An Early Look At The 2018-19 Oilers

An Early Look At The 2018-19 Oilers

Oilers

An Early Look At The 2018-19 Oilers

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll begin my annual look at potential free agent and trade options for the Oilers with my “Off-Season Targets” series. Before we get into that, we have two questions that need to be asked for GM Peter Chiarelli.

First, what is Chiarelli’s off-season shopping list look like? We answered that last week here. The other question? As things currently stand, is what does the Edmonton Oilers depth chart look like? This evening we will do our best to take a look at that.

The Forwards:

On Saturday night, the Oilers re-signed Ty Rattie to a one-year, $800,000 contract that sets Rattie up to make the NHL roster next season. He had a strong end to the campaign and built chemistry with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I think it is fair to suggest Todd McLellan and company expect Rattie to be with the team in Sweden on opening day.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Ty Rattie
Milan Lucic – Leon Draisaitl – XXX
XXX – Ryan Strome (RFA) – Jesse Puljujarvi
Jujhar Khaira – XXX – Zack Kassian
XXX, XXX

The top-line showed a lot of chemistry in the final weeks of the season and was quite a dynamic line. I’d prefer a more NHL-proven option than Rattie, but suspect the Oilers will give him a chance in training camp to keep the good times rolling.

Milan Lucic had a nightmare season for Edmonton, but common sense suggests there will be regression to the mean when it comes to his shooting percentage. On top of that, and I’ve been very hard on Lucic for good reason, I expect he’ll rebound to being a 20-goal, 45-50 point player. He’s got good chemistry with Draisaitl as well, and should be fine on line two.

Finding a veteran winger for this group is priority number one this summer in my mind. I’d be cool with a veteran like Thomas Vanek taking that spot, but suspect Chiarelli may actually end up aiming higher. Regardless, a scorer to help Leon drive this line would go a long way to solidifying the top-six group.

I suspect Ryan Strome will re-sign prior to July 1st, so I have him set as the third line center. Jesse Puljujarvi didn’t produce a ton of offense in the second half of the year, but I liked him and Strome together quite a bit. Adding a veteran winger, think Scott Hartnell, would really help this trio as well next season. They need someone who can help JP and provide a little offense. Boy, do I miss Benoit Pouliot for jobs like this.

On line four, I’ve taken the liberty of moving Jujhar Khaira to left-wing. He’s more effective on the wing in my opinion. Barring a trade, Zack Kassian will be back on line four as well. This trio will need a Mark Letestu replacement, and I’d love to see Derek Ryan be that guy.

In terms of extra forwards, the Oilers have plenty of internal options (Brad Malone, Iiro Pakarinen, Pontus Aberg) and won’t need to spend a lot of money on this spot. If McLellan sticks around I bet you can pencil Pakarinen into one of those spots.

The Defense:

The Oilers want to add a right-shot defender with powerplay instincts to this group, but I think health alone will be a huge help for this group. If Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera return to form, the defense will be fine in my estimation.

Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse (RFA) – XXX
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
XXX

Yohann Auvitu will not return next season, so the Oilers will need to find a seventh defender. Barring a buyout, Eric Gryba could return to fill that role in the final year of his contract.

Darnell Nurse will need a new contract, and that could get sticky, but I suspect a fair value bridge deal is the outcome there. In terms of the second-pairing, that’s where things get interesting.

The Oilers could deal Kris Russell or Andrej Sekera (unlikely due to injury) for cap space and then go hunting for a RHD. They also could trade in Klefbom for a guy like Tyson Barrie or Justin Faulk (A mistake in my mind).

Ideally, the Oilers get Sekera back healthy, allowing he and Russell to form a high quality third-pairing while Klefbom-Larsson regain their form from 2016-17. Matt Benning should be an easy contract to get done, and is a logical fit with Nurse on pairing two. I thought Benning struggled a bit this season, but if you have three strong pairings you can juggle things a bit.

The Goalies:

Cam Talbot
XXX

Cam Talbot was decent in the second half of the season, and my money is on him returning to form next season and being the man for Edmonton. I’m not as sold on Al Montoya being the guy to backup. Can he handle 20-25 games, as Chiarelli alluded to in his press conference? I don’t think so, and it appears the GM agrees with me there.

Montoya very well could win the job in training camp, but with Laurent Brossoit likely moving on as a free agent, I’d be stunned if the Oilers didn’t add either a veteran backup or a European option to the stable. They need a guy to capably push Talbot. Montoya, for whatever reason, was not that guy after being acquired.

The Depth Chart:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Ty Rattie
Milan Lucic – Leon Draisaitl – XXX
XXX – Ryan Strome (RFA) – Jesse Puljujarvi
Jujhar Khaira – XXX – Zack Kassian
XXX, XXX

Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse (RFA) – XXX (Matt Benning?)
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
XXX

Cam Talbot
XXX

There is work to be done. Not as many holes as previous years, but certainly ones that need filling ASAP if the Oilers are to return to the postseason next spring.

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