Jun 9, 2017
2nd Favourite Team
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I think Holland is remaining true to his word, this is a gradual process intended to build a perennial playoff team. He's managed to do very well considering both his deadline deals with Detroit turned out to be busts and he is working under a flat cap. Unless it is confirmed that Klefbom will be out for the entire next season, any further moves will have to involve trades because the Oilers don't have enough cap space to sign any additional players. So 1LW remains a question mark, and barring a significant move between now and then, it will remain a question mark heading into the 21/22 season.
For this year, it may be that Ennis and Nygard both get opportunities, since both have played well with McDavid. Archibald can also play LW, so he might get some time there as well. I don't think it would be a good idea to try Yamamoto there, although I suspect he would do fine.
The Oilers may have one of the best lines in hockey if RNH, Draisaitl, and Yamamoto can reignite their play together. McDavid is a 100 + point player regardless of who his linemates are. It would be nice to find him a complimentary winger, but that is not as important as ensuring that second line remains an effective threat to the opposition.
Holland doesn't have a lot of money to play with. He seems to have done a fine job signing Puljujarvi and Turris, and those were his top priorities. J.P.'s term was a bit of a surprise, and his salary in keeping with what many expected. The AAV allocated to Turris might turn out to represent outstanding value for a 3C. Still both contracts erode cap space and so there is less money left to get Bear under contract, find another NHL goaltender, and perhaps add some veteran defence to shore up the unit in Klefbom's absence. The top-tier goalies were out of Edmonton's price range, and are probably not exactly what the Oilers absolutely need. It would have been nice to bring in a true starting goalie, but a solid veteran to share the load with Koskinen is probably going to have to be good enough. Evidently, $3.9M x 2 was enough for Crawford to go to a rebuilding team, so I wonder whether that was too rich for the Oilers. If not, then perhaps Holland should go for the throat and offer Chiasson (50% retained) to Vegas in exchange for Fluery (50% retained) and next year's 2nd round pick. That gives him a proven goaltender with two years remaining under contract. Vegas need cap space and apparently nobody is willing to help them out with their current ask. The hit to Edmonton is an AAV increase of $2,425,000 this season, and $3,500,000 next season, but they get a second round pick back. Vegas clears $2,425,000 in AAV this year, and $3,500,000 next year, and they give up one of their two 2021 2nd round picks; they can try to flip Chiasson for a draft pick, and clear additional space for this coming season. Even better, offer Khaira, rather than Chiasson. The pressure to win now is a bit artificial, and has been exacerbated by the strong showing the team had in the last regular season. I have a difficult time believing Holland will completely abandon the strategy he has had in place since arriving in Edmonton. I am confident that finding someone to share the crease with Koskinen, a 3C, and either signing Athanasiou to an affordable contract or finding other options to play with McDavid rank higher for Holland than tinkering with the defence. Although Edmonton doesn't currently have a true #1 d-man, I believe the noise regarding OEL is way off base and that Holland is targeting potential changes in the bottom pair and 7th man rather than the top 4.
Larsson may be showing signs of decline at a relatively early age but he's still a decent top-4 RHD and he's on an expiring contract. Klefbom and Nurse are Edmonton's top two d-men. Klefbom is entering those years when NHL d-men tend to hit their prime, Nurse has a couple of seasons to go before reaching that stage. Bear, if he can continue to improve, can only be seen as a very pleasant surprise and decent second-pair RHD. Jones is a better skater and is more athletic, and he may surpass Bear if he can have a similar break out this season. Lagesson is a younger left-handed version of Larsson, Bouchard is ready for more NHL time, Broberg is playing the role of a #1 d-man in the SHL, Samorukov has had a strong start to his KHL season, Kesselring seems to get better and better, Kemp is no slouch, and there are a slew of older European prospects playing pro hockey in Sweden and Finland as well.
I suppose if you intend to compete for a cup next season then yes it is difficult to improve the Oilers. They need another couple of seasons to overcome some of the hangover left behind by their previous management. However the mid and long term outlook is quite promising.
Puljujarvi is tearing up SM Liga again, Broberg is excelling with top d-man minutes in the SHL, Konovalov is dominating between the pipes in the KHL, Samorukov has had a very strong start in the KHL as well, Bouchard is NHL ready, Benson looks like he's going to be a solid middle six forward, Rodrigue was extremely strong in the QMJHL after he returned from the last World Junior Tourniment, as was Lavoie, McLeod definitely looks Ike the 3C in a couple of seasons, and there is still time for Maxsimov to come around.
What's more, there are buyouts that are coming off the books, and a number of contracts expiring at the end of this next season. Take Russell out of the mix and Edmonton's d is pretty young, as is the core of forwards. Finally, Koskinen's metrics place him solidly in the top ten in the NHL in most categories. Still the team is not obligated to protect him in the Seattle expansion draft.
Honestly, I think the Oilers are progressing according to Holland's plan, perhaps they even surpassed targets last season... That might be why so many fans want moves now.