It has been another forgettable season for the Edmonton Oilers as they will now have missed the playoffs for a mind-boggling ninth consecutive season. A coaching change from Dallas Eakins to Todd Nelson has seen a marginal improvement in the team's play, but it's hard to imagine that Bob Nicholson, who oversees all elements of the Oilers' operation, including the building of a new downtown arena, won't be looking long and hard at making wholesale changes once this lamentable season ends.
Available: The Oilers sent David Perron to the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the going, in return receiving a role player in Rob Klinkhammer and a first-round pick that will likely be a late-round offering in June's draft. While general manager Craig MacTavish has long threatened seismic change, it's possible the only player of note the Oilers will move at the trade deadline will be defenseman Jeff Petry, who should command a good return (something similar to the Perron package) given that he is a right-handed shot and has good skill. Petry is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July and it seems highly unlikely the two sides can agree on dollar and term, even though he is the kind of player it should be important for the Oilers to keep. Derek Roy, acquired from the Nashville Predators for Mark Arcobello, is an unrestricted free agent this summer and could be moved, but the return would be minimal. The bigger question for the Oilers as they stumble around the hockey wilderness is whether they need to move a core piece such as Jordan Eberle or even Taylor Hall to turn a corner. Those kinds of moves will almost certainly wait until the draft if they're to happen at all.
Finances: Because the Oilers have difficulty attracting free agents, MacTavish would certainly be open to acquiring a younger player, regardless of position, frankly, who has dollar and term as the team continues to try to find the right combination with which to move forward. The Oilers have around $4 million in cap room, according to NHLnumbers.com.
Scouting the GM: Is there any way MacTavish keeps his job beyond the end of the regular season and, more to the point, should he be the man at the helm if there are to be major personnel changes made between the end of the regular season and the draft? Fair question, given the miserable state of this team from top to bottom. The fact MacTavish rashly fired Ralph Krueger before seeing him coach a single game after taking over as GM in April 2013 is a significant strike against MacTavish, given the ongoing failure of this team to evolve. Regardless of who was ultimately making the decisions -- MacTavish, Kevin Lowe or ownership -- the team has failed to draft and develop talent properly, with players such as Justin Schultz (a rare top free-agent acquisition) failing to evolve into the cornerstone players they were expected to become. While first-overall draft pick Nail Yakupov has shown signs recently of becoming more productive, the jury is very much out on whether the Oilers squandered the pick. In short, far too many mistakes and question marks surround the Oilers' GM.