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Things We Know: Oilers need defensive help, but where will they turn?

EDMONTON — Debuting a new look here, with the first “Things We Know” column Series 1, Volume 1. 

Things We Know: The Edmonton Oilers will NOT acquire defenceman Jeff Chychrun. 

Chychrun does not fit the mould of the defenceman Edmonton requires. He’s not the lockdown, cycle-buster the Oilers want. It’s just not what he is. 

You’re going to hear that the Oilers are interested in Chychrun between now and the March 3 Trading Deadline. They are not. 

Things We Think We Know: Edmonton needs a defender — someone to knock Darnell Nurse’s 24 minutes a game down to about 22 on normal night. Think Joel Edmundson, rather than John Klingberg. Think Vlad Gavrikov, not Chychrun. 

The player they eventually acquire might not be on the market yet. Top-four defencemen are difficult to acquire, and GM Ken Holland needs a few more teams to fold their cards and become sellers before he makes his move. 

And, yes, his first-round pick, or prospect Xavier Borgault could both be on the table. It’s “win now” time in Edmonton. 

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Things We Know: Connor McDavid did not meet the “control of the puck” standard in overtime versus St. Louis. He was offside. 

Things We Think We Know: McDavid was staring at a puck that was next to his feet. He could have stickhandled it, but he did not choose to. 

Do we think he thinks he was in control of the puck? Sure. 

Would we ever question a player of his skill set when he says he had control? Like Tyson Barrie said, “You’re talking about Connor McDavid. If he feels like he has control of the puck … he has control of the puck.” 

Here’s the question though: If that is Wayne Simmonds, or Milan Lucic, do we give them the same leeway? How about Michael Pezetta? Because there’s one set of rules for one set of players — regardless of the fact that they are not all the same. 

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Things We Know:  Jack Campbell is in the battle of his professional career, with Stuart Skinner having stolen the No. 1 job in Edmonton and not showing any signs of regressing. 

Campbell won 6-3 at Nashville this week, and played all right. But getting the commensurate playing time to put his game together is an issue, the way Skinner is playing ahead of him. 

Things We Think We Know: Everyone said it — “Jack’s the nicest guy ever!” Well, guess where nice guys finish? 

Campbell has dealt with disappointment often. He was a first-rounder who never panned out, and it’s not easy to be that guy. Then he battled to make an NHL career for himself, and ended up in Toronto where he stole the No. 1 job. But it ended badly in Toronto and has started badly in Edmonton. 

Campbell has the “I’m playing lousy” interview down to a tee. I’ve interviewed hockey players for 35 years. I’d rather see him tell his critics to (bleep) off, and play like he has a chip on his shoulder. 

Be Mike Smith. The Oilers are missing the confidence and swagger that Smith brought to their room. 

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Things We Know: The Oilers are worried about Jesse Puljujarvi. They hoped his game would get found, but it’s lost. Like, wrong turn in Kananaskis lost. 

He has five goals since Jan. 1 — 67 games — and just 124 shots on net. Forget the analytics — no one is buying them anymore. His game is so far gone that it will now take a sweetener to get a team to take him and his $3 million salary for the rest of the season. 

Things We Think We Know: As a trading chip, best case scenario had Puljujarvi playing well enough to entice a team to take him for a 40-game test drive, with a chance to re-sign him post-season. He’d sign for less than his qualifying number if the situation was right.  

Today that team isn’t out there, and Holland will need to add to the package to move Puljujarvi and his $3 million AAV so he can make moves at the deadline. 

With players returning from injury, Puljujarvi might soon be a candidate for the press box. That won’t happen if it can be avoided, as Edmonton tries to retain some value in this asset. 

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Things We Know: Darnell Nurse had a rough game and cost his team a couple of goals. The Oilers are not going to bench him or put him in the press box, as some fans suggest. 

Nurse leads all Oilers defencemen in ice time per game (24:02), shorthanded goals (1), plus-minus (plus-11), even strength goals (T-3), even strength points (14) and is second in shots on goal (68) without any meaningful powerplay time. 

He is Edmonton’s best defenceman. A tad overpaid at $9.25 million? Sure, but losing Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson in consecutive years left Edmonton needing to sign Nurse. 

Things We Think We Know: Holland needs a left shot defenceman to take some minutes from Nurse, and Nurse needs to forget about the big contract and become an elite defender. Like did in his World Junior appearance back in 2015. 

This team has enough goals, and a back end that provides enough offence. Nurse needs to mature into a rock-solid defender, and if he gets 10 points a season, who cares? 

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