Ethan Bear

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Leafs lose 2 goalies to waivers; Capitals claim Jaskin

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Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock was very much the diplomat after goalies Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard were claimed off waivers Tuesday.

”Good for Mac. Good for Pick,” Babcock said. ”Too bad for our depth.”

McElhinney was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes, whose projected starter Scott Darling is injured and set to miss a few weeks. McElhinney has a 62-71-13 record in 10 seasons among six teams.

The Philadelphia Flyers claimed Pickard and placed him on non-roster status, while placing goalie Michal Neuvirth on injured reserve because of a groin injury. Pickard had a 21-9-1 record in helping the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate, win their first championship last season.

Toronto opens the season against Montreal on Wednesday with no experience behind starter Frederik Andersen and backup Garret Sparks. The next in line for now is Kasimir Kaskisuo, who has a 20-14-1 record in 38 AHL games.

”That’s the way it goes,” Babcock said, referring to the waiver system. ”You’d love to have them all slip through, but they didn’t.”

Two other players were claimed on a day NHL teams were required to set their 23-player rosters.

The Washington Capitals added St. Louis forward Dmitrij Jaskin, the odd man out after the Blues restocked their forwards this offseason. Jaskin was St. Louis’ second-round pick in the 2011 draft and has 25 goals and 61 points in 266 games over six seasons.

The Buffalo Sabres claimed left wing Remi Elie from Dallas. The 23-year-old Elie was the Stars’ second-round pick in the 2013 draft. He had six goals and 14 points in his first full season last year. He has seven goals and 21 points in 90 career NHL games.

The Sabres finalized their roster by placing forwards Scott Wilson (broken ankle), Sean Malone and Johan Larsson and defenseman Matt Hunwick (neck) on injured reserve.

The Edmonton Oilers signed forward Alex Chiasson and defenseman Jason Garrison to one-year contracts.

Chaisson is a sixth-year player who is on his third team in three seasons after helping the Capitals win a Stanley Cup last season. The 33-year-old Garrison is a 10-year veteran who spent most of last season playing for the Las Vegas Knights’ minor league affiliate in Chicago.

Edmonton also assigned defenseman Ethan Bear to the minors and placed defenseman Kris Russell on injured reserve.

The Los Angeles Kings placed forwards Dustin Brown (broken finger) and Jonny Brodzinski on injured reserve and released forward Emerson Etem from his tryout agreement.

Nashville Predators forward Ryan Hartman was placed on injured reserve as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. Forward Austin Watson was placed on the non-roster list. He was suspended by the NHL for the entire preseason and first 27 games of the regular season for domestic abuse. Nashville also assigned forward Rocco Grimaldi to the minors.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Gustav Olofsson was the only player placed on waivers Tuesday.

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Three questions facing Edmonton Oilers

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Edmonton Oilers. 

For even more analysis of the Oilers, check out the rest of PHT’s offerings:

[Looking back at 2017-18 | Building off a Breakthrough | Under Pressure]

1. How is general manager Peter Chiarelli going to manage the Oilers salary cap?

On Aug. 12 — today — the Oilers have just under $5 million in cap room to play with. They still need to pay Darnell Nurse, who will almost assuredly get a bridge deal, and they could still use a couple of improvements, which are unlikely to come given their financial situation. Of that nearly $5 million, $2.5 million of that is also reserved for Jesse Puljujarvi‘s ELC bonuses, if he hits them. That doesn’t leave a lot of money kicking around. Nurse is the last RFA the Oilers have to sign, and they can do so, but depending on the money involved, will have to move something out before the season starts.

Next season, they’re not trimming much off that cap either, and will have several new RFAs looking for raises, a starting goalie that could bounce back and demand a bigger chunk of change and further improvements to their roster.

2. Will Milan Lucic figure out how to play hockey again? 

It’s the $42 million question, isn’t it? Lucic, a bruising power forward who used to combine his massive size with the ability to produce points found a way to score just as a single goal in the final 46 games he played with the Oilers last season. That’s a whole lot of nothing for $6 million per season. Lucic played each and every game the Oilers were scheduled for in the regular season and produced just 34 points, his lowest total (not including the lockout season) since he played 50 games in 2009-10.

Lucic was a disaster last season, one illuminated by the fact that he still has five years to go on that deal. Chiarelli, who signed Lucic to the deal, reportedly has been trying to shop his once-coveted star. No team in their right mind wants that deal, and Lucic holds all the card with his no-movement clause, so the Oilers can only hope last season was the exception and not the rule going forward.

3. Can the Oilers resist the urge to rush their youth to the Show?

It’s something Edmonton has fallen victim to in the past. But with guys like Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear, two quality defensive prospects on the team that has been notoriously underserved at the position, there’s got to be that temptation to make things better immediately. And that would be a mistake. Bouchard, while he might be “NHL-ready,” could benefit from further seasoning in junior and perhaps even the American Hockey League. Bear is already playing big minutes and in big situations for the Bakersfield Condors and coming up to play a lesser role with the club would do unneeded stunting to his growth at the moment.

The same can be said for Kailer Yamamoto. He appears destined for the roster this season with no top-six help added thus far this summer. Ready or not, the benefits of playing one year of pro hockey in the American league seems much more beneficial rather than asking him to come in and try to keep up with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

The problem here, and it ties into the cap space problem, is that ready or not, it looks like the Oilers might have to tap into that youth too soon.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Building off a breakthrough: Darnell Nurse

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Edmonton Oilers.

On a team as bad as the Oilers were last season, building on a breakthrough is never an easy assignment.

Yet defenseman Darnell Nurse managed to be one of few players not named McDavid or Draisaitl that were consistent despite the unsteadiness around them.

Let’s take a little look at what Nurse did last season:

• Set a career high in goals
• Set a career high in assists
• Set a career high in points
• Led the Oilers in even-strength ice time per game
• Led the Oilers in penalty kill ice time per game
• Second on the Oilers in ice time per game
• Led the Oilers in shifts per game
• Led all Oilers defenseman in points

… and a deep breath.

[Looking back at ’17-18 | Under Pressure | Three questions]

Nurse took a big step in the right direction on a team that desperately needs to improve its rear guard. His average time-on-ice jumped over five minutes (22:15) from the previous season (he only played 44 games due to an ankle injury) and over two minutes from his rookie campaign in 2015-16 where he played 69 games.

Even more impressive, all 26 of his points last year came at even strength. Nurse’s point totals could increase if he eventually sees some power play time. He averaged little of that last season at just 29 seconds per game.

Nurse played tough minutes last year against the other team’s top lines and still came away with nearly a one point/60, a 51.11 CF% and a positive Rel CF%. During his rookie season, Nurse’s shot share was at 45.67, so he’s tightened up his game, even with the increase in minutes and quality of competition. He also lowered the number of shots against/60 by nearly two.

Furthermore, everyone is better with Connor McDavid on the ice, but without him, some of those numbers aren’t so great. Nurse isn’t immune to that decline, but he improved his CF% (48.09 to 49.74) and his GF% (40.54 to 46.25) without McDavid on the ice with him from 2016-17 to 2017-18, respectively.

Nurse still needs a contract for the upcoming season. He’s currently a restricted free agent on a team up against the cap and no money to pay him long-term at this point. Nurse, through his agent, has said he won’t sign long-term at the moment, opting to wait for more funds to open up to get a. paid more, and b. paid longer.

The Oilers certainly have some quality talent making its way up through the system in 2018 10th overall pick Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear, who impressed in an 18-game stint with the Oilers at the end of last season.

General manager Peter Chiarelli said last week that the team plans on signing Nurse before the season starts.

For a team that’s been starved for good defensemen for a long time, and needs to let some of their up-and-coming prospects marinate a little longer, that seems like a wise choice.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

It’s Edmonton Oilers day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Edmonton Oilers.

2017-18

36-40-6, 78 pts. (6th in Pacific Division, 12th in Western Conference)
Missed playoffs.

IN:

Tobias Rieder
Kyle Brodziak
Mikko Koskinen
Kevin Gravel

OUT:

Anton Slepyshev
Iiro Pakarinen
Eric Gryba
Yohann Auvitu
Laurent Brossoit

RE-SIGNED:

Ty Rattie
Ryan Strome
Drake Caggiula
Matt Benning

[Under Pressure | Building off a breakthrough: Darnell Nurse | Three questions]

No team had quite the optimistic forecast for this past season quite like the Edmonton Oilers did.

And no team failed quite as hard as the Oilers did as they shouldered those lofty expectations.

Coming off a season where they took the Anaheim Ducks to seven games in the second round on the back of stellar playing from Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot, nearly everyone figured the Oilers had finally rid themselves of the disappointment that had plagued them for years.

McJesus had led the Edmontonians out of the darkness and into the promised land.

By Christmas this past year, however, things got turned around. The question went from how far they would go in the playoffs to if they’d make the playoffs at all. Much sooner than anyone predicted, the answer came as an emphatic ‘no.’

The team with arguably the best player on earth watched their miserable season come to a merciful end long before the final date on the regular-season calendar.

The Oilers came into the season perhaps the league’s most promising hockey club and left it as its most disappointing.

And it was all made worse for fans in the upper half of Alberta as they watched Taylor Hall guide his New Jersey Devils to said promise land while picking up the Hart Trophy along the way.

One slap in the face after another.

A new year means a new beginning for the Oilers, although the additions of Tobias Rieder and Kyle Brodziak probably aren’t going to inspire notions of the team improving over the offseason.

Darnell Nurse still remains and a restricted free agent, with reports suggesting he isn’t looking to sign long-term right now given how tight the Oilers are to the salary cap. Nurse took a nice step in the right direction this year on the backend, setting new career highs in goals, assists and, of course, points, as he bounced back from an injury-plagued 2016-17 season.

Statistically speaking, McDavid had a wonderful year, posting his best season as a pro after eclipsing the 40-goal mark for the first time and putting up a league-leading 108 points despite the team around him.

What McDavid needs most are consistent linemates.

Postmedia’s Michael Traikos summed it up well last week:

McDavid’s linemates last year ranged from rookies learning the ropes (Kailer Yamamoto and Ty Rattie) to centremen-turned-wingers (Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) to whatever warm bodies Edmonton had lying around. No combination seemed to last more than a month. Nothing clicked.

Find McDavid some solid linemates, and you’ll likely have three players who become the league’s most potent trio on the scoresheet.

The Oilers will usher in the new season with a lineup that won’t look much different, so that won’t be an easy fix.

They will still have an underperforming Milan Lucic (despite general manager Peter Chiarelli’s attempts to trade the overpaid power forward). They still have the same defense that contributed to allowing the fifth most goals against last year. And they still have the same offense, that without McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, would have a missing ad on the side of a milk carton.

McDavid is going to have to work with what he has. The Oilers don’t have the cap room to change that, it appears. Talbot is going to need a better showing than his .908 last season, his worst on record in terms of save percentage, and a season that saw his goals saved above average (GSAA) go from 23.59 to -1.37.

The good news is that a swath of Edmonton’s youngsters took a step forward last season. Jesse Puljujarvi (Edmonton’s third overall pick in 2016), Ty Rattie and Jujhar Khaira all progressed, as did the aforementioned Nurse, and Andrej Sekera will be fully healthy to start the season on the blue line.

The hope is that the kids will play bigger roles this year, and they just might.

Prospect Pool

Kailer Yamamoto, RW, 19, Spokane Chiefs (WHL) – 2017 first-round pick

Yamamoto could get a full-time gig with the Oilers this season and maybe he’s the guy that can gel with McDavid. Yamamoto put up another solid year in the Western Hockey League with 64 points in 40 games, a year shortened after playing nine games with the Oilers to start the season and his time with Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships, where he earned a bronze medal. Yamamoto is quick, likes to dish the puck and can also find the back of the net. One of McDavid or Draisaitl is going to inherit him.

Evan Bouchard, D, 18, London Knights (OHL) – 2018 first-round pick 

A smooth-skating defenseman that can play all three phases of the game, rush the puck and score? This sounds exactly like what the Oilers blue line could use, and that’s what they got when they drafted Bouchard out of the Ontario Hockey League this past June. Bouchard had 25 goals and 87 points in 67 games with the Knights last season and had five more points in four playoff games. There are rumblings that he might not be automatic to return to junior, but there’s also an argument to be made not to rush the kid to the Show.

Ethan Bear, D, 21, Bakersfield Condors (AHL) – 2015 fifth-round pick

Bear played in 37 games in his first pro season in the American Hockey League. One part of that was due to injury, a concussion that hampered him and the Condors, who missed him in his absence. Bear put up six goals and 18 points last season as the Condor’s top defenseman and saw a lot of time on the blue line on the power play. The second part is that he got an 18-game stint with the Oilers at the end of the season and showed his worth with one goal and four points during that span. His prowess on the power play was also tapped into by the Oilers, who had him playing 1:50 per game with the man-advantage.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck