With day 2 of free agency coming to a close, the dust has begun to settle on the 2014-15 edition of these Edmonton Oilers. Judging by some comments made by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug today, I’m not the only one who sees what Craig MacTavish is trying to do moving into next year. Behind the top line of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, MacTavish has created a situation where Perron and newcomer Teddy Purcell can flank fresh youngster Leon Draisaitl in a line best categorized as a 2/3 roll. This will suppport the big three while not rushing the 2014 3rd overall pick too much. Dallas Eakins will have the option of scaling back their minutes in case the trio have an off night with a second 2/3 line of Nail Yakupov, Benoit Pouliot and a centre that is still to be obtained.
If the Oilers are able to grab a second line centre of enough quality, MacTavish will have finally iced a lineup that is Lars Eller approved. It will keep both Yakupov and Draisaitl lined up with players that can bring a consistent game to the rink without having to pair them together.
Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Perron – Draisaitl – Purcell
Pouliot – ? – Yakupov
Hendricks – Gordon – Gazdic
Marincin – Petry
Nikitin – Schultz
Ference – Fayne
Consistency seems to be the flavour of this new version of the Oilers roster. In Nikitin, in Purcell, in Pouliot, in Fayne, in Draisaitl and in Aulie, we know exactly what we are getting. In each of them, Edmonton can say that they got an NHL calibre player whose age fits the rebuild. In Purcell, Draisaitl and Pouliot they have gained forwards whose size balances some of the smaller bodies, an issue that has plagued the Oilers relentlessly for six of the last eight playoff-less seasons. In drafting Draisaitl, they took a player whose closest comparison was Joe Thornton, a player known as the most consistent player in hockey. In moving towards a three line system with a shutdown line for a fourth line, the Oilers have given themselves the ability to split up Draisaitl and Yakupov without having to disrupt a top line that is simply better together than apart.
The only question that remains is that one down the middle. The Oilers need a centre who can play 2nd line minutes. A two way centre with the ability to add some offence. I believe Grabovski was option one, now that he is off to Brooklyn do the Oilers rush to David Legwand‘s door or do they look for one via trade?
There are some rumblings that MacTavish could flip defender Jeff Petry in the search for an answer at centre, the pundit’s seem to think Petry for Berglund could be something that possibly makes sense. As someone who is unfamiliar with Patrik Berglund and someone who is familiar with how awful the Oilers defence has been over the past eight years, I’m not a huge fan of this prospect. I’m not completely sold on Jeff Petry’s value, he seems like someone who has all the tools but has all the motivation of an unsupervised teenager, but, incredibly, he still seems to be a better option to me than anyone else the Oilers have in the stable. I bet on Petry getting his act together in the presence of three new faces before betting on Oscar Klefbom becoming a bona-fide top pairing defensemen by early october.
Petry for Berglund seems like something we could revisit next summer. Apparently, trading for Shea Weber wasn’t an option so the only way the Oilers build a spark on defence is by internal competition. The Oilers will simply have a better blue line this fall if they don’t trade Petry.
MacTavish found a big winger to play in the top six when he traded for Teddy Purcell. He found another speedy, checking forward with top end pedigree in Benoit Pouliot. If the Oilers lose on Legwand, something we should all expect, they better hope MacTavish has another trick up his sleeve to find another perfect fit for the Oilers up front. If he does indeed find one, we could be looking at the best Oilers team since before the plague of the Horcoff contract.
Scratch that. Trade Petry and a second for Weber.