The undisputed top line now and in the future for the Oilers is the Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle line.
Although the Edmonton Oilers are currently playing at a level unthought of before the season began, it would be wise to remember that they are still in the course of a rebuild. Sacrifices can and must be made in the short-term in order to achieve long-term gains.
There has been a lot of debate on where Oilers forwards Linus Omark, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky fit into the franchises future.
For clarity, Let's take a look at the Oilers forwards, both those on the team and in the prospect pipeline.
Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky form the current second line, but other than Hemsky, there is no future for this line in the top 6.
I've long loved the idea of a Tre Kronor line of Anton Lander, Magnus Paajaarvi and Linus Omark. They would serve as a solid third line now, but have second line potential in the future.
Ben Eager and Lennert Petrell should form the nucleus of the Oilers 4th line for the next few seasons, currently alongside Eric Belanger.
You will notice that this leaves no room for Sam Gagner.
In the pipeline, Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton will look for spots for in top 9 over the next few seasons.
So skip to 3-5 years in the future, the oilers are now a contender. What would the ideal forward line-up look like, comprised of a combination of the players listed above?
the Hall-Nugent Hopkins-Eberle line would stay intact. As would the Tre Kronor line of Paajaarvi-Lander-Omark. Pitlick could center Hamilton and Hartikainen. creating a sort of Line 2a and Line 2b scenario.
Horcoff and Smyth by this time would be reduced to the role of 4th line veteran leadership, joined by Petrell or Eager on the 4th line, with the other serving as the 13th forward.
This leaves Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner without futures in the orange and blue. Although talented, they lack the size and defensive ability needed for the spots they are fighting for. So the best course of action is to move them this season, and continue building up defensive prospect depth. I believe that Hemsky should be move as soon as possible. His value only goes down with time, as he invariably suffers another injury and inches closers to Unrestricted Free Agency.
Gagner's situation is not as pressing, and he can be retained and used as the right-winger with Horcoff and Smyth until the Trade Deadline or Draft, where he can then be flipped for an asset.
Althougb there is another option. Gagner is not much older than Omark, but is more experienced and proven. So why am I so quick to keep Linus and dump Sam? Perhaps Sam can stay, and eventually play with Pitlick and Hamilton, while Hartikainen can team up with fellow Scandinavians Paajaarvi and Lander. It's a choice the Oilers will have to make.
You'll notice I didn't mention Jones much. He can be traded to a team looking for bottom 6 depth at anytime.
So let's say that Hemsky and Jones are moved in the near future, where does that leave the oilers forward group? Looking pretty good.
Similar to the line-up we've been seeing so far this season, but organised for optimum success.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and that it helped clarify some of the debate on the Oilers trade rumours. It also hopefully was not too long!
Have a great day :)