Heading into the summer, the Oilers appear to be set at center ice, with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the pivots. It’s been a long time since the club has had some semblance of depth at center, so it’d be unwise to tinker with it too much in the off season. The other factor to consider is Draisaitl possibly playing both center and wing, depending on the in-game situation, similar to how Todd McLellan deployed Joe Pavelski in San Jose. If Draisaitl is in fact used as a bit of a utility player, it’s imperative that the Oilers bolster the bottom six and acquire a centerman (or two) that can perform well and produce.
Both Anton Lander and Mark Letestu struggled mightily last year at even-strength, combining for a whopping four primary assists. I expect Letestu to be back as he did perform well on the powerplay, but Lander’s future is a little more murky, considering he was often scratched to make way for Hendricks, and at one point Pakarinen, to play the fouth line center role. All things considered, it’s hard to ignore the glaring weakness that was the bottom six last season.
Looking at the options for next season, the Oilers could potentially bring back Letestu as the fourth line center behind McDavid, RNH and Draisaitl. What I would highly recommend the Oilers do though is bring in additional centermen, preferably a right shot, on the cheap, have them play wing and fill in at center when needed. This might be overkill, but consider the fact that the Ducks and Penguins both dipped into the bargain bin last summer to have depth at center: Anaheim brought in Shawn Horcoff and Mike Santorelli, while Pittsburgh brought in Eric Fehr and Matt Cullen.
One player that’s worth looking into is 27 year old Riley Nash, who was not qualified by the Carolina Hurricanes and appears to be headed to free agency. Nash was selected by the Oilers in 2007, 22nd overall, and completed three years at Cornell before being traded to the Hurricanes for a second round pick. There appeared to have been some issues between the player and the Oilers at the time, with Nash likely headed to free agency after his college career.
Full article is at The Copper & Blue.