Trade Options: Scoring LW and Top RD

The fact that the Oilers need to upgrade their wingers and acquire a top right-handed offensive defenceman has been widely written about. Last week, as a part of my Oilers Off-Season Game Plan series, I explored which unrestricted free agents the Oilers could potentially sign. This week, I’ll present the players that the Oilers could target in trades this summer.

Here is a list of the tradable assets that the Oilers are working with:

*Note: Being on this list does not suggest that I think that the player should be traded.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 3 years, $6 million AAV
Oscar Klefbom: 5 years, $4.167 million AAV
Jesse Puljujarvi: 1 year, $0.925 million AAV
Zack Kassian: 2 years, $1.95 million AAV
Matthew Benning: RFA
2018 1st Round Pick
2019 3rd Round Pick (via NYI, acquired in Davidson trade)
Prospects: Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin, Tyler Benson

Here is a look at some of the potential trading partners for the Oilers and the scoring left wingers and top right-handed defencemen that they could target:

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings are in an interesting place. They won 2 Stanley Cups by being big and physical, but the game has shifted in favour of faster teams. GM Rob Blake was hired at the conclusion of last season, and he watched as a much faster Vegas Golden Knights team swept his Kings in the first round this season. Now that Blake has had a year to evaluate his team, he could be poised to make some noise this off-season. Going into next year, the Kings have an impending UFA that they could move:

Drew Doughty, RD
Years until UFA: 1
10 G – 50 A – 60 P in 82 GP
Current Cap Hit: $7 million

Doughty is arguably the best all-around defenceman in the game right now. He can produce offensively and run a powerplay, and he’s physical. He’s a franchise defenceman that teams would be lining up for should he choose to explore the market after next year.

The Price:

It would be a blockbuster trade if Doughty were to be moved. It would likely require 3-5 important pieces including Nugent-Hopkins and some combination of Klefbom, Puljujarvi, and multiple picks. It would be expensive to acquire Doughty, and then Chiarelli would have to re-sign him after next year for somewhere north of $10 million per season. It would be expensive, but you get what you pay for.

New York Rangers

The Rangers sent out a letter to their fans prior to the February trade deadline explaining that the team will be entering a rebuild. They got a quick start on the rebuild by trading Rick Nash, JT Miller, and captain Ryan McDonagh at the deadline. It might not stop there this off-season:

Mats Zuccarello, LW
Years until UFA: 1
16 G – 37 A – 53 P in 80 GP
Current Cap Hit: $4.5 million

Zuccarello is a noted playmaker, so he is not the pure sniper that Oilers fans are hoping to find for McDavid. However, he a speedy and tenacious winger that can produce points, which fits the bill for what the Oilers need on the wing. He could be a good fit with Draisaitl.

Chris Kreider, LW
Years until UFA: 2
16 G – 21 A – 37 P in 58 GP
Current Cap Hit: $4.63 million

Kreider offers a unique mix of size, speed, and offensive ability. Sounds like Chiarelli’s type of player.

The Price:

Rebuilding teams like the Rangers value draft picks and prospects. Trading with the Rangers would likely not cost the Oilers any players off of the existing roster. The Oilers’ 2018 1st round pick and the Islanders’ 2019 3rd round pick could prove to be quite valuable to the Rangers along with prospects like Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin, or Tyler Benson.

Carolina Hurricanes

This has the makings of an interesting off-season in Carolina. New owner Tom Dundon has opted for a management change. He “promoted” Ron Francis, reportedly due to a difference in opinion on management styles. Francis patiently drafted and developed his roster and made minimal trades. The opposite of minimal trades is lots of trades, so there could be significant change in Carolina this summer. Dundon wants to be a hands-on manager, so he will likely be involved in most hockey related decisions (especially while the search for a new GM that will have limited freedom and a minimal salary is still on). They have a top LW and a top offensive RD that could potentially be moved:

Jeff Skinner, LW
Years until UFA: 1
24 G – 25 A – 59 P in 82 GP
Current Cap Hit: $5.73 million

Skinner is a proven point producer. His figure skating background has given him tremendous agility, and he has good hands in close to the net – exactly the trait needed to play with McDavid. There were plenty of trade rumours surrounding him at the deadline this past February. He wasn’t moved; but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Justin Faulk, RD
Years until UFA: 2
8 G – 23 A – 31 P in 76 GP
Current Cap Hit: $4.83 million

This wasn’t a spectacular year for Carolina’s captain, but he is just 2 years removed from a 49-point season. He is only 26 years old, so he will be capable of putting up points for several years to come. The emergence of Noah Hanifin and Jaccob Slavin on Carolina’s defence could potentially make Faulk expendable.

The Price:

Carolina is weak at centre and at right wing. Jesse Puljujarvi and some combination of picks made up of the Oilers’ 2018 1st round pick and the Islanders’ 3rd round pick in 2019 would likely land Skinner. The cost of Faulk would likely be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Montreal Canadiens

It was an awful year in Montreal. Carey Price’s $10.5 million contract will kick in next year, and they need to make changes in order to build a winner around him. There are two wingers that could bring back something significant for Montreal:

Max Pacioretty, LW
Years until UFA: 1
17 G – 20 A – 37 P in 64 GP
Current Cap Hit: $4.5 million

Pacioretty had a rough year. He scored 17 goals after scoring at least 30 goals in each of the last 4 years. He scored 35 or more in 3 of those 4 years. With one year left on his deal, it seems likely that Pacioretty will be moved this summer. Pacioretty is a streaky scorer, and he is prone to long periods without scoring. When he is not scoring, he isn’t doing much of anything else, which will not cut it with Oilers fans.

Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW
Years until UFA: 2
19 G – 32 A – 51 P in 82 GP
Current Cap Hit: $4.9 million

Galchenyuk could’ve been selected 1st overall by the Oilers in 2012 if it weren’t for a knee injury in his draft year. Instead, he went 3rd to Montreal. Last season, Galchenyuk appeared to be in the coach’s dog house due to his defensive play. He was being played on the 4th line, and he started there this year as well. He improved as the year went on. He hasn’t come close to his 30-goal year from 2015-16 since that time. It seems less likely that Montreal will move Galchenyuk than Pacioretty, but it is still a possibility.

The Price:

Montreal has been in desperate need of a top centre for more than a decade. They are rumoured to be interested in Leon Draisaitl, but that seems like a non-starter in any negotiation. Any trade talk with the Oilers would likely involve Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Trading Nugent-Hopkins for a winger is a big mistake when he is the Oilers’ asset that is most likely to yield a top right-handed defenceman. If it’s not Nugent-Hopkins going the other way, then it would likely be Oscar Klefbom. Montreal would be an expensive trading partner.

Ottawa Senators

Erik Karlsson rumours have been swirling since February; but like Doughty, his cost of acquisition would be too great. Chiarelli would then have to think about having 2 players making over $10 million on the roster after 2019. Ottawa would also likely want whoever gets Karlsson to take on Bobby Ryan’s contract. So, I will not list Karlsson as a viable trade option for the Oilers. Instead, I will focus on a top LW that was also rumoured to be on the move at the trade deadline this past year:

Mike Hoffman, LW
Years until UFA: 2
22 G – 34 A – 56 P in 82 GP
Current Cap Hit: $5.19 million

Hoffman is a pure sniper capable of scoring from almost anywhere. The thought of him burying one-timers on passes from McDavid is tempting. However, Hoffman is utilized at the same spot where McDavid plays on the powerplay, so the coaching staff would have to utilize him differently. The results may not continue to be the same as they were in Ottawa. Hoffman started to develop great chemistry with newly acquired Matt Duchene in the second half of the season, so Ottawa may just choose to hang on to him.

The Price:

Ottawa didn’t seem interested in a package including picks and prospects in exchange for Hoffman at the deadline. They would likely want a roster player like Nugent-Hopkins, Klefbom, or Puljujarvi in exchange along with picks. Like Montreal, Ottawa would be an expensive trading partner.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes are a young team similar to the Oilers of recent years: full of talented young players with potential that has yet to be realized at the NHL level. Rumours have been swirling around two of their young stars:

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, LD
Years until UFA: 1
14 G – 28 A – 56 P in 82 GP
Current Cap Hit: $5.5 million

Ekman-Larsson is left handed, but he is an elite offensive defenceman. Chiarelli said in his season ending press conference that he would not be opposed to bringing in a left-handed offensive defenceman. The team wants him to stay in Arizona, but OEL could be moved if it becomes clear that the Coyotes will not be able to re-sign him. That would likely be a decision made at the trade deadline next season rather than this summer.

Max Domi, C/LW
RFA
9 G – 36 A – 45 P in 82 GP
Previous Cap Hit: $863 k

Domi hasn’t taken the big step forward that the Coyotes had expected that he would by now. He scored just 9 goals in each of the last 2 seasons. The emergence of Clayton Keller and the upcoming arrival of Dylan Strome has allowed the Coyotes to explore trading Domi. There’s a chance that they feel that both he and the club could benefit from a fresh start.

The Price:

Nugent-Hopkins and picks at a minimum for OEL. Rumours at the deadline suggested that Domi would be an expensive reclamation project. A 1st round pick or a young NHLer like Puljujarvi at a minimum would certainly be involved, especially if the Coyotes were to trade within the division.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche are an exciting young team that made the playoffs this year after a historically awful season last year. They almost moved their best offensive defenceman prior to 2016-17 before re-signing him after an arbitration hearing:

Tyson Barrie, RD
Years until UFA: 2
14 G – 43 A – 57 P in 68 GP
Current Cap Hit: $5.5 million

Barrie is a fantastic skater and an effective play maker that would be a great fit on this Oilers roster. The Avs drafted Cale Makar, another right-handed offensive defenceman, 4th overall last year. Makar will be returning to college next season, so it’s unlikely that Barrie will be moved this summer. However, once Makar makes the team and Barrie becomes a pending UFA prior to the 2019-20 season, the potential for Barrie to be moved exists.

The Return:

As is expected when speculating about trading for a top right-handed offensive defenceman, Nugent-Hopkins is the minimum asking price. Once again, its not likely that Barrie would get traded this summer. Chiarelli would be smart to wait until Barrie becomes a free agent in 2020 to pull the trigger on getting him in the Oilers line-up.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers are consistently a team that squeaks into the playoffs and loses in the first two rounds, or they barely miss the playoffs. This year wasn’t any different as they lost to the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. They could stay the course, but they could also make a change by trading a pending UFA:

Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW
24 G – 22 A – 46 P in 75 GP
Years until UFA: 1
Current Cap Hit: $3.98 million

Simmonds is widely respected around the league for his physical style of play and his ability to produce points. He can play on the powerplay as well. His $3.98 million deal is quite team-friendly, which is one of the many reasons that the Flyers might choose to keep him. If they realize that they can’t afford to re-sign him, they could also move him.

The Price:

Simmonds is an important roster player for the Flyers, so they would likely want a young forward that could replace him on the roster. Puljujarvi and picks might get the deal done for the Oilers.

Chiarelli said that he wasn’t going to blow up the team in media availabilities before the trade deadline and at the end of the season.

He all but confirmed that Nugent-Hopkins would not be going anywhere, so don’t expect a top right-handed offensive defenceman to be acquired via trade this summer. I would think that Klefbom would not get traded since moving him would qualify as blowing up the defence.

For those thinking that Chiarelli needs to find a way to get Milan Lucic, Andrej Sekera, or Kris Russell to agree to waive their no movement clauses: I wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for any of those players to be moved either. Chiarelli believes in Lucic and expects him to bounce back next season. I don’t believe Lucic will be a 55 point players again, but 45 is certainly reachable. Both of Sekera and Russell’s NMCs will be lifted at the end of next season, at which point one or both players will likely be moved.

When asked to describe Puljujarvi in his season ending press conference, Chiarelli described a player that is improving. Puljujarvi looked quite confident after being called up from Bakersfield. As the season went along, that confidence waned. He became a staple on the third line because of reported fatigue. Most concerningly, he just looked frustrated at the end of the year. Chiarelli noted that his game looked “cleaner” this season, meaning that he improved on the finer points of the game. He needs to get quicker, and he needs to find his confidence again, but Puljujarvi can still become a great scorer in the NHL. He’s only 19. Chiarelli was optimistic when speaking about him, which would imply that he won’t be traded either. It could also be a message to other GMs that Puljujarvi has value.

That leaves the 2018 1st round pick as the asset most likely to be spent in a trade. These picks are quite valuable in today’s NHL; it is reasonable to believe that the pick could land the Oilers a scoring left winger, especially if it stays in the top 10 after next weekend’s draft lottery. Some combination of other picks, prospects, and Benning could possibly be included in a package with the 1st
round pick.

I have a lot of respect for Zack Kassian. I applaud what he has overcome in his personal life to become an everyday contributor in the NHL, and what he did against the Sharks in the playoffs last year was amazing… but $1.95 million is a lot for a 4th line right winger. A replacement 4th line winger could be signed for around $750k, which would create $1.2 million in cap space. That cap space would be helpful with adding the scoring left winger and top right-handed offensive defenceman. If he were to be moved, it would likely be for a draft pick or a cheaper replacement.

Next week, I’ll post a draft preview that will profile who the Oilers could draft with their 1st round pick, and I’ll show you what the salary cap situation could look like if the pick were to be traded.

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