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Oilers not out to make big offseason moves, could trade up in NHL Draft

GM Chiarelli says they need to build stronger team around McDavid

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- The Edmonton Oilers are not looking to make a big splash this offseason, general manager Peter Chiarelli told NHL.com on Wednesday.

One year after reaching the Western Conference Second Round, the Oilers missed the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs this season after finishing with 78 points (36-40-6), 17 behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card in the conference. 

In a wide-ranging interview at the 2018 NHL Scouting Combine, Chiarelli discussed the possibility of moving up from No. 10 in the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23, how center Connor McDavid matured during Edmonton's struggles this season, the need for a defenseman on the power play and how he rejects the criticism that the Oilers lack speed.

 

With you holding the No. 10 pick, do you have any specific philosophy going into the draft?

"I think generally you look at the best player. Where we pick you have a pretty good sense of who's going to be there. Unless someone significant falls, there are three or four players at different positions who are at the same talent level. At this point it may be by positional need. But you can't ignore the best-skilled player. That's generally our principle."

 

Are you looking to trade up, or down, or just stand pat?

"Well we actually dropped down one [spot] in the [NHL Draft] Lottery. We'd been planning at No. 9 for a while but we knew we could drop down. I know there are teams ahead of us who have positional needs different from ours so that usually means there is an ability to move up. We would look at that."

 

What is your blueprint for the 2018-19 season?

"We're not going to do anything significant, generally speaking. We felt the year before wasn't an anomaly. We felt we'd made significant progress (in 2016-17) on a number of different levels and [this season] things went south on a number of different levels. We really don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here. From the planning perspective, we've got some holes we've got to look at filling. I'm told by a number of different people -- and it's legitimate -- that we need a power-play defenseman. That's something that we'll look at. Doesn't mean that these players are just out there." 

Video: Edmonton hires three new coaches for 2018-19 season

 

In other words, people shouldn't expect a big splash?

"Like I said, we don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here. But also understand where we are as a team. We've really improved our depth right through our organization the past couple of years. Again, I just don't want to dismiss that. It doesn't mean there are going to be guys who are going to be impactful right away but we've got some good young players coming up. And we're going to get a good young player in this draft."

 

As elite a talent as Connor McDavid is, we saw this season that one player can't completely carry a team. The Oilers didn't make the playoffs with him, and Canada didn't win a medal at the 2018 World Championship with him. Do you agree he can't do it alone?

"Obviously you can build around Connor and we plan to and we continue to do so. The expectations on him alone are so high. And he'll meet them. But you need a strong supporting cast, you need a strong leadership group, you need good goaltending. You look at all the teams that [Wayne] Gretzky played on, you look at all the teams that [Mario] Lemieux has played on, you look at all the teams that [Sidney] Crosby plays on, they're strong, strong teams around them. So, we have to do that."

Video: EDM@VAN: McDavid fends off defense for tough goal

 

What did you learn about Connor as he experienced the adversity your team went through this season?

"He's growing up. Adversity is a good way to describe it. Dealing with him, dealing with (coach) Todd McLellan, dealing with the different issues we had to, you saw that he's a mature young man and he's learning. We had the success the year before, we had the failures [this] year. That stuff, as much as it sounds weird, those failures are invaluable too as long as you learn from them and build from them. And he's doing that. He's a sponge."

 

How do you address the criticism that your team is too slow?

"I've heard those suggestions. No way. We weren't slow the year before. You know what? You've heard it. It's about playing fast. it's about supporting, all that stuff makes you a fast team. Look at [the] Vegas [Golden Knights]. If you want to go player to player, are they fast? They play fast. Watch their support on the breakout. Watch their support in the neutral zone. Watch them move the puck. They have some fast D that move the puck so there's an element of that. It's a mentality that we have to recapture."

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