This is a vitally important season for the Edmonton Oilers. The current plan, and the men who put it into place, will either be proven right or be shown the door due to more failure. The pressure is on in Edmonton, maybe more so than in any season prior to this.
With training camp just about two weeks away and September merely days away, it’s time to switch gears from off-season mode to hockey mode. How nice is that to say? Today, I’ll begin The Oilers Rig’s training camp preview series with a look at three burning questions that the team still must answer.
Although we all agreed this off-season was a big one and Bob Nicholson insisted there was a plan in place, it was awfully quiet in Oil Country this summer. The benefit of that? There was no massive late June trade that saw talent bled out once more. The downfall? On paper this club is not improved from last year.
The Burning Questions:
1.) When Will Darnell Nurse Sign? What’s Going On There and What Will The Deal Look Like?: I’d be pretty surprised if Nurse missed anytime in the preseason due to this contract situation. I firmly believe that Nurse’s agent and Peter Chiarelli are engaged in a stare down to see who buckles first. Recent history suggests Edmonton’s GM will be the one to bend, but Chiarelli has gone longer than normal with this negotiation.
If I was a betting man, I’d say Edmonton gets Nurse done just a day or two prior to the open of camp. I believe the holdup here is that the market is backed up for defenders like Nurse. Vegas has yet to sign Shea Theodore, Calgary has yet to sign Noah Hanafin and Winnipeg has yet to sign Josh Morrissey. All of these players are in very similiar positions and appear to have locked the market up.
My bet? A deal between Nurse and the Oilers will end up looking like a two-year, $3,500,000 per season bridge deal.
This is the most pressing issue for the Oilers entering camp in my opinion. With Andrej Sekera down and out, they can’t afford to have Nurse sitting on the sidelines when camp opens. They’ll need all hands on deck and then some to make sure this defense is good enough.
2.) Is The Club Done Addressing The Sekera Injury?: We’ve seen the Oilers sign Jakub Jerabek and add Jason Garrison on a PTO over the last nine days. Is that it for the response to Sekera’s massive injury? It would be an awfully conservative approach if so and would open management up to more criticism.
Are the Oilers serious about making a push for Carolina’s Justin Faulk? What about a veteran like Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller from a team with a surplus like Boston? Is Edmonton waiting for the biggest fish of them all, Erik Karlsson? (Hey, a man can dream right?)
Whether or not Edmonton adds to the defense will be a topic of discussion during camp, without doubt.
3.) Can One Of The Kids Step Up?: Pontus Aberg appeared to lose his chance immediately, and Drake Caggiula simply looked like he didn’t belong in the top-six last season. The Oilers didn’t add a top-six forward this summer, meaning someone is going to have to step up.
Which one of the kids will get the chance, and more importantly step up and take the job? Will it be Jesse Puljujarvi, who has worked his tail off all summer? Will it be the small but quick and talented Kailer Yamamoto, who almost took the gig a year ago? Or will it be someone else? Can Aberg redeem himself?
Someone needs to step up and take a key role in Edmonton’s offense. Who is it going to be? The club’s fortunes this season may just depend on the answer to this question.