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FIVE THINGS: Changes

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

As with almost every off-season, there has been a fair amount of change to the Oilers organization. Some players are gone, some have returned. For a more in-depth look at the free agency and trade moves, read our story from earlier this summer. But here is a look at five of the biggest changes to the club this off-season.

1. HALL FOR LARSSON

It was a headline-making trade that shakes up the roster in a big way. Edmonton traded 2010 first-overall pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on June 29. The return was a much-needed addition to the back end, in defenceman Adam Larsson.



Hall has been one of the faces of the Oilers organization since 2010, playing 381 games for the orange and blue and scoring 132 goals and adding 196 assists for 328 points. That offence goes out the door, but in an effort to build the team as a whole, defence comes back.

Larsson was taken fourth overall in 2011, and has 274 NHL games under his belt. 2015-16 was a breakout defensive season for the right-shot blueliner, as he played the second-most minutes on a defensive-minded Devils club. He drew the toughest matchups and showed shutdown capability. The ceiling on Larsson is high enough and his skill set fits a need well enough to have made him an important target for Edmonton.

This swap is undoubtedly one of the bigger changes to the Oilers heading into the 2016-17 campaign.

 

2. LUCIC SIGNS

Trading Hall left a hole on the left side of the Oilers forward group, but signing veteran Milan Lucic certainly helps fill the void.

The fact of the matter is, there is only one Milan Lucic in the NHL and the Oilers did not have that player on their roster in 2015-16. The physical and mental toughness, the winning attitude and the skill combination makes Lucic a valuable addition to Edmonton's roster.


"We've added Milan Lucic, who is going to help lead this team," Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli said following the announcement on July 1. "He's going to play a physical style of hockey, he's going to score, he's got a really nice set of hands."

Lucic is a veteran of nearly 650 NHL regular season games and more than 100 post-season performances. He had 20 goals last season in 81 games for the Los Angeles Kings. He's proven in his career that he can complement top-end players and roll against some of the toughest competition.

His addition to the roster not only helps with the on-ice product, but his off-ice leadership and Stanley Cup-winning background are added bonuses.

 

3. WELCOME PULJUJARVI

By now, Oilers fans are very familiar with the 2016 NHL Draft script and how Jesse Puljujarvi fell to the team at four. While he hasn't officially made the roster, and is currently recovering from a knee injury, Puljujarvi is expected to play in the NHL this season and perhaps even make some sort of impact.

"If he's ready to play, we think he can contribute and we're doing the right thing organizationally for him and us, then he'll play," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.

The 2016 World Junior Championship MVP represented his Finns and put up an outstanding 17 points (5-12-17) in seven games. He is second all time in points for a player under the age of 18 in the tournament, behind Jaromir Jagr and tied with Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros. He's the youngest player in the tournament's history to win MVP honours.

The sizeable Finn is seen as a complete player who has a high energy and passion level to go along with his strength and skill. Rookies have their bumps along the way, but he could make for a positive change to the roster this season and certainly contribute for years to come.

 

4. FRONT OFFICE SHUFFLE

While this next change may not directly affect the play on the ice for this season, it is significant enough to add to this list.

On August 2, the Oilers announced a restructuring of their hockey operations. Edmonton hired Keith Gretzky as the club's new Assistant GM. Bill Scott transitions to a new role as Director of Salary Cap Management and Assistant to the President of Hockey Operations.


Gretzky comes to Edmonton having spent the last five years in Boston. He most recently was the Bruins Director of Amateur Scouting. His scouting background and history with Chiarelli could benefit the club moving forward.

In addition to Gretzky's hiring, the Oilers announced the hirings of Frank Jay and P.J. Fenton as Amateur Scouts. Kelly Buchberger is the Oilers new Vice President of Player Development, and Duane Sutter has been promoted to VP of Player Personnel.

 

5. NEW DIGS

And finally, one of the biggest changes to the Oilers heading into the 2016-17 season is where they will play. This season marks the first in the new Rogers Place arena downtown.

The beautiful, state-of-the-art facility opens its doors to NHL hockey on September 26, when the Oilers host the Flames for a pre-season game. The season officially opens on October 12, when Edmonton hosts Calgary for their home opener.

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