GDB 67.0: What Is Left To Play For?

Jonathan Willis
March 13 2014 12:17PM

57-Perron-9

It’s pretty easy to dismiss Thursday’s Oilers/Blues game as a meaningless affair, but the truth is that there’s still some point to the games being played – if not at the team level, than at least at the individual one.

Expected Lines

  • Taylor Hall – Sam Gagner – David Perron
  • Nail Yakupov – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
  • Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Jesse Joensuu
  • Luke Gazdic – Ryan Smyth – Ryan Jones
  • Martin Marincin – Jeff Petry
  • Mark Fraser – Justin Schultz
  • Oscar Klefbom – Andrew Ference
  • Ben Scrivens

Why It Should Matter

89-Gagner-5

The top line has at least two players for whom this game is important. For Sam Gagner, he’s at a crossroads in his career. He’s likely to be dealt in the off-season, and he can both increase his appeal to a contender and increase Edmonton’s likely trade return if he finishes the year strongly. He has seven points in his last five games and doubtless would like his recent run of effectiveness to continue. At right wing, there’s no question that David Perron would like to show well against his old team.

Joensuu, Jesse 2

A good game or a bad game isn’t likely to impact a bunch of the players in the middle of the lineup, but at the outer edges there are a few players who need to play well down the stretch. Jesse Joensuu is under contract for another season, but should certainly be seen as playing for a spot on next year’s team, as his contract is small enough to bury. Ryans Jones and Smyth are pending unrestricted free agents, and either could find himself outside the NHL next season.

5-Fraser-2

Defence is where things really matter. Three different players continue to fight for a spot next season. Mark Fraser is a pending unrestricted free agent and a fringe NHL’er; he has a shot at a depth job in Edmonton next year and needs to play well. Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom, meanwhile, need to show quickly that they belong; both guys have a bit of time but the fact is that players like Darnell Nurse and perhaps Aaron Ekblad are on the way – there are only so many jobs available for young guys and getting a leg up on the competition is massively important for both players.

30-Scrivens-3

Finally, Ben Scrivens looks likely to get first run at Edmonton’s starting job next year, but he’s hardly immoveable in that position. Every strong game is another data point in his favour, another reason for Dallas Eakins to stick with him long-term.

Predictions

GAME DAY PREDICTION: 3-0 St. Louis. These teams are at different ends of the NHL spectrum. 

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Perron plays well, yet again, but he's one of the few Oilers with jump against arguably the NHL's best team. 

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Fraser continues to show fairly well on a pairing with Schultz.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

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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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#1 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
March 13 2014, 12:25PM
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Of all the teams that run our show, there are two that are especially hard to watch the Oilers play against.

St. Louis is one of them. The other one, we played recently.

Like taking candy from a baby... an overpaid, skilled baby with a generous size sense of entitlement.

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#2 Oilbaron
March 13 2014, 12:27PM
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oilers win 3-2 regulation

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#3 2015Playoffs?Nope!
March 13 2014, 12:30PM
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Id say, this year, all 29 other teams are hard to watch against the Oilers....

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#4 Kr55
March 13 2014, 12:31PM
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Play to up Gagner's trade value. That is all.

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#5 Stack Pad Save
March 13 2014, 12:35PM
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So Gagner is not injured and is a go tonight? I thought they called up Lander to take his spot.

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#6 Oiler Al
March 13 2014, 12:38PM
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A few weeks back there were a couple write ups about .. What is wrong with Taylor Hall ... other than a few bad passes, I would say nothing. JUst making Gagner look better, and turned Perrons game around.

The question should be .. whats wrong with RHN and Eberle. Seems their game has gone in the sheeter since not playing with Hall.

PS.. the way Nuge has played of late, he should not be on the first line. This lad better down some wheaties and get his game going, and stop watching Eberle.

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#7 majin_oil
March 13 2014, 12:38PM
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I'm going to skip this game to play South Park stick of truth. If I'm going to watch a gong show at least I can enjoy south park.

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#8 Spydyr
March 13 2014, 12:40PM
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Are we there yet? Draft day A.K.A. the Oilers Stanley Cup.

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#9 SmythsMullet
March 13 2014, 12:42PM
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It'd be nice to see one of either Hall or Perron notch 30 goals this season.

*or any player but thinking realistically

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#10 #ThereGoesTheOilers
March 13 2014, 12:44PM
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It's too bad we're in the position where we have to play Gagner even with a sore ankle.

Meanwhile, with contracts running out, Lander and Arcobello are itemized lower on the priority list for these final 15 games. I wish it weren't so.

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#11 BingBong
March 13 2014, 12:46PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

A few weeks back there were a couple write ups about .. What is wrong with Taylor Hall ... other than a few bad passes, I would say nothing. JUst making Gagner look better, and turned Perrons game around.

The question should be .. whats wrong with RHN and Eberle. Seems their game has gone in the sheeter since not playing with Hall.

PS.. the way Nuge has played of late, he should not be on the first line. This lad better down some wheaties and get his game going, and stop watching Eberle.

Good post. Hall seems to be the one guy we have who can make things happen himself, who forces the play, and who makes the other players on his line better. He's basically the one guy - along with Perron I suppose - who isn't a perimeter player. Even when the puck isn't bouncing his way, he just works that much harder and still picks up his points.

Eberle, and especially RNH lately, just don't seem to have much will to make things happen. It's like they're waiting for the play to come to them.

I don't think there's any doubt as to whom the offensive leader is on this team.

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#12 Smokey
March 13 2014, 12:48PM
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A good roster move would of been to sit Gagner and play a better player in Arco, but the mismanagement is playing Gagner when he is hurt, and called up Lander who is not a top 6 forward if he could not go.

I would not want to play a healthy Gagner against St. Louis. Its like putting a raw chunk of tenderloin in the forest and expecting it to remain unscathed for 6 hours. Not saying Arco would stand a chance either.

Hoping it will be over quick, or Benny has another outta the body experience and channels the spirit of Jacque Plante circa 1962, or Snowpants puts a 6 spot on St. Louis and I eat crow tomorrow.

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#13 bazmagoo
March 13 2014, 12:48PM
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What the heck is wrong with Yak this season? Man, he looks like a lost child out there on most nights.

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#14 Ed in Edmonton
March 13 2014, 12:50PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

A few weeks back there were a couple write ups about .. What is wrong with Taylor Hall ... other than a few bad passes, I would say nothing. JUst making Gagner look better, and turned Perrons game around.

The question should be .. whats wrong with RHN and Eberle. Seems their game has gone in the sheeter since not playing with Hall.

PS.. the way Nuge has played of late, he should not be on the first line. This lad better down some wheaties and get his game going, and stop watching Eberle.

The positive spin on that thought is that Hall has progressed to an elite level such that he makes the players around him better. I think there is still plenty of room for improvement in Hall's game, but there is no doubt he helped RHN and Eberle and in now making Gagner look better. Perron has looked pretty good all year.

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#15 Ed in Edmonton
March 13 2014, 12:57PM
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bazmagoo wrote:

What the heck is wrong with Yak this season? Man, he looks like a lost child out there on most nights.

A 19 year old playing in the NHL.

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#16 J.R.
March 13 2014, 01:07PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

A 19 year old playing in the NHL.

That and Eakins' WTF-style systems play can't be helping.

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#17 Total Points
March 13 2014, 01:22PM
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Doesn't matter how the media spin things, these games mean NOTHING. Players should not be evaluated based on the final 20 or so games. They should be evaluated on their play to date when they were under pressure to make the playoffs.

Players play totally different when they are under pressure. For example in prior years, Gagner always plays better when the Oilers are eliminated from the playoffs and has no pressure. This year, his numbers improved as the year went along and the Oilers were not a playoff team. I agree this year his injury had something to do with his improved play but not other years

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#18 oilerjed
March 13 2014, 01:29PM
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J.R. wrote:

That and Eakins' WTF-style systems play can't be helping.

And it seems the plan to tear him down to build him up got stuck after they tore him down. Does he really want to play for Eakins after all the smack Eakins talked this year?

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#19 sizedoesmatter
March 13 2014, 01:33PM
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Oilbaron wrote:

oilers win 3-2 regulation

That's what I'm hoping for easy to pick on the team when they struggle Go oil

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#20 **
March 13 2014, 01:35PM
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I personally want to see Perron and Gordon get career highs in points and goals, respectively. I also want to see Eberle and Perron reach 60 points and Hall reach 80. Every year thre's going to be a desirable prospect and an esxcuse to tank it. I am sick of it, just win as much as you can!

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#21 2015Playoffs?Nope!
March 13 2014, 01:37PM
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Lets be optimistic but also a little bit realistic. The goal tonight is to NOT get shut out. 6-1 Blues

And trust me when i say, I hope I'm wrong!

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#22 toprightcorner
March 13 2014, 01:48PM
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#ThereGoesTheOilers wrote:

It's too bad we're in the position where we have to play Gagner even with a sore ankle.

Meanwhile, with contracts running out, Lander and Arcobello are itemized lower on the priority list for these final 15 games. I wish it weren't so.

For Lander to be called up without counting against the limit of 2 call ups the Oilers have left, Gagner has to be truely injured, if he is not, the Lander call up counts as one of those spots.

I beleive that they plan to call Lander up very soon, OKC playoff chase plays a part in it.

If for some reason Klefbom really struggles, they will need to send him down and call up someone else to replace him. Once Klefbom has had 3-4 solid games they will probably call up Lander, likely when they are back home.

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#23 ubermiguel
March 13 2014, 01:49PM
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What's left to play for? Pride, creating a winning culture, and beating Calgary in the standings.

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#24 toprightcorner
March 13 2014, 01:52PM
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bazmagoo wrote:

What the heck is wrong with Yak this season? Man, he looks like a lost child out there on most nights.

First time in his life he has ever been asked to be defensively responsible, thats a huge change to deal with if you have grown up thinking 100% offence your entire life. Seems like he is putting in effort to learn the defensicve part of the game.

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#25 Hall of a Player
March 13 2014, 01:54PM
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Total Points wrote:

Doesn't matter how the media spin things, these games mean NOTHING. Players should not be evaluated based on the final 20 or so games. They should be evaluated on their play to date when they were under pressure to make the playoffs.

Players play totally different when they are under pressure. For example in prior years, Gagner always plays better when the Oilers are eliminated from the playoffs and has no pressure. This year, his numbers improved as the year went along and the Oilers were not a playoff team. I agree this year his injury had something to do with his improved play but not other years

At what point this season (after the first 20 games) were Oilers players "under pressure" to make the playoffs?

Playoffs?? PLAYOFFS????

I just hope we win a game!!

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#26 Woogie63
March 13 2014, 01:59PM
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What is Dillon Simpson playing for?

If UND is eliminated from the frozen four, does he become an unristricted free agent this March?

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#27 BingBong
March 13 2014, 01:59PM
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Total Points wrote:

Doesn't matter how the media spin things, these games mean NOTHING. Players should not be evaluated based on the final 20 or so games. They should be evaluated on their play to date when they were under pressure to make the playoffs.

Players play totally different when they are under pressure. For example in prior years, Gagner always plays better when the Oilers are eliminated from the playoffs and has no pressure. This year, his numbers improved as the year went along and the Oilers were not a playoff team. I agree this year his injury had something to do with his improved play but not other years

I agree. Judging players based on the last 20 games - when the playoffs are out of reach - has always been pointless to me. Pressure situations - when the playoffs are a possibility - is when players should be judged. That's why Dubnyk was such a failure this year. Even when he started to play a little better it didn't matter, the damage had been done, when it counted.

Not only that, but the teams we're playing at the end of the year often don't care much either - the level of competition is greatly reduced from the beginning and/or middle of the year.

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#28 Lochenzo
March 13 2014, 02:00PM
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I'm not worried about the lack of production from RNH or Eberle at this point. I'm more interested in seeing a better commitment to puck battles and defensive hockey. You can't score every game, but you can play good, smart defensive hockey every shift.

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#29 bazmagoo
March 13 2014, 02:00PM
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I'm wondering - does Yak get gifted a 7 year 42 million dollar contract during the off season like the others?

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#30 Rob...
March 13 2014, 02:02PM
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bazmagoo wrote:

What the heck is wrong with Yak this season? Man, he looks like a lost child out there on most nights.

Eakins has turned him into the opposite of a Cherry Picker. Yak stays in the center of the ice, with a panicked look on his face as he tries to identify what lane he should be blocking in case the puck is turned over. He also makes sure his pass to shoot ratio never gets lower than 4 to 1. The poor kid doesn't even look at his teammates anymore when on the bench. He just sits there, drained of emotion, trying to emulate his idol, coach Eakins.

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#31 Cody anderson
March 13 2014, 02:03PM
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Since we are not making the playoffs the main goals for the rest of the season is maximizing Gagner's value, and evaluating prospects and bubble players.

I am all for Gagner being put on Hall's line to increase his trade value. I would prefer Yak was on the right side over Perron, because he needs to produce points to get his confidence back up, and playing out of position on the 2nd line or on the 3rd line is not going to accomplish this.

I would recall and resign Arcobello. I would let him know Gagner is holding his position in order to increase his trade value to try to get a top pairing Dman.

My lines for the rest of the season would be

Hall - Gagner - Yakupov

Perron - Nuge - Eberle

Arcobello - Gordon - Hendricks

Smyth - Lander - Jones/Joennsu/Gazdic

I would prefer a bigger version of Arcobello for next year, but would hate to lose him and trade Gagner and not get a much improved 2c for next year.

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#32 bazmagoo
March 13 2014, 02:05PM
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@Rob...

I love Yak, but if the Oilers are planning on keeping Eakins they should probably look at moving him.

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#33 Cody anderson
March 13 2014, 02:08PM
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@bazmagoo

No Yak will not get that contract right now....and shouldn't.

He has struggled mightily under Eakins system and is probably the biggest reason I think Eakins needs to go.

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#34 Cody anderson
March 13 2014, 02:11PM
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I think they should run the D as is and try to feed Kelfbom sheltered minutes. If he struggles I would replace him with Fedun, before it effects his confidence.

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#35 loweblows
March 13 2014, 02:20PM
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Cody anderson wrote:

No Yak will not get that contract right now....and shouldn't.

He has struggled mightily under Eakins system and is probably the biggest reason I think Eakins needs to go.

Eakins has a system?

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#36 Craig1981
March 13 2014, 02:20PM
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Cody anderson wrote:

No Yak will not get that contract right now....and shouldn't.

He has struggled mightily under Eakins system and is probably the biggest reason I think Eakins needs to go.

So you should fire the coach since one of your 20 year old players has had trouble adopting to it?

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#37 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 13 2014, 02:21PM
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A definite no doubter this evening. A 4-0 loss to the Blues will further our annual quest during this yrs death march.

If the Oil fall out of the top 4. trade the pick along with Yakupov and Petry to the Islanders for Tavares.

Gagner ++ for Myers.

Wandering in the desert...

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#38 Craig1981
March 13 2014, 02:24PM
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Woogie63 wrote:

What is Dillon Simpson playing for?

If UND is eliminated from the frozen four, does he become an unristricted free agent this March?

I seem to remember the UFA thing being after the draft for college players. (That is why we traded R. Nash for a 2nd, that we turn into Marincin) Carolina had only a few days to sign him.

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#39 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 13 2014, 02:25PM
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Cody anderson wrote:

No Yak will not get that contract right now....and shouldn't.

He has struggled mightily under Eakins system and is probably the biggest reason I think Eakins needs to go.

Quoted for truth.

MacTavish's incompetence confirmed. Will he sacrifice Yakupov only to save face on this Eakins decision.

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#40 The Real Scuba Steve
March 13 2014, 02:26PM
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What's left to play for? At the end of the season KLowe will show his 6 shining rings to the players while their cleaning out they lockers.

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#41 The Real Scuba Steve
March 13 2014, 02:26PM
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What's left to play for? At the end of the season KLowe will show his 6 shining rings to the players while they are cleaning out their lockers.

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#42 2015Playoffs?Nope!
March 13 2014, 02:27PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

A definite no doubter this evening. A 4-0 loss to the Blues will further our annual quest during this yrs death march.

If the Oil fall out of the top 4. trade the pick along with Yakupov and Petry to the Islanders for Tavares.

Gagner ++ for Myers.

Wandering in the desert...

Not sure if this is sarcasm or not, but Tavares (even after his injury) is about as untouchable as a player can possibly get on his team. No way the Islanders move him, and certainly not to Edmonton for anyone on our roster.

I would definitely trade for Myers, however. But it would take a LOT more then Gagner (who, belive it or not, has negative trade value currently).

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#43 loweblows
March 13 2014, 02:28PM
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Tier 3 fan here who lives in Calgary. At the flames game last night and they looked pretty good. Saw lots of hustle that you don't see many nights from the Oil. Colborne and Monahan and a potential third centerman at this years draft and they will be stacked. My throat filled with vomit with every goal as it gave me the impression they are further ahead in their rebuild. On a positive note I saw lots of empty seats. Oiler fans are more definitely more passionate. Keep the faith! yada yada yada

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#44 bazmagoo
March 13 2014, 02:30PM
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@2015Playoffs?Nope!

I agree with you about Gagner's negative trade value, but Myers has a pretty bad contract too. He could be considered to have negative trade value as well. I actually think this could be a good move for both teams, depending on whether or not we get Ekblad at the draft. Gagner plus Klefbom for Myers?

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#45 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 13 2014, 02:35PM
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bazmagoo wrote:

I agree with you about Gagner's negative trade value, but Myers has a pretty bad contract too. He could be considered to have negative trade value as well. I actually think this could be a good move for both teams, depending on whether or not we get Ekblad at the draft. Gagner plus Klefbom for Myers?

Well said sir.

Definitely need a 1st or 2nd line center and/or a top pairing blueliner going into the fall.

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#46 Smokey
March 13 2014, 02:38PM
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bazmagoo wrote:

I agree with you about Gagner's negative trade value, but Myers has a pretty bad contract too. He could be considered to have negative trade value as well. I actually think this could be a good move for both teams, depending on whether or not we get Ekblad at the draft. Gagner plus Klefbom for Myers?

4.8 for Gagner = neg trade value.

The way Myers had played over the last 25 games...5.5 is contract most teams would take on for number 2 type defencman. He's coming into his own. He is also so not on the market...Buffalo has no reason to trade him away.

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#47 dq
March 13 2014, 02:41PM
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Smokey wrote:

A good roster move would of been to sit Gagner and play a better player in Arco, but the mismanagement is playing Gagner when he is hurt, and called up Lander who is not a top 6 forward if he could not go.

I would not want to play a healthy Gagner against St. Louis. Its like putting a raw chunk of tenderloin in the forest and expecting it to remain unscathed for 6 hours. Not saying Arco would stand a chance either.

Hoping it will be over quick, or Benny has another outta the body experience and channels the spirit of Jacque Plante circa 1962, or Snowpants puts a 6 spot on St. Louis and I eat crow tomorrow.

I'm assuming you'd love to see Gagner traded. And I'd assume you'd like to see as good of a return as possible.

Sitting Gagner like you suggest would be a good strategy to see neither of these things happen.

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#48 bazmagoo
March 13 2014, 02:45PM
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@Smokey

Let's not operate on the assumption that either of us know what Buffalo or Edmonton intend to do with either player please. We are all here to express our opinions, my comment was based on the suggestion that it could be a good fit for both teams. Whether or not they are available is an unknown to both of us.

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#49 Ed in Edmonton
March 13 2014, 02:53PM
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bazmagoo wrote:

I'm wondering - does Yak get gifted a 7 year 42 million dollar contract during the off season like the others?

This could get very interesting this summer.

One could argue that Yak has shown as much as RNH did after 2 injury filled seasons and deserves similar treatment.

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#50 bazmagoo
March 13 2014, 02:55PM
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@Ed in Edmonton

If I'm Yak and his agent I'm pushing for the same deal. Sign me up or trade me away from Eakins please.

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