On the possibility of trading Hall, Eberle or Yakupov

 

The Edmonton Oilers are blessed with some high-end young players. Most people consider a list of four as the core group of the rebuild: centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as wingers Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov.

Is there any situation where it might make sense to trade one of that group, or are they all untouchable?

It’s an interesting situation in that the Oilers have three high-end guys on the wing, one at centre, and none on defence (to be fair, both Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid are fine young NHL players – with Petry in particular still having upside – but neither are seen as being on the same level as the group of four mentioned above).

Now, the team could have avoided this by picking defenceman Ryan Murray first overall this past summer, but with Yakupov the clear consensus at number one that likely would have been a mistake. Teams don’t get to control which player is the best in any given year, but drafting for need is a bad road to go down (as the Oilers showed when they passed on Zach Parise because they ‘already had a bunch of small centers’).

The job of the scouting staff is to provide management with the best available players. It’s the job of the general manager to trade those players as needed to create a winning team.

A Franchise Defender?

High-end defencemen don’t come available all that often, and when they do the price is typically high. Still, it’s possible to envision a scenario where one might be on the market. Take Shea Weber in Nashville, for example. The Predators opted to match Philadelphia’s offer sheet, choosing to pay the franchise defenceman $14 million in salary per season for the next four years rather than taking four first-round picks in trade. Could it be that a year from now they’d be willing to send him away to ease financial pressures if they got an enticing enough offer?

What would a player like Weber be worth to Edmonton? The 6’4”, 232lb 26-year old is a complete defenseman who provides both a team with both offensive punch and a number one shutdown option. Would that be worth trading one of the Oilers’ three wingers? Would any of the three be untouchable if Nashville was willing to think about a one-for-one trade a year from now?

Obviously, it’s a hypothetical situation, but it’s still one worth considering: is there a point where trading away part of the young core makes sense if it makes the roster more balanced?

The Other Route

There is another option, of course: the Oilers could opt to hang on to all of their key young pieces and hope to address the need for high-end help on the blue line through free agency (or alternately, simply hope that one of their younger defenders – Petry, Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, etc. – develop into a high-end guy).

There are virtues to that approach. The primary virtue is that there’s no need to part with one of the high-value forwards currently on the team. There are also negatives: for starters, not a lot of high-end defenders hit the UFA market and those that do tend to be paid accordingly. If all goes well, in a few years the Oilers will need to start exercising care when managing the salary cap and adding a big-money defender without subtracting big dollars somewhere else might prove problematic.

The biggest problem is scarcity, though. Alex Edler could be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013; aside from him, there aren’t a lot of high-end possibilities and even he isn’t in the ‘franchise defenceman’ category. Kris Letang is probably the most interesting name in the summer of 2014 group; Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester are other lower-quality possibilities assuming they aren’t locked up before then. Lots of names could be available in 2015 but that’s three years away, meaning both that their current teams have time to extend them and that there would be no help on the way for the next three seasons.

Maybe something else will happen. As we’ve considered, one of the current group of young defenders could emerge. The Oilers could always just roll with a by-committee approach and hope that they could win without a stud #1 defender – after all, Carolina managed the feat back in 2006.

My Take

Top defensemen are a rare commodity, and as guys who can play 30 minutes a night they’re exceedingly valuable to any team. They aren’t available very often.

Top wingers are also very valuable. Five years ago, any one of Hall, Eberle or Yakupov would have been untouchable. If the Oilers had just one winger of that caliber, that guy would be untouchable now. But, as it stands, they have three superb young wingers and that means that if the opportunity to land a franchise defenseman becomes available, it’s one the team should move on if they can negotiate a deal that makes sense.

It’s not about wanting to trade any of those guys. It’s about looking at the needs of the team and deciding that it makes sense to subtract from a position of strength and address a position of weakness if the opportunity arises. If two star wingers and a star defenceman give the Oilers a better shot at the Stanley Cup than three star wingers and no star defencemen do, a deal that should be made.

  • While it might be a wee bit early, if I’m the GM I would absolutely explore trading one of my wingers….Hall would be my choice…love his game but have serious reservations he can stay healthy (this might also be the view of other GM’s so his value may not be as much as Oil fans think)

    1) Assuming Yakupov is in the league of Ebs/Hall then I will be face major cap commitments for my wingers which would lead to less for other critical positions (ie. #1 D man)

    2) Team building needs some work. WIngers are typically less valuable than #1D>= #1C>>> Wingers. Overall winning with an offensive team is not likely….defence wins.

    3) Money aside Neither Hall or Ebs will be enough to land a Blue chip number 1D

    4) Lastly a stong puck moving D man would generate far more offense than having stong forwards…someone need to get the puck to them in stride in order for them to max out their game.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    You don’t really discuss the option of making a trade with a Pajaarvi + Gagner type package. That’s not the classic “Peckham, Omark and a pick for a star” type deal, Pajaarvi + Gagner could be a an attractive option for a team looking to get younger/shed salary and would be a lot easier to stomach than sending out Hall or Eberle.

    • Yeah, if there’s a team in a Rick Nash-type situation, than maybe you can do the Paajarvi plus Gagner plus Marincin plus a 1st round pick sort of deal. That’s the sort of situation where the Oilers depth in young forwards (you could add or subtract Hartikainen, Klefbom, Gernat, Rieder, Teubert, Lander, etc.) comes in handy – they’re equipped to make that kind of trade.

      But if it’s a situation where a team like Nashville is going ‘we’ll keep paying through the nose for these four years unless you give us fair value’ then I think the team needs to be willing to step up and move a key guy.

  • Regarding the ‘wait until the team is closer’ idea, I get it, but I don’t think it’s always wise – sometimes you only get one crack at this sort of trade, and you need to take it when it comes.

    Additionally, there’s always the fact that the right kind of trade can transform a team. Pittsburgh was a playoff bubble team in March of 1991 (the year before they’d finished with 72 points and a minus-41 goal differential, and ended up drafting Jaromir Jagr with the 5th overall pick) when the traded a 26-year old John Cullen (94 points through 65 games) and 22-year old defenceman Zarley Zalapski (48 points in 66 games) for Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson. They won the Cup that year and the next one.

  • John Chambers

    I just don’t think that a deal some of us are fantasizing about is actually possible. If you trade one of these guys you won’t get Letang, Ekman-Larsson, Hedman, Carlson, Pietrangelo, etc. Those guys are franchise defensemen, and their teams’ management knows that.

    You can only obtain a guy with warts like a Yandle, a Mike Green, or a Phaneuf.

    I mean, Columbus traded Rick freakin’ Nash and couldn’t even get Ryan McDonagh.

    Overpaying in the UFA market in ’13 or ’14 might be the way to go. In the meantime we wait and hope Petry and or Schultz develops into that top guy.

  • CaptainLander

    If the Oil were on the verge of winning a cup next year, I could see this discussion having merit. At this point and a few years away from being a real contender I would say it is to early to look for the franchise d-man. I believe that the value of these three players will only go up. So trading one now seems pointless. Plus there is a possibility the the young d-men you mentioned could be that guy. If three years from now the Oil are in a really good position to win a cup and all they are missing is that one dimension (Anaheim adding Pronger) then I say do it. Until such a time keep your assets build your team from within.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think the role of the GM is to improve the team without giving up franchise players. As for the D, I think it would be much better served to have three solid lines as oppose to that one high end player.

    As for the negatives of free agency, how can overpaying on free agency be any different than giving up one of the four, and receiving back a player who gets paid 14 million dollars. We would have been better off offering a free agent defenseman like Suter an overpayment at 8 million, rather than get a Weber at 14 million.

    You’re always going to pay on free agency for these top end guys, but at the same time, the trade route, by virtue of what you have to give up and what you end up paying the player coming back anyway, is even worse in my opinion.

    We all just need to exercise some patience and let our young D develop. I do wish Tambillini would go out in free agency and over pay someone as a good stop gap while our young guys develop, or even try to get a trade done as long as it makes our over all team better. And who knows, if they get their head out of their ass and get better back up for Dubnyk, that could go a long way to helping close down, and finish out those games we just seemed to not be able to clinch last year.

  • The Hall Way

    I agree with this article somewhat here is my thinking around this. Aside from Nick Lidstrom most defencemen franchise or not can be acquired via a trade/free agency. If you look back at all the top defencemen that were drafted you can potentially see a trend that they are not with the same team that had originally drafted them.

    Based on that if you wanted a franchise defencemen you can obtain one via trade or free agency. But forwards are harder to obtian or cost more via trade or free agency.

  • To me there are scenarios where one of the four can be traded, but we arent close to it yet.

    When this team is a playoff team that is struggling to make the NEXT step towards Cup Contender (multiple steps from where they are now) and it has become obvious that the Oilers lack X (X being a 1C, 1D, or 1G) then it starts getting to be time to make the move.

    However, we are way too premature for that. The Penguins lasted 5 years with 3 Cs for 2 spots and only now pulled the trigger to trade Staal. The Oilers Big 4 only has 1 replication of position with Yakupov being a L/RW. The Oiler’s best prospects are all defensemen and they just added Schultz, another blue chipper.

    Add in their growing potential to pursue Free Agents and a Cap that always rises and I’m not sure we need to be in any hurry to move one of them, even though our defense is horrible and our goaltending is unproven.

    Too early to make that call.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    It’s interesting that this is being offered up right after a “reasonable expectations” piece.

    I don’t think that “Yeah, but you’d trade him for Shea Weber” is a valid argument at all. I think if the trade is being offered 1-for-1 straight-across, you’d find a lot of teams that would offer their best player for Shea Weber.

    I don’t think anyone’s saying that someone on the Oilers is truly, by the strict definition, untouchable. If somebody offers you $1000 for your socks, you untie your shoelaces as fast as you possibly can. You do it even if you really like those socks.

  • there have been examples of cup winning teams with a solid group of good defenders but not a clear stud. carolina in06 comes to mind but there have been others. maybee we keep all the forward depth and just make sure we score fist and more than the other team!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Can see Weber accepting his 13 million dollar bonus on July 1 2013 and then hold out, forcing a trade. The Predators will have 27 million into a holdout after only one season of that deal. Someone could get a bargain.

    It’s a little early to be thinking of dealing one of the fab four, or maybe we sould sit tight and wait for the level of frustration to boil over with Taylor Hall.

    • In a perfect world, it would be too early to have this conversation, but I think this summer showed that it’s worth considering now. Philadelphia was talking trade with Nashville before they offer-sheeted Weber, and reportedly only went the offer-sheet route once it was apparent that both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier would need to be included in a deal.

      IF the Predators had been willing to accept it, and IF Weber were interested in extending long-term with Edmonton, would a Hall/Eberle-for-Weber trade have been a good move this summer? I’d argue the answer is probably yes. Despite the fact that ideally the team would prefer to move neither player, and certainly not this soon.