How Each Offseason Addition and Departure Will Affect the Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers were one of the busier franchises at the beginning of the free-agency period, with general manager Craig MacTavish taking steps to help fill some holes on the roster.
Aside from the departure of Sam Gagner, the Oilers didn’t lose anyone of significance that could impact the performance of the team next season.
MacTavish will still have to decide what to do with restricted free agent Justin Schultz and where he will land a second-line center in order to help improve the fortunes of a struggling Oilers franchise.
Here is a look at the impact that each addition and departure will have on the Edmonton Oilers next season.
Addition: Leon Draisaitl
Perhaps the largest addition (figuratively and literally) this offseason for the Edmonton Oilers was Leon Draisaitl.
The big German center, formally of the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, demonstrated the skill and on-ice playmaking abilities that should allow him to be a valuable contributor on a team loaded with skill such as the Oilers.
The addition of Draisaitl brings size to a relatively small Oilers lineup, while adding depth to a much-maligned group of center icemen.
After Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers have few, if any, quality center ice prospects, so Draisaitl is a much-needed addition.
The question will surround whether or not Draisaitl will be able to make the Oilers roster full-time next season, and whether or not it would be in the players’ best interest to do so.
Often the Oilers have had to graduate recent draft picks directly into the NHL due to a lack of other options, but if MacTavish can find another decent option for a No. 2 center, perhaps it would be in the Oilers’ and Draisaitl’s best interests to send him back to the minors for another year of seasoning.
Departure: Sam Gagner
Sam Gagner is the biggest departure of the offseason for the Edmonton Oilers, and one that could come back to haunt the team should Gagner thrive in Tampa Bay next season.
At 24, Gagner is a young player with a ton of NHL experience already under his belt, but his development suffered after being thrust into the NHL too early by the Edmonton Oilers.
Gagner may or may not have been utilized as a center next season had the Oilers decided to hold on to the player, but his trade created a hole that has yet to be filled.
Gagner often struggled at center for the Oilers, and it appeared that the team was in the process of transitioning him to the wing, but the simple fact that he had experience at center ice slotted him as the Oilers de facto No. 2 center.
Addition: Mark Fayne
Mark Fayne may not have carried the largest name or reputation headed into free agency, but this could have been Craig MacTavish’s best move thus far as general manager of the team.
Fayne logged solid minutes as a top-four defender last year in New Jersey and will be leaned upon heavily in Edmonton in a top pairing.
Though Fayne may not have the experience or the credentials to be a top-unit defender on a struggling team like the Oilers, the fact that he was signed to a four-year deal with a significant cap hit will see him utilized in that role.
Fayne ultimately makes the Oilers defensive unit stronger, but whether or not he can help shoulder the load for a team that struggled so mightily last season in their own zone is yet to be seen.
Addition: Teddy Purcell
Teddy Purcell was acquired in the trade that saw Sam Gagner go to Tampa Bay. It was a move that instantly changed the dynamic of the Oilers’ top-six forward group.
Edmonton will not be missing out on any offense from Purcell, who managed 42 points last season for the Lightning, but it his size and his strength on the puck that should help the Oilers next year.
One of Purcell’s main strengths is his puck-possession game—something at which the Oilers struggled last season—so the addition of the rugged winger should help change the explosive Oilers offense into a more consistent unit.
Addition: Benoit Pouliot
The Oilers overpaid for Benoit Pouliot in free agency, and unfortunately this is the price of doing business as the Edmonton Oilers, as geographic location and poor performances on the ice make Edmonton a less desirable location for top talent in the NHL.
Five years and $20 million is a hefty price to pay for a player who has spent time with no less than five teams over the last five seasons, but Pouliot had breakout-type performances for the New York Rangers during the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was rewarded by Edmonton for it.
Like Teddy Purcell, the addition of Pouliot gives the Oilers another player with size, skill and hockey sense that should help reshape the dynamic of the top forward units in Edmonton.
Pouliot is another player who plays a strong possession game in the offensive zone, which should help the Oilers spend more time in the opposition zone.
It was a risky move by MacTavish to lock the winger up for such a large contract, but if he can continue the momentum he started in the playoffs for the Rangers, the Oilers will be more than satisfied with the return on their investment.
Addition: Nikita Nikitin
The addition of Nikita Nikitin was another example of the Oilers overpaying, but in this instance it was overpaying on dollars in order to have a shorter term for the contract, something that makes more sense for the Oilers.
Considering Edmonton potentially has Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom making the jump into the NHL on a full-time basis in the next two years or so, Nikitin is a decent stopgap player to give the Oilers some cover while their young prospects continue to develop.
Nikitin is much like a player the Oilers traded last season in Ladislav Smid; at 28, he should be able to give the Oilers some quality minutes on a blue line that struggled last season.
The Oilers had the cap space to make a move like this, but based on previous seasons, Nikitin doesn’t factor to be more than a bottom-pairing D-man, though the Oilers are paying him like a top-four player.
Departures: Anton Belov and Philip Larsen
Anton Belov and Philip Larsen were both players on whom the Oilers took flyers last season in an attempt to improve the defensive depth, and both were relative non-factors on another disappointing Oilers team.
Both Belov and Larsen have since departed for the KHL, perhaps further demonstrating that neither player would have made much of a difference on any NHL roster.
Belov was touted as the best defenseman in the KHL before he joined the Oilers last season, but at times, he looked lost on the ice and incapable of keeping up with the pace of the NHL game.
Larsen was a smaller puck-moving defender who contributed occasionally to the offensive, but with players like Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry on the Oilers, Larsen’s role was limited.
Neither player will be a significant loss for the Oilers as they continue to look for players to reshape and rebuild a struggling defensive core.