The Oilers finishing the 2015-16 campaign with the league’s second-worst record had some believing the NHL’s draft lottery could again fall in Edmonton’s favor. Instead, the Oilers lost out on a top-three pick and will select fourth overall at the June draft, but that might not be the worst thing for the organization.
Not only did Edmonton’s fall to the fourth-overall selection save the league from a major headache — just imagine if the Oilers had secured the first-overall pick for the fifth time in seven seasons — but it could have very well set the table for GM Peter Chiarelli to really set his plan into motion and shape the future of the franchise. And that plan could include the fourth-overall selection changing hands ahead before the draft.
In an interview with Edmonton’s 630 CHED, Chiarelli admitted he’s disappointed the Oilers fell out of the second spot, but added this could open the opportunity to move the pick now that they’ve fallen out of the top three, where it’s likely Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi will be picked.
“I think that there’s a real, legitimate chance to look to move this pick, to improve our team, to get bigger or to get a ‘D’ or to get something else,” Chiarelli told CHED. “There’s also a chance, as I said in my previous comments, that we could move the pick to get a…top-four defenseman.”
Chiarelli said the decision would likely be based on “what presents itself,” but said the top three players in the upcoming draft are more ready for the rigors of the NHL game than those outside of the top three. He did, however, add there are those among his staff who have “their favorites in the next cluster, so we’ll see what happens if we decide to move it.”
From Chiarelli’s statements about what he’d be looking for from the pick, whether that be a selection or via trade, it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that the Oilers are looking for one of a few things: a defenseman who can immediately draw into their top four, one who has promise to be a top-pairing defenseman or a forward with size.
“(W)e’ve had a close eye on these guys, and in that next cluster of players, there are some nice big forwards, wings and centers, and there are three really solid ‘D,’” Chiarelli said. “There’s a good cluster there. And if we choose to move (the pick) and/or move down…we’re going to get a real good player. The options are still available.”
Chiarelli’s wants for his club aren’t altogether surprising and it’s clear where the holes in the Oilers’ lineup have been over the past few seasons. But that Chiarelli is very clearly entertaining the idea of trading the pick means the options for trades are almost endless. There’s the option to package a player such as Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov with the pick, and that would almost certainly bring back a roster player for Edmonton. Maybe Chiarelli would even throw in a bigger trade chip such as Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to acquire a player who be a difference-maker for the Oilers as soon as opening night in 2016-17. That's an option, too.
If Chiarelli can work some magic and turn the fourth-overall selection into a big get for the Oilers, the biggest and most immediate impact stemming from the draft lottery may end up coming not in the first three picks but in the deal swung to change the look of the Oilers come October.