Oh, how things have changed for the Edmonton Oilers in half a year. Only 6 months removed from making an appearance in the postseason last year, the Edmonton Oilers are back to being basement dwellers. Sure it’s early, still 69 games to play, but with a team that has Connor McDavid, arguably the best player in the NHL captaining the ship, the Edmonton Oilers and thier fans were expecting better so far and rightfully so.
So what’s wrong with the Oilers exactly? If you were to pinpoint it, one contract stands out. That’s Vancouver native Milan Lucic and his absurd $42 million dollar contract… and five seasons remain on it after this season. When the Edmonton Oilers signed Lucic in free agency after the 2015 season, he was expected to be the bruising force on the top line, putting fear into opposing lines while McDavid beat you with his high hockey I.Q. and skill. That was not to be as only 4 games into last season, Patrick Maroon took Lucic’s assignment away from him and ran with it- posting a career high in goals with 27 and points with 42. To Lucic’s credit he bettered Maroon’s point totals with 50, but given the way things are going so far this season, 50 points seems unimaginable. In 11 games Lucic has three goals and only 12 points. His stats are magnified when you consider that the Oilers rank 31st in goals.
So if Lucic’s offensive play is waning, his defensive play should make up for it. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, as he has seen limited time on the penalty kill… on a team that ranks 30th on said kill. It’s obvious that the Oilers could use scoring, because so far Lucic isn’t providing it. You figure Nugent-Hopkins was due for a big campaign after a horrendous season last year where he had a pedestrian 43 points in 82 games. With only 7 points so far this season, centre is a position the Oilers need to fix if they want to contend for a Stanley Cup. With Edmonton already missing out on Matt Duchene, who got traded to the Ottawa Senators earlier this week, Toronto native John Tavares would be a nice addition in the City of Champions… right? Too bad that’s almost impossible for Edmonton, as they only have $8.6m in cap space. Tavares has a cap hit north of $6m with one year remaining, and the Oilers will have next to no money to work with this season, because there is almost no way the New York Islanders would even consider Lucic’s contract, especially given his current term.
Given the situation the Edmonton Oilers probably wish they weren’t so generous two and a half years ago.
You can find Conner Carrington on Twitter here.