The Edmonton Oilers have a bright future.
But even with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl under club control for years to come, and even after falling just one win short of the Western Conference Final, some big decisions remain for GM Peter Chiarelli.
The Oilers aren’t over the hump yet.
It starts this summer with Draisaitl, whose entry-level contract is now over. The 21-year-old star forward can become a restricted free agent on July 1, and Chiarelli will have to decide whether to pursue a bridge deal or long-term contract. Hockey fans know there are pros and cons to each avenue. A bridge can mean a higher cap hit down the road.
Meanwhile, McDavid’s ELC only has one season remaining. The Oilers will no doubt pursue a long-term deal with him, and that won’t be cheap, to say the least.
Patrick Maroon, he of the 27-goal season, also has just one year left on his contract, a bargain right now at $1.5 million per. If the Oilers pursue an extension, he’ll need a raise. If they don’t, he’ll need to be replaced.
As much as those two struggled in the playoffs, they’ve still been significant contributors. Eberle had 20 goals and 31 assists this past season. Nugent-Hopkins was the second-line center, a huge role on any team. Chances are, Eberle will be the one to go, with winger Jesse Puljujarvi coming up from the farm to replace him.
What happens to Edmonton’s defense will also be interesting to watch. Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, and Oscar Klefbom are all signed long term. But Kris Russell is a pending unrestricted free agent, and he’s not about to sign another one-year deal.
So, do the Oilers lock up Russell, too? Or do they let Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse step into bigger roles? At the very least, Chiarelli can’t afford to overpay Russell, who just turned 30. It’s worth noting that Edmonton made a couple of nice picks in the 2015 draft, getting Caleb Jones (Seth’s brother) in the fourth round and Ethan Bear in the fifth.
Jones and Bear are both defensemen, and both are ready to turn pro.