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Next Up on Holland’s List: A Third Line Center

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Will Ken Holland trust his internal options or will he go down another route to fill the third line center position?

Well, this summer just got a whole helluva lot more interesting!

The Edmonton Oilers landed a potential top 6 forward with the aquisition of James Neal yesterday, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to be done.

A glaring hole still exists on the team’s third line and there isn’t a clear answer for who will fill it. That hole is at the center position. Entering last season, the Oilers had a pretty good option occupying that spot in Ryan Strome but, as we all know, Chiarelli traded him away for peanuts after he struggled to put up points early on in the season.

That trade brought Ryan Spooner to Edmonton and, subsequently, led to Sam Gagner’s return to the Edmonton Oilers. While Gagner could definitely be an option at the position, there have been comments by Ken Holland that suggest that the team will head outside of the organization to fill the need.

Some internal names have been thrown around, but most of them seem unlikely. One of those names is Markus Granlund, who has experience playing at the center position. Given how Holland made these comments on the same day that the team brought in Granlund I suspect that the Finn will most likely find himself on one of the wings next season.

Another unlikely candidate is Swiss import Gaeten Haas. Haas is a skilled player but is a very risky bet to be a regular third line center. I do believe he will make it on as the team’s fourth line centerman; he’ll have to impress if he wants to make the jump to the third line.

So, with that, lets explore the options that exist. I have a number of outside options to discuss but, just for fun, I also have a few internal candidates as well.

Let’s start with what we already have.

Internal Options:

Sam Gagner

Gagner is a known commodity for Edmonton Oiler fans. He was drafted 8th overall by the team all the way back in 2007 and played with them up until 2013/14. He was then traded to Tampa Bay for Teddy Purcell.

Well, as is the cycle of life, the Oilers reacquired Gagner prior to this year’s trade deadline. In 25 games with the Oilers last season, the veteran centerman put up 10pts playing in a bottom 6 role on the wing.

Gagner’s natural position is center and he seems to be fairly consistent in terms of production, having put up 30+ points in 5 of his last 6 full NHL seasons before 2018/19. He would be familiar with Dave Tippett, as he played 81 games with the Coyotes in 2014/15.

If Ken Holland strikes out on landing a third line center, Gagner would be the first candidate to take over the role.

Colby Cave

This is an interesting option for the Oilers. Cave came to the Oilers last January as a waiver pick-up from Boston. He played 33 games with the Oilers while only gathering 3pts. Intrestingly enough, he spent the majority of his time in Edmonton centering Sam Gagner and Tobias Reider on the third line. This makes Colby Cave the team’s incumbent 3C going into next season.

Cave showed a lot of bite in his game but was not spectacular in the role that he was given. I know a lot of fans who enjoyed watching him in Edmonton, but his production was so little that I do not think he will get much consideration in the role.

Could I be wrong? Sure, maybe he bursts onto the scene next season but, as of now, I don’t see that happening for Colby Cave.

Outside Options:

Derick Brassard

One of the names that have been connected to the Edmonton Oilers ALL summer has been Derick Brassard.

The Hull, Quebec native has had a few tough seasons in the NHL, only putting up a combined 31pts in the past 2 seasons. Brassard was also traded twice this past season jumping from Pittsburgh to Florida and then from Florida to Colorado. He now sits on a rather bare UFA bin and there is a belief that he could be had for pennies on the dollar at this point.

Of course, there are concerns with Brassard coming to Edmonton. At the age of 31 it seems he is quickly circling the drain with his offensive numbers stagnating the past 2 seasons.

Brassard is a good NHL player and I don’t think he’s quite done in the league yet. A change of scenery is definitely in the cards for him and, if Edmonton can get him cheap, I think he’s a decent bet for a rebound year.

If the Oilers do make a move to bring in a 3rd line C, I think Brassard is their guy

Brian Boyle

The next player that Edmonton has had reported interest in is Brian Boyle.

Boyle split last season between New Jersey and Nashville, putting up a combined 24pts in 73 games. In New Jersey he was mostly deployed in a fourth line role with fringe NHLers like Brett Seney. Despite the reduced role and lackluster line-mates he still managed a respectable 19pts in the New Jersey before moving on to Nashville.

In Nashville he continued to be deployed in a bottom 6 role, adding 5 goals in 26 games. In his past 5 seasons he has put up point totals in the low-to-mid 20s. It seems as though this is his ceiling for production in the NHL at this point.

Boyle would bring a large veteran presence to the Edmonton Oilers, but I am not convinced that he is the ideal third line center. It seems as though he is a very good fourth line guy in the league at this point. He is reliable but, at the age of 34, he isn’t getting any younger and he could start declining as soon as next season.

At a reasonable price-point and term I would have time for Boyle, but he wouldn’t be my top choice at this point in time.

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Who do you think the Oilers will have centering the third line next season?

Leave a comment and let me know!