“It’s not a revelation that UFAs are expensive," said MacTavish, who signed Nikitin to a two-year deal at $4.5 million per year. "We felt that we very much needed to upgrade our defence. I’ve been talking about that for a long time. We had a great need at that position and we had an opportunity to land a defenceman that we think will fit very nicely into our top four. He’s a very versatile defenceman. The term was attractive to both the player and us. It buys time for us to develop our young defencemen appropriately, whether that’s sending them back to junior if they’re not ready or putting them in the American Hockey League.
"It made sense on a lot of fronts to pay the price that we paid and we look forward to getting the player in here at training camp."
MacTavish was asked if the interview process that is now in place — where teams can contact free-agents-to-be a handful of days before free agency hits on July 1 — is driving up the price. He said it did not.
"The price was always exorbitant. The mistakes that we’ve made — and a lot of teams have made in the past, in this regard — is undervalue what the price is going to be to land the player. Ultimately, you want the player and we were in a pretty enviable position to pay the price. It gives us a little bit of protection as we proceed in this UFA market, knowing that we have a piece which helps us achieve our fundamental objective."
PHILADELPHIA - There are numerous questions regarding whether highly-regarded prospect Sam Reinhart goes first overall or slips as far as fourth but the centre with a high hockey IQ isn't letting that get to him at all.
"The draft is just a one-day thing. It's just where you're at right now. The bigger goal is trying to make an impact as soon as next season."
Reinhart was asked if he can play in the NHL next year.
“I’m confident in that right now," he said. "Right now, that’s all that counts. My focus isn’t all on the draft itself. Making an impact as soon as next year when training camp starts, wherever that may be. I’m going in with the mindset that I’m ready to play next year.”
PHILADELPHIA - Leon Draisaitl was supposed to meet with the Oilers several weeks ago, but those plans got cancelled. Both sides plan to make up for that in short order now that all parties are here in Philadelhia.
“I’m going to meet with them in the next couple of days, whenever that’s going to be. I’m looking forward to it," said Draisaitl.
The German centre talked about the possibility of being selected third overall by Edmonton.
“It would be amazing for me. The Oilers, they’ve had so many unbelievable stars: Gretzky, Messier, those guys. Wearing the same jersey as they did would be awesome."
The 6'2" pivot talked further about the current edition of the team and the excitement of being a teammate with them.
“They’re stars in the League. Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins they’re all stars. It would be exciting to be a part of that team."
PHILADELPHIA - In order to put an end to some debate out there, centre Leon Draisaitl was asked what his height and weight end were measured as at the Combine in Toronto last month. He said he was measured as 6’2” and weighed in at 209 pounds.
Of course, size for Draisaitl was never an issue as many feel the big forward is the most ready of the consensus top three selections up front largely due to his size. For the record, Draisaitl feels he is ready to step in next year after putting in the work this summer.
“I think I have some work to do for sure but I’m going to be working really hard over the summer and I think I’ll be ready,” said Draisaitl.
LONDON, ON - Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal was asked if he felt his team had confidence knowing they had outplayed and outshot Val d'Or on Tuesday. Laxdal played down that comment.
"If any team has confidence, it's probably Val d'Or because they beat us in overtime. And that's been their M.O. all season. Bibeau's been outstanding for them. They hang around in a game and then they find a way to win," he said.
"We had a lot of shots but we didn't generate a ton of Grade A scoring chances so it's something to try to adjust to tonight."
Laxdal added that the QMJHL netminder Antoine Bibeau has been lights out when his workload is heavy.
"Someone said an interesting stat the other day, when Bibeau stops over 50 shots they haven't lost a game. So when I was looking at the clock going into (double) overtime, we saw that 50-shot mark and I went 'ooh'.
"It's not about the shot count, it's the Grade A scoring chances we have to do a better job on. And it's shot selection. We've got a game plan in mind here so hopefully we adhere to that tonight."
LONDON, ON - The Edmonton Oil Kings are in familiar territory tonight as they take on the Val d'Or Foreurs with an opportunity to advance to Sunday's Memorial Cup Final against Guelph with a win.
"It's an elimination game. And like both teams, we started preparing yesterday. It makes it interesting for both teams because we played each other on Tuesday night. It's a huge game. They know us pretty well, we know them pretty well and I think it will be a great game," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal this morning.
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart talked about the team's ability to draw on past experiences, such as Game 7 in the WHL Final against Portland.
"It happened in Portland, Game 6 (we lost in overtime) and then came back to win Game 7 the next night. I think just the whole year, not just that series, we came back really strong. We've always had a good response to adversity and we can expect the same tonight," Reinhart remarked.
Curtis Lazar said the playoff feel isn't there but the ability to draw on their experience will still help.
"The intensity is there, but it's nothing like the playoffs. We have experience playing in front of large crowds at Rexall and Portland but it's a one shot opportunity. You have to capitalize on it," said Lazar, adding that Val d'Or has some experience in big games as well.
"Our Game 7 experience is going is really going to help us out but in saying that, they have a couple of Game 7 experiences too. It's going to be a really interesting storyline to follow because both teams know how to deal with the pressure and the urgency so it's going to be really cool to see how it plays out."
Val d'Or's experience comes with a 4-3 Game 7 win over Baie Comeau in the QMJHL Final and a 3-2 win over Halifax in the previous round. Both wins came on the road and also came after winning Game 6 to force the deciding game.
LONDON, ON - Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal was asked how Edmonton and Val d'Or compares when you look at the lineups.
"You've got some great match-ups in this game. You look at the tenders, you look at the back-ends, the top nine or top 12 forwards. It makes for a great game tonight," he said, adding that he hopes to match Reinhart up with Val d'Or sniper Anthony Mantha.
"He knows the job that he's got to do and I'm sure that Mantha knows he's going to see Reinhart quite a bit tonight but they've got last change so I'm sure Mario (Durocher, Val d'Or head coach) will be working that change as much as he can."
Mantha has 82 goals in 84 games this season when regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup are all factored in. Reinhart and Mantha were teammates at the World Juniors for Canada so both know each other well.
"Everyone in that tournament became close with one another. I can't really say I know all his secrets, he's a pretty crafty guy. He's a big, powerful forward and has skill and speed. He's hard to contain. I'm just going to try and keep him to the outside and take away space," Reinhart said, adding that he's not sure how much he'll be able to see of Mantha given that the Foreurs have last change by virtue of being second in the round robin.
"They get last change so we'll have to see how that goes but I think that's what the match-up is going to look like. But whether I'm out there or a different line, we've got confidence in all our D-men."
Laxdal said that even if Associate Coach Steve Hamilton, who controls defence match-ups, is not able to get Reinhart out there for whatever reason, he has confidence his team will be able to respond to the junior star's scoring prowess.
"We've got some other guys who can step up. For us, we need our top six players to be our best players tonight and obviously Tristan Jarry's got to have an outstanding game," he said. "If we don't get that match-up, Dysin Mayo and Cody Corbett have done a great job all year. And we have three lines that can play the Mantha line."
Laxdal added that Val d'Or is more than just a one-man team.
"If you deal with the Mantha line, you've got the young kids coming back. The (Anthony) Richards, and those kids can score."
Despite not playing all that well in any of the three round-robin games, Val d'Or finished with the second-best record and as a result will earn the distinction of being the home team tonight.
"It's huge for us because we played two series in seven games in the Q and we need some rest," said Richard, after scoring the double-OT winner to defeat the Oil Kings on Tuesday. "That two days off is huge for us."
It's no secret that Val d'Or depends heavily on the play of goaltender Antoine Bibeau. He has faced 50 or more shots in both of his team's wins.
"Antoine is just awesome," Foreurs captain Samuel Henley said. "He keeps us in the game every time. He keeps everyone calm in the room. He's such a good goalie, a good teammate and a good player. We probably wouldn't have won the game without him."
LONDON, ON - The Edmonton Oil Kings now sit two wins away from their first Memorial Cup in modern franchise history but even though this time around they were able to skip the tiebreaker, by virtue of London's loss to Guelph last night, they certainly didn't get there the easy way.
"It's never a for sure thing. I've said it before, and I don't like saying it, but we're almost too comfortable in this position. We've responded well and done well in games that have been like a Game 7 situation (in the past)," Reinhart remarked.
It will absolutely be a Game 7 situation on Friday night against the Val d'Or Foreurs. The winner will advance to Sunday's Final against the Guelph Storm, while the loser sees their season come to an end. Reinhart doesn't expect an easy ride in either game, should the Oil Kings play both.
"At this point in the playoffs and into the Memorial Cup, most guys have been in situations like that and played in the big games," stated Reinhart. "They expect a lot of pressure and I think they're handling it pretty well and will know how to play."
With that said, the big defenceman felt he was confident in Edmonton's ability to come out on top, given the way the team has continually come up large in the biggest games this season.
"It's the character we have in the room. We never give up and we trust each other. Everyone has faith in one another. We play well and do it for each other."
LONDON, ON - The Edmonton Oil Kings will play the same team in back-to-back games when they meet the Val d'Or Foreurs Friday at 5:00 p.m. MT on Sportsnet. It will be the closest thing they've had to a playoff series since this tournament began.
In the last meeting, Edmonton outshot Val d'Or 50-33 and never trailed in the contest but ended up losing in double overtime to the QMJHL opponents. Curtis Lazar talked about wanting to bounce back from that loss and the ability to do it so soon.
"That motivates everyone. We let them off the hook," Lazar began. "We're not going to make the same mistake twice. They're a good hockey club, in saying that. They played a pretty good game. We'll be ready."
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart talked about the tournament opposition, and specfically about Val d'Or.
"We've played every team now. Every team is good," he said. "They've got a lot of talent and a lot of skill up front, too. Their back-end is good. We've got to keep them to the outside. If we end up playing them again, we've got to do the same things."
Forward Edgars Kulda, who missed on a pivotal penalty shot in the first period, talked about wanting to get back at the team which defeated them on Tuesday night.
"I wanted to get revenge on Val d'Or. We want to win that game (Friday) and you want to get revenge on Guelph too, in the championship. Of course, it will be a good test for us," said Kulda.
"Every game is like a Game 7. You need and try to show your best effort. Right now we ended up Round Robin at 1-2 but I think every team is beatable here. I think we can beat every team. We just need to use our opportunities a little bit more and play more our defensive structure game."