Peter Chiarelli left the Oilers in terrible shape when he was fired as GM however the team is not far off of a playoff spot this year. I don't like the Oilers odds of making the playoffs but they are still competing with really only 3 good players and some filler. Still we know this and I will get to the point. The future might not be as dark as it looks for the Oilers next two seasons.
The Oilers have prospects to replace Koskinen after his three year contract and might even challenge the Finnish netminder even sooner. Goalie prospects are always a long shot but the Oilers have a few so there is hope. Koskinen himself should never have been resigned to such a large contract. Not only are their huge gaps in his game, he just didn't have the numbers to warrant 4.5 mil a year unless it was a one year contract and the Oilers were feeling desperate. The Oilers will never be able to trade him but it doesn't mean they have to play him. Yes they threw away 4.5 mil in cap space on him but it doesn't mean he is worth 4.5 mil and the Oilers need to find the cap space to bring in a veteran goalie that can provide more consistency in net.
The Oilers have three good players and then role players like Kassian and Chaisson. Their defense is hard to get a handle on since two of their highest paid and most counted on are constantly injured. Larsson is a role player and a solid second line defender. As is Nurse. They have Bouchard who looks good but shouldn't be expected to do much for the next season or two if he does ever mature into the defender he looks like he can be. Klefbom, Russell and Sekeras's contracts make them tough to trade but they should be traded at all costs to free up cap space. They are not bad players but they are not worth the money they are paid. The Oilers really need to find a way to bring in a top tier defender but this has been their problem since Pronger left.
The Oilers will get a good player in this years draft. Regardless of where they pick, there is a bunch of talent scattered throughout the first round of the draft. I think Hughes and Kappo are going to go 1-2 in that order but that is all I am really sure of in this draft. Barring the Oilers winning the Lottery (which their odds should be less than 5%), I would love to see them land either Byram or Cozens. Both players will go top 10 and maybe even top 5 but either would be great additions if they are still available when the Oilers have a chance to pick.
Byram is an incredible defensive prospect at roughly 6'2 and almost 200 lbs at just 17. Solid for a player that young and as great as he is with the puck, he might even be better at skating. He is agile, fast and offensively gifted. If they are able to get him, there is a real chance that 3 years from now that Bouchard and Byram could make up a top pairing defense that can solidify the Oilers blue line as one of the best in the league. With Nurse and Larsson as the second pairing. Still it is not likely he will be available when the Oilers pick.
Cozens might though. The Yukon native is a great offensive player that can add speed and grit to the Oilers top 6 lineup. He reminds me a lot of Monohan during his draft year. A large guy at 6'3 and 185 lbs he has roughly 90 pts in roughly 70 games this year. He plays center or RW and would compliment either of the Oilers top two lines with Draisaitl and Nuge both left handed shots. This allows the Oilers all sorts of options and with his size he would compete for a spot on next years roster. I would normally say they should keep him in the minors for another year, it did a ton for Draisaitl after they tried to rush him into the NHL. Still the Oilers don't have much in the way of real top 6 players and if the kid is deserving of a spot, it is an option for the Oilers as they are not in great shape in terms of offensive depth.
Whether the Oilers have a quick turn around or have to rebuild is really up to the GM they get this summer. The goal will be to dump contracts so they can grab players from the UFA market. Not an easy task but not as impossible as some think. The Oilers were close to dealing Russell and Lucic at the trade deadline. Rumors from inside the Oilers is that this deal is still a possibility in the off season. To dump this 10 mil in cap space would require the Oilers taking a gamble contract back or retaining salary but rumors say it is a deal that would free up some much needed cap space. Both players have NMC's but that is less of an obstacle than people think it is as well.
Relying on the UFA market to fix your problems is never a good place to be in but it is the reality the Oilers are faced with. Which means they will most likely have to overpay to get the players they need. I can go through a list of players that the Oilers should go after but there are clear top end players at each position (Bobrovsky, Karlsson and Panarin for example) that the Oilers should offer contracts to but in no means should they expect to land any of them. Still there are a lot of options if they can find the cap space.
Which brings me to the second rumor. Turns out, I might not have to change my HockeyBuzz name after all. Numerous people are saying that Hall wants to return to the Oilers. He has one year left on his contract and then is a free agent. This has been confirmed by a friend of Hall's and this rumor is getting a lot of traction. There are a lot of Oiler fans that don't like Taylor but the fact remains that he is one of the best two way wingers in the game. Many things have been said about Hall but one thing for certain, he loved playing in Edmonton. Rumor has it that the Oilers are his first choice and will sign at a discount to make it happen. Having one of the best wingers in the game want to sign with the team is really hard to pass on. If the Oilers can make it happen they will have a formidable top 6 in two years.
There are many ifs and signing a strong GM and resigning their coach should be the focus for the team this off season. Regardless of what fans from other teams say, the Oilers are doing good on the backs of Nuge, Draisaitl and McDavid. Adding talent to this team makes them a strong playoff contender for next year and they could again be a cup favorite in as early as two. There is room for optimism that Oiler fans might be getting a lot more to cheer about.