The term "Top-Four" varies from person to person. Whether we are evaluating who is a top-four D-man, or whether Shailene Woodley, Emma Watson, Charlize Theron or Emma Stone looked the best at the MTV movie awards; we usually will have differing opinions.
Charlize and Miss Stone get my vote, but there is no wrong answer, just like there isn’t one when we debate which top-four defender is best suited to help the Oilers. We all agree the Oilers could use another veteran top-four defender, but do the Oilers have the proper pieces necessary to obtain one?
It is easy to say the Oilers need another top-four defender, but it will be much harder negotiating a trade to acquire one.
It is unlikely the Oilers will deal one of Hall, RNH, Eberle or Yakupov so I won’t use them as a comparable to any of the following deals.
Here are a few recent trades involving defenders and what it took to acquire them.
METHOT FOR FOLIGNO
Ottawa acquired Marc Methot from Columbus for Nick Foligno.
Methot has played top-four minutes in Columbus for the past three seasons. Up until last year he played EV and PK, but this past year he averaged over 2 minutes on the PP as well. Some would argue that he’s only a #5 defender, but to get him the Sens had to part with a three-time 15-goal scorer coming off a career year of 47 points. Foligno added some grit to his game this year totalling 124 PIMs along with his 47 points.
The Oilers have no forward similar to Foligno.
SCHENN FOR VAN RIEMSDYK
Philly acquired Luke Schenn from the Leafs for James Van Riemsdyk.
Contracts were a likely a bit of a factor in this deal, with JVR a $4.25 million cap hit and Schenn sitting at $3.6 million.
Schenn is unique. He played 21 minutes/game as a rookie, then 17 his 2nd season, he jumped up to 22 in his third year and last season he only played 16 min a night. He doesn’t play on the PP. He’s only 22 and he’s already played 310 games. Some would argue he’s been as high as #3 some years and as low as #6.
Van Riemsdyk has played three years and has seen his icetime increase by one minute every year, starting at 13 and playing 15 last year. He was injured for half of last season, but he still managed 11 goals and 24 points in 43 games. He scored 21 goals in 2011 after potting 15 as a rookie. He’s 6’3" and 200 pounds, and while he isn’t physical he has some size.
He has 99 points over 2 1/2 seasons, but 83 of them have come at EV. He didn’t get much PP time in Philly because they had lots of depth, but he’ll get PP time in Toronto.
Magnus Paajarvi would need to score 21 and 11 goals his next two seasons to equal Van Riemsdyk. Again, the Oilers didn’t have a forward similar to JVR.
MICHALEK FOR PROSPECTS
Phoenix acquired Zybnek Michalek from Pittsburgh for Mark Cheverie (ECHLer), Harrison Ruopp (2011,3rd rounder…physical, stay-at-home defender for Prince Albert Raiders) and the 81st pick in the 2012 draft (Oskar Sundqvist).
Michalek has played top-four minutes in Pittsburgh the past two seasons. He plays EV and PK. He was a salary dump for the Penguins. He has three years left with a cap hit of $4 million.
Michalek shoots right and has played 550 NHL games, and for the past few years he has consistently faced the other team’s top lines. Last year in Pittsburgh he and Brooks Orpik played the hardest minutes.
The Oilers could have easily been involved in this deal. They have loads of prospects and giving up two 3rd rounds and an ECHL player would have been easy to absorb. They completely missed the boat on not being involved in Michalek. The only explanation is that they felt acquiring him would lessen their chances of getting Justin Schultz, but I don’t buy that either considering Michalek doesn’t play the PP.
The Oilers could have acquired Michalek, giving up nothing significant, and went then paired Michalek with Ladislav Smid or Ryan Whitney. They could have elected to put Smid with Michalek and have them face the top lines all season, and then have Whitney with Jeff Petry and have Nick Schultz mentor the younger Schultz.
These are the types of deals that the Oilers need to be involved in.
If the Oilers are going to acquire a top-four D-man now, they will likely have to pay way more than the Coyotes did for Michalek.
The list of top-four defenders that teams would be willing to part with isn’t that long. Names like Jay Bouwmeester, Paul Martin and Keith Yandle have been floating around, but what would the Flames, Pens and Coyotes want in return.
Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi would have the most value of the Oiler forwards (keep in mind I’m not including the four kids), but Paajarvi’s value isn’t as high around the league as it seems to be in Edmonton.
Yandle is an intriguing player. The Coyotes weren’t happy how Dustin Brown ran his show in the 3rd round, and they feel Ekman-Larsson has more upside.
The Coyotes need forwards. Would Gagner and Paajarvi for Yandle make sense for both sides?
If the Oilers deal Gagner then Horcoff is their #2 centre. That isn’t the best scenario, especially because the Oilers don’t have any young offensive centres that look ready to play. Anton Lander is not ready to be a #2 centre, he might be in a few years, but if they dealt Gagner they might have to play Lander in OKC for 40 games as a 1st line centre to see if he has enough offence to be a good #2.
Yandle is a $5.25 million cap hit for the next four years, which makes him even more attractive because you know you’ll have him for at least four years. He’s only 25 years old, and if he is actually available then Steve Tambellini should be talking to Don Maloney daily.
The Oilers would likely have to add another pick or prospect to the package, but I’d make that deal if it was on the table.
I know many are leery of Bouwmeester’s $6.68 million cap hit, but Bouwmeester and his Flames teammate Chris Butler faced tougher competition than every D-man in the league except Ryan McDonagh.
Bouwmeester has played 82 games in 8 of his 9 NHL seasons so at least you know he’ll be on the ice and not on the trainer’s table.
I don’t see the Flames and Oilers pulling a deal, but if he was on the table I’d look at what it would cost.
I’d shy away from Martin. He’s 31, doesn’t bring much offence and isn’t physical. He’s a $5 million cap hit for three more years, and he don’t see him as an upgrade of Nick Schultz.
I don’t expect the Oilers to be in on every available player, but when a player like Michalek is available for nothing, I wonder why Tambellini wasn’t talking to Ray Shero.
Convincing J. Schultz to sign here was a great move by the organization, but he isn’t a veteran defender. They’ve needed and wanted one for awhile, and if they are going to acquire one via the trade route they have to be aggressive.
They don’t need to rush into any deal, but they need to be prepared to make a move when a player becomes available. Unless it is a salary dump like Michalek, the Oilers will need to be prepared to part with one or both of Gagner, Paajarvi and possibly another young forward prospect.