Edmonton - May 19, 2014 - Recently there have been a lot of big names rumored to be moving this summer and the Edmonton Oilers should definitely be putting their paws in that honey jar but the reality is they probably won't.
I can foresee the Oilers "staying the course" this summer and only adding one or two pieces to the puzzle mainly because they don't want to deal out of their core.
I am fully expectant of bounce back seasons from Yakupov and Gagner. In the case of Yakupov I can see him getting back to his rookie season form this year and exceeding it next year. For Gagner, I think he can get back to where he was before the 2013-14 season but it won't really matter. He's the first guy that is going to be shipped out.
Now, the one or two pieces I was speaking to are second line center and a top 4 dman with a right handed shot.
I believe that the top four blueliner is of more importance than the 2nd line pivot because the Oilers simply do not have any right handed shots good enough to play in the NHL apart from Petry, Schultz and the outgoing Taylor Fedun.
Who could fill said hole in the line-up?
Well I'm glad you asked. Lucky for the Oilers a young stud defenceman named Aaron Ekblad is available in the upcoming 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia. He's 6'4" and 216lbs with a knack for scoring on the powerplay. Oilers Now! host Bob Stauffer has said on countless occasions that Ekblad is better at this point in his career than perennial Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber. A not bad choice if you ask me.
Free agent options include upcoming UFA Matt Niskanen. He'll run over $5.5m per season on a long term deal. Can the Oilers afford that kind of player? He's not a top pairing but he is a 3/4 dman for the Oilers. Do you fancy a guy like Dan Boyle? He might be a nice mentor for Justin Schultz. Mark Fayne, Tom Gilbert, and Stephane Robidas have all been bandied about in the rumor mill as well.
What about a blockbuster trade? PK Subban,Kris Letang, and Dion Phaneuf (I know he's not right handed but he's a rare breed that prefers to play his off side.) might be had for the right price.
Maybe a underwhelming trade is more to your liking. Johnny Boychuk, Adam Mcquaid, Roman Polak or would a guy like Adam Larsson be worth a risk?
As for the second line center, I believe that if Sam Gagner can't be dealt, he'll either be left at center to try and increase value or moved to the wing. Should he be traded or moved to the wing I imagine we'd see Mark Arcobello take his spot.
I believe that Arcobello has the upside of a David Desharnais (MTL) or Mats Zuccarello (NYR). There is spot in the NHL now for pint sized centers. Arco has shown that he can keep up AND mix it up with the big boys. Not only that but he can take faceoffs and play defense too. Something that in 7 years, Sam Gagner hasn't been able to figure out. Faceoffs are the key point there.
There are other holes in the bottom six. Namely 3rd line LW and RW as well as 4th line RW. You can be sure that there will be some OKC players looking to fill in there. Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander, are Steve Pinizzotto just to name a few. They're all on short leashes but they should be given an opportunity nonetheless.
Like I said at the top, perhaps by training camp you might only see one or two new players to the Oilers organization. Then again, MacTavish could blow it up... Quebec Nordiques style... See ya later no.1s!