Yesterday we made a list of what Craig MacTavish needs to do this summer. It was a long list, and it included a rebuild within the rebuild in Edmonton. The main area that needs work? The forward group.
So what does Edmonton need to do, and who can fill the holes that Edmonton has?
The First Line: Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle will all be back for Edmonton next season, so there’s no need to focus on the top line. Hall came into his own as a superstar during the shortened season, while Eberle has showed us he is totally capable of being a top line option in the NHL.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins improved in everything but scoring in his second season, and he was playing with a clear shoulder injury. With his potential, it’s fair to expect RNH to bounce back, and it is safe to assume he’ll be the Oilers top pivot.
Line Two: Nail Yakupov is a shoe-in for the right wing spot here, but the other two spots are up for debate. Sam Gagner is a RFA, and its very possible he might be pricing himself out of Edmonton. I might be alone here, but I see Gagner as a replaceable asset, and a player that is way too inconsistent and has too many faults.
Sam is a good player, but I question whether he can be the long term second line center behind RNH. That said, my opinion means nothing to Craig MacTavish, and the Oilers media is suggesting he gets signed to a deal in the area of four years and $4.75 M per season. So we’ll say that’s what Sam signs for, and he centers line two.
The Oilers need a left winger, and that will need to come trough a transaction. Nathan Horton (though a natural RW) could be a perfect fit here. He has great scoring ability, size, and can play physical. Not to mention, Nathan is a very, very clutch player.
The ideal guy is rarely THE guy, and Horton might get somewhere close to $6 M on the open market, so I assume Edmonton looks to other options here. Clarke MacArthur is a solid option, and would no doubt be an affordable one too. He’s not a great player, but his style of play and offensive ability makes him a candidate to fill this spot. I think he would excel with Yak and Sam as well.
Brenden Morrow and Ryane Clowe will also be on the market, but I suspect both will get big money deals with contending teams, and Edmonton won’t be in the mix. David Clarkson is another interesting name. The 30 goal scorer who plays physical and has a great possession game to him will be highly sought after, so I assume a bidding war starts there.
I’ll say the Oilers fill this with the signing of Clarke MacArthur to a two year deal that pays him $3.5 M per season.
Line Three: Magnus Paajarvi will end up re-signing with Edmonton, and will get the left wing spot on this line. He could be a really valuable player if he learns consistency, so I’m okay with him here. The center spot will need a little fixing, and this is another area where MacTavish dips into the free agent pool.
Matt Cullen is a veteran that can fill this role, but the ideal guy is Coyotes pivot Boyd Gordon. The 29 year old is a solid defensive center that was relied on heavily in that role by Dave Tippet, one of the league’s best coaches. Gordon is strong in the circle, and can also play special teams. He’d be a perfect fit, and I believe MacTavish will pursue him when the frenzy starts.
I’ll say Edmonton nabs him on a two year deal worth $2.3 M per season.
The right wing spot could be fixed a few different ways. The unlikely one is that Hemsky sticks around for his contract year. The other options? Free agents like Chad Larose, Brad Boyes and Chuck Kobasew could all fill the role quite well, but I’m not sure those are the kinds of guys MacT is looking for.
The trade route is totally open too. The Bruins are looking to shed cap, and forward Rich Peverley has proven he can handle tough minutes on a solid team. The Oilers might want to call on him. Another option is Wild RFA Cal Clutterbuck, who might be a cap casualty. With so much cap already used, the Wild will have a tough time signing him. There is a rumor floating around too that the Oilers and Wild have talked, and Minny likes Tyler Pitlick.
I’ll say the Oilers deal Tyler Pitlick and a 2014 2nd round pick to Minny for the rights to Cal Clutterbuck and sign him to a two year deal worth $2 M per season.
Line Four And Extras: Ryan Smyth will return as Edmonton’s fourth line left winger, and I expect him to be much more effective in that role than the center role he played last year. At center, Max Lapierre, Manny Malhotra, David Steckel and Jeff Halpern all provide a solid veteran presence with solid defensive skills and face-off ability, which is exactly what Edmonton needs.
The Oilers will want a guy that can play a shift too, so I think Max Lapierre on a one year $1.2 M deal fits best here.
On the right side, Mike Brown will see some time, but the Oilers will want to add another guy too to platoon with the fighter. Someone like Anthony Stewart, Jamal Mayers, Radek Dvorak or Brandon Yip would provide a physical and able body. For arguments sake, I’ll say Mayers signs a one year deal around 900K.
As for extra forwards, Mike Brown will be one, while I expect the Oilers to sign a guy like Marty Reasoner or even bring back Jerrod Smithson to fill that hole on a small money deal.
My ideal look for the Oilers next year up front…
- Brown, Smithson/Reasoner
Now of course, this won’t be the exact roster, but it gives you an idea of the options out there for MacT. I’d love to hear what you all think too! I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at the blue line and in net. Follow me on twitter @Alex_Thomas14 in the meantime!