD like Koekkoek. What are you seeing on the defence that can make some sense of this situation?

Jason Gregor:

Jones didn’t defend well early on, so Koekkoek got more chances, mainly due to his PK, but also as a pure defender. Then William Lagesson came in and played well and he was the one who took Jones spot with Larsson. I don’t think the Oilers wanted to have Jones/Bouchard as a pair, but they likely will be Tuesday. It doesn’t mean they can’t have success, as I think Jones will play better. Him being out was more about the Oilers having depth, than him playing terrible. He wasn’t as good as he or the coaches wanted him to be early, but with Koekkoek out for the season, Jones will get a chance to redeem himself. Just like Khaira, Ennis, Neal and Chiasson. When they got back in they have played well and are coach rewards them. I expect the same with Jones. If he plays well, he will get more looks.

Robin Brownlee:

More depth and competition now than last season, so Dave Tippett has more options. With the injury to Koekkoek Saturday we’ll see more of Jones. Jones can move in and play with Larsson while Russell drops down to play with Bouchard — just a guess (without factoring Bear in until he’s ready to go).

Cam Lewis:

Tippett seems to be prioritizing getting steady, defensive defencemen into the lineup. With Tyson Barrie, a real wild card defensively, already in the mix, it’s difficult for Caleb Jones, a guy who has gaffes defensively, to also get in over guys like William Lagesson or Slater Koekkoek. With those injuries, Jones will surely be back and he can use this as a chance to show off a better defensive game. If he does, he’ll play more.

Baggedmilk:

With Koekkoek out for the season, now is the time that we’ll see what Caleb Jones can do. This is his chance to shine.

Dec 6, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and forward Leon Draisaitl (29) discuss a play during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

5) James in Peterborough asks – Leadership, especially in the dressing room is hard to quantify. Do you think the Oilers should be looking at some impactful veterans who have had playoff success to help with this? Thinking a Getzlaf or Staal-type player?

Jason Gregor:

Getzlaf would be a great addition, and not just in leadership — he’d be a force as a third line C. But I don’t see Holland giving up much at the deadline this year. I think there is a better chance to land Getzlaf as a UFA, rather than trading more assets for a potential rental.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t think rent-a-leader works — certainly not via a move that comes during the season. The leadership group here has been grown from within. Nothing wrong with adding some experience with an older player if the need is there and the price is right, but experience doesn’t necessarily translate to leadership.

Cam Lewis:

Adding veterans who can still contribute is always a good thing. Getzlaf has played a lot of meaningful hockey in his career and he’s still a good player. I would be all for that, though I don’t expect Ken Holland to go hard at the trade deadline given the two second-round picks he gave up (and more) last year.

Baggedmilk:

Getzlaf would be an awesome 3C but I’d also imagine that he’d be a costly one to acquire. Besides, the Oilers are still in a spot where we’d be better off if they hoard assets rather than give them up for a Hail Mary Cup run.

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