With Benoit Pouliot set to make his return to the starting lineup, the Edmonton Oilers had a decision to make when it came to their forward group. Instead of forcing Todd Nelson into choosing between one of Matt Fraser or Teddy Purcell as potential fourth line wingers, Craig MacTavish decided to pull the trigger on a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday afternoon. While the return of a 2015 first round pick and Rob Klinkhammer for David Perron certainly makes this team worse in the here and now, it should free up an opporunity for Nail Yakupov to try and find his game.
Edmonton - January 2, 2015 - Be it tonight in Colorado against the Avalanche or Sunday evening when John Tavares and the New York Islanders pay a visit to Rexall Place, forward Benoit Pouliot would be making his return to the Edmonton Oilers starting lineup.
With the recent additions of Matt Fraser and Derek Roy to what was an already overcrowded forward group, albeit not an overly productive one, Pouliot’s pending return would have left Todd Nelson and his coaching staff with a somewhat difficult decision.
While Tyler Pitlick’s lacerated spleen freed up a spot, the question was never going to be about who was coming out of the lineup but rather who would be shifting down onto the fourth line. The chances of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, David Perron and Nail Yakupov slipping out of the top nine appeared to be unlikely but that all changed this afternoon.
Instead of forcing his new head coach into choosing between which one of Fraser or Teddy Purcell would go down to the aforementioned fourth line, Craig MacTavish decided to pull the trigger on a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the return of a 2015 first round pick and Rob Klinkhammer for Perron certainly makes this team worse in the here and now, it does help clear up the glut of, at least on paper, offensively capable wingers currently on the roster.
Considering the organization look as though they have every intention of giving Fraser a shot at earning regular duty, moving him down the depth chart was clearly not an option. Meaning the Oilers either had to free up a spot inside the top nine or have Purcell lineup alongside Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks.
Considering the former Tampa Bay Lightning winger has shown absolutely zero interest in using his 6’ 2” frame to his advantage, playing him on what is essentially an energy-line, albeit a rather useful one, made little to no sense. While at the other end of the spectrum, slotting Fraser in such a spot and expecting any sort of meaningful offensive production, would have not been realistic.
Over the last number of years, this organization has seemingly gone out of its way to put players in situations they are ill-suited for and it has to stop. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening prior to the start of the 2015-16 campaign will be next to impossible. The holes on this roster are growing by the minute and there is nothing anyone can do to change that.
If nothing else, the one thing shipping Perron out of town should accomplish is giving Yakupov the rest of the 2014-15 season to find his game in a top six role and see what he can do. Who knows, maybe Todd Nelson will be able to help the Russian youngster relocate his game, something which Dallas Eakins failed miserably at during his time in Edmonton.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org