EDMONTON — How to best characterize the pressure in Edmonton this summer…? Acute, perhaps?
Let’s put it this way: After missing the playoffs by 17 points in 2017-18, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan were given a chance to right the ship for next season. But miss the playoffs again, with one year remaining on each of their deals, and you can rest assured that owner Daryl Katz will be in replacement mode a year from now.
On the ice, several players whose games dipped last season — Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, and many more — will be expected to revert to the mean. Off the ice, Chiarelli had better not waste another year of Connor McDavid without bringing in any playoff revenue, after the organization pared down internally this summer due to a lack of said playoff revenues.
Chiarelli cleared out McLellan’s assistant coaches this spring, firing Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers, while assigning Jay Woodcroft to run AHL Bakersfield. He replaced them with Glen Gulutzan, Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros, a veteran staff that should be able to figure things out in Edmonton.
Now, Chiarelli has to make a few personnel tweaks and get this train back on the tracks. There is too much talent here, on paper, to miss the playoffs again.
The next firings, if this program doesn’t get fixed, will happen above the assistant coaching level.
Salary Cap Space: $10,103,834
Mike Cammalleri, left wing, $1.2 million
Yohann Auvitu, defence, $700,000
Mark Fayne, defence, $3.625 million
Laurent Brossoit, goalie, $750,000
Ryan Strome, centre, $2.5 million
Drake Caggiula, left winger, $925,000
Anton Slepyshev, right winger, $925,000
Iiro Pakarinen, right winger, $725,000
Darnell Nurse, defence, $832,000
Matt Benning, defence, $925,000
2018 draft picks: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th.
Biggest off-season need
An offensive defenceman. A John Carlson to Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. A Kris Letang to Pittsburgh’s Sid Crosby.
We’re not saying the Oilers are in on UFA Carlson or Drew Doughty — they’d have to move too much salary for that to become realistic. They simply need someone who can pound a puck when McDavid puts it on a tee on the power play. A guy who trails the rush the way Paul Coffey did here so many years ago, and knows what to do with the puck in offensive situations.
They’d prefer a right shot D-man, and Edmonton would also rather not have to trade Oscar Klefbom to acquire that player, but would do so if necessary. Again, they don’t need a Norris Trophy defenceman here. Think Tyson Barrie or Torey Krug — a reasonably offensive defenceman who can run a power play and consistently get a one-timer through. That player would aid a power play that was awful in 2017-18, and find much opportunity on a team with some excellent passing ability up front.
Possible Off-Season targets
Tyson Barrie: A right-hand shot, can run your power play, shoots the puck well, and is mobile. It’s not a question of whether Barrie is the right man for the job in Edmonton, it is what the Avalanche would want in return. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is off the table, or at least should be.
Torey Krug: He’s a lefty, but could likely be attained for less cost than Barrie. At 27 Krug is experienced and possesses the necessary assets. Chiarelli would likely consider moving Klefbom for Krug, though reluctantly so.