The Edmonton Oilers will have a lot of new pieces when they head to training camp in September. Coach Dallas Eakins is excited about the newcomers and what they can bring to a franchise that's trying to avoid a ninth straight season without making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We think it has been a good few days getting the free agents in the boat. It was important," Eakins told the Oilers website Thursday, the first day of orientation camp. "We've added size, we've added depth, and we've added some people who can make plays. Those are all things that we need in our lineup, especially in our division."
Through trades and free-agent signings, the Oilers brought in defensemen Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin, and forwards Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot. They also added a big, talented center by taking Leon Draisaitl with the third pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Eakins said adding Pouliot and Purcell should help balance the offense, which has been carried by a handful of players, most notably Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. But it's the addition of Fayne and Nikitin that could have the biggest impact on a team that has struggled for years to keep the puck out of its net.
The Oilers have had one of the youngest defense groups in the NHL, and Eakins said adding a pair of veterans should make a difference.
"You start putting your lineup on the board and these are established NHL players that give you some comfort," Eakins said. "There's not an unknown so much with them. For us, especially on our back end, I thought our biggest problem last year was breaking the puck out. That led to us spending a lot of time in our own zone. With the additions of those players, and then with all of our other guys getting another year of experience, it's a step in the right direction."
Eakins is eager to begin his second season after the Oilers missed the playoffs for the eighth time in a row. Edmonton hasn't made the postseason since advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006; it finished last in the Pacific Division and 28th overall in 2013-14.
"You want to get back in there and get back in the fight," he said. "It's amazing to go through a season like that, from the coaching staff to the players, and that last game is over and it's been such a long year and you can't wait to get home and get a break from it. Then suddenly, a week to 10 days go by, and it's like my wife said, 'You're ready to go back to the rink now,' and I am."