May 16, 2017 11:06 am
Updated: May 24, 2017 5:18 pm

Chiarelli confident in Oilers defence despite Sekera injury

Oilers defenceman Andrej Sekera

Mark Zaleski/AP Photo

The Edmonton Oilers already have a big hole to fill on defence in 2017/18.

Andrej Sekera will need six to nine months to recover from surgery to repair a torn ACL. That puts his return at late November at the earliest. He could be out until February. Sekera was injured in game five against Anaheim. He’ll have surgery later this week.

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However, it’s not all doom and gloom for a defence that made huge strides in 2016/17 and will have four key members still under the age of 25 when the new season starts in the fall. Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson will be 24, Matthew Benning will be 23, and Darnell Nurse will be 22.

READ MORE: Chiarelli on Oilers after playoffs: ‘We made a lot of strides this year’

“Do we have a championship D core? I’m not sure yet. We still have an element of growth in our D core,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said Tuesday morning. “There’s room for growth. We have to allow space for that. We made some major additions this past year. I’d like to let it evolve a bit.”

Another question on the back end revolves around Kris Russell. He signed a one-year deal with the Oilers late in the 2016 pre-season.  Russell will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Chiarelli likes Russell’s game but says new contracts for star forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will be the first boxes to check off.

“I have to have certainly on those other two. That’s what I’ve told Kris. I want to have Kris back,” Chiarelli explained. “I thought he was really good for our team. The way he approaches the game, the way he battles, his poise, the skating. I thought it was a really good complement to our group.”

Chiarelli added he’s going to talk to Eric Gryba, also set to become an unrestricted free agent. If Russell and Gryba do return, that means the Oilers could start the season with the same six defenceman who played in game seven against the Ducks.

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