Trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is arguably the best two-way forward on the Oilers. He had a bit of an awakening offensively this past season. He scored 5 more points than he did in 2016-17 while playing in 20 fewer games. Nuge seems to be a great fit on McDavid’s wing, as was evidenced by his 15 points in 13 games alongside the captain down the stretch. Chiarelli said that he envisions Nugent-Hopkins as being a part of the core of this team moving forward.

He is also the team’s most valuable trading chip.

To be clear, I do not think that the Oilers should trade Nugent-Hopkins. This is merely a speculative exercise. In the fourth article in my Oilers Off-Season Game Plan 2018 series, I will show you what trading Nugent-Hopkins could look like.

I have included an updated look at the roster heading into next season based on what moving Nugent-Hopkins would look like. The Oilers signed goalie Mikko Koskinen to a 1-year deal worth a reported $2.5 million, and I have replaced Montoya with Koskinen on the 23-man roster. Yohann Auvitu has apparently decided to play in Europe next season, so he won’t be back. It was also reported that Anton Slepyshev will be playing in Russia next year (as was expected), so he won’t be back either.

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

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

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

Total Cap Hit = $63.941 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $65.271 million
Space with $78 million cap: $12.729 million
Space with $82 million cap: $16.729 million

If Nugent-Hopkins were to be traded, it would either be in exchange for a top left winger or a top right-handed offensive defenceman.

Montreal has a couple of wingers that could be available in a trade, and they have a desperate need for a top centre. Those players are Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. Of the two, Pacioretty is the most likely to be traded since he will be an UFA in 2019. Here is what the roster could look like after trading RNH for Pacioretty:

Pacioretty ($4.5M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
Lucic ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
LW Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

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

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

Total Cap Hit = $68.441 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $69.771 million
Space with $78 million cap: $8.229 million
Space with $82 million cap: $12.229 million

Pacioretty will be an UFA in 2019, and Nugent-Hopkins is signed for another three years. Pacioretty is weaker defensively than Nugent-Hopkins, but he can score more than Nugent-Hopkins can. Trading Nugent-Hopkins for Pacioretty (or any other available winger for that matter) doesn’t make much sense.

Nugent-Hopkins is the one asset the Oilers have that could get them the top right-handed offensive defenceman that they so sorely need. The defenceman most likely to come back the other way in a Nugent-Hopkins trade would be Justin Faulk because he is coming off of a down year in Carolina, who are going through an ownership and management change. Here is what the roster would look like after trading RNH for Faulk:

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

Nurse ($0.874M) Faulk ($4.83M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Russell ($4M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Benning ($0.874M)

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

Total Cap Hit = $67.846 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $69.176 million
Space with $78 million cap: $8.824 million
Space with $82 million cap: $12.824 million

That $8.824 million would need to be spent on two left wingers and a 13th forward. Some of that would also need to go to Nurse since his contract will be worth more than his qualifying offer. Chiarelli would likely have to look to free agency to fill those holes at left wing, which is a risky strategy given the fact that there’s no guarantee that free agents would agree to come here and that they will inevitably start declining sooner rather than later (see Milan Lucic). It wouldn’t be an impossible task, but it would be a difficult one.

If a top free agent left winger could be signed, the roster after trading RNH for Faulk would be quite balanced. It would suck to lose RNH; but if he were to be traded then it would need to be for a top right-handed offensive defenceman.

I will reiterate that Nugent-Hopkins will not be traded this off-season because Chiarelli sees him as a part of the core of the team. I will also repeat that I do not think that RNH should be traded. This exercise was meant purely to see what the roster could look like after trading him.

In the same vein, next week I’ll show you what the roster could look like after trading Oscar Klefbom.

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