You could probably write a book about the Edmonton Oilers’ 2016-17 season and the just-as-integral summer of big decisions.
The condensed version is that the Oilers made the playoffs for the first time in a decade, and then they weren’t satisfied there; instead, they knocked off the San Jose Sharks and then pushed the Anaheim Ducks to a Game 7.
After a freak injury derailed his rookie campaign, Connor McDavid made his first full campaign count, generating a rare 100-point season while collecting hardware including the Hart Trophy.
Of course, McDavid likely envies the guy he edged for the MVP in Sidney Crosby, who collected another Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup.
The Oilers took measures to help McDavid parallel Crosby from a team success standpoint, although it remains to be seen if GM Peter Chiarelli actually put the superstar in a significantly better position to succeed.
McDavid could have asked for the NHL version of a blank check in demanding the league maximum for his contract extension. Instead, he cut the Oilers a bit of a break in taking $12.5 million per season, a price tag that kicks in starting in 2018-19.
Their breaks stopped there, however, as Leon Draisaitl took advantage of his breakout season to land a huge eight-year deal worth a whopping $8.5M in AAV. If the Oilers struggle, some will assign blame to Edmonton’s less desirable contracts. Even if Draisaitl manages to justify that bill, there are plenty who cringe at the Oilers allocating $10M per year to the polarizing combo of Milan Lucic and Kris Russell, with Russell’s four-year, $16M pact being signed this summer.
The small silver lining is that Chiarelli showed at least some willingness to save here and there, signing Zack Kassian to a reasonable deal and nabbing Jussi Jokinen for peanuts.
Edmonton didn’t just make waves in free agency, either, as Chiarelli cleared some space by spending Jordan Eberle and his $6M cap hit to the Islanders for Ryan Strome ($2.5M, but only for the last year of his deal).
The Eberle deal feels a bit like the Taylor Hall swap, and one wonders if the Oilers will make it a pattern of moving $6M guys if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also exits town at some point.
That’s just a lot isn’t it?
In spending big and making some controversial choices, the Oilers enter 2017-18 with some intimidating expectations.
It places a lot of pressure on McDavid, Draisaitl, Cam Talbot, and a few others. Luckily, the Oilers are placing their trust in some talented players. A healthy McDavid could make management look like geniuses even if they’re guilty of more whiffs than homers.
Breaking down this team inspires some probing questions, so enjoy PHT’s analysis on Friday.