The perennial basement dwellers now have a generational talent coming to town, but simply plunking him into the lineup won’t do – the Oilers need to make trades to even out their roster.
It’s heartache in Buffalo and jubilation in Edmonton as for the fourth time in six drafts, the Oilers will pick first overall. This time, they’ll get a chance to draft generational talent Connor McDavid. And if they have any sense at all, they will swing some big deals either before or after the draft.
While assistant GM Bill Scott was cagey on the draft lottery broadcast, let’s just assume Edmonton picks McDavid, a player so talented that he is being compared to Sidney Crosby (and not lightly). That gives Edmonton yet another elite young forward to go with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov and Leon Draisaitl. You will notice that makes an entire top-six brigade. You will also notice that with three, four and five of those players in the lineup, the Oilers have still not been a playoff team lately. So here’s what needs to happen: McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins are your 1-2 punch down the middle from here on out, but at least one, if not two of the others need to be moved for other assets. First and foremost, the Oilers need defensemen. As hard as it is to find a legit, top-pairing defenseman, that’s specifically what Edmonton requires. If there is anyway they could pry Brent Seabrook out of Chicago or Paul Martin from Pittsburgh, or even two blueliners from a team such as Anaheim, they need to do it. Edmonton has a couple nice young defensemen coming up in Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom, but they can’t take the weight next year. And the corps that was there in 2014-15 clearly couldn’t get the job done. Could goaltending be better? Sure, but I’d be willing to give Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth another shot if they had a better defense in front of them. In McDavid, Edmonton is getting a No. 1 center with incredible gifts. Not only does he have the speed and the hands, but his hockey IQ and vision are both off the charts. He will make an impact next season in the NHL and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him top 80 points. McDavid has been a devastatingly effective junior player with the Ontario League’s Erie Otters and helped Canada break a five-year gold medal drought at the world juniors in Toronto. He currently leads the OHL in playoff scoring with an outstanding 23 points in nine games. But Edmonton will be wasting his talents if the Oilers score four goals while giving up five every night. And in bringing him up to the pros, it also wouldn’t hurt to get a few more veteran forwards in the mix (Stanley Cup winners never hurt). It’s a great time to be an Oilers fan, but Edmonton brass still has a lot of work to do. In the meantime, enjoy your future, Edmonton supporters: