It's been a crazy few days in Oiler nation and we still have a few days left to go.
The eve of July 1st is upon us and Edmonton is faced with their best opportunity to close the gaps in their roster over the next 36 to 48 hours. Barring any late summer trades, the next few days...maybe a week, will ultimately decide whether or not this franchise is well positioned to compete for a playoff spot for the first time in a decade next season.
What's done is done and Taylor Hall is gone. I still hate it, but the fact remains that there is work to be done. What does Edmonton need to do to close their remaining roster gaps? Let's have a look.
Get a 2nd top 4 Dman or Top 9 Centre
This is the biggest thing that will dictate what happens over the next few days. The discussions are out there and it would surprise very few people at this point if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is dealt for a player like Tyson Barrie or (less-enthusiastically) Matt Dumba.
This will determine one of Edmonton's biggest needs. If they do move RNH for a blueliner, they'll need to find another centre, likely a right-handed shot and would be a middle-six option as Draisaitl would play either a 2nd or 3rd line role depending on how he performs without Hall to push the river for him. Options might include David Backes or Tyler Bozak. Even Sam Gagner?
If Edmonton doesn't make such a move, they'd need another blueliner. They could target Jason Demers, who is really the only option along the right side of the blueline that fits, or commit to another season of Mark Fayne in a shutdown role and look for an inexpensive offensive minded bottom pairing player. Yannick Webber might fit...or someone like Colin Miller (who've I've mentioned many times) might be a trade target possibility.
Top 6 LW
This is likely to be Milan Lucic according to most reports, though if the Oilers should lose out on him, Andrew Ladd could be a possibility? Possibly Loui Erickson but I doubt it.
Commit to Fayne and Yakupov or trade and replace them
The two remaining players Edmonton needs to make decisions on are Mark Fayne and Nail Yakupov. Both players the organization hasn't treated properly or handled well from an asset management spot. It's probably best for both to move on, but unless the Oilers have bodies to replace them and trade partners interested, these two could both be back. If so, that's fine with me, but if they are going to move one or the other, those roles will need to be filled by actual NHL players as there are no prospects on the farm capable of filling those spots.
A back-up goaltender
Laurent Brossoit is not ready to carry the load as an NHL goaltender and serving as a full-time back-up probably doesn't serve him well for his development. Signing an experienced back-up seems like a tap-in putt in terms of logic for the Oilers. Chad Johnson and Jhonas Enroth are good candidates.
A depth right-handed centre
Right now the Oilers only have one player on their roster who is a right-handed shot and can play centre. That's not enough. They can survive with one in their top 12, though it's not ideal, but not having a 2nd option to cover for injuries is really not a good idea. I wrote about Jonathan Marchessault earlier this week and I think he's the right guy. I wouldn't look anywhere else for a 13th forward as he's easily obtainable unless he has his heart set on playing somewhere else. I don't think Group VI UFAs are overly picky come July 1st. They just want a seat at the table before the music stops.
An established #7 Dman
There is no point to having Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart or Jordan Oesterle sit in the press box in the NHL next season. All can be sent to the AHL without waivers and all would benefit from additional playing time down there. Given the depth of NHL ready call-ups on the left side, it really makes sense for the #7 guy to be a right-handed shot. Unfortunately this helps the case for the return of Eric Gryba, which I have no time for personally. Zach Redmond is a far better solution and one we also looked at earlier this week. There are other options too, but he'd be my first, 2nd and 3rd choice for the job.
That group is fairly inexpensive beyond the two key pieces at the top of the list. Signing some of these players might put someone like Anton Lander out of a job, but I have very little issue with that. In my opinion these are all smart moves that round out the roster into something more complete than the Oilers have had at any time in the last 10 years...even though it pains me not to see Hall's name at the top of the LW depth chart. The third line might not be perfect if they move RNH, but there's potential there and it likely puts them in decent cap shape for the foreseeable future as long as they don't overpay David Backes to be their 2nd/3rd line centre long-term.
I put this out there now knowing that most of these things may not come to pass as Edmonton has a history of taking half measures. That said, we're in uncharted territory this off-season, so who the hell knows really.