Late last week I entered the roster phase of the “How To Fix The Edmonton Oilers” series. I took a look at the 2018-19 Edmonton Oilers and picked out which players could comfortably be counted on for next season.
The depth chart is bare and needs a lot of work between now and next opening night, that much we know. Here’s a look at what we came away with as a skeleton for next season from this season.
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – XXX
XXX – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – XXX
Jujhar Khaira – XXX – Sam Gagner
XXX – XXX – Zack Kassian
Colby Cave, XXX
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Andrej Sekera
Caleb Jones – Kris Russell
We did not address the goaltending position, but I’d wager that Mikko Koskinen returns as the starter for this hockey club. The backup job, however, is up for grabs. Anthony Stolarz gets the first crack at it and likely starts his audition tomorrow night in Ottawa.
Building Next Season:
One of my favorite things to do as a hockey nerd is to visit Cap Friendly’s website and play around with their Armchair GM tool. It’s a lot of fun to put ideas on paper and try to fit a team under the salary cap. For today’s exercise, I’ll be using that tool to build the 2019-20 Oilers. You can play around with it here.
As a reminder, here are the things we said a week ago the Oil will be looking for this off-season:
Three top-six forwards. The most likely solution is a trade to fill one spot, Yamamoto/Puljujarvi for one spot and a free agent for the other. It’ll be a tight squeeze.
A third and fourth line center. Kyle Brodziak very well could return as 4C but I’d look to upgrade.
A fourth line left winger. Tyler Benson anyone?
A seventh defender. Could be Gravel or any bargain UFA.
We will be using an $83 million salary cap, which is the current projection for next season. That won’t be set in stone until some point in the spring, but for now that is the number we will use as it is also a pretty favorable projection for Edmonton. (source)
Re-Signings And Drafting:
The first thing I did was re-sign some players off the current roster. After not trading Alex Chiasson, I elected to re-sign him based off of the verbal we have been hearing in recent weeks. I also elected to bring back Kevin Gravel as a cheap seventh defender and Anthony Stolarz as the backup netminder.
Here’s the list of players re-signed:
UFA’s: Alex Chiasson (1 year, $900,000), Kevin Gravel (1 year, $750,000) and Anthony Stolarz (1 year, $875,000)
RFA’s: Shane Starrett (2 years, $875,000), Jesse Puljujarvi (2 years, $1,750,000), Jujhar Khaira (1 year, $875,000) and Joe Gambardella (1 year, $800,000)
I’ve kept Edmonton’s first-round pick in 2019 because I think it is vital that the Oil add another impact prospect. The system is getting better, but it still isn’t where it needs to be quite yet. After using an NHL draft simulator, the Oilers selected 6th overall. The Red Wings won the first overall choice in this simulation and will draft Jack Hughes.
Using draftsite.com’s mock draft, Edmonton selects RW Matthew Boldy from the US NTDP. The right winger will attend Boston College next season and develop for the next two seasons in college.
In order to fix things, the Oilers are going to have to be active on the trade front. The biggest area of strength, outside of center? Left defense, where the Oilers have five NHL’ers and a number of solid prospects. If I were GM, I’d be shopping Darnell Nurse in hopes of shaking loose a 25-goal scorer on the wing. I’m not dumping Nurse, but I’m trying to reverse Adam Larsson him this summer.
The Winnipeg Jets are going to be in a tough spot cap wise, and could lose both Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba. Nurse is under contract for next season and carries a manageable cap hit of $3,200,000. Nurse is a natural fit for the Jets, and would fill a hole while also relieving some of their cap issues.
The Oilers deal Nurse ($3,200,000) and the rights to D John Marino (unsigned NCAA) for Jets’ LW Nikolaj Ehlers ($6,000,000).
After bringing Ehlers in and making the re-signings above, the Oilers will have $4,883,001 in cap space, which isn’t enough to finish off the roster. The Oilers began talks with teams at the deadline to move out F Milan Lucic and should act on them this summer.
Flexing their financial muscles to pay the bonus owed to Lucic on July 1st likely ups his value, so any trade should happen on July 2nd or later. I’ve used the Ottawa Senators as my target. The Sens will be terrible again next season and need to hit the cap floor. Lucic heads there for a season before he’s flipped to a contender at a discounted rate in 2020.
The Oil deal Lucic ($6,000,000) and their 2020 first-round pick to Ottawa for F JG Pageau ($3,100,000).
Edmonton stays in Ontario for another trade, this time finishing off a conversation started at the deadline. After Jake Gardiner leaves as a free agent, the Leafs become desperate for puck moving defenders. The Oil help them out by sending Matt Benning ($1.900,000) to them in exchange for F Connor Brown ($2,100,000).
The Oilers, in this model, would be quiet in free agency. The forward group will have been reshaped via trade and wouldn’t need a major addition from the free agent group. The defense would still be searching for someone however, preferably a right-shot to replace Benning.
Tyler Myers is the most appealing option, but can Edmonton fit him under the cap? Unlikely unless the club also trades Kris Russell, which I don’t think they have an appetite to do if Nurse goes via trade. Could it be Evan Bouchard, Joel Persson or Ethan Bear? Absolutely, but pairing them with Caleb Jones is risky as you don’t want two rookies on the ice at once.
I’ve selected Dan Girardi for the role, signing a one-year, $2,750,000 contract with the club. He’s not my top pick, not even close, but I could very well see him being Edmonton’s choice for the third-pairing after dealing Benning.
Why? Girardi is actually putting together a solid season playing 17:43 a night in Tampa Bay. He’s a veteran leader, plays a shutdown style and brings character to the room, all Bob Nicholson buzzwords. He’s not perfect at all, but it’s the kind of signing I expect from Edmonton this summer. On a one-year term, I don’t hate it either.
So, with all of our re-signings, trades and free agent signings in the books, here is what the Edmonton Oilers look like heading into 2019-20:
Nikolaj Ehlers – Connor McDavid – Kailer Yamamoto
Leon Draisaitl – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jesse Puljujarvi
Connor Brown – JG Pageau – Sam Gagner
Jujhar Khaira – Kyle Brodziak – Zack Kassian
Colby Cave, Alex Chiasson
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
Caleb Jones – Dan Girardi
I’ve selected Yamamoto and Puljujarvi for NHL jobs simply because there is just too much to get done in a single summer. Yamamoto has looked good in small samples with McDavid before, and I feel like he could survive and develop in that kind of skill role in his draft +3 season.
Puljujarvi would get a top-six role with two players he’s had success with before, and wouldn’t have the insane pressure on him because of the Ehlers addition. The new third line brings a lot more skill and speed to the table, while the fourth line is a coach’s dream in terms of leadership and toughness.
Defensively, I love the top pair of Klefbom and Larsson. Sekera is a proven top-four defender, and I think he and Russell are good together. It’s not ideal, but it will have to work while Evan Bouchard takes the next step in his development.
Girardi is a fine stop-gap and while overpaid, would be on a one-year deal to hold a roster spot for Persson/Bear/Bouchard. I think Jones is ready and I love Gravel as insurance in case Jones falters. It’s not a sexy defensive group, but help is on the way and I think this group can hang on when combined with a much improved forward group.
Salary wise, this roster comes out with a $79,781,165 cap hit, leaving them with $3,218,835 in space. Plenty to go shopping at the deadline.
What say you, Oiler fans? What would you do differently? Do you think this roster can make the playoffs? Would you be content if this was the team next season?