The Stanley Cup Finals are upon us. The NHL season is drawing to a close. While the Golden Knights and the Capitals are battling it out for hockey’s holy grail, the remaining 29 teams are focussed in on next season. The trade rumours are spreading like wild fire. The Oilers aren’t excluded from these rumours, so let’s dive in and assess the viability of the Oilers trade rumours that are being tossed around.
Max Pacioretty for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:
Stop. Just stop. Pacioretty has proven to be the better scorer thus far in his career, but Nugent-Hopkins is better defensively than Pacioretty. He could be just as productive as Pacioretty offensively given a full year on McDavid’s wing. Pacioretty has one year left on his deal, and Nugent-Hopkins has three years left on his. Trading Nugent-Hopkins for someone that could end up being a rental winger just doesn’t make sense, especially considering that he has such great chemistry with McDavid. So, let’s put that rumour to rest.
Max Pacioretty for Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, the 10th overall pick, or some combination of those:
Montreal needs defence. Edmonton needs a scoring winger. This trade scenario is more appetizing than trading Nugent-Hopkins for Pacioretty, but it is still a dumb idea. In an earlier piece, I noted that trading Klefbom for a winger would be a horrible decision because the defence will have taken a massive step backwards. Trading Nurse for a winger would have the same effect. Klefbom has 5 years left at a reasonable cap hit, and Nurse is set to sign a new contract that could see him locked in long-term as well. The left side of the defence is in great shape moving forward. Let’s not ruin that by trading one of them for a rental winger that would become expensive and disappointing if retained long-term.
Rasmus Ristolainen for Oscar Klefbom and the 10th overall pick:
If Klefbom were to be moved for a different defenceman, then that incoming defenceman would need to be more offensive than Klefbom. Ideally, he would be younger and right-handed. 23 year old Rasmus Ristolainen fits that description perfectly. He has surpassed the 40-point mark in each of the least three seasons. Klefbom’s career-high is 38 points. Ristolainen is on a team-friendly contract with an AAV of $5.4 million for the next three seasons. Trading Klefbom who has 5 years left at an AAV of $4.17 million for Ristolainen makes sense because he also has some term left. If Klefbom is being traded, it had better be for Ristolainen.
Torey Krug for Oscar Klefbom:
This deal has been in the rumour mill since the trade deadline. Krug is also a more offensive defenceman than Klefbom. His point totals from the last two seasons are 51 and 59. The problem with Krug is that he only has two years left at $5.25 million. The other problem is that he is left-handed. Chiarelli isn’t opposed to adding a left-handed offensive defenceman, but the right-handed option would be better on the powerplay. This would be a trade the Oilers would make if they were desperate to find some offence from the back end. I just don’t see this trade happening.
Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk:
It could be a busy off-season for the Carloina Hurricanes. New owner Tom Dundon has changed GMs due to a difference in management styles. Former GM Ron Francis was noted for his patience and his draft and develop strategy. Dundon wants to be more aggressive. After 9 consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, the Hurricanes could be looking to move on from some of their core players. TSN’s Bob Mackenzie has said that top scoring winger Jeff Skinner will likely be moved, and he could be cheap. How cheap is cheap? Could a package of picks and prospects get it done? Right-handed offensive defenceman Justin Faulk had a down season, but he could still be productive for several more years. He could be available due to Carolina’s depth on the blueline.
In an earlier piece on trade targets for the Oilers, I said that Skinner could be acquired for Puljujarvi, the 10th overall pick, and the Islanders’ 2019 3rd round pick (acquired in the Davidson trade). I also said that it would take Nugent-Hopkins to land Faulk. Given the situation in Carolina, the asking price for both players might be lower than I had originally projected. If Skinner could be acquired for picks and prospects, then it’s worth looking at. If Faulk could be acquired for Puljujarvi and a pick, then it’s worth seriously considering. I wouldn’t think that Puljujarvi would be tradable if not for Yamamoto being in the system behind him at right wing. If Puljujarvi could land a right-handed defenceman that is capable of scoring 40-50 points like Faulk, then it’s a move worth making.
Trading the 10th overall pick:
In my piece on the 2018 NHL Draft, I suggested that there are four offensive defencemen that are slated to go from 4-10 in the draft: Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, Quinn Hughes, and Noah Dobson. There are three more offensive defencemen slated to go shortly after the Oilers pick at 10: Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, and Ryan Merkley. Of the seven defencemen that I just mentioned, only Hughes and Smith are left-handed. This is a very strong draft class for right-handed offensive defencemen, which is a position of need for the Oilers. From that perspective, it doesn’t make sense to trade the pick.
Any good manager needs to listen to and consider any offer from another team. In that vein, the 10th pick could be moved for the right return. Chiarelli said that any of the players selected in the top 10 in this year’s draft will be a few years away from playing in the NHL (aside from consensus #1 pick Rasmus Dahlin). The Oilers need to improve now. If moving the pick can help the team improve now, then it’s worth considering.
If the Oilers were to trade a pick that could be an offensive defenceman, then the return should be an offensive defenceman that can help the team now. Ristolainen and Faulk are the two right-handed offensive defencemen that are popping up in rumours with Edmonton. Ristolainen is preferable based on his age, but the Oilers likely wouldn’t have to give up Klefbom to get Faulk… which of the two trade scenarios would give the Oilers the best chance at winning for the longest time? I would think that the answer would be having Klefbom and Faulk instead of Ristolainen.
Wingers that could possibly be acquired for picks include Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider. The pick could be included with a big-name roster player to get Wayne Simmonds, Mike Hoffman, or Max Pacioretty. None of those wingers have more than 2 years left on their contracts. The 10th overall pick might not make the team for 3 years, but he will help the team for about 7 years afterwards. Sacrificing a right-handed offensive defenceman that can be in your system for 10 years for a winger with 2 or less years remaining on his contract just doesn’t make sense.
However, if the players that the Oilers have their sights set on at the draft were all to be taken before they get to pick, then trading the pick for a winger might make sense.
My personal opinion is that the Oilers should trade up in an effort to pick Boqvist, Bouchard, or Dobson instead of trading the pick for immediate help. No one in the top 3 will want to move down. If Ottawa wanted to move their pick, they would have given it to Colorado as a part of the Duchene deal. Arizona might be tempted to move down if enough picks were thrown their direction, but I wouldn’t expect them to trade within the division. The Canucks likely wouldn’t want to do the Oilers any favours either. That leaves Detroit, Chicago, and the New York Rangers as the teams ahead of Edmonton in the draft that the Oilers could facilitate a deal to move up with. I’d be content with trading next year’s 1st and 3rd round picks to move up to Detroit’s spot in the draft (6th). It would be harder to trade next year’s 1st round pick to move up one or two spots.
Regardless of what the pick would be traded for, any deal involving the 10th overall pick will happen on the draft floor in Dallas.
Chiarelli said that he will not be blowing up the team this summer. He also said that he could be looking to “tweak” the defence group in hopes of getting them to move the puck faster. To me, that suggests that IF a player like Klefbom were to be traded, then it would be for a different defenceman that would be more offensive. Ristolainen is the most desirable return for Klefbom, and Krug would be the second best. Faulk would be the defenceman that I would be trying to add to the group if it could be done without losing anything more than Puljujarvi off of the roster.
There is a hole at left wing that needs filling as well. For fans hoping that Pacioretty will come to Edmonton, there is no trade scenario for him that makes sense on the Oilers end. The likelihood of trading for a scoring winger is low. Doing so would not be in the best interest of the team long-term based on the fact that no winger mentioned in this article has more than 2 years left on his contract. Re-signing any of those players long-term upon them becoming UFAs is risky, as Oilers fans can attest to with the Lucic signing.
Nobody truly knows the extent that any of these deals have been discussed between the Oilers and the other teams. Hopefully this article gave you a sense of what ideas are being tossed around and about how much sense they would make for the Oilers.
Next week, I’ll discuss the merit in taking a more patient strategy this summer.