The Edmonton Oilers have given full control of the Oilers to Peter Chiarelli, naming him President of Hockey Operations and General Manager. Chiarelli is going to take a few weeks to assess the team and players to see exactly where his positions of strength and weakness are before making any moves, but he will make moves. Given his track record of making big trades in Boston I think we can expect a big trade or two this summer.
The weaknesses on the Oilers are pretty obvious, they need a starting goalie and they need a couple of top pairing defensemen if they want a shot at making the playoffs next season. They may have an opportunity to get a piece or two via free agency but typically that requires an overpayment and I’m not sure thats a good idea in Edmonton so I expect Chiarelli to make a couple of trades to fill these areas.
The Oilers have a lot of young skilled forwards that other teams would covet very highly. Its been a topic of hot debate amongst Oilers fan and the media whether or not the Oilers should trade one of the young stars to bring in a missing piece and I think now is the time.
Connor McDavid is on his way to Edmonton and he will really change the complexion of the top 6, for the first time is recent memory the Oilers will have some depth at C but it really isn’t a position that they should be trading from. They have McDavid, Nuge, Lander, Drai and Gordon which is a fine depth chart imo but there isn’t enough depth there to make a trade and still expect to be successful.
On the wing however they do have a position of strength to deal from, any one of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov could on the move. Its much easier to fill in holes on the wing than it is at Center or Defense which is why I think there is a good chance that Chiarelli will move one of those players.
Another area of strength the team has is on the farm club, there are a few young defensemen in the system who look to have a pretty good shot at a successful NHL career who could be bundled with other players or picks to bring in a top end player.
The Extra Pieces
If Chiarelli can manage to bring in a couple of top pairing or even top 4 defensemen there will be a couple of guys he may be trying to dump, mainly Nikita Nikitin, Andrew Ferrence and Justin Shultz. The Nikitin trade and signing is one of the black marks on MacT’s resume, he is clearly not capable of playing top 4 minutes on an NHL team but MacT paid him like one and marketed him as one as well. If Chiarelli can move the contract or even buy out Nikitin it will go a long way to helping the Oilers manage the salary cap.
When Andrew Ferrence became a UFA in Boston Chiarelli was in no hurry to sign him so he came to Edmonton to collect a handsome salary and be named captain of the team. I expect Chiarelli will be able to move Ferrence either in the summer or at some point during the season.
The other name I have here is future Norris candidate Justin Shultz. Shultz has not progressed since joining the Oilers and it can be argued that he has actually regressed. At this point he’s at best a 3rd pairing defensemen but he’s getting paid like a top 4 and Chiarelli will either see his issues and move him for a more useful piece or see his potential and put him in a position that he can learn the game and succeed.
It was clear from watching the press conference of Chiarelli’s hiring that he feels the Oilers need to be a ‘heavier’ team, he talked about teams that play heavy and win battles but are not necessarily really big players. He communicated very well that they need to work much harder on and off the ice and need to find the right mix of players to bring speed and size. Would trading a player like Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov for a top 4 defensemen and replacing them with a player more similar to Benoit Pouliot who can play a heavy game and still compliment his highly skilled linemates be a step in the right direction?
Hold on Oilers fans, we may be in for a summer full of debate, excitement and (hopefully not) regret. I expect to see a much different Oilers team in training camp than we’ve seen to finish the 2014/15 season.