This past NHL season, there were 60 defensemen who averaged more TOI per game than the top Oilers blueliner (Jeff Petry). The club has no top pairing, but rather five men who alternate between 18:30 and 21:54 a night. There is no "go to" guy–no top flight, complete defender–and that’s a major job for Craig MacTavish.


Sure they are. Over the last 10 NHL seasons, Edmonton has employed several "complete" NHL defensemen who played major minutes in all three disciplines (EV, PP, PK). The overwhelming majority of them came via trade: an Oiler defenseman for another defender.

  • 2002-03: Janne Niinimaa (acquired from Philly for Dan McGillis plus); Eric Brewer (acquired from the Islanders in the Roman Hamrlik deal).
  • 2003-04: Brewer again
  • 2005-06: Chris Pronger (acquired for a package of D including Brewer); Jaroslav Spacek (deadline pickup)
  • 2006-07: None.
  • 2007-08: Sheldon Souray (free agent signing); Joni Pitkanen (acquired for Lupul and Jason Smith)
  • 2008-09: Souray again; Lubomir Visnovsky (acquired for Stoll & Greene)
  • 2009-10: Ryan Whitney (acquired for Lubo, played only 19 games with team in 09-10)
  • 2010-11: Ryan Whitney again; Tom Gilbert (acquired as a prospect and brought along by team)
  • 2011-12: None
  • 2012-13: None

So, that’s nine defenseman; none via draft (although that may change with Petry); one from free agency; 8 from trades, usually involving defensemen going the other way.


The Oilers have been able to add complete defensemen over the last decade, and the most effective way is by trade. The one free agent signing (Souray) was an overpay, and the club can’t afford a major cap misstep if they plan on keeping all of these lottery picks and #1 overalls.

A trade that involves a current Oiler defenseman of some ability–say from the group that includes Smid, Petry and Nick Schultz–is probably the better plan in acquiring that 25+ minute defender to anchor the defense for the rest of this decade.


Complete defensemen are a very rare, valuable item. A team like the Oilers is extremely unlikely to get one without giving up a capable (if lesser) defender in return. In our next installment of this series, I’ll look at free agents who may be able to help bridge the gap and a select group of defensemen who may be worth the enormous assets required to procure them for the Oilers.

  • Word to the Bird

    Anybody who thinks Tom Gilbert was a “D-man” has never played any hockey in their lifetime! I’ve seen pylon’s play better defense then Tom Gilbert! Happy Efmonton got rid of him! I would have happily traded him for a 7th rounder!

  • YEGFan

    TLDR: Rajala, Marincin, and a 2nd round pick for Shattenkirk. The 7th pick (Nurse?), N. Schultz, and a 3rd rounder for McDonagh.

    Stop suggesting Shea Weber. Jonathan Willis did a great article explaining why it’s insane: . His cap hit would cripple the Oilers the way they are building out their team anyway. Nashville is building around him if they rebuild. They have him locked up and he is unique, he is worth more to a team in need of a number one defenseman than insane packages. Every reason you want him on the Oilers is a reason Nashville wants him, and you are kidding yourself if you think they are considering a painful 6+ year rebuild there. Give it up.

    Yandle is an interesting suggestion but I also do not think they will move him. Phoenix has him for a reasonable contract and he has a valuable skill set for them. I think you need to over pay significantly to talk Phoenix out of keeping that player at that contract.

    Signing Streit seems like a long shot to me too. Captain, promising young team, long history, there are too many reasons for him to stay. It’s more likely than Yandle or Weber, but still a very low chance.

    Pietrangelo is a similar situation to Weber. People around the league see him as a special talent. The type of player that when you have you build around. To get him moved requires an overpay with potential to provide a similarly special talent. I think St. Louis would be justified to value him at the same level the Senators value Karlsson. The point? You need to ridiculously overpay a club with cap room to trade their best young player. I do however agree that St. Louis is in a position to consider trading one of their many integral RFAs, which leads me to…

    Shattenkirk should not be offer sheeted, that will lead to a likely overpay in contract which could hurt the team badly in a year or two. The Oilers should trade for him. Defence is a position of strength for the Blues and they just added Bouwmeester as a strong #2 defenseman for at least next year. If they can get their hands on a defensive prospect that is not due big money soon but could end up at Shattenkirk’s level (entry level contract bargain) and some other low salary assets, they would probably move him. The #7 pick or Marincin should be the centre piece to this sort of deal. The kicker is that St. Louis has no 1st or 2nd round pick this year; some cap flexibility and high upside assets could land the Oilers a long term top pairing solution in Shattenkirk. A guess would be Rajala, Marincin, and a 2nd for Shattenkirk (they will probably want Klefbom instead but I think Marincin would still be enticing).

    The other team I see in a very similar situation is the New York Rangers with Ryan McDonagh. This is motivated by the Rangers needing to pay three RFA forwards in their top six (they currently make less than 1M a year and are playing important minutes, Stepan is being used as a #1 centre, he’s getting a raise) and having Girardi and Del Zotto (both due new contracts in 2014) to be the top pairing. McDonagh would likely get at least 5M in the open market (Carle got 5.5M last year) and that is a lot for a 2nd pairing defenseman when you have two bargains locked up for next season. Again, no offer sheets, make the trade. Like this article says, I think the Rangers would want a player to go back the other way. They didn’t add a Jay Bouwmeester at the deadline. They will also want an asset that could turn into a McDonagh in a few years (entry level contract bargain). I think the 7th pick (Nurse?), N. Schultz, and a 3rd rounder is a decent place to start. I choose Schultz because he is worth less than Petry (the centre piece is #7), his contract is over when it’s time to pay Girardi and Del Zotto, and he will still be cheaper than what they probably have to pay McDonagh in 2013. The Rangers also have no 1st or 2nd round picks this year…

    I know Marincin and #7 are nice assets to have, but I like the idea of negotiating with two young proven RFA’s to be the Oilers’ top defence pair a lot more.

    On a slightly different note, I would look to trade Hemsky for a pick, the Oilers are severely overpaying their 2nd 3rd and 4th lines and all we hear on these boards is how that is the team’s weakness. It should be our strength. I’d hit up Columbus with that offer. They have 3 first rounders, two of which look to be pretty late. If you throw a late 1st round pick into the deal with Marincin for Shattenkirk instead of the 2nd rounder I think that looks a lot nicer. This also frees up the salary to actually be able to afford a player in the 2.5M range to move up and down the line up (a Bickell or a Stalberg). Read this article to see the inspiration for a lot of this post:

    Thank you if you actually read my first post on here!

    • Word to the Bird

      I agree with all of that except the Yandle comment.

      Yes, this argument holds little weight, but Phoenix is a cash-strapped team. They have several yound defenders in Ekman-Larrson, Rundblad, and Gormley coming up the pipeline with Mark Stone following closely behind. Yandle could be the odd man out for a scoring forward; something they desperately need.

      I think the argument that Nashville will give Weber away for peanuts just because they’re a small market is ridonkulous to say the least.