The Oilers announced Andrej Sekera will be out six to nine months with a torn ACL he suffered in Game 5 of the team's second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks.
Sekera was a big part of the Oilers defensive gains in 2016-17, logging 21:28 time on ice per game - good for second on the roster.
The club must soldier on without Sekera's calming veteran presence, but as Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said on Oilers Now Wednesday, that means some young blueliners can step up.
"Moving forward, his injury is one that's going to keep him out for a while," said McLellan. "We're going to miss him because he's a very good leader at training camp. He shows up and he's ready to work all the time, not only his skill set but his ability to set the tone for others around him is very strong so we'll miss him that way.
"As one player gets injured, another gets an opportunity and there is a number of young players in our organization that will get a chance. The summer really hasn't even begun in the hockey world yet when you think of free agency, the trade market at the draft and that type of stuff. We'll be able to ice seven or eight defencemen once we pick our team and we expect each of them to pick up the slack we'll miss with Andrej not being around."
Matthew Benning is an example of a young defender who stepped up with Sekera down in the playoffs. He led all Oilers d-men in time on ice in Game 6 versus the Ducks with 23:38.