One big thing > three small things

Jonathan Willis
June 29 2013 05:12PM

From the sound of things, Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish is quite the juggler – negotiating with Sam Gagner, trying to land players at all three positions, trying to move on Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, and bringing a sense of energy to the draft that picking first overall simply could not.

It also seems he isn’t worried about swinging for the fences, either – and that’s a very good thing.

It seems like half the players in the league are involved in trade discussions in one way or other this weekend, and the Oilers have been mentioned in the race for a lot of the smaller pieces – players like Cal Clutterbuck and Braydon Coburn, guys who will shore up depth or maybe do a little more. It’s good to be talking about those players, but the real priority – especially on defence – needs to be a game-changer.

Photo: Ginny/Wikimedia Commons

That’s why Kris Letang is such an interesting name to see popping up in trade rumours. Letang is a legitimate number one defenceman, somebody who pushes everybody else on the depth chart down one slot. Imagine the following two depth charts, one adding Letang and one adding Coburn (before pieces go the other way) and look at the difference:

At first glance, there’s not a huge difference and both proposed pairings are significantly better than what existed previously. But the most important matchup in the game is the top one, and one of these scenarios is significantly better than the other in that regard. Ladislav Smid isn’t a perfect player, but he’s a much better fit for top pairing work if a legitimate number one like Kris Letang is on the other side; Jeff Petry’s a good defenceman but at this stage in his career he’s not a number one even if he’s the closest the Oilers have to it.

To some degree, MacTavish is going to have to settle for what he can get. Top defencemen are rare and valuable commodities, and entering this off-season it looked for all the world like the best the Oilers were going to be able to do was add complementary top-four guys and hope a by-committee approach would get the job done. It was and is a poor solution, albeit better than maintaining the status quo. If there’s a chance to really move the dial forward on the blue line, though, it’s a chance MacTavish needs to take.

Players like Braydon Coburn are good targets, in the absence of something better. Kris Letang is something better.

Interestingly, it’s a tack that the Oilers seem interested in taking between the pipes. Devan Dubnyk has played like a perfectly capable middle-tier NHL starter the last three seasons; he may not represent dynamic strength in net but Stanley Cups have been won with inferior goaltenders, and not infrequently. The rumour that the Oilers are pursuing Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider indicates the team is really interested in having a top-10 NHL starter (Schneider doesn’t have the games played to qualify, but he’s certainly on track by save percentage). Over the last three seasons, Dubnyk has been a 0.917 save percentage goalie to Schneider’s 0.931. Even assuming Schneider is really a 0.925 true-talent goalie (a cautious approach), for a goalie playing 60 games (roughly 1,600 shots), that’s a difference of 13 goals per year – one every five games. It’s a big difference, and it’s likely why the Oilers are talking to other teams about a position of relative strength.

Recently around the Nation Network

Who will the Oilers take with their second round picks at this year's draft (assuming they make the picks at all)? Derek Zona, using the consensus NHL rankings, has offered up some names at NHL Numbers.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 Tom
June 30 2013, 12:24AM
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admiralmark wrote:

You know of course Letang would be a great upgrade to the Oilers D... Solves a lot if not all the current issues on D..

But you gotta ask yourself what's going on with this guy? He's playing on a team with Crosby and Malkin. The team has treated him nothing but good over the years as far as we know. They are offering him a monster 7 Mill X 8 seasons contract and he says no?! Do you think he only wants .5 mill more to sign? Is he really nitpicking like that?

I have to think he wants at least 8 mill/season x 8.. if not more. But I just dont know whats up with these players.. take a little bit of a hometown discount and stay with the team and all your boys? I hate to say it but this indicates a bad attitude to me. Am i wrong?

won't take 7 mill, hey? go $?!# yourself then. Unreal..... Oilers better off without him

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#102 bazmagoo
June 30 2013, 12:27AM
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@nuge2nail

Everyone except LaPierre would be an improvement on last season.

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#103 bazmagoo
June 30 2013, 12:34AM
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I've been publishing this guess on what it could take to acquire Coburn, what do you guys think?

Philly is desperate to unload some salary on their defence and wants to add a top 6 forward, I'd guess if a deal goes down involving the #7 pick it will come about because Monahan isn't available at #7.

Considering Philly is somewhat desperate to unload some cap space, I think the following could be likely:

Hemsky (Oil eating half his salary and cap space) plus #7 (if Monahan isn't available) for Coburn and #11.

Philly gets Hemsky at a discount, he slots into their top 6 and has lots of potential upside. With #7 they draft Nurse or Ristolainen, who both fit into the Flyers traditional mold for defencemen. Plus they save $2 million in cap space.

Edmonton gets Coburn who slots in next to J Schultz for the next couple of seasons. Big, physical yet capable defenceman they desperately need. Oilers draft Bo Horvat or Curtis Lazar with #11, filling a team need for gritty potential down the middle.

Seems like a win-win to me, considering both teams are desperate in certain ways.

Thoughts?

If it's Paajarvi going the other way instead of Hemsky I think that's an overpay by MacT.

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#104 Romanus
June 30 2013, 12:36AM
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DSF wrote:

What a crock.

Here is the Oilers performance over the same period.

2003 Zack Stortini 3rd round 257 GP

2004 Liam Reddox 4th round 17GP

2005 Danny Syrvet 3rd round 59GP

2006 Theo Peckham 3rd round 160GP

2007 Linus Omark 4th round 65GP

2008 Teemu Hartikainen 6th round 52GP

2009 Hesketh, Abney, Bigos, Rajala, Roy 0GP

2010 Ryan Martindale LOL

2011 Samu Perhonen

Please note that over the same period the Oilers haven't found even ONE NHL roster player and most of those draft picks have already been flushed.

Get a grip.

Lol that's quite the list of winners. I think Reddox played more than 17 games. Not that it matters.

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#105 Walter Sobchak
June 30 2013, 12:54AM
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@bazmagoo

You have to look at this objectively.

Philly NEEDS to get rid of salary.

Colburn for Hemsky plus the Oilers eating salary to a tune of 2.5 million PLUS the 7th!!

This is a massive overpay! Massive!

The 7 for 11 is a backwards step period.

Look at like this.

Philly wants next to no salary back, so Hemsky plus 2.5 off give Philly Hemsky for Colburn straight up.

why throw any kind of a pick in that?

Colburn will be had for a second plus a prospect.

The 7th is to valuable to be spending on a second pairing defensmen.

The Oilers had lunch with Nichushkin, if Lindholm or Monahan are off the board, this is the player the Oilers will select.

why do you think teams are desperately trying to move into the top 7 picks, that's were all the talent is.

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#106 bazmagoo
June 30 2013, 01:21AM
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@Walter Sobchak

Fair point, but it doesn't address a few things.

Philly's most pressing needs are to shed some cap space on defence and add a top d prospect, the Oilers most pressing needs (in this scenario) are to move on from Hemsky and add a top 2nd - 3rd line centre prospect. Win-win for both teams.

I don't think Hemsky for Coburn straight up would be accepted by Philly. MacT has already played his hand publically (from the KLowe school of management), so the Oilers are stuck finding any way to move Hemsky for a legitimate player in return. This is where the 4 spot difference in draft spots comes into play.

In my opinion, this is the best deal the Oilers could come across. Also I think the Oilers will likely lose this deal, as Hemsky has more upside than Coburn. The picks are both a lottery, so you never really know.

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#107 Walter Sobchak
June 30 2013, 01:26AM
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@bazmagoo

Fair enough, good points.

If were compromising, I suppose a later second round pick or prospect but not much more, certainly not the 7th though.

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#108 Bill
June 30 2013, 01:46AM
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OilClog wrote:

Edm.. MPS, Dubnyk, 2nd

Phi.. Hartnell, Coburn

Edm.. 1st, Hemsky, Petry

Pit.. Letang

Edm.. N Schultz, Horcoff

Wash.. J Schultz, B Laich

Glad you"re NOT GM!! You just shipped out our ONLY goalie. Don't quit you're day job!

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#109 Naky
June 30 2013, 01:59AM
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@nuge2nail

You forgot Gagner in there.

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#110 nuge2nail
June 30 2013, 03:02AM
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Naky wrote:

@nuge2nail

You forgot Gagner in there.

Oiler Domination To Follow

I could see Gagner being traded to fill in the top six lw spot as signing Clarkson seems unlikely..

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#111 nuge2nail
June 30 2013, 03:04AM
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bazmagoo wrote:

Everyone except LaPierre would be an improvement on last season.

Oiler Domination To Follow

I think Maxim Lappierre would be an upgrade on lander and smyth who shared our 4th line center position for most of last year. He's an agitator so I put him on the roster, I'm ok with Konopka here as well.

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#112 Death Metal Nightmare
June 30 2013, 04:02AM
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if i read "COL"burn one more time i'm going to slap some of you Fish Bowl hockey fans.

"yeah, i know... JEFF BROVECHKIN IS SICK. EXCHANGE FOR HIM PLZ"

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#113 The Soup Fascist
June 30 2013, 06:28AM
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Jeffff wrote:

Just sign Jared Spurgeon.

The only points Spurgeon ever puts up are against the Oilers.

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#114 Quicksilver ballet
June 30 2013, 08:02AM
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All roads in a possible deal with the Flyers must go through Couturierville. Philly has decided Coburn isn't worth the coin he's making anymore. Why do we need to see him disappoint here, when he's done precisely that there? Puck Coburn, send him to Carolina for the 5th please, we don't need him.

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