Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hoping new players can fill defensive voids

Click to play video 'Edmonton Oilers training camp underway but without Darnell Nurse' Edmonton Oilers training camp underway but without Darnell Nurse
WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Oilers' training camp is now in full swing and all the players are back except for one. John Sexsmith reports – Sep 14, 2018

The Edmonton Oilers are without two defencemen they had once counted on to be there at the start of training camp. Andrej Sekera is out indefinitely after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in August. Darnell Nurse, a restricted free agent, remains without a contract.

“No real update. I know he travelled home the other night. I don’t have an update for you. We obviously couldn’t come to an agreement.

“We’ll hope we can get him in camp at some point shortly,” said general manager Peter Chiarelli.

“I don’t want to comment on specifics. We’ve had a lot of negotiations. We’ll see where it goes here shortly. There’s a gap. I can tell you there’s a gap.”

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No Sekera and no Nurse leaves big question marks hanging over the blue line, but it does open the door for players hoping to become full-time NHLers.

Jakub Jerabek signed a one-year deal with Edmonton on August 20. The 27-year-old has played only 36 NHL games but boasts a skill set the Oilers are looking for.

READ MORE: Connor McDavid wants consistency and chemistry from linemates as Oilers open camp

“Had very good years in the KHL, moves the puck very well,” Chiarelli said. “Maybe he didn’t get a fair shake there (in Washington). He’s a very cerebral player, economical player.”

“He’s been around a Stanley Cup champ year,” said head coach Todd McLellan.

“The opportunity that exists here is one that we believe he can take advantage of.”

At camp on Friday, Jerabek skated on a pair in Kris Russell. Meanwhile, fellow newcomer Kevin Gravel was in Nurse’s spot with Matt Benning.

READ MORE: Defenceman Jason Garrison signs on for tryout with Edmonton Oilers

Gravel, 26, signed a one-year, two-way contract July 1. He played 70 games with the L.A. Kings over the last three seasons.

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“I really like to focus on my D zone first,” Gravel said. “I like to get the puck moving out of the D zone as quick as possible. If the opportunity is there to join the rush, I can join the rush.”

“We always respected him as a player in Los Angeles,” McLellan said. “We thought he did some really good defending stuff and had the legs and the mind to jump up into the play.”

2018 first round draft pick Evan Bouchard, 2015 draft picks Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear, and veteran Jason Garrison (in camp on a tryout contract) are other defencemen who could push to be on the opening day roster.

Up front, Drake Caggiula didn’t skate Friday because of an illness. Scottie Upshall failed his medical on Thursday, but Chiarelli figured he could be fine to skate early next week.

Saturday will be Fan Day at Rogers Place. Fans can attend Oilers training camp for free between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.