Huge centre not going staying with Edmonton Oilers. Who will seize his essential function?

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The Edmonton Oilers can’t afford to maintain each participant they hope to retain, so just a few key gamers are going to be transferring on.

One among them is probably going centre Nick Bjugstad, who performed a serious function for a lot of the playoffs for the Oilers, that of the staff’s third and even second line centre.

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NHL groups are typically construct round 12 core gamers, the six forwards on the highest two traces, the 4 d-men within the high two pairings, the No. 1 goalie and the third-line centre.

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Bjugstad is a powerful wager to be a superb match on the third centre place for 2023-24, however he’s an unrestricted free agent. Edmonton has restricted funds to signal gamers this summer season. It has to ensure it’s acquired the cash to pay high younger vets like Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod. Will probably be hard-pressed to search out way more than $1.15 million per yr for any unsigned veteran forwards (that’s the contract quantity the place a participant might be despatched to the AHL with out his contract counting in opposition to the NHL wage cap).

The Day by day Faceoff estimates that Bjugstad will command one thing round $2.2 million for 2 years on his new deal. That can virtually definitely be too expensive for Edmonton.

As Oilers Now announcer Bob Stauffer put it on the radio in the present day, noting how sizzling the NHL market might be for a huge centre who scored 17-goals: “I don’t see how they convey again Bjugstad.”

Certainly, the perfect play for the Oilers could be to be below the cap firstly of the yr, so it will probably construct up its cap house because the season goes alongside, after which have room to make extra of splash on the 2024 buying and selling deadline, a notion I wrote about at size right here.

I say this at the same time as Bjugstad performed effectively for the Oilers, definitely within the common season. When it got here to his contributions to Grade A pictures versus his errors on Grade A pictures in opposition to, he was +0.88 Grade A pictures per recreation, not up there with famous person Connor McDavid, +2.36 per recreation, however a powerful quantity for a 3rd line centre.

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I can’t keep in mind the Oilers ever having a 3rd line centre with such a superb quantity over a full season. Bjugstad was huge, defensively strong, robust within the slot, in a position to put up factors and strong as effectively on the penalty kill.

Cult of Hockey stats

Within the playoffs, Bjugstad was not fairly so efficient. His Grade A pictures plus-minus per recreation slipped from 0.88 per recreation to 0.11 per recreation, a marginal quantity for a centre. Not adequate. Bjugstad was OK when requested to not do an excessive amount of however when he was placed on the second line in opposition to Jack Eichel, he began to wilt on defence.

The actual fact is that one of many key wants for the Edmonton Oilers is to develop a 3rd line in a position to deal with robust competitors, together with gamers like Jack Eichel. This line has acquired to be so efficient that it earns the belief of Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft for use in opposition to high traces, and likewise to exit on huge shifts the place the Oilers want to carry a lead.

Within the playoffs, Ryan McLeod, Derek Ryan and Warren Foegele regarded like they could have change into such a line, however in the previous couple of huge video games in opposition to Vegas, Woodcroft didn’t belief them sufficient to have them face the Eichel line. As an alternative, Woodcroft went energy vs energy, placing Leon Draisaitl and his line in opposition to the Eichel line. That proved to be messy for the Oilers, because the Drai line didn’t get the job executed on defence.

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Possibly the McLeod line is able to step up for a full season as a checking line. In that case, Bjugstad’s absence received’t be so pronounced. It’s additionally the case that in Bakersfield, the Oilers have a giant centre in Noah Philp who should may assist the Oilers this coming season.

Philp, 2
5 in late August, is 6-foot, 3-inches and 200-pounds and a restricted free agent. He was a star on the College of Alberta and his recreation took off within the second half of final season within the AHL.

Noah Philp

Cult of Hockey contributor Ira Cooper frequently watched his AHL video games and has this to report on Philp: “Noah Philp is a reputation that Oilers’ followers ought to get to know. He’s the “Derek Ryan alternative” of the long run and that’s not simply due to the story, one other undrafted participant out of the College of Alberta that might make it within the NHL at a complicated age (though Philp remains to be below 25 years outdated). The skill-set is considerably related.

“Initially, a extremely accountable two-way participant that’s virtually at all times on the ‘proper aspect of pucks’ and that’s in all three zones. You not often see a quick break in opposition to with Philp on the ice and also you not often see the excessive defensive slot left uncovered. Philp is at all times in the correct spot and usually makes the protected play.

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“After all, transitioning abilities to the NHL stage is one other factor, nevertheless, Philp is a greater skater than Derek Ryan and has a really sneaky (underrated) shot. At 6’3 and over 200 kilos, he’s a much bigger physique than Ryan. It took Philp a while to get his recreation collectively on the AHL stage – after all, the norm for rookie professionals. A part of which may have been that he began on the wing and he’s a pure middle. As soon as Philp was moved to middle (one thing he and coach Colin Chaulk spoke about and Philp welcomed the problem and duty), it appeared like Noah’s consolation stage spiked instantly. Philp is a proper shot two-way middle, a giant physique that battles onerous, skates effectively, has respectable talent, is extremely accountable and may shoot the puck. He performs the kind of recreation that coaches are likely to belief early. He might not ‘make the staff’ out of camp however I feel he’s as NHL prepared as Raphael Lavoie and can play video games this season. For me, he’s a motive to not spend greater than $1.25MM on Bjugstad.”

Sound like a plan?

I feel it’s going to need to be the plan.

And it’d effectively work out effectively for Edmonton, although I feel the true key’s making the staff has a shut-down defensive trio sturdy sufficient that Woodcroft entrusts them at key moments within the recreation.

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