Dallas Eakins is the latest in a long line of head coaches that have walked through the Edmonton Oilers’ revolving doors in recent years. He’ll be the fifth bench boss this team has had in just six years after Ralph Krueger was fired following a mere 48-game stint.
This is a team that’s desperately trying to move away from rebuilding after missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons. With that in mind, Eakins wants people to start looking at the Oilers in a different way.
“I’ve asked the media here to stop referring to our team as a young team,” Eakins told the Toronto Star. “You do that and really you’re just talking about a few individuals and alienating a bunch of the other guys. Usually when people talk about a young team its means it’s OK to lose. Well, it’s not OK.
“We’re an NHL team with expectations.”
Of course, the core of this team is still relatively young, but not devoid of NHL experience. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are gearing up for their fourth campaign. Years of poor showings have allowed them to draft a great group of skilled forwards, but Eakins’ team still has plenty to prove when it comes to defense and toughness.
He’ll also have to deal with injuries early on as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is projected to miss the first month of the season. To that end, he’s asked Hall to practice taking faceoffs in the hope that he can at least temporarily shift from the left wing to center.
“If it doesn’t work, it won’t be Taylor’s fault,” Eakins said. “Maybe it’ll work or maybe the coach is just crazy.”
Either way, Eakins is “all in” and determined to end the cycle of losing.
There’s nothing too flashy about Danny DeKeyser‘s game.
“Basically,” he told reporters today, “my game, I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can, and just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win.”
For that, the Red Wings gave the steady defenseman a six-year, $30 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing in the process. Yes, it’s a significant amount of money for a d-man that doesn’t contribute a ton of offense, but as we’ve already seen this offseason, players like DeKeyser have significant value. The Edmonton Oilers gave up Taylor Hall to get one.
Re-signing DeKeyser is not expected to stop GM Ken Holland from trying to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.
If Holland can’t swing a deal, Detroit’s pairings could look something like this:
DeKeyser — Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson — Niklas Kronwall
Brendan Smith — Alexey Marchenko
It’s not a particularly young group. Kronwall is 35, Ericsson is 32, and Green is 30. The Red Wings chose not to re-sign veteran Kyle Quincey, and so far he has not been replaced. In June, they drafted a defenseman in the first round, but Dennis Cholowski is a ways away from playing in the NHL; he’s off St. Cloud State in the fall. There are a few other young blue-liners in the system, like Joe Hicketts, Ryan Sproul and Robbie Russo, but they all still have some developing to do.
At the very least, Holland now has some cost certainty with DeKeyser. The next step will be getting Petr Mrazek‘s deal done, possibly with the aid of tomorrow’s arbitration hearing. After that, it’ll be working to get that defenseman he covets.
Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk
The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.
The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.
“I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”
Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.
What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.
The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.
Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.
Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.
Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.
Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.
Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.
The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.
Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.
It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.