Oilers Can Target Former Erie Otters in Free Agency to Play with McDavid

When it comes to the Edmonton Oilers, most of the headlines surrounding them have focused on the search for their next starting goaltender. But thanks to various decisions around the league, the Oilers might have a unique opportunity to add certain familiar players to their group.

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When we say familiar players, we mean players that Connor McDavid is familiar with. These players were teammates with McDavid on the Erie Otters. Two of these players are free agents in Dylan Strome and Andre Burakovsky. The third is possibly available via trade in Connor Brown.

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Talk about a story for the ages if any of this were to happen. The question we need to consider is should the Oilers target these players? In each case, the players available fill a need the Oilers are looking for. It also helps that these players have an established relationship with McDavid. In particular with Strome and Brown, they were among McDavid’s best friends in Erie.

While it seems unlikely that all three will become Oilers in the next month, it’s possible that one or two of them will be considered. Let’s see what each player can offer.

Strome Provides Center Depth

Strome, the former third-overall pick of the 2015 Draft, has struggled with consistency most of his career. However of late, it seems he’s found his groove.

Despite scoring a career-high 22 goals in 69 games for the Blackhawks in 2021-22, the Blackhawks elected not to give him a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. Given the direction they are going, this doesn’t come as a surprise. He would be due a raise the Blackhawks don’t seem interested in giving.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks elected not to qualify Dylan Strome. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Strome can play center. He can play on the power play. He even showed some defensive improvement. As an option behind McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers could do a lot worse in this situation.

Coming off a 22-goal season, Strome will surely get a raise from the $3 million AAV he’s coming off from. The Oilers have just under $16 million in cap space available as of this writing. They need a starting goalie. They also need to fill in their depth. If the AAV is right, Strome would help the Oilers in a depth role.

Plus you never know. Strome and McDavid were electric on the same line with the Otters. Would you consider putting Strome on McDavid’s wing?

Regardless, the Oilers should think about adding Strome to the mix. Given his recent improvement and what he has to offer, he can provide the much needed depth the Oilers are seeking.

Burakovsky Provides Offensive Depth

Speaking of guys who would make for an ideal winger for McDavid, look no further than two-time Stanley Cup champion Burakovsky. His goal to end Game 1 of the Final was vintage.

Burakovsky is known for his shot. When given the room, he can first the puck as hard as anyone. Plus he has the playoff experience that could help the Oilers get to the next level.

Burakovsky and McDavid played one season together in Erie and showed good chemistry as you might expect. With Evander Kane seemingly moving on, adding Burakovsky would be a nice replacement in the goal scoring department. What will be interesting to see if what the contract will look like. A raise from $4.9 million is certainly in play. Can the Oilers go there given their other needs?

Brown Brings a Little of Everything

Brown’s name has been in the rumor mill for a while now. With just one season left at $3.6 million, he is prime for a trade either now or by the trade deadline. The Oilers should inquire about the cost of trading for him.

Brown is a pest in the best possible way. He can play in all situations and have a major impact in them. He finished with a career-high 29 assists in 2021-22. He also had nine power-play and four shorthanded points. Our Oilers’ contributor Sean Panganiban recently wrote that the Oilers should target Brown in a trade.

Related: Oilers Should Target the Senators’ Connor Brown

Brown is one of those players that can turn the game in your favor on a dime thanks to his tenacity. He’s had to work for everything in his career. He was a late round draft pick in both the OHL and NHL Draft. He’s also a leader. Who did McDavid look up to in Erie before becoming the face of the franchise. It was Brown.

What Should the Oilers Do?

The Oilers should do everything possible to bring in Strome, Burakovsky and Brown or some combination of them. While a trade has to be the right situation, signing Strome or Burakovsky should be a priority.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid would love to have any of his former Otters’ teammates with him. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

They each bring much needed offensive depth as well as experience playing with McDavid. For the Oilers to find sustained success in future seasons, they have to make the right decisions with their depth signings.

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Given that all three former Otters would improve the Oilers in different ways, they need to do what they can to sign or trade for them. Plus it would make for one heck of a good story.

If it happens, Strome would go from playing with Alex DeBrincat and Taylor Raddysh to playing with McDavid in one offseason. Burakovsky would reunite with McDavid and Brown would reunite with one of his best friends.

The Oilers are in the headlines for their goaltending. But they’ll steal the headlines if the Erie Otters’ band gets reunited at Rogers Place in 2022-23.