As I've posted at the end of many of my blogs, some friends and I do a weekly podcast on all things hockey and Oilers. One point we discussed at length was the expansion draft and how the Oilers will be affected.
A few days ago it came out that players with NMC's who are set to be UFA will have to be protected. This means that as of right now, the Oilers will have to protect Andrew Ference. While I think this guarantees the Oilers will buy him out, that becomes wasted cap space the following year.
As we discussed who the Oilers should protect, specifically on the back-end, my associate brought up the idea that the Oilers should only try and acquire one defenseman this season and to use a player like Mark Fayne on the second pairing.
While he was discussing this idea, I sat back and started to think who would be available in the top 5 draft next season but unfortunately he does have a point.
The Oilers can protect three defensemen. I think it's safe to assume those three will be Klefbom, Sekera (NMC), and whoever is acquired to play the right side on the top pairing. For argument sake, let's say the Oilers acquire Faulk and Vatanen. The Oilers would have to risk losing one of those players. For both of Faulk and Vatanen the Oilers would have to give up assets. It would be very risky to give up too much to acquire one of these guys, only to lose them after a year.
Do I want Fayne in my top 4... absolutely not. I'm not the biggest analytics guy. I will sometimes use them to make my point but I find a real danger when analytics contradict what my eye sees. While someone can tell me that when Fayne and Sekera were paired together they had the best possession stats out of any defensive pairing, I saw Sekera having to be the one to do the heavy lifting to move the puck up. On a good team, Fayne is a guy you want on your bottom pairing who you know can slot up when you need him. Asking him to play a full season in the top 4 is asking for trouble.
Another internal option is Brandon Davidson. Davidson's emergence was a welcome surprise last season. While he is a left shot, he did spend time on the right side last season. Defensemen don't develop in a straight line and I wouldn't recommend penciling him in to start in the top 4 next season.
Then we get into the free agency options. Demers would be a perfect solution in this regard. As a free agent he only costs the team money which wouldn't be the end of the world if he was grabbed by the Vegas team. However, every agent is also aware of the impending expansion and you can bet Demers doesn't sign unless he too get's a NMC.
We are about to begin Year 2 of Connor McDavid's ELC. Before we know it, the Oilers are going to offer him the contract that's going to change everything. The Oilers need to find a way to compete in the next couple years. For that reason I am not against Chiarelli taking a risk and acquiring a player he may only have for one year, providing they can make the playoffs.
The last thing to keep in mind is a Vegas team will be looking at 29 other teams for players. While it's easy to narrow in and worry about the Oilers roster, the fact is 29 other teams have the same worry, almost all of them have a better D core to choose from. But that will have to be the subject of another blog. My final point being, the last thing the team should be worrying about is losing what could be their #4 defenseman.
If you're interested in hearing our full conversation on Fayne, the Oilers D, and if Lucic is a better option than Pouliot, I invite you to check out our podcast.
As always, thanks for reading.