Trading Klefbom

Oscar Klefbom had a career year in 2016-17. He put up 36 points and was +7. It was the first season in which he played a full 82-game schedule. It seemed as if the oft-injured Klefbom was finally beginning to live up to his potential.

Then this past season happened. His troublesome shoulder reared its ugly head, and it forced him to cut his season short. When he was in the line-up, he was not as effective as he was in 2016-17. He only scored 21 points in 66 games, and he was -12. He even tripled his penalty minutes by accruing 18 PIMs this past season, as opposed to 6 PIMs in 2016-17. Even 18 PIMs is a very low number, but that stat goes to show how tough of a season it was for Klefbom.

It usually takes approximately 300 NHL games to learn just how good a defenceman can be. Klefbom is sitting at 255 games played. It has taken Klefbom longer than most players to play that many games due to injuries. His track record of injuries, his down season, and his age have led to speculation that Klefbom might be traded. He is a valuable trading chip.

In this week’s Oilers Off-Season Game Plan article, I’ll show you what trading Klefbom could look like.

Here is what the roster would look like without Klefbom heading into next season:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
LW Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
Lucic ($6M) Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

Nurse ($0.874M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Russell ($4M) RD
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($0.874M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Koskinen ($2.5M)

Total Cap Hit = $65.744 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $67.104 million
Space with $78 million cap: $10.896 million
Space with $82 million cap: $14.896 million

The most likely return for Klefbom would be a winger. The quality of said winger would dictate whether or not picks would be moving either direction in a Klefbom deal. Teams that could be looking for an upgrade at left defence include Buffalo, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, and Philadelphia.

Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly indicated that he is frustrated at the losing culture being established in the Sabres organization and that he “lost love for the game” at the end of this past season, but he said that he loves Buffalo and wants to stay there in an interview with TSN’s Darren Dreger last week. The Sabres have young stars Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Casey Mittlestadt that could make O’Reilly expendable. He is a natural centre, but he could be moved to the wing. He would be expensive, but Klefbom could be valuable to a weak Sabres defence.

Montreal is weak at left defence as well. Klefbom and either Pacioretty or Galchenyuk switching jerseys wouldn’t be unfathomable. The Habs’ most pressing need is at centre ice though, so I believe that Montreal will continue to pursue Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins from the Oilers if there are to be trade talks between the two teams.

Klefbom was speculated as being part of the discussion in a Mike Hoffman trade with Ottawa at the deadline in Febraury. With the uncertainty surrounding Erik Karlsson’s future, the Senators could be looking for an affordable option to bolster their defence. Moving Hoffman would likely get it done for the Sens.

The players mentioned above are the best possible wingers that could be acquired by trading Klefbom. Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, and Philadelphia could offer a 3rd line winger along with picks and prospects in a package for Klefbom. O’Reilly is the most expensive player on the list, so I’ll use his contract as the return for Klefbom when assessing the salary cap after a trade:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
O’Reilly ($7.5M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
Lucic ($6M) Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

Nurse ($0.874M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Russell ($4M) RD
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($0.874M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Koskinen ($2.5M)

Total Cap Hit = $73.244 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $74.574 million
Space with $78 million cap: $3.426 million
Space with $82 million cap: $7.426 million

Adding any of the top wingers mentioned above would greatly improve the forward group. However, the defence will have taken a massive step backwards. Klefbom’s departure would force Russell to move over to his natural side on the left. That would force Matthew Benning to play on the 2nd pair. Benning hasn’t shown that he can handle a 2nd pairing role as of yet. One of Eric Gryba or Ethan Bear would slot in on the 3rd pair. Gryba spent the majority of last season in the AHL. Ideally, Bear should spend next year developing in the AHL since he only got 34 games down there last year before an encouraging stint with the big club. Chiarelli would have to add a top 4 defenceman if he were to trade Klefbom.

As I’ve mentioned several times previously, Nurse will require more than his qualifying offer. He will command anywhere from $2.5-4.5 million annually for his next contract. Adding O’Reilly’s $7.5 million would leave $3.426 million in cap space, which would not be enough to give Nurse what he will need and to add a top 4 defenceman to replace Klefbom. For those reasons, O’Reilly’s contract would be too rich for the Oilers to take on.

Of the wingers mentioned above, Hoffman’s $5.19 million would be the most expensive contract that the Oilers could accept in return for Klefbom without moving additional salary off of the roster. That would give the Oilers $5.736 million in cap space to sign Nurse to a bridge deal and to add a top 4 defenceman.

Trading Klefbom for a winger would not be beneficial for the Oilers because of the impact Klefbom’s loss would have on the defence. Klefbom is a valuable player on an affordable long-term contract. Trading him just doesn’t make sense, especially when a suitable left winger could be signed as a free agent. I do not think that Klefbom should be traded, nor do I think that he will be traded.

Next week in my Oilers Off-Season Game Plan series, I will show you which impactful UFAs the Oilers could actually afford to sign this summer.

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