There probably isn’t a team in the NHL that is a more logical trading partner for the Edmonton Oilers than the Columbus Blue Jackets. Lots of draft picks? Check. Good players on iffy contracts that could be dealt? Check. Strength on defence? Check. Executives with knowledge of the team? Check. All the ingredients are in place.
Columbus has the following picks at this year’s entry draft:
- First round, 14th overall
- First round, 19th overall
- First round, 27th overall*
- Second round, 44th overall
- Fourth round, 105th overall
- Sixth round, 165th overall
- Seventh round, 195th overall
*The exact position of the Los Angeles Kings’ first round draft pick is still unknown.
If the Oilers plan to move down for draft picks only, Columbus has a nice stockpile of first-round selections. If they want to move down to add a player and a pick, again the Blue Jackets are a logical trading partner.
R.J. Umberger. I’ve written about the possibility of the Oilers acquiring Umberger from Columbus before, and believe it’s the kind of move that could benefit both teams. From a Blue Jackets’ perspective, a primary reason he’s vulnerable is contract – he comes with a $4.6 million cap hit for the next four years, he’s 31 and Columbus isn’t a cap team (Umberger has been mentioned as a potential buyout candidate, though that strikes me as unlikely). He also had a bit of a down year offensively (31-point pace over an 82-game season after five years between 40 and 57 points).
From an Oilers perspective, Umberger fits a lot of criteria. Positionally, he has spent significant time at both left wing and centre, meaning he could slot in behind Taylor Hall on the port side (and perhaps help Sam Gagner by taking some draws for him) or he could move to the middle if needed. He’s a reasonably good volume shooter: he’s fired 200+ shots in each of the four seasons before this one. He’s also a career 10.7 percent shooter, which is why he scored between 20-26 goals in each of the four seasons prior to this one. He’s a two-way player used to playing tough minutes (defensive zone starts, good opponents, penalty kill) and he also plays a reasonably physical style. Topping it all off: he stands 6’2” and weighs 220 pounds.
Ryan Johansen. A 6’3”, 203 pound centre, Johansen was the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft and a guy the Oilers have reportedly always coveted to at least some degree. He hasn’t delivered offensively at the NHL level but is a big young centre with undeniable talent.
Boone Jenner. Another big centre, Jenner is a prospect it’s difficult to imagine the Blue Jackets turning over. The 6’2”, 204 pound Jenner has always been of interest as a big defensive forward, but last season evolved into a player capable of producing high-end offence (45 goals in 56 games) at the junior level.
The defence. The Blue Jackets are strong on the blue line and have a number of players that might be of interest to Edmonton. James Wisniewski’s big money contract makes him expendable; he’s still a top-four defenceman with significant offensive talent and decent size (6’, 208 pounds). Other players are less likely to be available (or less desirable, in the case of Jack Johnson), but Fedor Tyutin would be a phenomenal acquisition for the Oilers and Nikita Nikitin is underrated.
The other obvious connection is Scott Howson – Craig MacTavish’s top lieutenant just finished up a long stretch as the Jackets’ general manager. He knows the players on the team – he acquired a lot of them – he knows their prospect system and he also likely has a better idea of the financial situation of the team than anybody else outside the organization.
None of this is any guarantee that a trade will be made, but there’s no doubt that the Blue Jackets match up very well as a potential trade partner for the Oilers.
Recently around the Nation Network
At Canucks Army, Jeff Angus has been running a series looking at potential trades involving Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler. In Trading Alex Edler: Who To Target, Part II, the Edmonton Oilers get a prominent mention:
Would the Canucks move Edler for Eberle? Would Edmonton? Would the trade make Vancouver significantly better? I think it would improve Edmonton’s team considerably – no slight to Eberle, but a two-way puck mover like Edler would be exactly what the doctor ordered (or has been trying to order for years) for the Oilers. Would the Canucks move Edler for Gagner and Paajarvi? Generally, the team receiving the best player in a trade wins the deal, so this probably isn’t one that would interest Mike Gillis a whole lot.
While the idea of running Alex Edler/Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid/Justin Schultz is much more appealing than the current mix, my trouble with trading for a guy like Edler would be that I don’t trust him as a defensive defenceman. He has real offensive tools, but even in highly favourable usage under Alain Vigneault the Canucks have been better off with other defencemen on the ice.
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