The Edmonton Oilers hold the No.7 selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft in Newark, New Jersey and GM Craig MacTavish and the Oilers find themselves in a position to consider all of their options leading up to June 30.
They are in the enviable position of having a top ten selection and the chance of selecting another future star for the organization. Make no mistake, however, picking 7th is a far cry from the first position they’ve held over the past three seasons.
There are certainly a number of top NHL players to be picked in that spot. Shane Doan (’95), Ryan Suter (’03) and Jeff Skinner (’10) come to mind. There have been just as many mediocre pros that have come from that area of the draft as well though, so even picking in the top ten is far from an exact science. Lars Jonsson (’00), Rostislav Olesz (’04) and Jack Skille (’05) come to mind as 7th overall picks who have yet to make a significant NHL impact.
With a top three selection, the odds become much greater and in the past decade you would be hard pressed to find a top three pick that hasn’t become at the very least a solid NHL regular if not a top player on their team, or in the case of recent picks, have the potential to become that.
You would have to go back to 2001 where Alexandr Svitov was chosen third by the Tampa Bay Lightning to find a bust in any of those three spots.
The Oilers could certainly choose right and get another blue chip prospect to add to the their stable of talent, but they have more pressing needs, and that is talent that can help now.
We’re not talking a veteran on the backend of their career who can come in and be a missing piece, but a top four defenceman or top six forward who can contribute immediately and be there for the long run. Ideally a deal that would bring in a top pairing defenceman would go a long way in solving a number of issues.
Edmonton also doesn’t have to worry and pin their hopes on getting a future superstar at #7. They have three top overall picks in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov already. Not to mention other young stars in the making like Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz. The seventh pick would hold more value to a team other than the Oilers in 2013.
That is exactly why they need to consider moving the pick and/or packaging it to make a significant deal for the present. MacTavish has already stated that they would look at all options and would not be afraid to make a move.
There have already been mulitple rumours, the most recent tweeted by Sportsnet insider Nick Kypreos and the Oilers and Leafs talking trade.
The target here has to be a top four defenceman and specifically looking at what it would take to get Jake Gardiner.
Even if captain Dion Phaneuf is on the block it’s a lot of salary for the Oilers to take on for a player where the jury is still out on whether he’s worth it. Mike Kostka is 27 and up until last season has been a career minor leaguer and is still somewhat unproven.
Carl Gunnersson is the other option, but is more of a shut down type and not the puck moving frontline guy the Oilers really want, although would still represent an upgrade to what they currently have.
Gardiner is the left handed, smooth skating, puck moving defenceman that the Oilers covet. He has shown to be able to log big minutes and in this years playoffs showed poise and good decision making skills under pressure.
Re-uniting him with fellow Wisconsin alum Justin Schultz could be a deadly pairing for the present and future on the Oilers backend.
The #7 pick alone will certainly not get it done, but perhaps a multi-player deal involving the pick and a player could get both teams what they want.
There are no doubt other offers coming through as it’s no secret what the Oilers need and want and many teams would love to jump to seven and take a player that could be a building block for their franchise.
Players potentially available in that spot include Sean Monahan, Valeri Nichushkin, Darnell Nurse, Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov among others. All blue chip talents with upside and attractive prospects to a number of teams.
The Oilers will be looking for a similar situation to Carolina and Jordan Staal last season where the Hurricanes gave up their top ten selection and a few other pieces to land Staal. The deal worked out well for both teams as Pittsburgh was not going to be able to sign him and they were still able to replenish their prospect system. Carolina of course got the frontline player they wanted.
Edmonton should be looking to target similar teams. Options could be the Phoenix Coyotes or St. Louis Blues just to name a couple.
It’s no secret Phoenix is looking to deal Keith Yandle as they already have Oliver Ekman-Larsson and a number of top defence prospects waiting in the wings, and they would rather unload his contract. Yandle would be an excellent fit on the Oilers blue line.
St. Louis has a number of RFA’s to sign, namely Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund. It would be unlikely that any of those four would be available, but if they’re all re-signed it could open the door for a player like Jay Bouwmeester to be had for the right deal.
Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero also may warrant a call to see what the asking price on Kris Letang might be. Certainly a long shot to be moved, but with the recent signing of Evgeni Malkin and Letang being a 2014 UFA, Shero may entertain offers if he feels they won’t be able to get the defenceman inked in the next year, in a similar situation to Staal.
It would be pricey for the Oilers no doubt, but Letang is just 26 and a perennial Norris Trophy candidate.
All simply speculation at this point, but the fact remains, MacTavish and the Oiler brass need to look at what is best for the team in the next few seasons. With the young talent currently on the roster, their window is within the next handful of years. With salary restrictions and other unforeseen circumstances they may not be able to keep all their current talent past that point.
A move to strengthen the team now as well as for the next five years is what direction they need to head. Getting a top prospects like a Sean Monahan, Darnell Nurse or Nikita Zadorov is still a great move, but what they need is a proven talent still in their prime, not wait for yet another one to develop.
Carl covers the Edmonton Oilers for THW as well as providing additional prospect coverage. Follow him on twitter @carlTHW, connect on Facebook or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, comments or if you’re interested in him writing for you.