Edmonton Oilers Expansion Draft Preview

GM of the Vegas Golden Knights George McPhee talks about his interactions with teams regarding protection and the entry draft and looking for a fair deal that still allows Vegas to get players they want.

The Edmonton Oilers are a 7-3-1 team whose chronic lack of organizational depth actually comes in handy here, leaving them without a lot of major issues in this Expansion Draft. Edmonton will lose a Griffin Reinhart, Jujhar Khaira or Tyler Pitlick — guys you’d prefer to keep, but who won’t derail the program if lost.

Here is who we think the Oilers will protect, and which player we think the Golden Knights will pick.

Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic (NMC)
Jordan Eberle
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Pat Maroon
Zack Kassian
Mark Letestu

Only one of these players — Lucic — has a No-Movement Clause that dictates he be protected. The rest are a pretty easy decision, starting with Draisaitl, who is due to be locked up long-term this summer. Nugent-Hopkins and (more so) Eberle are both subject of trade talks, but both are obvious assets in need of protection. The only thing that changes Edmonton’s world is if GM Peter Chiarelli can move Eberle prior to the expansion draft, thus altering his list.

Maroon and Kassian both became valuable assets to a team that has been too small and timid for many years, but found its big boy pants last season when it became clear that winning board battles, stopping the cycle, and once in a while exerting some old school intimidation actually led to points in the standings. Maroon’s 27 goals didn’t hurt either, while Kassian’s seven goals did not include another four called back for various coach’s challenge reasons.

Finally, on a team that finished dead last in faceoff percentage in both the playoffs and regular season, Letestu was the Oilers’ best draw man at 50.4 per cent. He’s a handy 4C, chipping in 16 goals (11 on the power play), a really good leader and a local boy from Elk Point, Alberta. He stays.

Andrej Sekera (NMC)
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson

The blue line is likely where Edmonton loses a player — like Reinhart — but on a team that considers itself a Stanley Cup contender next season, keeping a Letestu in the short term is of higher priority.

Sekera blew out his ACL in the playoffs on a clean hit by Ryan Getzlaf, and won’t play until Christmas. That, coupled with his $5.5 million AAV through 2021 might have made him an interesting guy to expose to the Golden Knights, except for that troublesome No-Movement Clause.

The other two – Larsson and Klefbom — will both be 24-year-old, first pairing defencemen with identical AAV’s of $4.167 million next season. They proved able to carry the Oilers to their best season in a decade in 2016-17, and are clearly the future of Edmonton’s defence corps alongside Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning, neither of whom require protection in this draft.

As an organization, Edmonton is light on defensive depth. But beyond the five players listed here — and the possible re-signing of UFA Kris Russell — going the 7-3-1 route makes sense for Chiarelli.

Cam Talbot (NMC)

Even if you could expose Talbot, you’d never do it. After years of instability in goal, Talbot gave Edmonton Cup worthy goaltending this spring — and it is highly unlikely that backup Laurent Broissoit gets chosen by Vegas. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Griffin Reinhart, D

If the theory goes that Vegas needs youth, and has some time to develop those players into solid NHLers, then Reinhart is the most likely candidate for selection despite his slow development.

Since the Islanders drafted Reinhart fourth overall, he’s been dealt to Edmonton and played just 37 NHL games in total. Chiarelli simply sees a developing, 23-year-old defenceman. Others see a first-round bust. What do the Golden Knights see? Likely the most valuable asset being made available by Edmonton.

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