Redoing the bottom six. It seems to be a yearly occurrence for the Edmonton Oilers, whose heavy cap situation leaves them in a constant state of bottom six turnover. This year’s approach ended with GM Ken Holland using a couple of player tryout contracts, a clever signing, and some rookie development. Here is what I believe will be the final bottom six.
Let’s start with the forwards that could fill out the potential bottom six, excluding returning veterans. There is a weird blend of players that make up this list. I’ll be highlighting each type of player below.
Edmonton’s three professional tryout contracts bring in an interesting group this year. Brandon Sutter is a 34-year-old power forward looking to play in the NHL for the first time since the 2020-2021 season. He’s been an injury-prone player for the majority of his career. If he can play more than 60 games, he is an effective 30 point winger. The key word being if.
Sam Gagner is a face Oilers fans know well. He was taken 6th overall by the team in 2007, and his first 6 season stint with the franchise went quite well. He hovered around 40 points a season on some abysmal Oilers rosters. Since then, he has bounced around the league and has never been able to stick with a squad for more than three seasons. As more of a shifty playmaking center, he could fit into this high-flying Oilers team quite well.
Adam Erne has spent the past four seasons putting up middling stats with the Detroit Red Wings. However, he did put up a 160 hit season last year. It’s similar to last year’s Kim Kostin move. Bring in a big, physical forward to round out the forward depth.
I’ve included the only two forward prospects I think have a chance to crack this roster. Xavier Bourgault will most likely spend this season in Bakersfield. Lavoie is the exact type of big, offensive forward that the Oilers would want to replace Klim Kostin. This year, he took a big jump with the Condors, raising his point total from 26 to 45.
Holloway spent 51 games in the NHL last season but failed to really play up to his potential. But there is no denying his two way talent and ability to win battles in the corners. He just has to find that NHL level scoring touch.
Finally, the annual veteran minimums. But these deals could not be more different. Connor Brown is like an early 2010s Sam Gagner. He was sidelined all last year, and most people will probably forget he was ever a Washington Capital. To me, this feels like a Connor McGeneralManager move. Brown put up 128 points on McDavid’s wing back in juniors. He will most likely take that place again, but you never know.
Lane Peterson is the Devin Shore replacement. To be honest, I believe he was only signed as insurance for injuries. Peterson has not done much of anything in the NHL, never playing over 30 games in a season.
My Ideal Bottom Six
Now, I will try to build the bottom six that I believe the Oilers should roll with. Here is the result.
Adam Erne signs a two way contract; Pederson and Erne are extra forwards
Time to explain. I believe the Oilers need to begin phasing in their young players. Lavoie fits the physical center prototype that is perfect for the bottom six. His presence replaces Nick Bjugstad. Holloway should find his scoring ability this year, and he is a winger who won’t make many defensive mistakes. He will immediately be an improvement over the recently released Kailer Yamamoto. But what the youth does regardless is add speed. The NHL is faster than it has ever been. Forwards need to be able to get into the offensive zone with pace, pressuring the defense into making mistakes. The returning forwards are already good forecheckers, and two young and hungry additions make this forward group dangerous.
When it comes to Erne and Pederson, it comes down to the fact that injuries are inevitable. The Oilers need a couple of depth guys to fill out the AHL and NHL rosters. Like I said, Erne fits that Kostin mold very well. If Jay Woodcroft feels he needs more physicality, then Erne is there. Pederson serves as the extra center. Time will tell if he is an improvement over Devin Shore.
After reviewing all their options, this is the ideal bottom six to me. It is fast, has the potential to score, and will play safe in the defensive zone. But who knows. Maybe Sam Gagner will make this roster. After all, he did score eight points in one game.