Oscar Klefbom is a Valuable Asset

Oscar Klefbom played his last game of the season on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning because he will be having shoulder surgery on Thursday. He said that he has been playing with this injury for a long time prior to this year. Head coach Todd McLellan indicated that the issue has been particularly bad for Klefbom this season and that treatments that had worked in the past had stopped working.

Klefbom was struggling with his play as well as his shoulder this season. This was disappointing after an encouraging season from Klefbom last year where he was finally healthy for a full season. There were trade rumours surrounding the oft-injured Swedish defenceman at the deadline this season. Surely, the rumours will continue to swirl after this awful season for the Oilers. Is a Klefbom trade worth thinking about?

There’s an old adage in the hockey world that says you don’t know what you have in an NHL defenceman until he plays 300 games. That would be the equivalent of 3 and two thirds seasons. Klefbom has 94 points in 255 games over 5 seasons in the NHL, with over half of those games (148) coming in the last two seasons. He will reach the magical 300 game threshold about half-way through next season (health pending, of course). Even though he has been in the league for 5 years, it is still a little too early to fully know what level of defenceman Klefbom can be based on the amount of games that he has played.

I watched Klefbom play in the World Jr tournament live in 2012 during the medal round in Calgary. He was impressive for the gold-medal winning Swedes! He was dominant physically, he made good passes, and he had a knack for knowing when to jump up in the play offensively. At that time, it looked like he would project into a top pairing defender at the NHL level.

Klefbom played on some horrible Oilers teams in his first 3 NHL seasons, and injuries plagued him during that time. Oilers fans were waiting anxiously for a season like last season out of him. He got 38 points in 82 games, which was good for 34th among NHL defencemen (sportingcharts.com). He also ranked 9th among defenceman with 201 shots on goal, which put him ahead of players like Shayne Gostisbehere, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo, Drew Doughty, Tyson Barrie, John Carlson, and Zach Werenski. He was a career-best +7 on the year. Even more impressively, he had 6 penalty minutes… he only took 3 penalties the whole year!! Just ridiculous. Those stats made Klefbom look like a top pairing defender.

However, it’s been a different story this season. He has 21 points in 66 games, which is a 0.14 points per game drop from last year. He is -12. He was a plus player in only three games before December. He also had a 3 game stretch where he was a combined -9 in November; this immediately following a +3 performance in an 8-2 Oilers win in Las Vegas’ first visit to Rogers Place.

The latter portion of the season was better for Klefbom. Since a game on Feb 7 where he was -4 while registering an assist against the Kings, he is +1 in 18 games. Also, Klefbom has put up the very same 201 shots this season that he had last season… but he’s done it in 16 fewer games. He stated at the beginning of the year that he wanted to have 250 shots, which was a lofty goal. He was on pace for 249.7 shots if he had played a full 82-game schedule.

Klefbom is a valuable asset. He has scored 38 points in a season as recently as last year, and his shot totals indicate that he is capable of producing more than that. No one is accusing him of being Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns, but he is a very good offensive defenceman that has a half of a season left before we can say that he is not developing anymore. He rarely takes penalties, which is a sign that he is consistently in the right position, that he rarely loses his man, and that he doesn’t make lazy or undisciplined plays with his stick. In other words, he’s a good defender. He is signed for another 5 years at quite a reasonable cap hit of $4.167 million. I would have a really hard time trading Klefbom for a winger like Mike Hoffman of Jeff Skinner who are only signed for one more year beyond this one at higher cap hits. I would keep him for next year and then re-evaluate the situation after next season.

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