Who Makes Up the Oilers’ Core That McDavid Wants to Win With

One factor that Connor McDavid — and for that matter, Leon Draisaitl– made clear of their end-of-season media avail was that it’s necessary they not solely win the Stanley Cup in Edmonton however so with the core of the group that has labored so arduous to make them a contender. They need to win as a gaggle, having gone by means of the arduous instances and the ache of shedding earlier than lastly, hopefully, profitable all of it. It’s a touching sentiment that on one hand is nice for the Oilers, however on one other, poses issues.

While it’s nice to hear that McDavid doesn’t need to depart and that he’s not solely making an attempt to win for himself however for the teammates he’s grown shut to and gone to battle with, basic supervisor Ken Holland has to be cautious about upsetting the apple cart when it comes to making modifications. A GM wants to discover the proper steadiness of doing what’s finest for the group, but additionally holding his prime stars completely happy. One unhealthy commerce that sees considered one of McDavid’s closest buddies exit the door could possibly be a figuring out consider the captain’s long-term decision-making.

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With that in thoughts, who makes up this core that McDavid was speaking about? Or, in different phrases, who may Holland need to stroll on eggs shells with when it comes to commerce talks?

Draisaitl, Nurse, and Nugent-Hopkins Have Been There From the Start

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the longest-serving Oiler, having been drafted in 2011 and nonetheless with the group in 2023. He’s been by means of the most as an Oiler and he’s the one hyperlink to the previous that McDavid and firm in all probability nonetheless look to when remembering how far this group has come. Some followers may recommend he’s a commerce goal to make modifications in different areas, — or to promote excessive after a 100-plus level season — nevertheless it received’t be so simple as transferring a middle to get a defenseman if Nuge’s title is concerned.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Darnell Nurse was drafted in 2013 and he shortly grew to become McDavid’s closest good friend. The two had been roommates and have been facet by facet by means of their improvement as NHL gamers. Some followers would love to commerce Nurse due to his wage and inconsistencies as a top-pairing defenseman, however buying and selling him would have severe penalties.

Related: Oilers’ Goalie Skinner Has Bright Future Despite Playoff Struggles

Leon Draisaitl was drafted in 2014 and he was the final huge title chosen earlier than McDavid was taken in 2015. Draisaitl and McDavid have been one and two in the NHL for the previous few seasons now and one might think about buying and selling him could be like buying and selling Jari Kurri if Wayne Gretzky was nonetheless on this group and the two had been each of their prime. If you need a cause to see McDavid upset, transferring Draisaitl out earlier than these two win all of it would do it.

Hyman and Kane Are Now Part of the Core

One might argue that Zach Hyman and Evander Kane are a part of this core group now, regardless of the proven fact that neither has been with this group all that lengthy. Because the Oilers made long-term commitments to each gamers and signed them with the expectation they’d be key items to the group’s playoff success and talent to win each 12 months, they’re assumed to be integral elements of the total equation. You don’t signal these gamers after which commerce them, particularly when you’ve given off the impression to your unique core that these are the two guys that may put you over the prime.

Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers
Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Hyman is the workhorse of the group; he’s the new Ryan Smyth. He battles arduous each recreation, takes punishment in entrance of the web, and is a good locker-room presence. Meanwhile, Kane is the sh–disturber of the bunch however he additionally packs a wallop by way of on-ice talent. He’ll get up for the stars and pot 30 objectives. He permits everybody to play a bit of larger and also you don’t take away that out of your roster.

For followers questioning why Jack Campbell’s title isn’t in right here since he additionally signed a long-term deal, the reply is straightforward. He’s but to show himself as worthwhile signing. His first 12 months with the group wasn’t fantastic. Until he has an awesome marketing campaign, he’ll be supported by the group, however by no means a part of the core.

Are Evan Bouchard and Stuart Skinner Now Part of The Core?

The second Evan Bouchard indicators his new deal (possible a bridge contract), it’s protected to assume he’s a part of the group. He quarterbacks the energy play and he represents the new, younger breed of Oiler that has been drafted and developed after McDavid. The group moved Tyson Barrie with the confidence that Bouchard was the man and it’s possible the remainder of the core now views him that method. All it’ll take is an official extension to cement issues. The one exception right here could be if the Oilers had been to transfer Bouchard for a confirmed ace from the again finish. For instance, had Edmonton traded for Erik Karlsson at the deadline and moved Bouchard to do it, McDavid and firm in all probability would have understood.

Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers
Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI by way of Getty Images)

Much of what applies to Bouchard possible applies to Stuart Skinner. He’s the Oilers goalie of the future and this group will both sink or swim with him in web as the group’s starter. There is all the time an opportunity Campbell performs an even bigger issue subsequent season, however Skinner proved he’s the man the Oilers will probably be grooming to lead this group ahead.

What About Mattias Ekholm?

You don’t have to be round for a very long time to be a part of the core. With that in thoughts, it’s protected to say Mattias Ekholm needs to be added to this dialog. Yes, he’s been with the group only some brief months, however the Oilers traded for him realizing he’d be with this group for the subsequent three seasons and he’s the skilled mentor of the bunch. He’s going to play a ton, convey sound recommendation to a group that can want to play robust protection to win, and he’s nonetheless younger sufficient to have rather a lot in frequent with this group.

Ekholm desires to be in Edmonton and that issues too. It was straightforward to see how seamlessly and shortly meshed with this core that he was an necessary a part of the group. He’s like the core’s older brother.

What’s Left for the Oilers To Work With?

If we assume that every one of the above-mentioned names aren’t going wherever, that leaves a handful of gamers for Ken Holland to dangle or work with as potential commerce bait. The largest names with the highest salaries that might have an effect on change on this group are Cody Ceci, Kailer Yamamoto, Warren Foegele, and Brett Kulak. Can the Oilers do sufficient by transferring these gamers to enhance their group? Time will inform.

It won’t be straightforward to commerce these non-core members of the group, however these are names Holland can transfer out with out disrupting the core. These are names he can transfer and McDavid will perceive.

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