Many Edmonton Oilers fans are worried about the upcoming 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. With the move right around the corner, many are worried as if the Oilers will lose a lot come May.
However, it is not as scary as previously thought. Especially when looking at the names, list and circumstances, the Oilers are in a pretty good position. Also, even if they do lose someone, it is honestly not the end of the world.
The Oilers have a choice. They can either protect seven forwards, three defenders and one goaltender, or eight skaters and one goalie. Given Cam Talbot’s NMC, he has to be protected. Therefore, no matter what, he will always be protected from the expansion draft. Other ELC names, like Connor McDavid, are protected too. There are no concerns there.
So, that already takes a lot of weight and concern off. Our number one netminder, who has been excellent of late, will be an Oiler, no matter the circumstances.
The more likeable, preferable option for their skaters is to protect seven forwards and three defenders. But, due to two more NMCs for Milan Lucic and Andrej Sekera, the Oilers can protect six forwards and two more defencemen.
Here are the names that are not automatically exempt or protected:
Forwards: Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Lander, Jujhar Khaira, Mark Letestu, Matt Hendricks, Tyler Pitlick, Taylor Beck, Bogdan Yakimov, Mitchell Moroz and Zachary Pochiro.
Defence: Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Brandon Davidson, Kris Russell, Andrew Ference, Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba, Jordan Oesterle, Mark Fayne, Mark Fraser, David Musil and Dillon Simpson.
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Who to Protect: Forwards
So, given these moves, the Oilers can only pick six of these forwards and two of these blueliners. First and foremost, Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian should be the first names protected. They bring a lot to the table for the Oilers organisation as a whole. Maroon is among the team’s leading scorers, Draisaitl leads the team in goals and is a top-line forward and Kassian has proven his worth to the team.
Next, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle get protected. They are both parts of the core, and if they can’t find their touch, both make good trade names. They add a lot of value and top-six depth to Edmonton. Therefore, the Oilers shouldn’t let them walk for no return.
After them, the biggest debate is between Tyler Pitlick and Jujhar Khaira. Though injury prone, Pitlick showed his potential as a top-six RW and filled out a lot of depth on that right side. Khaira is a solid, experienced bottom-six forward who stabilizes the lineup and can create opportunities on the third or fourth line.
Both have shown great contributions to the Oilers, but I believe Pitlick warrants more protection. He made great strides and has more ability to grow into a top-six winger, and more importantly, he is right-handed. The Oilers need more RW depth in their lineup, so they should keep him.
Not to mention, if Khaira is left unprotected, a player like Benoit Pouliot is more likely to be taken over him. Pouliot has scoring potential and a lot of experience and can fill out depth on the wing. Even Mark Letestu and Anton Lander have a significant chance of heading to Vegas; both are solid centres who can be trusted on special teams and win draws.
Who to Protect: Defence
When it comes to the defence, it is more important to hang onto the top-pairing: Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson. They contribute a lot and bring the most depth to the defence corps. Sure, it leaves Kris Russell and Brandon Davidson unprotected, but think of it in a different way. Russell is a UFA after this season, so the Oilers can always re-sign him or find another, better name in free agency.
With Darnell Nurse and Matthew Benning filling out the bottom-pairing, Davidson struggles to truly slot in. He’s a great player, and it would be a loss if he were drafted, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Edmonton can cope without him.
All in all, the expansion draft will go just fine. While Edmonton will lose a name, it isn’t going to drastically change things.