Predicting The Oilers Summer - Part 1 - Free Agency
Yesterday I brought up the Oilers shopping list for this summer. Looking at those clear-cut needs on the roster, here is what I believe the roster needs to look like next year for the Oilers to have a chance at contending:
Draisaitl - McDavid -Top 6 Right Winger
Top 6 Left Winger - RNH - Complimentary Player
Nygard - 3rd Line Centre - Kassian
Gambardella - Cave - Gagner
Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Top 4 Defender
Sekera - Benning
Is it reasonable to suggest that the Oilers can tackle all of those issues in a single summer? Most likely not, as some of these needs have been blatantly obvious for years and have yet to be addressed. Optimistically there is a new boss in town in Ken Holland and a new vision in place of what this roster should look like.
I alluded in my last blog to the Oilers using free agency to address these needs.
Edmonton isn’t going to be able to go big game hunting with the likes of Panarin, Duchene, and Nyqvist all available. Instead it seems much more likely the Edmonton will need to play smart and make safe bets on players with strong underlying numbers. The St Louis Blues, were able to win the Stanley Cup with the assistance of some solid free agent signings in Patrick Maroon, Tyler Bozak, and David Perron. Can Edmonton do the same?
Brett Connolly - Right Wing
Likely the most discussed name surrounding the Oilers in free agency. The right winger has just finished the best year of his career with 46 points through 81 games. Among other forwards his 15.8 SH% last season might raise eyebrows, but it is actually the lowest of his last three years but his actual volume of shots doubled from two years ago to last year.
What makes Connolly attractive is twofold, first off most of his points have come at even strength and secondly he has produced most of those points playing on a third line, averaging under 14 minutes a game. With his P/60 so high, it is tempting to believe the correlates to him being a 30 goal scorer if he played in the top 6. Seldom is that actually how things turn out. From having to cope with the fatigue that comes with more ice-time to the quality of competition the player will face.
Regardless Connolly is a solid option for the Oilers to pursue and at the least would be an effective middle 6 option.
Joonas Donskoi - Right Wing
Another oft mentioned name the Oilers are reportedly interested in. Donskoi is another consistent EV strength producer who fits in well in a third line role. The 27 year old has put up over 30 points every year in San Jose with the exception of an injury filled 2016/2017 season. While I wouldn't describe Donskoi as the same calibre shooter of Connolly, his 115 shots last season would have been 5th among all Oilers forwards.
Brandon Pirri - Left Wing
Pirri is a player I struggle to understand, throughout his career his numbers show him as an effective goal scorer and dangerous option on the powerplay yet he has played for four NHL teams in the past five years and spent some time in the AHL as well.
It appears coaches have felt Pirri isn't effective if he doesn't have the puck or that too often he cheats for offense. For a team that is starving for depth scoring, I would offer Pirri a one year 1 million dollar deal.
Valteri Filppula - Centre
Edmonton needs a proven NHL vet at centre who can provide scoring. They had one of those players in Ryan Strome but traded him when he couldn't produce with Milan Lucic. A number of names jump out at me in free agency including Jason Spezza, Eric Fehr and Tyler Ennis but I wonder if the Holland connection might just mean Filppula.
The 35 year old centreman was originally a draft pick by Ken Holland, having some of his best seasons in a Red Wings jersey. Being over 35, Filppula is likely looking for a one or two year deal which allows him to stay in the game.
Petr Mrazek - Goalie
With every passing day it seems less and less likely that the Hurricanes will be able to come to an arrangement. Earlier last week it was reported that Edmonton was interested in making a trade to require the rights to Mrazek, to deal with him prior to free agency. Mrazek is a safe bet to play 30+ games and could be the Oilers defacto starter if Koskinen struggles.
Based purely off free agent additions, here is what the Oilers roster could look like next season.
Draisaitl (8.5) - McDavid (12.5) -Zach Kassian (1.95)
Lucic (6) - RNH (6) - Brett Connolly (3.9)
Nygard (.925) - Filppula (2.5) - Joonas Donskoi (2.5)
Pirri (1) - Cave (.625) - Gagner (3.1)
Klefbom (4.1) - Larsson (4.1)
Nurse (3.2) - Benning (1.9)
Sekera (5.5)- Persson (1)
The defense is a risk, especially if the team is counting on Benning to handle top 4 minutes... something he struggled with last season. A healthy Sekera could play his off wing and help provide some stability.
I don't think anyone can disagree that the forward group is massively improved. None of those cap hits should be too far off what any of those players would get on the market. By dropping Russell and Brodziak and making the additions that I have, the Oilers would still have just under 2 million in cap space.
Again I don't expect the Oilers to add 5 or 6 free agents this summer but adding a few of these names will help to improve depth across the roster.