Tonight we continue our look into what has been named “The Summer of Mac” by Oilers fans everywhere. We’ve looked at the holes on the roster and made a to do list, and we also took a look at possible targets up front for the Oil. Tonight, we take a look at possible defenders that the Oilers could target this off-season.
The Top-Four: One thing is for certain, Justin Schultz will be back in Edmonton this year and playing a top four spot. He had a solid rookie season, and will only go up for this team. He improved as time went on, and he no doubt has the talent and potential to be an NHL top pairing guy very soon.
Also expected back is Jeff Petry, who is a very solid second pairing option in my mind. He isn’t great at any one thing, but can do a lot of things well. He’s a serviceable young defender with good skills and can handle 20 minutes a night. He’ll be back and playing a legit role once again. As will Ladislav Smid. The shut-down defender struggles moving the puck, but plays a good physical and defensive game. He’s a top four NHL defender as well.
That’s only three guys however. The Oilers need another top four NHL defender, and they need it badly. The most logical way to get that player is through trade, not free agency. With Mark Streit and Sergei Gonchar off the market, there isn’t much in way of UFA’s. Guys like Andrew Ference, Ron Hainsey and Jordan Leopold might help, but are they the kinds of guys Edmonton is looking for? I doubt it.
The trade market is the best way to go here. Kris Letang is an option, but I don’t think Edmonton will be willing to get into that kind of bidding war for a guy that will want HUGE money pretty soon. Dion Phaneuf has been mentioned, and while I’d be open to this, I don’t see a deal being done there. Jake Gardiner out of Toronto could be the guy, but it will cost Sam Gagner for that to happen, and I still feel it’s unlikely that Gagner gets traded.
The big name floating around right now? Flyers defender Braydon Coburn. Philly is in a major cap spot right now, and will need to move something out off their blueline to make room for Streit. That something could be Coburn.
Braydon is 28 years old, so he’s young enough to both have his prime ahead of him, and be part of the timeline in Edmonton. He’s a bigger guy at 6′ 5” 226 pounds, and he can play physical and has a solid defensive game to him. On top of that he also has the ability to move the puck and create offense. He’s a solid NHL top four defender, and he would upgrade the Oilers blue line in a very solid way.
Darren Dreger of TSN and Ryan Rishaug of TSN both have said the Oilers are interested, while well connected insider men Dan Tencer and Bob Stauffer have hinted at it as well. Edmonton and Philly are talking right now too. Coburn might be Edmonton’s best bet, and I’ll say they move the 7th overall pick and prospect Toni Rajala for the 11th overall pick and Coburn.
Depth Roles: Anton Belov will be a 3rd pairing guy for Edmonton this coming season, and he has the potential to be a real steal of a player. Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin will both be in the mix, but neither guy should be rushed, and both could use AHL time to improve their game. Both will head down to OKC, but get time as call-ups later in the year.
Corey Potter is a solid puck moving option, and was actually pretty good when he got into the Oilers lineup this past season. He isn’t the flashiest player, but for a 7th defender on a puck possession team, he should get the job done.
Nick Schultz was a top four guy in Edmonton last year, but it was quite clear he simply wasn’t good enough in that role. Schultz is making a hefty $3.5 M for one more season. Hes a good veteran, but it is highly questionable whether or not he fits with the Oilers right now. My gut tells me he doesn’t, and that he’ll be moved on to a team like the Hurricanes or Islanders, who could use some defensive depth.
The Oilers will most likely dip into the UFA pool as well. Most will want Edmonton boy Andrew Ference to return, but I think he stays out east. Paul Ranger, a guy with lots of potential, is a very interesting name that has been connected to Edmonton. The Oilers are the favorites to sign him if he returns, and that’s due to his connection with Dallas Eakins.
I think Ranger does sign on to be Edmonton’s number six defender, and gets a one year 900 K contract to get back into the league. A ‘prove-it’ kind of deal.
I’ll be back with a lot of content on Saturday. We’ll take a look at possible goalie fits in Edmonton this summer, and a quick recap of the Keith Acton hiring. I’ll also have some draft talk coming up tomorrow. Stay tuned folks, it’s going to be a fun ride these next two weeks! Follow me on twitter @Alex_Thomas14!