How the Edmonton Oilers Should Fill Their Biggest Needs in the 2014 Offseason
The Oilers currently hold the third overall pick, but any player taken may or may not make the roster next season.
The Oilers have some major holes and questions that will need to be addressed, and unfortunately for general manager Craig MacTavish, the free-agency pool may not be enough to help answer any lingering roster issues.
With that being said, here is how the Edmonton Oilers should fill their biggest needs in the 2014 offseason.
How to fill: Trade
With Andrei Markov, 35, being one of only a handful significant defenders currently slated to be available once free agency begins July 1, the Edmonton Oilers will need to explore trades in order to add stability to their back end for next season.
Markov would be a nice addition, but the Oilers need more of a defensive defenseman rather than another puck-moving, offensive blueliner.
The Oilers are hoping Justin Schultz can blossom into the type of power-play specialist and puck-moving defender that Markov is and will want to surround him with legitimate shutdown-style defenders.
In order to do this, MacTavish will have to consider moving one of his premier forwards.
Top-end defenders are coveted assets within the NHL, and rarely do these types of players make it to free agency due to teams locking up these assets to long contract extensions.
If the Oilers want to acquire a top-pairing defender, a player such as Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov or Sam Gagner will almost certainly have to be included in any trade offer.
It takes talent to acquire talent. The question that will remain is how much MacTavish and the Oilers are willing to pay in order to help their lackluster blue line.
How to fill: Draft
Depending on how the first two selections play out in the 2014 NHL entry draft, the Edmonton Oilers should be able to draft a talented center who could anchor their second line for years to come.
Who this player should be, however, will be up for debate until the Oilers make their actual selection.
Either Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett will almost certainly be available when the Oilers select third, and either guy could be the player that Edmonton ultimately ends up drafting with its first-round pick.
In Reinhart and Bennett, the Oilers would have the difficult task of choosing between two gifted offensive players who offer similar skill sets to players currently on the Oilers roster.
Though Bennett plays the game with a bit more of an edge than Reinhart, both are smaller players, something that is an issue among the top six forwards currently in Edmonton.
If the Oilers were looking to add a center with size, Leon Draisaitl, the German-born center who played for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL last season, would seem to fit the bill.
Though not overly physical, Draisaitl is listed at 6’1”, 209 pounds, and it would not be a stretch to assume that he would continue to add bulk as he matures over the next few seasons.
Draisaitl is also a very capable scorer in his own right, having registered an impressive 105 points with the Raiders last season.
How to Fill: Free Agency
The Oilers need to find some players with size and the ability to contribute on their bottom two lines. In order to do this, free agency may be the best option.
Current New York Ranger Brian Boyle is a player who, though he hasn’t been able to find offensive consistency, would allow the Oilers to utilize Boyd Gordon on the fourth line and would give the Oilers a large center for their third unit.
Adding Boyle and potentially drafting Leon Draisaitl would give the Oilers two large centers. It would also add much-needed size and depth to a position that is currently one of the weakest on the Oilers depth chart.
Dustin Penner is another big-bodied forward whom the Oilers should consider this offseason. Though Penner has had his struggles, he could still fill a need on a team that is desperate for another dimension in its attacking units.
It would be a tough sell for Oilers fans, but adding Penner to the third line instead of one of the top lines would be a solid addition to the team.