Justin Schultz (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
The Edmonton Oilers have had a tremendous off-season, landing the first overall pick, GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McLellan. The next step, though, is turning the off-ice success into a winning on-ice product. To do so, the Oilers will need to fix their defense. Meanwhile, Washington could target the cap-strapped Blackhawks this summer.
Things certainly seem to be looking up for the Edmonton Oilers. After naming Bob Nicholson as their CEO, hiring Peter Chiarelli as GM and Todd McLellan as head coach plus winning the 2015 Draft lottery, there's a sense this long-moribund team has finally turned the corner. While seemingly “winning” the off-season, the Oilers need to turn that into on-ice success.
Despite their plethora of promising youth, soon to be augmented by wunderkind Connor McDavid, significant roster issues remain to be addressed. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports bolstering their porous defense is their main priority.
The Oilers still lack a true top-two defenseman capable of logging big minutes every night. Matheson indicates youngsters Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom aren't ready for that responsibility. Given the lack of depth in the free-agent market, he believes a trade is the only way to address this need.
Matheson claims the Oilers have long had their eye on Chicago Blackhawks rearguard Brent Seabrook. The Blackhawks must shed salary this summer. The 30-year-old blueliner is a year away from UFA status and will be very expensive to retain.
Landing Seabrook would definitely address the Oilers' need for a top defenseman, but landing and retaining him will be difficult. He has a modified no-trade clause and the Oilers could be on his “do not trade” list. Assuming Seabrook agrees to be dealt to Edmonton, it will prove costly to re-sign him. He'll be coming off a five-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $5.8 million and could be the best defenseman available in next summer's UFA market. Seabrook could command a four-or five-year deal worth over $7.5-million per season.
Michael Russo of StarTribune.com reports that was not from NHL sources, but the result of an e-mail discussion where the two bandied about possible trade candidates for both clubs.
If Chiarelli is inclined to shop one of his good young forwards for a defenseman, Yakupov seems the likely option. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are the Oilers' first-line wingers, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be centering one of the top two lines next season.
ESPN.com's Craig Custance notes Chiarelli wasn't shy about moving out promising forwards while GM of the Boston Bruins, dealing Phil Kessel to Toronto and Tyler Seguin to Dallas. Given how the latter blossomed with the Stars, Custance speculates Chiarelli could be be more restrained now.
TOP LINE WINGER ON CAPITALS' SHOPPING LIST
Following the Washington Capitals' recent playoff elimination, various pundits suggested finding a first-line right wing should be among GM Brian MacLellan's priorities. Turns out MacLellan agrees, acknowledging that issue during his end-of-season press conference.
The Washington Post's Alex Prewitt reports MacLellan stated finding that winger this summer via trade or free agency is “the main thing” on his shopping list. He gave no indication of who he might target.
Though the Capitals have over $19 million in salary-cap space, a good chunk of that will be taken up re-signing restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. MacLellan also included pending UFA winger Jay Beagle among them, noting he'd be among the easiest to re-sign.
Assuming MacLellan can get his key players re-signed while leaving sufficient cap room to pursue a top-line right wing, finding one won't be easy. There's little quality talent in this summer's free-agent market. MacLellan could have better odds via trades, though such a move could cost him a good young player and a top prospect or a high draft pick.
MacLellan could target cap-strapped teams in need of shedding salary this summer. One option could be Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp, who was linked to the Capitals prior to this year's March trade deadline.
GALCHENYUK KHL BOUND?
Reports surfaced Tuesday that Montreal Canadiens winger Alex Galchenyuk has been contacted by KHL clubs regarding the possibility of signing a deal overseas. Now that the season has ended, Galchenyuk is a restricted free agent and will be looking for a new deal, but it seems unlikely Montreal will let him go easily.
The 21-year-old was drafted third overall in the 2012 draft and is coming off a 20-goal, 46-point season in his third year in the NHL. He has steadily shown improvement each season and was trusted enough by coach Michel Therrien to skate nearly 16:30 per game in the regular season.
The Canadiens need goal scoring. Losing Galchenyuk so early in his career doesn't seem likely and they'll likely make him a healthy offer to keep him with the club for the next few years, at the very least.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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