There is a lot of disagreement as to what the Oilers should do during the off season. There are some people that would like to see one of the young stars traded for so other star. Realistically, these trades are not that common.
Sometimes you will see a young prospect that is under performing (Paajarvi is an example) be traded for a player who had concussion problems like Perron did or injury history like Gaborik or Hemsky. However there are far too few examples of a straight across one for one trade (of top 6 calibre players).
I think we can also agree, although MacT has done some stupid moves, he has also been the best GM we have had in a while (before Lowe). With that said he has put Edmonton in an interesting place. They have a coach who doesn't seem to be able to motivate young players. Yet we have a team that needs these young players to perform if we are ever going to win.
Obviously I am against trading any of or young forwards or Justin for many reasons. The first and most obvious, teams that do well have players with higher value (remember Pisani's contract after the playoff run) and teams that do poorly don't have much value (Hemsky was given away and now is showing us all what we had seen glimpses of before). You don't trade when their stock is low, there is no example where we would get a good return for any of them.
The second reason is, that they are young and quite talented. People harp on Nuge but he has stepped up this year in a big way. Others say we can part with Eberle but he can be amazing when given some room to move. Even Gagner being traded is a nice theory but why? We saw what he could do in the last shootout. He is capable of great things and apparently he is a huge motivator in the dressing room. Something this team needs more of.
I think the biggest reason not to trade them is because we are doing it just for the sake of doing it. The team did bad so lets get different players. These guys are really young. Some have a couple decades of hockey in them. This is a core that can create a dynasty with the right mix. Three first round picks, combine with Eberle, Perron and Justin. These guys have all shown what they are capable of this year. This is the perfect core for a team. So if we are not going to trade anyone, how do we improve?
I think it starts with coaching. The Oilers need a consistent coach as they go through a new one every year. However I think there is just some obvious mistakes that are too big to keep him another year. Take for example his shootout lineups. Henricks in as the anchor? Hall and Gagner have decreased in their ability but they are proven goal scorers. We are lucky Scrivens was amazing because our first three shooters were not close. Plus benching our top line, healthy scratching our stars and changing lines when they are working is ridiculous ways to motivate NHL players. The Anahiem game was a great example of this. Our second line was doing amazing shutting down Perry and Getzalf. Eakins puts them out against our first line and that line scores three quick goals to win the game. A regular coach would have kept the second line out there against Anahiems top and let our top line dominate against one of the other three.
I also think that Lowe might need to go. We haven't done anything since he joined the team as any sort of management. I also think that MacT needs help with a new assistant GM. MacT WILL be a great GM but he could use help. A lot of great teams provide more support to their GMs. Chicago is a great example.
These are great starts and this should get a lot more out of our current players. As well they should develop better. However we have holes and question marks in our line up.
Lander has looked really good in the last few games. Finishing checks, making plays, showing some confidence out there... he might be a good third line player. Arcobello is amazing and could be an answer but if we are turned off by his size, we should trade him. The player is better than the guys we are playing and he is in the minors only because he is 5'10. Henricks is good and I think he has earned himself a spot on our fourth line. Gordon is tradeable. He wins a lot of face offs but that is all he does. At three million, the guy should at least be able to provide a little offense. The rest can go.
Smyth is good but it is time for him to retire. Jones hasn't shown us anything that would be considered third line winger and we need to make room if we are going to improve. Joensuu can be an extra as he has functions but if he has any trade value, I would pull the trigger. Gazdic is useless. We don't need to waste a spot for a guy that just fights if we are concentrating on getting bigger guys in general. I would rather have Henricks, who also fights playing his ice time. If I thought Pitlick, Pizz or Acton had value I would discuss them but right now they are good for the Barons.
With that said about the offense. I see us needing to add two decent players. A second line center and winger. Now Gagner might compete and win either of those spots. Same with Yak but I would rather have them beat out players with talent than to go into the year playing them in a second line role while they are inconsistent.
We have two options and I think we do both. We trade some of our young dmen and actually get someone from the UFA list.
First lets quickly look at why we trade some of our young dmen. Right now we have terrible defense. The biggest reason for that is, statistically defense men take longer train. Our current defense has huge potential and our guys in the minors look like they are going to be making our current guys work to keep their jobs. We have a leader in Ference who is not going anywhere (mostly because he is overpaid and has a NTC) and his role will be useful pairing him with some of these young guys. I think he could be a great example for guys like Klefbom and Marincin who have the ability to add more grit to their game.
Our current defense is led by Petry and Schultz. Petry has become a solid two way guy and I see him having a long future as a number 3 on the Oilers. At 26, his best days are ahead of him. Schultz is a little tougher to gauge as he has only played about 125 NHL games. Not even two full years which in Defense men terms, he should still be our bottom pairing. Yet we have seen his ability increase dramatically as the season progressed this year. He can jump on the play, he has speed to get back after pinching and he can quarterback a power play. I think Justin is destined to be a top 2 pairing offensive dman. I see him doing amazing things as the years go by and I wouldn't be surprised at all seeing him playing for Canada at the next Olympics.
For the other four spots on the team we have Klefbom who has shown amazing progress in the short period he has been in the NHL. Marincin who is looking amazing out there for a rookie but I think we would all see him add about 30 lbs of muscle. I can see Both of these guys being 3-4 dmen for their entire careers. Then we have Fedun who showed amazing promise and a strong offensive talent in the few games he played this year. Nurse who is having an amazing year in the OHL and who many scouts agree he is the Oilers best young dman. Plus we have Gernat, Davidson and Musil who are also a year or two away from being NHL dmen. Any of the three have potential to compete for 3-4 roles with the team.
Problem is all of these guys will be better next year but most likely will hit their spots on the team two years from now. They would also benefit from having a strong role model in a new top pairing veteran dman. However adding him means even less room for our young players and at some point we are squandering their ability keeping them in the AHL. We could part with anyone other than Justin and find a decent replacement for him in our young guys coming up. We are soon to be overloaded with second pairing dmen. The question is, who has the most value and when to trade them. To answer all questions, the right thing to do is to trade three of these at least at some point in the next 2-4 years. Dmen get a good return normally and they probably will get us more value than draft picks, or most of our forwards.
So right now I say we need 1 good dman but he has to be a 1-2 guy or he is useless to us. We have a 3-4 veteran in Ferance. The way I see the team working best next year:
Hall Nuge Eberle
Perron ??? ????
Acrobello Gagner Yakupov
Henricks Gordon Lander
This provides three lines of offense. Acrobello is great offensively and pairing him on a higher line is not an indication so much of talent but as a need of someone who can keep up with the other two on the line. Now both Gagner and Yakupov have the ability to rotate into the second line right now, if we were looking to have the best team, adding two players better than them will make us a contender.
First who do we trade for. The Oilers have always liked Stewart and Dubinsky. Stewarts value and performance has dwindled this year. Dubinsky is not well liked by Columbus management who spent a lot of last year playing him as their third line center. Both are young, big and gambles. Both of the teams they play for would definitely be interested in our young dmen. They both have some good ones but Buffalo is rebuilding with all young guys and Columbus needs to find a strong 3-4 pairing.
Our other option is to go for guys that are over paid or under utilized. Mike Richards is one of these. As a third line center on a team that has 5 great centers, he could be on the market. Problem is this would have to be a three way trade as they have no need for young dmen.
We could also look for a dman from Vancouver. Their defense make up half their cap right now. One would assume they are going into rebuild. If we lock down Fasth and Scrivens, we still have that promising prospect that we got for Smid. Vancouver might be enticed by him, plus we can give them young dmen for a veteran. Quite frankly Hamhuis, Garrison of Bieksa would all be great. I am thinking Edler is the one on the table though. Having him for a couple years at least could be on option.
The other thing we can look at is being aggressive on the UFA market this year. Including trading components we don't need for the rights to players like Philly did last year with Streit. They had him locked up before he became a UFA. MacT came out of the gate rusty last year but he did show us a few things. He is looking for UFA's and he is willing to spend to the cap. I think he made some rookie mistakes but I would love to see them add a good assistant GM so they don't spend opening day just going after Zubrus (which I am really happy we didn't get).
My suggestions are going to sound obvious and impossible but I don't think that is true anymore. I think like Justin, UFA's are starting to see what Edmonton can do. The addition of goal tending, a new arena and a chance to play with a talented top 2 lines might just sway some people.
I think they Oilers should and might put an offer in on Vanek. We have tried for him before by offer sheet. He is big, plays both wings and would be a great guy to have in front of the net on a power play. Much better than Smyth overall. At 30, he has some good years left. I would offer him 30 for 5 years. Might not be enough but I would at least toss an offer at him.
Stastney is another one to look at for a second line center. He is not tall but he has muscle to him at 210 lbs. He is offensively gifted and only 28.
Andre Markov. An amazing veteran at 35. He might be the mentor these young guys need.
Niskanen. Arguably a 3-4 guy but at 27 he could be a 1-2. He is again not tall but he is solid and hits lots.
Gaborik might be a gamble worth taking.
There are more gambles on the UFA page that might fit the team well. Also their are other teams like Colorado who have lots of good centers and the most un-experienced defense in the league. Plus only two of them are decent and none of them are a 1-2. They might really like to fill up some prospects in that position that actually have talent.
However with our continuing win I don't think Ekblad is in our future. Which is actually fine by me. I think we could benefit a lot by having a young talented Center. There are 3 of them, so no matter who wins the draft, we are coming out with what might be our second line center in a year or two.
Thing is, it all comes down to drafting and we really only have the one good pick. Problem with that is that we had two good picks last year and MacT made our second one into 9 players that will never see the NHL and most not even the AHL. He could trade down. We won't get value for the pick in a trade so we might as well take the best player that just happens to fit our needs.
This summer it is going to have to be, in MacT we Trust. He could really do good things with this team or he could sign a whole bunch of 4th line players and dmen that don't fit on our team like last year. I think a new coach and President is in order. I would like to see Krueger back in some capacity. I am thinking assistant GM after his work during the Olympics.
Note: Just to clarify I think Ekblad is the right choice for Edmonton and they should take him if possible. Worst case scenario is that they have too many good dmen but I think Ekblad has the possibility of being a number 1 guy. All I am saying is that the Oilers look to finish third and although there is a chance Buffalo could pass on a dman looking at Zadarov (however that is spelt) and Ristolin coming up. Plus their top center being Hodgeson and their second best center is playing wing for the most part (Ennis). I do not think there is a chance that Florida will pass on Ekblad. No matter how it plays out Ekblad is not slipping to third. Which for some reason Edmonton has played themselves into. I am not confident Buffalo won't take Ekblad themselves.
If they don't I can completely see them trading down. Make a bidding war with Florida and Edmonton to see who wants the big dman most. Get something good for their pick and still have your choice of Sam's unless they think Draisaitl is the best forward in the draft which some scouts do.