There’s a lot of chatter surrounding the Edmonton Oilers. Having already made one big move (signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and with two other pending deals being closely connected to the team, it might be fun to take an early look at a possible depth chart for the franchise, if certain things come to pass as many are expecting they might.
Here are a few things we know before projecting what the roster might look like next season:
- Holland is searching for a second-pair left-shot defenseman
- The team needs a top-six left-winger (potentially top-line)
- Holland is looking for a third-line center
- He would like to upgrade his goaltending situation
- Holland needs to get his right-side blue line corps signed or moved around
The Second-Pair Left-Shot Defenseman
Call me crazy, but something tells me this Duncan Keith rumor is more than a rumor. There’s a real feeling in the early stages of the speculation surrounding a trade out of Chicago that the Oilers are the team everyone thinks Keith winds up with. If so, Edmonton has it’s left side pretty much taken care of.
Darnell Nurse is the top-pairing lefty on this team. Oscar Klefbom probably isn’t going anywhere, but the team is moving forward as though he won’t be available for most of the season, if any of it. If Caleb Jones isn’t moved in the Keith deal (I think he will be), he’s an easy go-to as in the third pair, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Holland looks to re-sign at least one of Slater Koekkoek or Dmitry Kulikov.
The Top-Six Left-Winger
Getting Nugent-Hopkins signed and that piece of business taken care of was huge for the Oilers. Now, the team doesn’t need to find a way to add two top-six wingers, they just need one and that allows them to be a lot more selective, looking for the best deal via free agency or trade.
There’s a lot of chatter the Oilers have Tomas Tatar on their radar. I’m not sure that pans out unless he’s willing to take a massive pay cut to join Edmonton on a shorter-term deal. In a perfect situation, the Oilers likely view him as a bottom-six player who can play in the top-six based on injuries or other unforeseen circumstances.
Jake DeBrusk’s name is out there a lot, but there’s no telling if the Bruins will actually trade him. The Oilers would certainly have time for Brandon Saad and Zach Hyman, but the potential to overpay with either player is very real.
For now, this is still a question mark. For this example, we’ll project the Oilers offer Hyman the same money as Nugent-Hopkins on a six-year term. There have been a lot of insiders saying Hyman would be the ideal target for the Oilers. Let’s assume they shoot their shot.
Finding a Third-Line Center
Kyle Turris likely won’t be back next season. Whether it’s the result of a buy out or a trade, the experiment to make him the Oilers third line center is one of Holland’s few misses as GM of this team. That said, adding a third-line center likely comes again in free agency and fans shouldn’t be surprised if Holland invests a bit more in that position, looking for a mentor to Ryan McLeod and Jujhar Khaira, either who will eventually morph into that role.
Don’t expect longshot names like Ryan Getzlaf or Sam Reinhart, but perhaps a name like Mikael Granlund, who is coming off a $3.75 million deal and had 13 goals and 27 points for the Predators in 51 games might be an option. He had 17 goals in 63 games the previous season and has hit the 20-goal marker twice.
The Predators are likely going to try and extend Granlund, so it won’t come cheap to add him. It could take offering multiple years as the Predators only offered one year this past offseason.
Operating under the assumption that the tandem stays as is, unless Holland is able to ship out Mikko Koskinen in a trade, I don’t see the team buying out Koskinen and James Neal this summer. Koskinen is acceptable on the roster for one more season, even if he’s not the ideal solution.
Holland will look around. The deal has to be right. If it isn’t, he likely waits. But, if he can move Koskinen and actually save a little money on a 1B, that’s a good plan. If Holland can snag Elvis Merzlikins from the Columbus Blue Jackets, even better.
Get the Right Side Blue Line Signed
The Oilers have a young and promising right side. It can be one of the strengths of the team, if they sign who they need to sign. Adam Larsson’s deal likely gets done. That gives Edmonton Larsson, Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard. Kris Russell can move between left and right sides as needed.
There’s been some recent chatter that Tyson Barrie may actually prioritize coming back to the Oilers this season. Buzz is, should Edmonton be comfortable with a three-year, $4.5 million extension, he might sign it. If I’m Holland, I would take Barrie at that number. If Barrie doesn’t bite, I bet everything on Bouchard, with the confidence he can run the Oilers power play from the point.
The Oilers Potential Depth Chart
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Zach Hyman ($5.125 million)||Connor McDavid ($12.5 million)||Jesse Puljujarvi ($1.175 million)|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ($5.125 million)||Leon Draisaitl ($8.5 million)||Kailer Yamamoto ($1.5 million)|
|Tyler Ennis ($950K)||Mikael Granlund ($3.5 million)||Zack Kassian ($3.2 million)|
|Devin Shore ($850K)||Jujhar Khaira ($1.3 million)||Josh Archibald ($1.5 million)|
|Dylan Holloway ($925K)||Ryan McLeod ($834K)||Alex Chiasson ($950K)|
Total Cap for Forwards: $47.93 million
|Left Defense||Right Defense||Goaltender|
|Darnell Nurse ($5.6 million)||Adam Larsson ($4 million)||Mike Smith ($2 million)|
|Duncan Keith ($3.75 million)||Ethan Bear ($2 million)||Mikko Koskinen ($4.5 million)|
|Dmitry Kulikov ($1.3 million)||Evan Bouchard ($863K)||Stuart Skinner ($800K)|
|Kris Russell ($1.25 million)||Slater Koekkoek ($900K)|
Total Cap Hit Defense and Goaltenders: $26.96 million
Total Cap Hit: $74.89 million.
The End Result of These Early Depth Chart Projections
This a very rough idea of a potential depth chart with a salary cap loosely figured in. What it suggests is that the Oilers have room to sign Barrie at $4.5 million if they’d like to but assumes the team has moved James Neal and Kyle Turris off the roster. If a Neal buy out is part of the deal, then the Oilers are right at the cap since he’s a $1.9 million hit in dead cap space. This also assumes Klefbom falls under LTIR for the season.
Keep in mind, this is still very early. There’s a lot that can change over the next few weeks and between now and the NHL Expansion Draft or Entry Draft. I may be high on a couple of players and low on a couple of others, but that wasn’t really the point of the exercise. (I get that people will jump on my salary cap projections). My aim wasn’t to take a deep dive in that respect but to see if I could get a sense of what Holland might be thinking with this roster in the early stages.
What I didn’t account for here is the dead cap space being paid to Milan Lucic and Andrej Sekera. That will need to be accounted for; that’s $2.25 million.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”