The Edmonton Oilers roster is nearing the finished product.
The trading of the Milan Lucic contract for a return that appears more than usable really puts a different spin on things. James Neal has the pedigree to be a Top-6 forward. But even if he does pan out that alone won’t get this club to the post season. What will and much more in this Sunday’s edition of…
9. Former Oilers great Mark Messier will be inducted into the 2019 Canada Walk of Fame, along with Rock band Triumph, Mr. Dressup and others. I wonder if Messier’s 6 Stanley’s would fit in a Tickle Trunk?
8. Tough guy Anthony Peluso has signed an AHL deal with the Bakersfield Condors. In 148 NHL games the 6’3 winger has 220 penalty minutes and 4 goals. He absolutely knows what he’s going there to do.
7. It is hard to see how former Oilers winger Patrick Maroon will fit into St. Louis’s cap-challenged roster going forward. There’s no question the Blues are his first choice. And while fans would like Maroon back in Edmonton there’s not much more space here. In fact, there’s less. Maroon meanwhile had his turn with the Stanley Cup Saturday.
6. Just how bad was the Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner trade any? Not only did Strome proceed to score 18 in 63 games for the Rangers. The guy he was traded for (Spooner) was first farmed out to Bakersfield, traded by Keith Gretzky to the Canucks for Sam Gagner (still active) and then bought out by Vancouver. And Spooner has now signed with Lugano of the Swiss League and is out of the NHL. Woof.
5. Some have James Neal on the right-hand side, either alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl or riding shotgun with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’m pretty sure the Oilers hope Neal can fill a hole on Nuge’s left side. The Oilers feel that Zack Kassian, Alex Chiasson and Sam Gagner can fill the top 3 right wing slots. Dave Tippett had success unlocking Gagner in Arizona. And I expect that Tippett will play Leon on Connor’s flank until something forces him to do otherwise. I wonder if Tyler Benson still has a shot at 3LW now or does Markus Granlund push the kid back to Bakersfield? You don’t want the kid on the 4th line.
4. With Milan Lucic gone there is an Alternate Captain’s position up for grabs. Who should get it? Often a club lets its players vote. If I had a ballot, I’d pick one of 3 men: Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse or Kris Russell (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson already have an “A”). Perhaps Oscar Klefbom also gets some consideration. Or a veteran like Chiasson or Gagner? But if you pressed me, I would probably tap Leon Draisaitl. He is locked-in contractually and certainly on the same page as McDavid so far as the club’s leadership is concerned. My on-line Twitter poll swings 71% in favor of Leon so far. Darnell is 2nd at 21% (919 votes). Russell is 3rd (5%).
3. Just yesterday, someone asked how I saw the Oilers playoff chances with Lucic gone and Neal in the fold. My answer: If Neal can contribute 25 goals and the Dave Tippett defensive system can carve off 25 GA then a 50-goal swing is enough to sneak this club into the playoffs. Too optimistic? Well remember: When Tippett took over Dallas in 2002 he cut their goals against by 44. And in 2009 Tippett pared 50 GA off the Phoenix Coyotes. But a lot will depend on how Mikko Koskinen and newcomer Mike Smith perform. In 2002 Marty Turco played 55 regular season games in net for the Stars and posted a SV% of .932. In 2009, Ilya Bryzgalov played 69 games in the desert and put up a SV% of .920. Whether either Koskinen or Smith can approach that level remains to be seen.
2. Oilers play-by-play man Jack Michaels offers up a pretty balanced view of what (if anything) the Oilers may be giving up if the conditional 3rd ever comes into play from the Lucic-Neal deal. As Michaels reported, a little less than a third of all NHL 3rd Round picks ever play 100 games in the league. Just 7 players from 2008 and 2010 did, just 9 from 2009, 2011 and 2013, and an apparent outlier (12) in 2012. My take: If James Neal scores 21, you happily surrender that 3rd rounder…because it proves that his 2018-19 season was likely an aberration and you’re probably in the post-season. The Oilers would take that scenario every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
1.Much has already been written about the Milan Lucic-James Neal trade. Perhaps one of the lesser known aspects of the story is that Lucic had to be “recruited” by the Flames in order to get him to relax his No Movement Clause. Lucic had already said he would do so to go to Vancouver. But not initially for Calgary. I’m told that the Flames, perhaps on the advice of Lucic’s agent, put forth a full-court-press in order to convince Lucic that Calgary would be a good landing spot. Included in the 4-to-5 people who I’m made to understand called Milan in an effort to convince him was former Flames superstar Jerome Iginla. Kris Versteeg and Brian McGratton also weighed in.
That fact tells me that the Calgary Flames really believe Lucic can bring the physical aspect that they were missing in last year’s failed playoff run. Some in Edmonton feel the Oilers, McDavid in particular, will miss the policing and physical deterrent that Lucic represented.
To me, though, its step-up time for Zack Kassian. While Darnell Nurse is more than capable of filling that policing role as well, he’ll be one of the Oilers Top 3 D-men this season. As such…Nurse will be more valuable on the ice than sitting in the box.
And unlike Lucic, Kassian has the wheels and enough offensive acumen to play on the top line. He showed that he could do it in an albeit small-ish sample last season.
And so for Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers…opportunity knocks.
Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins
Recently, at The Cult…