We review the latest situation with the Oilers’ quest to find their fourth line centre, the impact of Steve Staios leaving, and other news around the NHL.
The one roster spot the Oilers could really use at this point, would have to be fourth line centre. Last season no one player grabbed the reins, so there was a parade of guys in and out of that position, including double shifting the Oilers big three of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
It was hoped that one of the PTOs in Sam Gagner or Brandon Sutter would grab the position. However, Gagner is still nursing an injury from one of his hips he had surgery on last year and is only able to practice with the team during training camp, as he can’t play any games yet.
Sutter, meanwhile, played two preseason games in a row and found himself severely winded while playing the second one. So the Oilers have since released him from his PTO and he has subsequently retired from the NHL.
Lane Pederson is the only other centre candidate still in camp, but he has been unnoticeable at best. The other two candidates for fourth line spots are wingers in Adam Erne and prospect Raphael Lavoie.
Lavoie seems to be the front-runner at this point, as he scored a preseason goal that showcased his booming shot, which has impressed everyone so far. As for how things could play out after the top two candidates are done? Oilers Nation spells out all the options for you.
Steve Staios moves on
Steve Staios has left the Oilers management ranks as a senior advisor, and will join the Ottawa Senators management team as President of Hockey Operations. He was tagged as the front runner to replace Ken Holland as GM, whose initial contract he signed when he was hired in 2019 is finished after this upcoming season.
Although Holland has remained tight-lipped on what he’ll do, rumor has it he may retire after the season is done. Staios was being groomed as his replacement, but that’s obviously not happening now.
Staios has ties to new Sens owner Michael Andlauer. He was previously president and GM of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, whom Andlauer owns. As is the case for most franchises, whenever there is a big change in the organization, the new person always likes to bring in their own people.
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Who might replace Holland if he indeed does retire after this season? The incumbent internal candidate would have to be Keith Gretzky at this point, as he has previously served briefly as the Oilers interim GM after Peter Chiarelli was fired and before Holland was hired.
Gretzky made two pretty solid trades at the trade deadline (one of which was to re-acquire Gagner for his second stint with the Oilers). So personally I have to think he’s the best internal candidate, although current assistant GM Brad Holland would be in the running as well.
Let’s laugh at Calgary some more
Want some more evidence that Darryl Sutter is now a relic in hockey circles? Now ex-Flames prospect Matthew Phillips, scored at almost a point per game clip in his AHL career and during last season – the last year of his ELC with the Flames.
As a reward for his AHL production, Phillips was given a whopping……three games with the Flames. Why? Sutter prefers to play veterans over young players because he still thinks it’s 1980 or 1990 something, despite the fact that in these cap days younger players rule the roost.
It seems this treatment didn’t sit well with the young Phillips, who was angry enough to walk away from the Flames and sign a one-year, one-way deal with the Washington Capitals. The Caps like him so much, they’re actually auditioning him in preseason between Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom.
The real kicker is Phillips was a sixth round pick of the Flames in 2016 and is one of the few players who would’ve made their scouting department look good. You can’t make this stuff up. If there was any doubt in your mind that Sutter is a fossil who needs to remain unemployed in the NHL forever, this should be it.
Trevor Zegras FINALLY re-ups with Anaheim
It seems like contract talks between the Ducks and Trevor Zegras were contentious, as the negotiations lasted much longer than they really should’ve done. The two sides eventually agreed on a three-year, $17.25 million deal.
If Zegras tangles just as intensely with Ducks management after his new contract is up, with the direction the cap is going, perhaps the Oilers can engineer a sign-and-trade for the forward…..hmm. (He’ll still be an RFA after his contract is up.)