How To Fix The Edmonton Oilers

Continuing with my theme of fixing broken teams, my next challenge I’ve decided to tackle is the Edmonton Oilers. The team that’s been broken for ages. The last time the Oilers made the playoffs was before Connor McDavid’s 10th birthday and now he’s the best player on the team.

Some rules of this series I’m operating under: All the trades and signings are purely speculation, but I try my best to make them as realistic as possible. When signing free agents who in real life have signed with other teams by this point, by default I take on whatever contract they ended up signing with their actual team. I don’t know these players personally so I can’t say which ones would or wouldn’t want to sign in Edmonton for real. For the purposes of this exercise I’m assuming all players would be willing to sign with the Oilers for market value.

 

Just like last time, I’m hopping in my time machine and going to the start of the off-season, where I take over for Peter Chiarelli who was fired for asking if he could trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. When I take over my roster looks like this:

 

Taylor Hall

Connor McDavid Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Nail Yakupov

Patrick Maroon

Leon Draisaitl

Zack Kassian

Matt Hendricks Mark Letestu

Liro Pakarinen

Anton Lander

 

Oscar Klefbom

Mark Fayne

Andrej Sekera

Andrew Ference
Brandon Davidson

Darnell Nurse

 

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

 

Without further ado let’s jump into step one.

 

Step One: Get Rid of Dead Weight

 

It seems as though Andrew Ference’s career might be over due to injury. Losing Ference as a player isn’t bad for Oilers, in fact it’s quite good. It does however present some cap complications. If he is in fact too injured to play this season, the Oilers could place him on long term injury reserve, and they will be allowed to go over the cap by the amount of his cap hit, which in this case is $3,250,000. However, if the Oilers go this route, that means any performance bonuses will count as overages. In other words, if Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi, or Darnell Nurse light the lamp next year, all their bonuses will count against the cap next season which could cost them as much as $6,175,000. This is a very undesirable situation, and would be nice to avoid. Because of this it doesn’t make sense to place Ference on LTIR simply to clear $3.25M. This leaves the Oilers will the option of keeping him for the final year of his contract and having him count against the cap, or trading him, likely with some sort of pick or prospect for some team to take his contract, or burying him in the minors assuming he agrees to waive his no movement clause. I’m going to do all I can to stay $3.25M below the cap so I don’t have to give up any assets to get him off the books. This means I’ll essentially be working with a cap of $69,750,000.

 

There’s really isn’t any dead weight which can be easily cleared without sacrificing assets, or buying players out. I don’t want to do either, but I will likely end up burying Mark Letestu and or Matt Hendricks which gives me an extra $950,000- $1,900,000 to work with if necessary. Since teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap by 10% during the offseason, this is money I can use.

 

Heading into free agency I have $12,855,084 in cap space to spend, and the extra $950,000- $1,900,000 on top of that if I need to use it. That’s certainly enough to add some key players and plug some holes.

 

Step Two: Identify Areas of Need

 

My main priority this offseason is shoring up this defense. I’d like to add enough defensemen so that both Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart can start the year in the AHL. Also, as it currently stands the only right handed defenseman on the roster is Mark Fayne. This isn’t necessarily a huge deal, but it would be preferable to get some more righties on the team.

 

Going into next season, I’d like to be able to roll three threatening lines. One centred around Connor McDavid, one featuring Hall and Leon Draisaitl, and a third with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. Spreading out these talented players allows us to get more from all the players individually. Also it would allow me to limit the ice time of this fourth line which likely won’t be great. I’m fine keeping McDavid with Pouliot and Yakupov, where they found success last season, but adding a right winger to the second line would mean I don’t have to play Zack Kassian in the top six which is obviously preferable.

 

I’d like to redo the fourth line, but I want to keep the cost as low as possible. If I can find good players coming at or under the amount that I’ll save by burying current fourth liners ($950,000 each) then I could improve the depth of the forwards without racking up huge cap hits.

 

Last but not least I’d like to add a competent backup goalie who can ideally take some games from Cam Talbot who isn’t the strongest of netminders. As always, the cheaper the better.

 

In summary I want: 1 top six right winger, 3 cheap fourth liners, 2-3 defensemen and 1 backup goalie. I probably won’t be able to accomplish all this with my cap restraints. Some financial footwork might become necessary. Also I need to remember that McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi and others will need contracts in the next few years so I can’t rack up huge dollars for long-term. I need to spend responsibly.

 

Step Three: July 1st

 

My first addition is signing Jason Demers ($4.5M x 5 years). Demers is capable of playing on our first pair, and he is right handed. Klefbom and Demers up front gives us a legitimate top pairing which can play in any situation. Demers is better than Adam Larsson by the way.

 

Next up is David Schlemko ($2.1M x 4 years). Schlemko brings a tremendous ability to drive possession, a skill the Oilers desperately need from the blueline, and does it for cheap. He is a lefty but can play on any one of our three pairings without looking out of place. He’s probably best suited to a second or third pair role though.

 

The final addition I’ll make to this blue line is adding righty David Rundblad for $750,000 on a one year deal. He is an analytics darling who has never been given a fair shot. This one year deal allows him to prove if he’s the real deal and very low cost to the team. It’s a win-win. If he doesn’t work out he can be buried or fill in as seventh defenseman.

 

Next for my forwards I’m bringing back Teddy Purcell for $1,600,000 to play on my second line with Hall and Draisaitl. He drives play nicely while chipping in a decent amount of offense. Playing with two dynamic offensive players will likely boost his point totals and increase his trade value. He’ll probably also be getting first line minutes on this line, similar to Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. I’m going to run two first lines.

 

Kris Versteeg, who was brought in on a PTO in real life, will make a great addition to our forward group. He’ll take Hendricks roster spot but will probably end up playing on the Nuge/Eberle line. He comes cheap off of a PTO, so I’ll give him $1,000,000 for one year. Almost all of that money will come from burying Hendricks and both contracts come off the books after this season.

 

Brad Boyes is a nice depth forward who will make our fourth line look instantly better. I’d rather have him than Zack Kassian, so Kassian will make his way to Bakersfield to make room for Boyes.

 

The last piece to my new and improved fourth line comes in the form of Jonathan Marchessault. This undersized forward is really underrated and is a cheap depth forward. Two years at $750,000 is a steal for a player this good. He pushes Anton Lander out of the lineup, but I’ll keep Lander with the big club because he’s cheap and versatile (can play all three forward positions) so he’ll be useful to replace injured players.

 

My last move is signing goalie Jhonas Enroth to a one year deal worth $750,000. He’s undersized but skilled and has played 40 games in a season before. I can see him playing 30-35 games in a relief role behind Cam Talbot.

 

As it turns out I filled all my needs with $7,806,750 left in cap space after burying unwanted players. That’s even with Ference remaining on the roster and Mark Fayne in the press box as our seventh defenseman.

 

Summer isn’t over yet though. I’m going to extend Leon Draisaitl for eight years at $4.75M. Because he only has one successful season he has very little bargaining power, but his underlying numbers were good, as were his point totals. I’m not concerned about Draisaitl long-term as he’s probably already better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

 

End Result:

 

After all my moves, my roster will look something like this heading into next season.

 

Benoit Pouliot

Connor McDavid Nail Yakupov

Taylor Hall

Leon Draisaitl Teddy Purcell

Kris Versteeg

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Patrick Maroon Jonathan Marchessault

Brad Boyes

 

Oscar Klefbom

Jason Demers

Andrej Sekera

David Schlemko
Brandon Davidson

David Rundblad

Andrew Ference (Injured)

Mark Fayne (spare)

 

Cam Talbot

Jhonas Enroth

 

I like this lineup because it spreads out the talent of our high end players while still giving them useful linemates who won’t hold them down. Throughout the lineup we have players who drive possession, so even out fourth line won’t get flattened when thrown out. We have four lines we can trust to help us shoot more than the other team which gives us a solid chance in any game. We accomplished this with $7,806,750 in cap space which will cover any potential performance bonuses and still leaves us with some roster flexibilty for trade deadline moves or bringing up AHL players. We didn’t sign any players long-term to contracts we’ll regret, so there will be money to sign Connor McDavid and other when the time comes. Leon Draisaitl is locked up long term at a reasonable rate and can play with Taylor Hall for the better part of the next decade.

 

What do you think? Better than Chiarelli? In my opinion, the fact that I still have Taylor Hall on my team proves I’m a better GM than he.

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