The best way to procure outstanding defensive talent (or any talent) is via the draft. However, being patient with young defensemen can be the hardest part–suffering through the growing pains is almost impossible and has caused many NHL teams to send away future stars of the game.

Even very good organizations lose good defensemen because their performances vary from season to season (usually because of injury) and it takes longer for them to mature. Serge Savard was once a successful NHL General Manager in Montreal and will have a major impact on the direction of the Habs beginning this summer.

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It should be a season of change in Montreal. An old quote from Savard perhaps give us some guidance about the summer:

  • "When the Canadiens lost in 82-83, they had just about the same looking team as they have now (2010-11), with only two or three local guys. When they lose in the playoffs, they all go home and they don’t see anything here. In my 14 years as a player with the Canadiens we won 8 Stanley Cups and the years we didn’t win we paid a heavy price in the summer. People asked ‘what happened, how come you didn’t win?’ I wanted my players to live the same thing I lived. So I did not pass on the local talent. So, Simon Gagne would never have played In Philadelphia in my day, not because I’m smarter but because I wouldn’t have allowed him to go (ahead of me) in the draft. Same with (David) Perron in St. Louis. Montreal drafted twice in the first round in 2007 (picking up 2 Amercians) before he was picked from St. Louis. THAT guy would never have passed two picks with me….There is enough local product, and I had a big enough edge because everyone downgraded the Quebec junior league–what an edge. How come I got Patrick Roy in the 3rd round? I got Stephane Richer and Claude Lemieux in the second round. Why would those guys go in the 2nd round? That was an edge for us." (quote courtesy Behind the Moves by John Farris)


When Savard played the game, Montreal had 5 outstanding defensemen with the big club and about that many bubbling under. The Montreal procurement system was something Henry Ford would have been proud of, as the production line was long and filled with tremendous talent. Those Montreal clubs were legendary, and their AHL farm teams were just shy of that; in fact, it was often said that the Nova Scotia Voyageurs (AHL) would have given most NHL teams a run for their money and might have won out in the expansion division.

IF Edmonton is looking at trading the first overall pick, the return would have to be bountiful and the Oilers would need to be certain of getting their man. We’ve gone through this exercise assuming that player is Ryan Murray, but it could be Griffin Reinhart or Morgan Rielly.

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The case for trading the pick revolves around another team in the lottery wanting Nail Yakupov more than the Oilers. We don’t know that as fact, we’re just blue skying. We also don’t know if Montreal has interest in him, and using the thrust of the Serge Savard quote above perhaps a QMJHL prospect is more likely to be taken by the Habs when they step to the podium. The only Q player near the top of the draft is C Mikhail Grigorenko, who may indeed be a player of interest for the undersized Canadiens.


The math works a little better for the Oilers if they are trading down with Montreal at three instead of Toronto at 5. Although the  possibility still exists that both Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray will go 1-2, Edmonton would be able to control the draft to the extent they would know what they were giving up by moving down to #3. Perhaps Montreal or Edmonton could bribe the Jackets to stay away from a specific player with a pick or an asset (it’s been done before).

Does the hesitation the team has (real or imagined) over Yakupov warrant passing on him or is he still worth the top selection? Is Murray worth taking #1?

One of the areas Edmonton must spend time looking at is Yakupov’s knee inury this past season. speeds mentioned the other day that Yakupov was looking very strong compared to previous #1’s before a knee injury poked a hole in his season. The splits–before and after injury–tell a story:

  • speedsBefore injury at the WJHC: 26GP 21G 32A for 53 pts, +21; After injury: 16GP 10G 6A for 16 pts, -6. Small sample sizes, and all that, but I would be investigating that knee pretty closely if I were the Oilers. If he had been playing through a bothersome knee for the rest of the year, and is expected return to 100%/has returned to 100% by the combine, it’s a factor to consider.

Yakupov followed up his regular season with an indifferent playoff. How much would Montreal need to give up outside the draft swap (#1 for #3) in order to make the deal work?

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Montreal is a mess in many ways. They have $35M tied up next season in Scott Gomez, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Erik Cole, Rene Bourque, Andrei Markov and Tomas Kaberle.

In other ways, Montreal has terrific potential. Carey Price, PK Subban, Max Pacioretty and others given them a very nice foundation for the future. Adding Nail Yakupov (or Mikhail Grigorenko) will give the Habs another bullet for the future.

I’m not certain how much value Edmonton could extract from Savard and the Habs. The pricetag would be dear, and Montreal has a variety of needs that could be addressed. Their own possible bias (French kids from the Q) does not make them more likely to trade up and unless they have a passion for Nail Yakupov it seems unlikely a deal can be made.

Up next: the Jackets.

  • Rama Lama

    Good article and responses. A lot of people are pretty creative with trade scenarios, but the all forget one thing…………our GM is Tamby.

    There is only one thing that is certain, Tamby will do the safe thing, and draft Yakapov. This guy is risk adverse……you could offer Gretzky, Messier, and Bourke and he would still draft Yakapov.

    He got no kahonees!

  • DSF

    Just say no to Nail.

    Trade down the pick. Get the other team to throw in a young roster player along with their top 5 pick and make them take Horcoff or Khabbi’s contract as well.

    I still think Adam Larson from NJ should be a player of interest for the Oilers.

    I would at least call Boston to see if there was any chance to get Seguin.

  • yawto

    I say the Oilers trade the pick and the rights to Omark for Nashvilles first next year and Shea Weber. The Preds get a player to dangle in front of Radulov and Suter to convince them to stay and use the Vacated “C” to let Suter know it is his team. The Oilers get one of the premier defenders in the league ready to sign a nice extension and a pick to keep or use as bait in another trade trying to aquire a top 10 pick this year for another up and coming defender.

  • Old Soldier

    I am concerned on what some folks are basing their facts on picking Murray 1st or 2nd. For all the reports of Grigorenko and his work ethic, there have been just as many question marks on Ryan.

    – there has not been a single scout praising his overall season, in fact many have made excuses such as his teams lack of star power

    – other scouts have given Murray “the benefit of the doubt” as he had a mid season swoon.

    -what people do say is he is an elite skater, and a very good puck handler, and then there are the buts. But he isnt physical enough for his size, he isnt offensive enough for his skill set, or he isnt tough enough to be a shut down defenceman.

    The only repetitive statement made about Murray is he always makes the “safe” play. To me that sounds like a 3/4 dman, a safe quick, not overly physical or offensively gifted defenceman. You dont pick those at #1.

    The latest Redline and Button lists have Dumba ahead of Murray.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan


    i am to lazy to check, how many points did Henrik and Daniel put up as 18 year olds in the NHL?

    also, how does a .7PPG pace compare to the Sedins production in their first 4 seasons in the NHL?

  • What about a three way deal? I was thinking in the lines of Toronto, Edmonton , and Columbus.

    To Columbus:
    Edmonton’s first pick
    Toronto’s first pick
    Toronto’s second pick

    To Edmonton:
    Columbus first pick
    Jake Gardiner

    To Toronto
    Rick Nash

    I’m not a GM so the asset value may be off,but this is the kind of creative deal that could work for a few teams looking to improve in different ways.

    Any thoughts?

  • TwoSkidoos

    Wow, this one really got off the rails…

    Back to trade or not to trade.

    Yakupov will be wearing orange and blue come draft day, through the preseason and into the regular season.

    Apparently if you go to Justin Schultz’ website his favourite place to visit it Edmonton – telling us something? I think so.

    So drop the Murray or any other defenseman talk because it isn’t going to happen, Justin Schultz will be an Oiler and playing regularly next year on our blue.

  • One Time!

    Rick Nash hates playing in columbus if we could convince him to come to Edmonton which should not be that hard IMO, would you give up Gagner, Hemsky, Omark and 2013 1st round pick for Nash and methot. Imagine these lines:

    Ebs RNH hall

    MPS Nash Yak

    Smith horcoff jones

    Eager Belanger Parros

  • Spydyr

    Why do people want to trade the pick of the draft class (Nail) on an entry level contract for 28 year old players(Weber, Nash) making 7 million or more a year?

    The quick fix will not work.

    Draft him if you want to trade him later guess what you can.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I heard a radio report quoting former BCHL teammates of schultz stating he stayed clear of the hard partying that occured. Translated, he doesn’t get loaded. Even though he is unproven, I hope Tambi makes every effort. It would be like getting the second pick in the draft while giving up nothing. How many sleeps until training camp?