Are the Phoenix Coyotes a good trading partner for the Edmonton Oilers?

Talking about the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney has made it very clear that he’s interested in potentially making a deal. Are the Coyotes a good match for the Oilers on the trade front?

Maloney told the following about the 27th overall pick that his team currently owns:

“We’re probably more inclined to move the pick one way or the other. A lot of this stuff gets talked about and dealt with on the draft floor. You look at what might be there. What’s the value of dropping some to get an extra pick or two? Does that make sense? Or is there a guy that’s sitting there that you might have in your top 12 sitting there at 19 or 20, you say maybe we throw something together to get up. For me, it’s really exploring where we can go with it.”

That’s an interesting comment for the Edmonton Oilers, the team that possesses the 32nd overall pick. The Oilers have in the past shown a willingness to move up and grab a player late in the first round that they feel strongly about – most recently in 2007, when they dealt the 30th and 36th overall picks to grab Riley Nash 21st overall (coincidentally, that trade was made with the Coyotes, who drafted Nick Ross and Joel Gistedt with the picks they received).

Over the last few days both Steve Tambellini (here) and Stu MacGregor (here) have made interesting comments about the Oilers defense. In the linked interview, Tambellini was careful to differentiate between roster need and organizational need – i.e., the Oilers’ roster needs defensive help but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the rest of the organization. For his part, MacGregor indicated that the Oilers have a number of good prospects on the blue line in the system.

Even so – and particularly if the Oilers end up using their first overall pick on a forward like Nail Yakupov – it likely isn’t a reach to suggest that the Oilers might want to use their high second round pick on a defenseman. With a number of very good defenseman available near the first round, might the Oilers consider using their second round pick to switch places with Phoenix? The Coyotes seem like a strong partner.

Maloney also said this:

“We have a lot of defenseman in our system, young defenseman, that we feel really good with where we’re at. This is a strong [defense] draft. It may be looking at how the forward group is shaping up. If there’s a forward that we felt is sliding to a point where we can give up something to get him, that would be my initial thought on that. We’re looking hard at a couple of those forwards we like.”

This is where things get interesting (with all due respect to moving up into the late first round, that’s not the sort of deal that comes across as really exciting). The Coyotes have a number of young defenseman on their NHL roster and in the system that would be very appealing to the Oilers.

Naturally, the most appealing player is 20-year old Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who played the role of number one defenseman in the playoffs (he was second in regular season ice-time behind 25-year old Keith Yandle). The sixth overall pick in 2009, Ekman-Larsson might be a player a team can count on to anchor the blue line for the next decade.

And that’s the problem. Teams as a rule do not trade 20-year olds that are already excelling in a top-pairing defensive role. The Oilers could dangle the first overall pick… but given that Ekman-Larsson is the Coyotes cornerstone on the blue line, it seems highly improbable that there’s a deal to be made there.

On the other hand, the Coyotes prospect ranks are also brimming with defensemen, while the forwards in the system aren’t nearly as capable. Two prospects in particular – Brandon Gormley (13th overall pick in 2010) and David Rundblad (17th overall pick in 2009, acquired in the Kyle Turris trade) – are exceptional talents, and both are superior prospects to anybody in the Oilers’ blue line pipeline right now.

Brandon Gormley’s a 6’2” defender who has been a point-per-game talent in the QMJHL for two seasons now. Here, in part, is what McKeen’s Hockey had to say about him this past summer:

[T]all, smart and poised .. makes intelligent reads on both sides of the puck .. not flashy – more tidy, efficient and by-the-book .. good, stable stride… steadily gaining confidence in his puckrushing and heavy slapshot .. supports the puck well .. knows how to sustain tight gaps while defending and is a proficient stick-checker .. character player with leadership qualities .. needs to fill in his strength and quickness to complete the package.

The primary question with Gormley is how good he’ll be – his ceiling is somewhat limited because he’s not a high-end offensive prospect; he’s just a very good, stable defenseman who is likely to have a long career as a top-four NHL defenseman.

The guy the Oilers should really be interested in is David Rundblad. Rundblad was traded in his debut North American season after some bumps in the road early with Ottawa, but he’s still an outstanding prospect (Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus ranked him as the 11th-best prospect in the NHL at midseason). He’s also due for some better luck – his possession numbers were actually quite good (in a sheltered role) in 2011-12, but he got killed by goaltending – his on-ice save percentage was a miserable 0.862 at even-strength.

In 2010-11, Rundblad’s last season in the Swedish Elite League, he was named top defenseman after recording 50 points in 55 games played (he finished third overall in the league that year in points and led it in assists). Again, from McKeen’s:

[B]ig, skilled, strong-shooting rearguard .. puck-control type, comfortable in possession and supported by a wide wingspan and good stick-handling skills .. quick to identify offensive openings and is a talented and accurate passer – tailors his speed and delivery… displays good poise and shooting instincts running the power play .. keeps shots low and into areas for easier tips.

The knocks on Rundblad include sub-optimal skating and the tendency to occasionally cheat for offense; not mentioned is the fact that he’s comfortable playing a physical game.

Rundblad represents something the Oilers simply don’t have in their system: an offensive defenseman with the potential of being an impact point-producer in the NHL. The Oilers have a host of good defensive prospects, but all are more pedestrian in terms of their offensive ability.

The Coyotes paid dearly for Rundblad, but their own organizational needs might mean that the Oilers could pry him loose if they made the right offer.

In all likelihood, it won’t happen. The Oilers tend to be a cautious team, and of course there are always risks when making a trade with a manager like Don Maloney. Even so, it only makes sense for the Oilers to talk to Phoenix; in terms of team need, the two clubs are perfectly matched for a trade.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

    • OilLeak

      Could be a fit as I think MPS would succeed under Phoenix’s defensive system, but I think Phoenix would want some more offense. Gagner would be a fit, but you don’t trade Gagner unless OEL is coming back the other way.

      Gagner + Marincin + depth draft pick would be fair value for OEL, but that’s a steep price to pay and would create a massive gap at center.

      • OilLeak

        I’m thinking Hemsky might be a good fit especially as Whitney get older. With only a two year contract they can see if they want to have him take Ray’s spot when he finally retires. That kind of a move would make a lot of sense especially if they draft Nail.

      • I’d argue that Gagner, Marincin and a depth pick would not be fair value for Ekman-Larsson.

        Reverse it: would you even consider a package like Gagner, Marincin and a depth pick for Eberle or Hall or even the first overall pick?

        • OilLeak

          Ok, Instead of a depth pick maybe someone like Lander or Pitlick. Wouldn’t give up more than that. Is OEL worth that much more than Mike Richards or Jeff Carter right now?

          If Gagner, Marincin, and Lander weren’t enough for Hall or Eberle then I would walk away from the trade, can’t sell the whole team down the road.

  • Reg Dunlop


    So my question is what is it that the Oilers have that PHX needs outside of the players that the oil wouldn’t even consider moving and the 1st overall?

    • The Oilers have Gagner, MPS, Hartikainen, Pitlick, as well as a number of top defense prospects that they could move as sweeteners if they were getting a guy like Rundblad back.

      Gagner would have led Phoenix in scoring up the middle. Paajarvi would likely be attractive too.

      I’m not arguing the Oilers should deal Gagner or Paajarvi here; just suggesting that team needs are a good fit, and that if Phoenix is willing to talk about Rundblad the Oilers should pursue it.

      • I hear ya, I was just trying to key in on some options because a team like PHX isn’t going to just make a deal for the sake of making a deal. Its going to have to be something they need and that takes them to the next level or replaces something they maybe losing.

        What are your thoughts on them trying to get Hemsky? as Whitney gets older and is more likely to retire finding a replacement could be problematic down the road.

      • stevezie

        Jonathan, going in a completely different direction, would a Gagner for Hanzal swap make sense? Hanzal would give the Oilers the size and defensive conscience they lack on forward, and Gagner is a little younger and looks to me to have a higher offensive upside. I have my doubts Phoenix wants to move a guy who is a young part of a very (recently) successful core, but on paper it looks interesting, and wouldn’t be hard to sweeten.

  • OilLeak

    I’m in for Rundblad.

    In his last season in the Swedish Elite league he racked up great numbers. His success likely limited Larsson’s ice time and resulted in him being picked outside the top 3.

    And for what it’s worth, he was also Prospect of the Year for 2011.

  • Lexi

    Phoenix is pretty much in have to win now mode and they might need help getting to the cap floor. Does that not mean that Hemsky might be desirable for them? Could he get us Rundblad or Gormley?

    • Hemsky might be a fit, though given the CBA uncertainty this summer I have my doubts that PHX is worried about the cap floor right now.

      (Especially since the suggestion has been made that NHL owners will push to abolish the floor, or at least lower it significantly.)

  • Reg Dunlop

    Instead of the up and comming dmen of Phoenix I would target Yandle. Comming off a so so year and with the Coyotes having lots of defence depth, maybe he is available. What is he worth? How about Hemmer and MPS? Enough?

  • Ducey

    I don’t see PHX moving Rundblad for anything short of the first overall. I don’t think they would move Gormley for anyone short of one of EDM’s big three.

    EDM’s 2nd rounder will likely be 31 as I bet NJ will take their punishment this year and forfeith their 1st pick. Not enough of a spread with this and 27 to be worth more than a 6th rounder.

    Maybe Omark might pry a 3 rd pick or depth prospect from PHX, thats about all I see.

  • stevezie

    In what world would Phoenix not trade OEL for Yakupov straight up? Probably the one where there’s no owner to push the GM into it. High talent offense sells a heck of a lot more tickets than a solid young d man.

    Would the Oil be able to sell this trade to their fans?

  • 15w40

    I posted this on another story here but I was thinking a swap of Gagner for Hanzal and maybe one of the other forwards not in the big 3 for one of the defensemen discussed in this article. Hanzal is 6’6″ and over 230 lbs. This gets you some size up the middle and he could centre your 2nd line. There would likely have to be some more pieces involved but that’s the jist of it. I watched Hanzal in junior and he can move really good for a big man.

    ya what stevzie said………..

  • yawto

    Kind of surprised you seem to favour Rundblad to Gormley as much as you do, JW, both have their positives, but with Gormley, you get 7 years vs. 6, 3 ELC years vs. 1, and potentially, in particular if he produces less offense than Rundblad but is a better all around D, a player who costs less relative to actual value.

  • Clyde Frog


    Oh god, yay he is 6’6″…

    His best production year was his rookie where he potted 35 pts, 5 years ago.

    Yeah that compares well with Gagner, the kid who Oilers fans right not decry for only producing 47 pts and has never produced less than 41…

    But golly, he is 6’6″ that has to be worth something right? /sigh

    • stevezie

      He’s a completely different kind of player Clyde. He is a defence-first guy who is among the league leaders in hits and face-off percentage. You’re also ignoring his ppg this season which was a very respectable .53. He’s not just 6’6″, he’s everything this forward corps currently lacks.

      I know “hits” is a debatable stat but even if the Phoenix guys are out to lunch he was destroying Shane Doan in the catagory, and that’s saying something.

      I am a Gagner fan, by the by, but we have an abundance of riches when it comes to smallish scoring forwards.

    • 15w40

      Well I guess I’ve been told…….
      Thanks for the condescending response – good to know the GM of the year is lurking on this site. My point is we need a bit of a different look in the top six than we have now. Look at the current final taking place right now – we need some size. Put Hanzal in a different situation with some more gifted line mates in a system not run by Tippet who collapses 5 guys to the net and tries to win getting outshot 35 to 20. I never said he is the second coming of Mario Lemieux, but he has a shot to make a real impact on this team. I’m not saying Gagner is a bad player, but with the current line up that we have, it would appear that we are a little one dimensional up front and the rest are not getting traded.

      You can only have so many 5 to 7 million dollar players in the line up which is what Hall, Eberle, RNH will be looking for in the next 2 years. Replacing Gagner with Joe Thornton, or Jordan Stall will require some serious cake too – only so much to go around.

      Anyway, I defer to your infinite knowledge on the matter. A swift skating 230 lb centreman is obviously just too cliche and not worth considering for the Oilers / sigh.

  • Clyde Frog


    Sorry stevezie, but none of that makes him close to a fit at 2nd line centre. 3rd sure, but not second.

    I don’t know why we would want to trade a lock for top 6 centre for a decent 3rd liner.

    Hitting is nice, but goals win games and he hasn’t broken 40 pts once in his career. Gagner has never dipped below that point.

    Your trading proven consitent production for a guy who can fill out a 6’6″ uniform and chip in at a 3rd line clip…

    He isn’t going magically double his production to hit the 50-60 pt plateau, he is just going to plug up the 2nd line spot with his great 3rd line skills.

    No team can have enough “scoring” depth, giving it up is a lose proposition.

    • stevezie

      I think everything you’re saying (can’t have too much scoring,don’t cast players beyond their capabilities) are very good rules of thumb, but in this specific case I disagree.

      1) Our wingers now border on super-powered. We (will soon) have Nail, Eberle, Hall, Hemsky, and RNH. That is a murderers row. These guys have the strength to carry a guy offensively a little, especially when he brings everything they lack. Let’s ignore size; look at that group and tell me who is going to defend? Horcoff doesn’t seem able to keep up with the elites anymore. I think, I might be wrong but I think at least one of the guys in our top 6 should be better than decent defensively.

      2)Hanzal was the second line center of a very successful Phoenix Coyotes team. Did their defensive style bring his points down? Did their perfect system elevate his appearance? I don’t know, but I do know he was given a key role and flourished.

      As ol’ Lou says, it’s never a losing trade when you’re getting something you need.

  • Clyde Frog

    @ Clyde Frog

    Maybe that’s where a package comes in: Hanzal and Rundblad for Gagner and Marincin, or something like that. Yes, we sacrifice some offence going from Gagner to Hanzal, but we gain some by adding Rundblad. As well, Hanzal brings a much better defensive game that Gagner (this from a Gagner fan).

  • striker777

    What happened with our over-abundance of forwards in the system. Tambo needs to learn how to talk UP his players, just like Burke does. If Phoenix needs more depth at forward, package up some prospects. They must be interested, after their experiment with Brule paid off.

    Our GM needs to learn The Art of Trading.

  • justDOit

    All I can say is Rundblad is quite the dynamic player – yes please! A very skilled defender, and if he’s already hit the PPG mark in the SEL, that’s a very good indication.

    As for his skating, the compilation video seems to show that he very agile already, so his first 3 strides and everything else can be worked on my Steve Sarduchy (sp?).

  • Clyde Frog


    I would rather find producers than pray to god a player who has never posted even a 40 pt season could magically become transform into a top 6 producer.

    The number of teams in this league that can’t find scoring depth at center is quite high, we have it.

    Trading it away for height and 3rd line skills is not the way to improve this club.

    I get Runblad is great and we would have to look hard at it…

    PS. If you see a post comparing production as condescending, then at least post something other than the physical measurements of the player when extolling his virtues.

    Else we may assume you were actually using his size as the reason why we should should be excited about him.

  • 15w40

    @ Clyde Frog

    I’m saying if you put Hanzal in place of Gagner there would be little drop off in offence. Can I garantee this? No…because it hasn’t happened. I think he has more than 3rd line skills but has played in a defensive situation most of his career. That and I think we might spend a little less time fishing the puck out of our own net with Hanzal. His career +/- is +5. Gagner’s is -42.

    PS: Comparing production is not condescending, the first and last lines of your original post was…….