Apart from upgrading the defence at the draft and during the summer, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is probably looking at doing something with his 3rd line center position. At first glance you might say that is silly, they’ve got Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who could slot in there very nicely and if you did say that, you’re probably partially right but only partially.
MOVING TO THE WING
I’m of the belief that Oilers head coach Todd McLellan is going to try Nuge on the wing at the World Cup whilst they’re competing for Team North America. From there he’ll have an idea as to how effective RNH can play on the flank. They tried it for a very short amount of time at the end of last season but that can’t be used as a gauge to determine if it’s a safe play or not.
Leon Draisaitl played RW alongside Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall last year and put up great numbers. One would have to assume that if the Oilers do find a way to sway Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov out, that Leon could be a candidate to replace them.
THE THREE SPOT
So if everything does fall into place and eberle/yak are moved, leon scoots to the wing; and Nuge takes his rightful place at 2C, the Oilers are going to need a centre for that 3rd line. Ideally I of the belief that they’d love a guy in the mold of Nick Bonino. A hard-working pacey bulldog with a never quit attitude, but the player would need to be a right hander who could help on the special teams and be great on face-offs.
For me that face-off percentage is key here. The Oilers NEED an older player that can take over on the dot and one of the best on the team at the moment is Mark Letestu. His FO% with the Oilers is 51.3%. So any candidate would have to have a better career percentage than his and hopefully be able to chip on the offensive side of the puck as well.
THE UFA CANDIDATES
- Steven Stamkos – Has he ever seen the light of day beyond the 1st line on any team he’s been part of?
- Sam Gagner – He’s been written about before… But a career FO% of 45.1 is not going to cut it.
- David Backes – A pricey grab and I’m inclined to believe he’d like to stay in the US.
- Trevor Lewis – His FO% is worse than Gagner’s.
- Riley Nash – Didn’t pan out the first time in Edmonton but did he really get a chance? Has a career FO% of 48.2.
- Boyd Gordon – Yes on the FO% but no based on the fact that he’d be no better than 4C.
- Kyle Brodziak – Not good enough to play 3C at this point.
The UFAs apart from Backes and Stamkos don’t exactly emit a feeling of anticipation when lumped into the candidates for third line centre of the Edmonton Oilers, do they?
THE RFA CANIDATES
- Andrew Shaw – Would love for the Oilers to acquire him but fails the FO% test. Career 46.2%.
The most realistic option out of the RFAs is Andrew Shaw, well at least he was until the Hawks dealt Brian Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to the Hurricanes. I mean there are some very tasty players who will be restricted free agents like Nathan MacKinnon, Filip Forsberg, Mark Scheifele, Rickard Rakell, and Vincent Trochek but none of them will be moving to another city this summer.
So most likely the Oilers are going to have to hit the trade route…
TRADE FOR ME RIGHT FACKING NOW!
- Tyler Bozak – Toronto Maple Leafs (Career FO%: 53.1%) – The Boz will make $4.2M per for the next two seasons. He’s no spring chicken at 30 years of age but he’s not Matt Cullen either. To me, Tyler Bozak would be a sound choice.
- Zemgus Girgensons – Buffalo Sabres (Career FO%: 44.1%) – Yikes on the draw percentage and it’s too bad he’s not a righty… He’d be almost the perfect specimen for the third line. If you remember the short time that Mike Peca was an Oiler, well when Girgensons was up for the draft he was being compared to Peca. For whatever reason his production fell off a cliff under Bylsma. Maybe having O’Reilly and Eichel ahead of him was part of it.
- Jay Beagle – Washington Capitals (Career FO%: 55.6%) – Well here’s a guy the Oilers could pick up for a fair price. Would do much for the team on the power play mind you but he’s a nuts and bolts type, a bit better than Letestu probably. Would you offer Yakupov for Beagle and a 2nd round draft pick?
The more I look into this the more I feel like the Oilers had better keep the three amazing centres they have and search for wingers. Apart from Bozak, I don’t think there’s a lot out there for right-handed centres that would be a fit on the third line. I suppose the team could draft Pierre-Luc Dubois and plug him in there but I might puke if that happens. A possible signing out of Europe could be another route to go as well.
Then there’s the modern-day mystery we call Anton Lander… What will come of the young Swede? Will he find his place in the Oilers lineup next year or might he be included in an upcoming trade? Last year he didn’t take too many draws but he had a 54.5% success rate in the face-off circle… I mean if he could rekindle whatever fire was burning in his belly two years ago, that’d be a blessing in disguise, right? Maybe the kind of break the Oilers need.
There’s also Jujhar Khaira, he didn’t play centre during his time with the Oilers but he did in the AHL. He’s a big-bodied, meat and potatoes type of player. He’s also on an entry-level deal until next year, so he’d be a cheap option from Bakersfield. I liked what I saw from him last year but it might be too much to ask to switch him to centre so soon.
I guess if Chiarelli is really hard up for a 3C, I could take him to the 3C shop just down the street from my house.
What do you think about the Oilers’ third line centre? Should they go out and trade for one, graduate from within or sign one through free agency? Let me know in the comments below!