Jason Brough

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: Peter Chiarelli of the Edmonton Oilers attends the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Chiarelli states the obvious: ‘It’s hard to get a No. 1 defenseman’


Of all the reasons the Edmonton Oilers haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, the best is that they haven’t had a number-one defenseman since Chris Pronger forced his way out right after their run to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In fact, they haven’t even had close to a number-one defenseman. Tom Gilbert might have been their best. Yes, really, Tom Gilbert. Unless it was Jeff Petry. Maybe it was him. (Here, you decide.)

And that’s why there’s so much pressure on GM Peter Chiarelli right now. Even with Connor McDavid and all the other talented forwards the Oilers have assembled, it’s hard to see them contending without a significantly better blue line.

“I can understand the fans’ frustration, but you have to make the right deal. I’m having lots of discussions,” Chiarelli told reporters Saturday at the draft. “It’s hard to get a No. 1 defenseman. There are not many — over half the teams don’t have one. There are deals out there we’re working on that have good defensemen. They’re smart, they can move pucks. Different players. As I’ve said, I’d prefer a right-shot defenseman. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

Which is why the Oilers have been linked to P.K. Subban, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jacob Trouba, Matt Dumba, and Jason Demers. The latter is the only unrestricted free agent. The others will cost some serious assets, if they’re even available at all. Remember that Columbus had to give up Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones.

Prior to last weekend, many expected Chiarelli to use Edmonton’s fourth overall draft pick as currency to land a top defenseman in a trade. Or, if not that, at least choose a defenseman with the selection — someone like Mikhail Sergachev, who went ninth to Montreal, or Olli Juolevi, who went fifth to Vancouver. But then winger Jesse Puljujarvi fell into their lap, and they weren’t going to pass on him.

And so Chiarelli will keep trying. (Just like Don Sweeney will keep trying in Boston.)

“You have to grind away,” Chiarelli said. “Whenever there’s a deadline, things loosen up. The next one is July 1.”

Related: Why are the Oilers still bad? Look at their drafting

Shattenkirk’s agent calls a trade ‘inevitable’

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Kevin Shattenkirk wasn’t traded during the draft last weekend, and that surprised his agent a bit. 

But his agent still believes Shattenkirk will be traded.

“I would say at this point, Kevin and I do think it is inevitable that he ultimately will get traded,” Jordan Neumann told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday. “So with that in mind, I guess any player in that situation would certainly hope it would be sooner rather than later.”

The Blues went into the weekend with a high price for the 27-year-old defenseman — ultimately too high to get a deal done. But teams like the Bruins and Oilers still have a pressing need, and there isn’t a right-shooting d-man in free agency who can bring what Shattenkirk brings. (The closest is probably Jason Demers.)

Whoever gets Shattenkirk will need him to sign an extension. He’s only under contract for one more year, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. That’s why he’s likely to be traded by the Blues, who already have Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko on the right side of the defense.

“Kevin loves it in St. Louis, he’s really enjoyed his time, his career has really taken off there,” said Neumann. “But at the same time, he’s a very smart young man and we completely understand the business. It would be naive to say we didn’t expect it to be coming.”

Vegas owner wants a ‘younger-oriented team’

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  New Las Vegas NHL franchise owner Bill Foley and commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League pose for a photo during the Board of Governors Press Conference prior to the 2016 NHL Awards at Encore Las Vegas on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The NHL's board of governors approved expanding to Las Vegas, making the franchise the 31st team in the league. The team will start play during the 2017-18 season and play at the newly built T-Mobile Arena.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Whoever ends up coming to Las Vegas in the expansion draft or via free agency, the owner of the NHL’s newest team wants them to stay a while.

“I’m twice this age, but I don’t want a bunch of 35- or 36-year-olds that play a couple years, and then they’re done,” Bill Foley told the Las Vegas Sun. “We’ll have some veterans on the team to help the younger guys, but we need to be a younger-oriented team.”

General managers across the league are already scrambling to protect their rosters for June 20, 2017, when Las Vegas will pick its first 30 players.

“Everything will be affected by that,” Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “In every decision, we’ll have to take into consideration what the rules are and how that might affect our outlook for the expansion draft and ahead of that.”

But no matter how hard GMs work to protect their assets, Foley is confident that whatever’s left exposed will comprise a decent roster.

At least, it’ll be better than the rosters that the Predators (1998), Thrashers (1999), Blue Jackets (2000) and Wild (2000) were able to cobble together.

“Expanding four teams in three years tapped the market,” Foley told the Sun. “It’s to our advantage that it’s only us, and we’re the first expansion team since the salary cap came into play.”

Related: The expansion draft rules

UFA of the Day: Frans Nielsen

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 06: Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders celebrates his first period goal against the St. Louis Blues at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on December 6, 2014 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Frans Nielsen

There’s still a decent chance that he re-signs with the Islanders. Nielsen’s first choice is to stay, and the Isles have been negotiating with him, so they obviously want to keep him.

It’s all about money and term now, as Newsday’s Arthur Staple explains:

A report Monday indicated Nielsen had turned down an Islander contract offer worth $5.5 million per season. Sources had indicated in the past week that the two sides had moved closer on a deal, one that was likely to be six or seven years in length to keep the average annual value below that $5.5 million number and keep Nielsen in an Islander uniform for the rest of his NHL career.

Things change daily, even hourly, when it comes to the free-agent frenzy, so one side or the other could have altered their stance. But last I heard, $5.5 million per was not the right number and the sides were closer on a deal.

You can’t blame Nielsen for wanting to cash in. He’s 32 now, his last chance to really hit it big in free agency. His expiring contract — a four-year, $11 million deal — gave the Isles incredible value for one of the most underrated two-way centers in the league.

Of course, you also can’t blame the Isles for being cautious. Again, he’s 32 now. You can do the math if he re-signs for six of seven years. Plus, they’ve got 19-year-old center Mathew Barzal in the pipeline, and they’ve got to re-sign John Tavares in a couple of years.

If Nielsen decides to test the market, they’re already talking about him in Detroit as a Plan B to Steven Stamkos. So it may be he has to wait and see who lands the biggest fish before he signs anywhere.

Also, keep an eye on the Minnesota Wild. They could use a center. It’s why they were linked to Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in trade speculation. Signing a free agent instead would mean they wouldn’t have to lose one of their good, young defensemen.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

Sens trade Chiasson to Flames for Sieloff

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 10:  Alex Chiasson #90 of the Ottawa Senators skates prior to the game against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames have picked up winger Alex Chiasson in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. They’ve also signed the 25-year-old to a one-year contract worth a reported $800,000.

Going to the Sens is Patrick Sieloff, a 22-year-old defenseman who played 52 games (2G, 9A) last season for AHL Stockton. He only appeared in one game for the Flames, but he sure made the most of it, scoring the winning goal in his NHL debut on Apr. 9.

Chiasson had eight goals in 77 games last season for the Sens. He had a career-high 13 for the Stars in 2013-14. He was dealt to Ottawa in the summer of 2014 as part of the Jason Spezza trade.

Chiasson’s agent, Kent Hughes, said last month that he expected his client to be moved.

“I think at the end of the day, for a lack of a better term, it’s the lack of a successful marriage, I guess,” said Hughes. “You get to a point where you either decide you’re going to say to an organization, ‘move on’ or you’re going to continue to try, but as you continue to do that, your asset continues to diminish in value.”

Related: Sieloff continues comeback from staph infection