We know the Stanley Cup will be awarded on Wednesday night. Once that is done, the fun leading up to the draft begins. I’ve been doing a 2019 Oilers Off-Season Game Plan series since April. I’ve talked about some of the decisions that Holland will be facing this summer, and I’ve talked about potential trade, UFA, and offer sheet targets. Now comes the fun part: trying to guess what the roster will look like on opening night.
I’m going to give you two scenarios. The first is what I think the roster SHOULD look like. This is the one where I’ll have a bit of fun and throw some creative trade proposals out there. In my fantasy world, they get accepted! Now, I’ve tried to base this in reality as much as possible because sure, the Oilers should go out and get Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel, and they should offer sheet Mitch Marner; but none of those things are realistic.
The second scenario will be what I think the roster WILL look like. I’ll base this off of things that I’ve heard and read (which are likely no different than what any of you have heard and read).
I’ll likely fall flat on my face with these rosters; but let’s have some fun!
First up, what I think the Oilers SHOULD do this summer. Spoiler alert: I think the Oilers should make a lot of trades. Here’s the list of trades:
EDM gets: Jared Spurgeon and 2019 12th overall pick
MIN gets: Kris Russell, Ethan Bear, and 2019 8th overall pick
The Oilers need an upgrade at 2RD, and Spurgeon is an UFA in 2020. Paul Fenton is re-tooling that Minnesota team, so there might be an appetite to move here. Minnesota is a strong American hockey market. How much do you think they would like to move in to the top 10 and select one of the USNTDP players in this draft? The Oilers could move to 12 and still possibly get one of those kids or someone like Krebs, Newhook, or Broberg. This is an outside of the box move that I think would benefit both teams.
EDM gets: Brandon Sutter
VAN gets: Andrej Sekera
The Oilers and Canucks could be trading partners this summer, but possibly not for the trade we all think will happen. Sekera and Sutter are both aging players that have had recent injury issues. The Canucks have a strong group of young centres with Horvat, Pettersson, and Gaudette. They’ve also got Beagle at centre. They would likely love to add a veteran puck mover like Sekera to the left side of their group. Sutter wold make a solid 3C for Edmonton for the next 2 years. The move also creates some cap space and opens up a roster spot for Caleb Jones.
EDM gets: Riley Nash
CBJ gets: Milan Lucic (EDM retains $3M)
Columbus came out on the wrong side of a brutally physical series with the Bruins this spring. Milan Lucic would certainly help with that. I opined over the idea of trading Lucic to CBJ for Alex Wennberg a while back, but I think the sweetener the Oilers would have to throw in for Wennberg would be too much. Nash came to Columbus on the heels of an anomalous 41-point season in 2017-18, and he came crashing down to Earth last season with only 12 points. I’m sure CBJ wants a re-do on that deal. Edmonton needs an upgrade at 4C as well because I don’t think Cave or Brodziak can play there for the long haul. This deal works from a hockey perspective, but the Oilers would need to retain 50% of Lucic’s salary to make the money work, which brings me to the next deal…
EDM gets: 2020 6th round pick
OTT gets: Lucic ($3M RS), 2020 3rd round pick, 2020 5th round pick, Ostap Safin
Our friends in Ottawa are going through a rebuild, and they might struggle to get to the cap floor. Edmonton would need to throw something of value to them in order to get them to take on $3 million in dead money for 4 years. Hopefully a 3rd round pick, a decent prospect, and moving up a round with another pick would be enticing enough. It probably wouldn’t be enough; but this is my fun scenario, so thanks Pierre Dorion!
EDM gets: 2019 3rd round pick and Nikita Scherbak
LA gets: Matt Benning
Moving Benning sheds more cap space and opens up a roster spot for Joel Persson. He has been the best offensive defenceman in Sweden for the last 2 seasons, and he is only one year younger than Nygard… if the leading scorer in the SHL (Nygard) is being pencilled in as a 3LW in Edmonton, then Persson should be able to play 3RD next season. LA is pretty weak on defence, and they have an extra 3rd round pick in this draft. Scherbak played 8 games with LA after being claimed on waivers, and then spent the rest of the year in the AHL. I don’t think they see a fit there.
EDM gets: Insert weak prospect here
PIT gets: Kyle Brodziak
Brodziak is the type of depth player that a contending team typically likes to add. Pittsburgh is a perennial contender, and they have likely seen the last of 42-year old UFA centre Matt Cullen. Rutherford could give us any old prospect for all I care… if they want Brodziak, then they can have him.
EDM gets: Ondrej Palat
TB gets: Lagesson, Marody, 2nd round pick
TB is in a cap crunch. They have to sign Brayden Point, and he could eat up all of their remaining cap space. They may have to move one of their $5 million wingers. I’m sure that Holland could pick up the phone and discuss TB players at length with Steve Yzerman before making a move here. In Palat, the Oilers would get a speedy winger with a solid 200 ft game that can push 50 points. The Lightning would get a solid 3LD that could be ready for NHL action next season in Lagesson, a skilled play making prospect in Marody, and a high draft pick.
The Oilers should be involved in the UFA market too. They obviously need a back-up goalie, and my choice would be Keith Kinkaid. He was the starter in the playoffs for the Devils in 2017-18, and he was one of the big reasons that they got there (other than Hall’s MVP performance). He can handle the work load needed to provide a solid back-up to Koskinen, and he doesn’t have the same injury issues that other UFA goalies in this range have. I’d give him a 2-year deal to see what he can do.
The other player I’m going after in the UFA market is Joonas Donskoi. He was a healthy scratch in quite a few playoff games for the Sharks this spring, which could mean that he is on the move. He can push 40 points, which is enough to fake it as a top 6 option. For the $3 million expected price tag, I’ll take that. I wouldn’t go more than 3 years on him though. SJ was healthy scratching him for some reason, so I would be cautious with term. Oh yeah, and he’s Finnish… he could be another positive presence in the room for young Jesse Puljujarvi, whom I’d love to hold on to this year and see what he can do under new management and coaching.
As for internal re-signings, I’m obviously re-signing Puljujarvi. I’m also re-signing Jujhar Khaira. I see him as a good 4LW in this league. He doesn’t have the consistency to play higher in the lineup than that, which isn’t a bad thing. It just means he needs to be slotted properly.
The other guy that I’d re-sign is Kevin Gravel. My 3rd pairing features 2 rookies in Jones and Persson. They likely don’t need to play all 82 games as rookies. Gravel is a reliable defender that could jump in to give one of the two kids a rest and an opportunity to view the game from the press box once in a while. Gravel is an LD. Persson is an RD and Jones is an LD that can play both sides. Either kid can play RD on a pair with Gravel for a couple of games here or there this season.
I’m not bringing Chiasson back. I don’t expect him to repeat his 22-goal performance, and there are other options the Oilers could use in his spot on the PP (Gagner, Puljujarvi, or Donskoi). Some team is going to over pay for Chiasson, and I don’t think the Oilers should be that team (although I can totally see it happening).
As for Manning, getting a team to take on $2.25 million for a depth defender is a tall task. He could be bought out, but then you have to pay for him next year too… I think the better move would be to just bury him in the AHL again.
After all of that chaos, here’s what I think the roster SHOULD look like this coming season:
Draisaitl ($8.5M) McDavid ($12.5M) DONSKOI ($3M)
PALAT ($5.3M) Nugent-Hopkins ($6M) Gagner ($3.15M)
Nygard ($925,000) SUTTER ($4M) Puljujarvi ($1.25M)
Khaira ($1M) NASH ($2.75M) Kassian ($1.95M)
Cave ($675,000) Gambardella ($700,000)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Larsson ($4,166,666)
Nurse ($3.2M) SPURGEON ($5,187,500)
Jones ($720,000) Persson ($1M)
Cap Hit: $80,191,166
Buyouts: Pouliot- $1,333,333; Gryba- $300,000
Buried: Manning- $1,175,000
The wing situation here would be MUCH better than the current situation, and it didn’t involve giving up Puljujarvi or Nurse. The centre ice situation in the bottom 6 would be improved dramatically. That elusive offensive powerplay RHD would be acquired. Lucic and his big contract would be gone. The defence would be far more mobile. Sekera’s $5.5 million on the bottom pairing would be gone. We would stop hearing from the analytics community about how horrible Russell is because he would be gone. The goaltending situation would be fine. This scenario would fix the major issues facing the Oilers this summer, while still leaving the team in good shape for the future.
While this roster looks good, what I think SHOULD happen and what WILL happen are two different things. Check out what I think the roster WILL look like in October. Take a look at what I think WILL happen this summer.