We have heard it by now: the current season is in the books for the Edmonton Oilers and they are now focusing on improvements to make during the summer, and finding a way not to repeat poor choices in contract extensions and trades to prevent another embarrassing year...
For a while now, trade chatter has centred around forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and how he could find himself on the other end of the block in order for the Oilers to land a scoring winger. However, Allan Mitchell of The Athletic believes Edmonton will build a new plan. He is hoping to see captain Connor McDavid and RNH team up on the first line, and placing Leon Draisaitl on the second.
It is not the first time we heard that the Oilers should split McDavid and Draisaitl, as NHL insider Elliotte Friedman recently explained on a 31 Thoughts podcast on Sportsnet, that the Oilers need to accomplish what the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to do for the last few years, by separating your two best players:
"If they can get McDavid and Draisaitl comfortable playing apart, you probably don't have the luxury of keeping Nugent-Hopkins' cap number, but if you really want to play them together, you probably need Nugent-Hopkins," said Friedman.
"I think that they have to convince those guys to play apart. I really do. You look at Pittsburgh - why do they win Stanley Cups? Because they have Sidney Crosby on one line, Evgeni Malkin on another, Phil Kessel on the third line with Derick Brassard - you can't handle them."
"I think for that reason McDavid and Draisaitl will have to play apart, and I think for that reason Nugent-Hopkins might just not be a luxury you can afford in a cap."
Back in December, the Oilers experienced with splitting up McDavid and Draisaitl - an idea that Oilers insider and beat writer David Staples applauded:
"On their own lines, both players are forced to give all they have, being the primary puck carrier on the attack and the primary help defender for the defencemen in the Oilers zone. On their own lines, McDavid and Draisaitl bring a far more balanced attack, a double threat, a one-two punch. When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is also going well that gives the Oilers a lethal combo, one, two, three right to the kisser, and the opponent is knocked out," he wrote in the Edmonton Journal.
The experiment did not last long enough... However, with Mitchell's suggestion, it could be possible. The Athletic's reporter believes the Oilers and general manager Peter Chiareilli should reach out to the Toronto Maple Leafs to acquire a scoring winger.
"Ideally, the Oilers can make a hockey trade for someone like Kasperi Kapanen of the Maple Leafs, who ranks No. 23 in 5-on-5 goals-per-60 in the NHL this season. If that's not an option, the Oilers might want to shop around that Toronto team, as names like Connor Brown, Andreas Johnsson and Josh Leivo offer promise."
Obviously, a move between the two Canadian teams might not be an offer, though the Maple Leafs have been shopping for a defenseman and Oilers blue liner Oscar Klefbom was on the block for several weeks before his season-ending surgery. If one of the Leafs wingers cannot be pried out of Toronto to land in Edmonton, Mitchell believes the team should trust Jesse Puljujarvi with the second-line role alongside Draisaitl.
"If the club decides Nuge-Connor McDavid is the ideal for the No. 1 line, then the second line is going to revolve around Draisaitl. I'm going to argue for Jesse Puljujarvi as the obvious solution as a partner on that line but the organization may feel otherwise."
The Oilers could also give a shot to Kailer Yamamoto... As of matter of fact, they could also try a shot at James van Riemsdyk on the free-agent market, but it will be costly...
What do you think is the better option? Trade or internal help?