The draft has come and gone. As usual there was plenty of speculation beforehand. Twitter exploded in the days leading up to the draft that the Oilers were pursuing Subban. Shattenkirk's agent stated he expected his client to be gone by the weekend. Once again there was plenty of hype, and once again the Oilers left the draft without a top defenseman.
Having said that, let's take a look at what was accomplished and the reasons why it might not be the end of the world because the Oilers don't have a #1 D yet.
Even when the Oilers don't win the lottery, they win the lottery. Jarmo Kekäläinen, the Blue Jackets GM was reported having serious discussions with both Flames GM Trevling as well as Oilers GM Chiarelli in the hours leading up to going on stage. In hindsight Kekäläinen wanted Dubois and was obviously trying to get the Flames or Oilers to give up additional assets to move up to the #3 spot. Good on Pete for not budging.
Puljujarvi changes a few things in the organization. If the Oilers selected Dubois or Tkachuk as many expected they would, neither player would likely have been with the big club in the fall. Puljujarvi is a big man and while he may need some time to get used to the North American game, most scouts had him pegged as NHL ready.
JP's arrival may mean the departure of Eberle. While many fans would prefer if Ebs was the 6 million dollar man traded, the Oilers had no other right wing options; until now. I am not suggesting that JP start the year gifted top line minutes, however if Chiarelli can turn Eberle into a top pairing D and then turn around and bring in someone like Okposo the Oilers could have three options for the top 9. Which brings us to.....
Nail Yakupov has almost next to no value. It doesn't matter what you think his potential is or if he hasn't gotten good line-mates to play with. Around the league he has no value. Ryan Rishaug had reported that the most teams were offering for him was mid third round picks.
Yak has one more year left at 2.5 million dollars and then he is still an RFA. The Oilers control his rights and don't have to trade him and I applaud Chiarelli for not selling for nickels on the dollar. There is a chance he may decide to play in the KHL (having Larinov as an agent might make that a likely scenario) but if Nail wants to have a chance with another NHL team he is going to have to get his agent to shut his mouth and prove he can be an effective player with Edmonton first.
Here is my fast two cents on the rest of the Oilers draft picks. Benson was once projected to go in the top 15 of this draft. Injuries have been an issue but if he can overcome them he could be a steal. Niemalainen is a big defender who has some offense to his game. The Oilers liked the Finns this year. The rest of the picks don't interest me.
I've said in a few prior blogs that if Chiarelli was not able to get at least one right shot NHL defenseman by the end of draft weekend it would be a failure. That remains true. However, looking around the league no one else was getting these guys.
It seems draft picks didn't have the same buying power as they've had in years past. Last year Dougie Hamilton, Griffin Reinhart, James Wisniewski, and Martin Marincin were all moved at the draft and that's just defensemen. Kyle Palmieri, Lucic, Talbot, Lehner, , Ryan O'Reily, Lack, and others were all moved in deals involving draft picks as well.
This year we saw a bit of pick swapping. Ellers for Shaw,Kulikov for Pysyk, and the Flames acquiring Elliot were the only real deals of note. As of right now the price for acquiring players appears to high for most GM's and that will be the big story to follow in the coming weeks.
Grade and What Now?
My title included the word grade so here it is. Chiarelli get's a C for the weekend. Puljujarvi was a nice surprise and I will credit Chia for not giving up assets to the Blue Jackets but that's it. Aside from that, I didn't see Edmonton reaching on many picks and while Chiarelli didn't overpay on any deals... he didn't make any.
We are now four days away from free agency. Other teams have their eyes on certain players and will be competing for signing them. A team that misses out on Okposo or Lucic may become more interested in making a trade for Eberle or Pouliot. While we are all sick of hearing it, now we wait.
If you want to hear more draft talk and trade rumours, feel free to listen to our podcast Downtown Hockey. https://soundcloud.com/downtownhockey/episode-11
Thanks for reading.