Simple answer, you probably can’t.
This team is a wreck and everyone knows it, but I think things are still salvageable with the right strings pulled.
Option A: Build for now
The Oilers are not a playoff hockey team with the current roster they have. If they want to make an impact asap, you’ll have to sacrifice your future. The old boys club could bring in some top players who’d make an immediate impact, but obviously significant moves would have to be made. First thing is freeing up cap space, you’re going to have to package those Lucic, Reider, Russell contracts with your young talent (Jones, Yamamoto, Bear, Puljujärvi, Bouchard) and probably a draft pick to bring in a legit top 4 dman and/or a scoring winger. So a couple of large package trades for a single useful player now, could give the Oilers a chance to win in the near future. With a consistent goaltender, a healthy Sekera, another top 4 dman and two highly offensive forwards, Edmonton would give themselves a chance in playoffs. I know that’s a $20 million ask on a $50,000 budget, but that’s the cost of winning right now.
Option B: Build for two years down the road
NHL teams don’t lose on purpose. 99.9 per cent of players in the league were top players and winners at one point in their career before they make the jump up to the highest stage. So bombing an entire season isn’t as easy as the old Oilers made it look. If Edmonton wants to try to wait out some of their poor contracts then that’s fine, but don’t waste the trade value of current players. Trade your declining value players asap and stack up with good young players on ELC’s or bridge deals. This option puts massive expectations on guys like Bouchard and Jones on the back-end, but the Oil also have to find scoring. Obviously drafting quality scorers in 2019 and 2020 will be key, but you’d also have to add some high-end young talent like Taro Hirose, Joel Farabee, Oliver Wahlstrom, Josh Norris or Jacob Pritchard. Building for the future is never a bad plan, but seeing who is really worth 4-5 mil per season is key.
Now before everyone loses their mind, I understand the fixes aren’t as easy as writing a blog. What I’ve said before and will continue to say, is Edmonton’s biggest problem is the culture, it starts from the top and dwindles to the fans and city. Ask recent former players what they thought of playing in the city and listen to the stories told by past elite NHL players who spent time there. Maybe culture is an issue? Only time will tell.
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