NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Edmonton Oilers.
The Edmonton Oilers anticipate heightened expectations this season after ending an 11-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought in 2016-17.
Edmonton lost to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round after finishing the regular season with 103 points (47-26-9), its most since 1986-87 (106). Center Connor McDavid had 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) to lead the NHL and won the Hart Trophy in his second season in the League.
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1. How will they handle high expectations?
McDavid and coach Todd McLellan each has spoken frequently about this since being eliminated by the Ducks, emphasizing that Edmonton's focus will need to be even stronger this season if it hopes to continue to be a team on the rise. McDavid, 20, has displayed the leadership and focus needed from a captain, and the Oilers have influential veterans Milan Lucic, Mark Letestu, Kris Russell, Adam Larsson and Cam Talbot surrounding him. None of that guarantees progress, but the stability in the locker room during two rough stretches last season may have provided a hint that the Oilers can handle this pressure.
Video: 31 in 31: Edmonton Oilers 2017-18 season preview
2. Can Leon Draisaitl find a contract fit?
Draisaitl is a restricted free agent after surging to 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) in 82 games last season, his third in the NHL. The No. 3 pick of the 2014 NHL Draft spent much of his time as McDavid's right wing but also can play center. The 21-year-old is agile, quick and strong on his feet, and he has vision and soft hands. That Draisaitl was a strong performer in his first experience in the NHL playoffs, with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games, may be a window into his future, but it also may have complicated contract negotiations. His value clearly is high, and the Oilers are $16.8 million under the NHL salary cap for this season, according to CapFriendly.com. That's not the issue. It's that Edmonton will have limited cap space going forward after McDavid signed an eight-year, $100 million extension that starts in 2018-19 on July 5.
Video: ANA@EDM, Gm6: Draisaitl nets PPG to tally hat trick
3. When will goalie Cam Talbot enjoy backup support?
Talbot proved he could handle a heavy workload last season, starting a League-high 73 games and going 42-22-8 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. The Oilers were able to manage his schedule, but will they be able to do that in the future? Laurent Brossoit, Talbot's backup at the end of last season, has 14 games of NHL experience and has a way to go if he's to prove a viable option to afford Talbot some relief.