While the end of the 2016-17 season was certainly a disappointment, the Edmonton Oilers emerged from the ashes and solidified themselves as a playoff team. In my mind, the Oilers also solidified themselves as a true Stanley Cup contender moving forward.
The club has a franchise forward in Connor McDavid, another elite forward in Leon Draisaitl, a strong defensive group and a legit starting goalie in Cam Talbot. In my mind, the Oilers are a few roster tweaks away from truly competing for a Stanley Cup Championship.
Matt Henderson, one of the smarter Oiler bloggers out there, seems to agree with me. You can read his take here, and I highly recommend that you do.
So, what do the Edmonton Oilers need to do to live up to their billing as a contender next season? Here is, to my eyes, the list of things to do for GM Peter Chiarelli in what is another important off-season for the club.
As a reminder, this list has been something that I’ve come up with the last few years and is inspired by Lowetide and his list over at his blog. His 2017 version (well, to this point) can be found here.
1.): Sign Connor McDavid – I think this is an absolute given and I believe we should hear about it by the time the Canada Day/4th of July weekend wraps up. It’ll be an eight year term, but the dollars should be interesting. Does $12.5 million get it done? Give McDavid a blank check, this guy is completely worth it.
2.) Sign Leon Draisaitl – This negotiation might be a littler more difficult because of Leon’s tremendous regular season and arguably even better playoff. He dominated against the Ducks and, to me, emerged as a legit driver this season. He’s a huge part of this club’s future. Does eight years by, say $7 million get it done? I’d be willing to make that deal.
3.) Address second-pairing RHD – Kris Russell filled this role admirably this season, but I don’t think he will be returning. The Oilers like him, but he’s likely priced himself out of Edmonton’s range and will be leaving town. The Oilers will need another right-shot to compliment Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson in the top-four.
I think Travis Hamonic of the Islanders would be a perfect fit for the club via trade, while Justin Faulk and Tyson Barrie represent other possible trade options. Cody Franson, Russell and Michael Stone all could be fits as free agents. Would an Eberle-for-Hamonic swap make any sense at this stage?
4.) Add a 3rd line center or top six RW – So this is a little tricky because it totally depends on what the Oilers do with Leon Draisaitl. The big German can be a fit with McDavid on the right wing, but if that is the case it creates a hole at center. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has to shift to the second line, while Mark Letestu holds down the fort on the third line.
If Edmonton plans on using Draisaitl on right wing, they’ll need to add a third line center. We know they liked both Brian Boyle and Martin Hanzal at the deadline, and both of them are UFA’s. David Krejci could be available from Boston, but he has a big contract that would be tough to fit in.
If Draisaitl ends up staying at center, the Oilers would need to add a right winger to provide some depth to a position lacking it. I’m not sold that Jordan Eberle returns next season, and I don’t know about Jesse Puljujarvi’s offense. TJ Oshie, Radim Vrbata, Justin Williams and Drew Stafford could all be good fits on the right wing if Edmonton goes the free agent route.
5.) Figure out the Mark Fayne/Benoit Pouliot situations – Regardless of the decision, Edmonton needs to figure something out with these two. Fayne is entering a contract year, so I doubt he gets bought out. Why have him on the books for McDavid’s next deal? Barring a trade, I suspect he’ll be in the AHL again next season.
Pouliot is interesting because I think he still still play, but the Oilers need to get his money off the books. It’ll be interesting to see what Peter Chiarelli does with the veteran who had a disaster of a season. This is a golden chance to create some cap space.
6.) Add depth: The Oilers would bode well to add a forward or two to their bottom six group that can add offense and possibly kill penalties. As an example, signing someone like Dominic Moore or PA Parenteau wouldn’t hurt.
Defensively, the club will be in need of seventh and eighth defenders. If he doesn’t get claimed in expansion, Griffin Reinhart is likely the 7D, while Eric Gryba can also fill the role. Would adding a veteran to shuttle between Bakersfield and Edmonton be a terrible idea? I don’t think it would.
It’s not as long of a list for Peter Chiarelli as years past, but it is certainly a tough one. That said, I think it is realistic for him to check off all these boxes and if he can do that, this team will be competing deep into the spring of 2018. The window is open, time for the Oilers to take advantage of it.