JASPER, AB - The Edmonton Oilers added a few pieces to their improving roster in free agency. The Oilers bolstered their blue line with the additions of Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. They gained some size and skill in the forward group with their trade for Teddy Purcell and their signing of Benoit Pouliot in free agency. In the draft, they selected big, skilled centre Leon Draisaitl third overall.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins is excited about the new additions and how they improve the team.
“We think it has been a good few days getting the free agents in the boat It was important,” Eakins said. “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.”
Adding good puck possession focused and competitive players was also an important acquisition for the team. Pouliot fits that build of the fast, skilled, highly-competitive player that the Oilers needed to add.
“They are important. We want to continue to up the compete level and Benoit is certainly going to do that. I go back to the fact that we need people who make plays, possess the puck and score goals. We don’t want to be a team who relies on basically four players to put up our points. There has been that perception of our team being an offensive one. It’s the wrong perception and we’re going to try to change that by adding guys like Teddy Purcell and Pouliot.”
The defensive side of things has also improved. Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said after day one of free agency that if you look at the team’s defence now, it looks like an NHL defence. Eakins agreed that that area of their roster has been improved.
“You start putting your lineup on the board and these are established NHL players that give you some comfort. There’s not an unknown so much with them. I think in the summer, almost the whole league is excited by the guys they drafted, they’re excited by the guys they got in free agency and you have that optimism again. 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.”
Overall, there has been much roster turnover for the Oilers and Eakins says that’s a credit to MacTavish’s dedication to turning the fortunes of the franchise around.
“MacT has been busy. He’s extremely passionate about getting us going in the right direction. It seems like every time I call him he is in the office working the phone or scouting a player. It has been non-stop for him. I think that’s why you see such a change over.”
The excitement of retuning to the bench for his second season as an NHL head coach has Eakins chomping at the bit, regardless of last season’s disappointments.
“You want to get back in there and get back in the fight. 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.”