I will admit when I am wrong. Larsson shows some decent heads up play. He is not a top pairing guy and maybe not even a second pairing but I like his odds of being a solid 3-4 guy in the next couple years.
Lets forget what the Oilers traded to get this guy. Point is that Larsson wasn't the answer to the Oilers problem on the blue line. Larsson and Russel might have been the answer if they added a solid first pairing guy like Yandle, Vatenen, Barrie, Shattenkirk or even Trouba. Florida's additions of Yandle and Demers would have been a solid improvement.
Oilers sit near the top of the conference and I think even the ones most doubting they can keep this up are starting to think that there is a chance. Some Vegas sites have gone so far as putting them as a top 3 team to win the whole cup. I think we all know that isn't going to happen but they actually aren't that far off.
In their last run they could have won the cup easily and it was largely due to rentals. If the Oilers were to go out now and grab a a decent D from Winnepeg, St. Louis or Anahiem they would have a serious chance. The offense can score and Talbot is looking amazing in goal. A solid blue line and they really could take the cup this year. I think they need a top 6 two way guy like... Hall but they could do it with the forwards they have now.
Question is, can they get the blue liner(s) needed. Any other year I would say no, but with Vegas coming in, absolutely. Teams like St. Louis and Anahiem are almost certain to lose a defender in the expansion draft and it is worse for the Blues as Shattenkirk might test the UFA market.
Vegas HAS to pick 1 player from each team. No more no less. They have to take 3 goalies, 9 defenders and 14 forwards. They also have to be near the ceiling for cap space and can't ditch any of these players taken for a year. Teams can protect 3 defenders and 7 forwards or 8 skaters. Plus they get to protect one goalie no matter what. All first and second year players are protected and any player with a NMC/NTC have to be protected regardless.
Oilers will protect Talbot, that is obvious and they don't have to use protection spots for McDavid or Puljarvi. After that they will keep Eberle, Draisaitl and Lucic for sure. After that I am not sure which forwards they will keep but I think it is a certain that Vegas will take a character forward from the Oil. There is an off chance they grab Davidson or more likely Nurse but as is I think a guy like Letestu, Maroon or Pouliot are possibilities. Like them or not these three bring much need role playing at a great cap hit. Letestu is the Oilers 4th guy but he is also a solid face off winning center that can play a great shut down game while adding an offensive angle. Vegas isn't going to be looking for an entire team of top 6 players.
Some sites predict guys like Nash, Neal, Moulson... as their targets for forwards. I don't know for sure but I imagine they will add some veteran players with a few good years and a bunch of young guys like Florida did when they came in. They had a great cup final on the back of players like Mellanby and Vegas will be looking for that type of heart in a veteran.
Oilers have Sekeras that has a NMC but he also has a horrible contract. If you look at the teams around the league that have 4 or more solid defenders, it is unlikely Oilers will rank in the top 9. If Sekeras waived his NMC to go to Vegas the Oilers wouldn't need to protect him. I also don't think Vegas would take him at 5.5 million. If they take a big contract on a second pairing defender it will be a short term contract. Top of my head, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Calgary, Anahiem... are who I would target for defenders. I think Sekeras and the Oilers can rest easy knowing that if Sekeras waived his NMC that he would still be an Oiler after the expansion draft. Which means Oilers can protect 3 defenders if they want their forwards intact. Larsson, Klef and Nurse most likely.
Still the Oilers have the ability to protect their blue line and the three forwards that needs. Yes the team is great and they are getting help from all lines but they Oilers are going to lose a player no matter what during the expansion, I think it is unrealistic to not just plan on replacing that then squandering the saves on everyone. Maroon, Pouliot, Lander, Kassian, Letestu... one will go and all are replaceable. I would much rather see the Oilers grab 2 defenders, protect Klef, Larsson and the two new ones.
Yes we may lose Nurse or Sekeras but would you trade those two for Fowler and Vatenen/Lindholm? Or Dumba and Brodin or players from different teams like Trouba, Barrie, Shattenkirk, (one of Calgaries, they have some good d that are not playing well), any of Nashvilles blue line... Say they grabbed future UFA's Shattenkirk and Brent Burns. Normally I would say that these players would resign and Burns might but they have to come to a deal before this season ends. Each day that goes by nearing the trade deadline makes their resigning more urgent and their trade value less. We are talking about draft picks and prospects at this point. These teams aren't looking to take on players they need to protect.
What I am saying is two solid defenders, I don't care what hand they shoot. Legitimate top 2 or a solid 1-2 RHD. There is no defender on the Oilers I wouldn't trade for Burns and Shattenkirk. Plus if the Oilers do add defenders, even if they have to sell off all their picks for the next three years to get them, they have a great chance at home ice for the playoffs and solid odds to get past the first round at least.
This means the Oilers, that everyone has been waiting to see what their rebuild can produce are finally ready. Solid tender, deep blue line and forwards like Eberle, Draisatl, Lucic and McDavid adding an impressive top 4. The Oilers would have the chance to do some interesting things next off season as the UFA crop is incredible. I am not suggesting they get any of these or that they can but their odds of signing the ones they want go up exponentially if they bolster their defense now and keep this lead they have.
Just a highlight of some of the potential UFAs for next year. 27 year old Jamie Benn. Personally I would trade Lucic to Dallas and pay Benn 7 mil but I am not a Lucic fan so I might be biased. Point is that Dallas has to sign Benn or move him because Vegas will take him if he is not protected.
Victor Hedman. Former Oiler, now among the top in the league for defensive defenders (Sportsnet ranks him top 5 in the league). Again, I don't care if he shoots left. I would take him over any of our Lefties. Tampa is hooped here as they already have 4 defenders with NTC. Hedman is going and they have a blue line that can take a prospect in return or they are losing him to Vegas.
Next is the aforementioned Brent Burns. I like him and Shattenkirk because their teams really can't resign them and they are both righties. I like a future of Burns - Klef, Shattenkirk - Sekeras, Larsson - Davidson. Yes I would trade nurse for this set of 6. But this is a pipe dream and Burns or Shattenkirk might be all they need long term.
Forwards like Marchand, Steen or Marleau might add great rental depth. I would pay low and just plan on keeping them for a run but I mention them as there are option to add solid wingers for a run at a decent price. Marleau has been an interest of the Oilers for as long as I remember but I have no doubt he would resign with the Sharks as he is said to be very attached to the community there. Still, like Carolina did in their cup victory signing Doug Weight, a veteran like Marleau would be great in a run.
There is also Radulov. I wouldn't pay anything for him other than rental price but if he did stay and played, he would be a good second line RW for a while as he is only 30. Also TJ Oshie who is struggling with Washington. Another 30 year old RW that would be a 1-2 with Eberle on that side.
Other names to toss around: Thorton, Sharp, Berglund, Hemsky, Boyle, Bonino...but none that fit the Oilers needs. Defenders like Kulikov, Streit, Wideman, Markov, Daley, Campbell, Del Zotto or Franson might offer a years help but again I don't see them as long term solutions (other than Kulikov).
I should also mention Vanek. About the only person turning heads in Detroit these days. He is big and has talent. He plays either wing and quite frankly I would love to see Lucic, Draisaitl and Vanek on a line. Tons of talent, speed and size.
Also there is Kovi. Like Radulov, he is looking at a return to the NHL. At 33 he is going to be a great addition for some team and quite frankly I hope it is not the Oilers. But whoever takes him is one team with a lot less cap space competing for the players that we are interested in.
With guys like this on the market, this will also mean many team juggling players to make cap space. I don't see a scenario where guys like Burns and Benn aren't resigned before the trade deadline. Burns is loved in SJ and Benn IS the stars at this point. These guys are staying put.
That said I like the idea of adding Shattenkirk and I would trade a first round pick for him at this point. We paid more for Rienhart.