Swapping Ryans

There’s a new Ryan in town. The Oilers can no longer boast about having 3 of the top 5 picks in the 2011 draft on their roster (Nugent-Hopkins, Larsson, and Strome). The Oilers traded Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner today. Strome has 2 points in 18 games this season, and Spooner has 2 points in 16 games. Spooner been a healthy scratch twice this season. The Oilers will be Spooner’s 3rd team since last February. The Bruins traded Spooner to the Rangers (with other pieces) for Rick Nash at last season’s trade deadline. The Bruins had younger talent that they were prepared to run with, and Nash was an upgrade over Spooner.

Strome’s time with the Oilers was certainly underwhelming. There was hope that he could fit in as a top 6 scoring winger, but that didn’t pan out. Strome never could find his stride offensively here. He had 34 points last season. However, he did carve himself a role as an effective checking centre on the 3rd line, and he established himself as a good penalty killer. Ultimately, the Oilers have struggled to find secondary and depth scoring consistently so far this season, and Chiarelli felt that it was time to make a change.

Why this change?

Chiarelli drafted Spooner in Boston in 2010 (2nd round). There is a familiarity with this player already. Chiarelli has adopted the strategy of acquiring familiar players before. He drafted Milan Lucic (2nd round, 2006) and signed him as a free agent in Edmonton in 2016. Chiarelli also drafted Matt Benning (6th round, 2012) and signed him in Edmonton prior to the 2016-17 season. Spooner is also regarded as more of an offensive player. He got 49, 39, and 41 points in each of the last 3 seasons. Compare that to 28, 30, and 34 points for Strome in those seasons. They both have 2 points on the year, but the hope is that a change of scenery can spark some offence from Spooner.

This move gives the Oilers’ forward group a bit of a different look. The team as a whole has been struggling to score this season. Depth scoring has been a problem to say the least. The Oilers sit 22nd in the NHL at 2.89 goals/game entering play tonight. Ryan Strome finally got his first point of the year when he scored in game 15 against TB. That was a short-handed goal. His first even strength point came last game against Montreal when he assisted on Nugent-Hopkins’ goal. Strome has been getting powerplay time on the 2nd unit, which has been dreadful. Strome did not get a single point on the PP this season in Edmonton. Spooner could definitely slot in on the 2nd PP unit as well. The move for Spooner is undoubtedly an attempt to create more offence.

My only concern with this trade is that Spooner doesn’t kill penalties, which is something that Strome was doing here. This trade comes on the heels of the Oilers learning that Tobias Rieder will be out for approximately a month with an injury. Rieder also kills penalties. The Oilers have lost 2 penalty killers since the puck dropped in their last game on Tuesday. This development is slightly troubling considering that the Oilers are sitting at 27th in the league on the PK.

Spooner can play both centre and left wing, so he adds versatility. We thought the same thing about Strome, so we will see just how that theory plays out. It’s likely that Chiarelli is hoping that Spooner can fill in at LW on the 2nd line until Rieder comes back. Cooper Marody had been rotating in at centre on Strome’s line this week. Based on that, it makes sense that Marody will get the chance to play 3rd line centre on Saturday, while Spooner slots in on Nugent-Hopkins’ left wing. Once Rieder comes back, Spooner can be moved to centre on the 3rd line. Clearly, the organization believes that Marody is capable of producing at the same level that Strome was. The bar was set somewhat low based on Strome’s production to date this season, but Marody does have excellent offensive instincts and the hands to match. He showed well in his first two games as an Oiler. Jujhar Khaira could also fill in at 3C if Marody struggles there. Patrick Russell, who was called up after Rieder’s injury, could also step in and play centre if need be.

Overall, I like this move from Chiarelli. Something needed to change in order to create more offence. There’s no guarantee that Spooner will produce, but it’s a change with that end goal in mind. I also like that he was proactive in making a move like this instead of waiting until it was too late.

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