The Oilers were a quiet group yesterday, making one minor league move acquiring Justin Fontaine from the Rangers farm system for Taylor Beck. The team chose not to address their backup goaltending position or the lack of secondary scoring up front.
Now improving these two areas could’ve boosted their chances of making a deeper run in the playoffs this season and probably wouldn’t have cost them that much considering someone like PA Parenteau was traded for a 6th round pick. On the flip side, I understand holding on the existing assets as the club doesn’t have a second round pick, but two in the third round and two in the fifth (Source: Cap Friendly). These picks need to be used to improve their development system, as outside of Puljujaarvi, there’s not much going on in terms of high end talent. And when the McDavid contract is in place, the team will need to draft and develop their own talent, have them ready for the NHL and get them on team friendly deals. It’s going to be critical.
My issue with yesterday’s deadline is that the club clearly recognizes that they’re not contenders this year, as suggested by team management only a few weeks ago. I understand that Chiarelli is controlling the message here and tempering expectations, but the fact is they’ve really treated their season as a development year, not making enough moves in the off-season that would’ve boosted scoring and made them legitimate contenders.
“I don’t think we’re ready to contend for the Cup,” he said, in the context of how active he’ll be at the March 1 trade deadline. “You never know — I know it happened here in 2006. (But) I just don’t see us being big players, from that regard.” (Source: Sportsnet)
And following the deadline, the spin Chiarelli delivered was consistent with his messaging a few weeks ago. And it’s been latched on to quite well by the media and fans. When you read about the team being “rewarded” to show what they can do, just remember how little the coaching staff has played the backup goaltenders and the shuffling of the secondary line combinations this season. Thea team may be able try out a few new things with Deshanais in the fold, but it’s really the same cast of characters that the coaching staff has shown little confidence in.
If the team wasn’t going to make a run for a championshup this year, then I don’t understand why they wouldn’t acquire future assets in the form of picks and prospects. With McDavid, this team has to be contending for a championshup as soon as next season. And when that window starts to open, the team has to do everything to get themseleves over the edge and really go all-in to win four rounds. At that point, the team will have to start moving out prospects, even those that the team thinks highly of (think Benson and Bear), just to land that one extra piece to win a cup. They’ll likely even lose a trade or two, but they’ll have to be going for it as long as the championship window is open.
This deadline would’ve been a great opportunity to start stockpiling picks and build up the prospect pool, as they’ll very soon be in a position where they have to go all-in, similar to what Washington did when they acquired Shattenkirk. The team had players like Russell and Hendricks on expiring deals and others like Fayne and Pouliot whose contracts the team would probably want to shed. Instead, the team chose not to address their future state, and may not have the assets when they’re ready to make a serious cup run.
The Oilers can spread the message of “growth year”, but it shouldn’t stop them from making decisions today that will impact their goal of a championship. The deadline was a missed opportunity, and they’ve also let the upcoming expansion draft force their hand and they still have to lose another player. The management team has a lot of things to address going forward and really can’t be this passive and lack foresight if they want to become serious, long-term contenders.