The NHL is considering holding their Entry Draft in June — June 5 to be exact. The decision has not been finalized, but there’s buzz that the league wants to offer something up for fans and their network partners during a time where hockey diehards are starving for something current.
When approaching this from a revenue standpoint, it makes some sense. But, there are a handful of reasons not to go this route, and if teams get a vote, and the Edmonton Oilers rep gets a say, they’re better served to vote against the idea.
The Edmonton Oilers stand to lose a lot if the league goes ahead with a draft in one month’s time.
Picks, More Specifically, Not Enough of Them
Ken Holland has said it’s incumbent upon him and in his role as GM to get more draft picks for his franchise this summer. A June draft doesn’t make that impossible, but it does make it exponentially more difficult. Jonathan Willis of The Athletic notes:
Holland said he’d strongly consider trading down – a tactic he used in Detroit – to secure more draft picks for Wright and his staff.
“The scouts need picks,” Holland said. “I understand that I have a responsibility to do that.”source -‘How the Oilers are preparing for an NHL draft in June’ – Jonathan Willis – The Athletic – 04/30/2020
The way things stand, the team does not have a pick in the second or fourth round thanks to deals that included Andreas Athanasiou and Mike Green coming to the club. They may not have their third-rounder either — assuming the NHL deems the conditional pick from the James Neal deal is owed to Calgary. If an NHL draft occurs in June, Holland will likely be limited to trading picks for more picks.
If so, that likely means moving their first-rounder down to pick up later picks. If they can’t get a later first-round pick, maybe Holland moves a first for two seconds. It’s not ideal. Edmonton would be much better served if they had the luxury of choosing to move players and picks versus just picks.
The Oilers Need to Make Trades
The NHL draft is often more bark than bite when it comes to trades but they do happen. And, with so many teams possibly needing to make moves based on an uncertain salary cap, this year’s draft had the potential to be very active on the trade front.
Most of the teams who would feel the pressure of a flat salary cap are likely to make the playoffs this season. If those teams believe they could win it all (and why would you not if you get in), shedding a contract at the draft becomes a non-starter. Depending on how the NHL structures the playoffs this season, trade options are limited.
Outside of finding opportunities to pick up depth from teams that are dumping players, the Oilers have players like they might want to move as well. Among them, Kris Russell and James Neal could find new homes for next season because they carry heavy price tags. It’s easier to find teams to take those contracts once the regular season is over, the playoffs are done and franchises know what they’re facing. Again, no one will know that by June 5.
More specifically for the Oilers, Jesse Puljujarvi is at the top of the to-do list. If the draft were to happen in June, what would the rules be around trading him? What we know is that he can’t play this season. A team picking him up isn’t necessarily concerned about him and their postseason run. But, what about what comes back?
If the Oilers can’t pick up an active roster player, what are they limited to? The more likely play, if they can’t find a similar prospect, is to hang on and wait. That may or may not be the best decision.
What About Impact Players?
There are plenty of fans outside the Edmonton area that will tell you Connor McDavid will leave the city if this Oilers team isn’t competitive in two seasons. Fans in Edmonton will suggest that’s bunk, but at the same time, aren’t necessarily willing to be their paychecks that win or lose, McDavid remains happy with the path the Oilers are on.
This season’s deadline already proved that Holland wants to add. The idea is to make this team as good as it can be and as quickly as possible. A draft with every option on the table gives Holland more options to send the message to McDavid that he’s trying to build a winner.
If there’s one thing virtually guaranteed from a June 5 draft, it’s that the Oilers don’t get an impact player.
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Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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