One big thing > three small things

From the sound of things, Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish is quite the juggler – negotiating with Sam Gagner, trying to land players at all three positions, trying to move on Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, and bringing a sense of energy to the draft that picking first overall simply could not.

It also seems he isn’t worried about swinging for the fences, either – and that’s a very good thing.

It seems like half the players in the league are involved in trade discussions in one way or other this weekend, and the Oilers have been mentioned in the race for a lot of the smaller pieces – players like Cal Clutterbuck and Braydon Coburn, guys who will shore up depth or maybe do a little more. It’s good to be talking about those players, but the real priority – especially on defence – needs to be a game-changer.

Photo: Ginny/Wikimedia Commons

That’s why Kris Letang is such an interesting name to see popping up in trade rumours. Letang is a legitimate number one defenceman, somebody who pushes everybody else on the depth chart down one slot. Imagine the following two depth charts, one adding Letang and one adding Coburn (before pieces go the other way) and look at the difference:

At first glance, there’s not a huge difference and both proposed pairings are significantly better than what existed previously. But the most important matchup in the game is the top one, and one of these scenarios is significantly better than the other in that regard. Ladislav Smid isn’t a perfect player, but he’s a much better fit for top pairing work if a legitimate number one like Kris Letang is on the other side; Jeff Petry’s a good defenceman but at this stage in his career he’s not a number one even if he’s the closest the Oilers have to it.

To some degree, MacTavish is going to have to settle for what he can get. Top defencemen are rare and valuable commodities, and entering this off-season it looked for all the world like the best the Oilers were going to be able to do was add complementary top-four guys and hope a by-committee approach would get the job done. It was and is a poor solution, albeit better than maintaining the status quo. If there’s a chance to really move the dial forward on the blue line, though, it’s a chance MacTavish needs to take.

Players like Braydon Coburn are good targets, in the absence of something better. Kris Letang is something better.

Interestingly, it’s a tack that the Oilers seem interested in taking between the pipes. Devan Dubnyk has played like a perfectly capable middle-tier NHL starter the last three seasons; he may not represent dynamic strength in net but Stanley Cups have been won with inferior goaltenders, and not infrequently. The rumour that the Oilers are pursuing Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider indicates the team is really interested in having a top-10 NHL starter (Schneider doesn’t have the games played to qualify, but he’s certainly on track by save percentage). Over the last three seasons, Dubnyk has been a 0.917 save percentage goalie to Schneider’s 0.931. Even assuming Schneider is really a 0.925 true-talent goalie (a cautious approach), for a goalie playing 60 games (roughly 1,600 shots), that’s a difference of 13 goals per year – one every five games. It’s a big difference, and it’s likely why the Oilers are talking to other teams about a position of relative strength.

Recently around the Nation Network

Who will the Oilers take with their second round picks at this year’s draft (assuming they make the picks at all)? Derek Zona, using the consensus NHL rankings, has offered up some names at NHL Numbers.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • bazmagoo

    My prediction for the Oilers defence next year:

    Smid – Petry

    Coburn – J Schultz

    Belov – N Schultz

    Klefbom – Potter

    Thoughts? Is that enough to take a step in the right direction?

    • GVBlackhawk

      The fact that Whitney won’t be in the lineup is an instant improvement. However, those top six will still be in tough against the better teams. If Petry and Smid are going to play the top minutes, they will both have to play much better than last season. That is taking a big gamble.

      I also believe that Dallas Eakins defensive system will result in across-the-board statistical improvements for a lot of players. I’m hoping for a noticeable improvement in 5v5 shot differential.

  • bazmagoo

    I 100% agree with JW.
    It’s not often that you have an opportunity to acquire one of the best (if not THE best) offensive defensemen in the world. Letang would dramatically alter the outlook of the 2013-14 Oilers.
    Yes, 7.5 million is a lot of dough, but he is 26 and likely has another 5-8 years of prime left. Obviously a great deal of his offensive production is due to 87, 71 and 18, but if we picked him up he would be playing with some pretty damn dynamic players. I can tell you one thing for sure, if Pitt trades him they will regret it in a big way.
    P.S. Did Elliote Friedman actually use the phrase “Enjoy the Rumour Orgasmatron”?

    • bazmagoo

      You have to do what you have to do. You can’t have nearly $26 million combined to 3 players. They didn’t want to trade Staal either, but they had to do what they had to. I love Letang just as much as every other Pens fan, but it’s just not gonna work. They would just be best to either:

      A. Ride him out and hope he lays off the crack rocks and he takes less of a cap hit

      B. Trade him for a ransom to a desperate team

      I’m thinking 2 is their best bet. That’s what happened with Staal.

    • bazmagoo

      You know of course Letang would be a great upgrade to the Oilers D… Solves a lot if not all the current issues on D..

      But you gotta ask yourself what’s going on with this guy? He’s playing on a team with Crosby and Malkin. The team has treated him nothing but good over the years as far as we know. They are offering him a monster 7 Mill X 8 seasons contract and he says no?! Do you think he only wants .5 mill more to sign? Is he really nitpicking like that?

      I have to think he wants at least 8 mill/season x 8.. if not more. But I just dont know whats up with these players.. take a little bit of a hometown discount and stay with the team and all your boys? I hate to say it but this indicates a bad attitude to me. Am i wrong?

    • bazmagoo

      Really Letang does not score goals like an elite Dman, he plays at best average in his own end. He is an excellent offensive Dman. But he is not in the top 10 all around Dmen in the NHL.

      • bazmagoo

        If we traded for Letang, I’d puke. How much money was he offered to stay with the team he’s played for his whole career? Says a lot about a guy when he’d abandon his team mates so readily for 0.25-0.75 million per year when he’s already making $6.5 million (what’s been offered by the Pens). In my opinion he’s worth $6 million a year, nothing more. He would totally ruin the chemistry that’s building in e-town.

  • J-Dogg

    Best deal so far , by a wide margin , is dealing our pick to Philly for Coburn and their pick . Then we draft Pulock . 2 birds with one stone .

    Defence : Coburn -Pulock , Belov-Petry , Smid – N.Schultz , Klefbom- J.Schultz . PP : J.Schultz and Pulock with Belov or Petry and Klefbom second unit . PK. Coburn -Smid and N.Schultz – Belov . Potter extra man .

      • GVBlackhawk

        They want Ristolainen so they want to move down before Buffalo grabs him to go with Armia . Besides, they got to shed some cap space . Still a win win for them . They simply replace Coburn for what should be a better upgrade in the mold of Pronger with Risto and save over $3M in cap space .

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Hemsky for Z Smith and a second rounder

    7th overall, 37th overall + Marincin for Seguin

    Anaheim Second + Paarajvi for Coburn

    Pitlick + Ottawa second rounder for Clutterbuck

    Seguin, Coburn, Z Smith and Clutterbuck added at draft day.

    Could MacT pull this off and still afford to go after Clarkson hard at free agency.

    Hall Hopkins Eberle

    Clarkson Seguin Yakupov

    Jones Smith Clutterbuck

    Smyth Lappiere Brown

    Coburn J Shultz

    Smid Petry

    N Shultz Belov


  • zeus3007

    Some of these rumored deals are ridiculous.

    Coburn for the 1st? No way. Braydon Coburn for a 2nd and David Musil? Maybe. Coburn and Philly’s 1st (11th) for our first (7th)? Sounds fair to me.

    Schneider for our first+? Stupid. Never trade that much for a goalie who isn’t a proven stud. And Schneider is hardly more proven than Dubnyk.

    Seguin for anything? Get real, won’t happen. This is one of those cases where “available” means “some sucker can have him if they pay a stupid overpayment”.

    Peverly for Lander and a 2nd? God no. The 2nd is enough, Peverly is coming off an awful year, Boston needs cap space, and a 2nd is roughly what he should be worth normally.

    I get the feeling that MacT is going to do something stupid…prove me wrong Criag-o.

    • I think it will be far less then that.

      Coburn – for Ott second and maybe Musil…If your including Phillys pick against the Oilers pick your going backwards. 7 for 11 is a rip off.

      Schneider – the Oilers second, Paajarvi and Roy.

      Seguin – Rajala, if we could find another first this year, next years second, next years first.

      If your Pittsburgh – Petry , Klefbom ,

      Dubnyk could now fetch you a piece as well.

      there is deals there.

      Not saying any of these would work just more of an example.

      Most of these teams cant take back salary, which makes it beneficial for the Oilers.

  • bazmagoo

    I’ve been publishing this guess on what it could take to acquire Coburn, what do you guys think?

    Philly is desperate to unload some salary on their defence and wants to add a top 6 forward, I’d guess if a deal goes down involving the #7 pick it will come about because Monahan isn’t available at #7.

    Considering Philly is somewhat desperate to unload some cap space, I think the following could be likely:

    Hemsky (Oil eating half his salary and cap space) plus #7 (if Monahan isn’t available) for Coburn and #11.

    Philly gets Hemsky at a discount, he slots into their top 6 and has lots of potential upside. With #7 they draft Nurse or Ristolainen, who both fit into the Flyers traditional mold for defencemen. Plus they save $2 million in cap space.

    Edmonton gets Coburn who slots in next to J Schultz for the next couple of seasons. Big, physical yet capable defenceman they desperately need. Oilers draft Bo Horvat or Curtis Lazar with #11, filling a team need for gritty potential down the middle.

    Seems like a win-win to me, considering both teams are desperate in certain ways.


    If it’s Paajarvi going the other way instead of Hemsky I think that’s an overpay by MacT.

    • You have to look at this objectively.

      Philly NEEDS to get rid of salary.

      Colburn for Hemsky plus the Oilers eating salary to a tune of 2.5 million PLUS the 7th!!

      This is a massive overpay! Massive!

      The 7 for 11 is a backwards step period.

      Look at like this.

      Philly wants next to no salary back, so Hemsky plus 2.5 off give Philly Hemsky for Colburn straight up.

      why throw any kind of a pick in that?

      Colburn will be had for a second plus a prospect.

      The 7th is to valuable to be spending on a second pairing defensmen.

      The Oilers had lunch with Nichushkin, if Lindholm or Monahan are off the board, this is the player the Oilers will select.

      why do you think teams are desperately trying to move into the top 7 picks, that’s were all the talent is.

      • bazmagoo

        Fair point, but it doesn’t address a few things.

        Philly’s most pressing needs are to shed some cap space on defence and add a top d prospect, the Oilers most pressing needs (in this scenario) are to move on from Hemsky and add a top 2nd – 3rd line centre prospect. Win-win for both teams.

        I don’t think Hemsky for Coburn straight up would be accepted by Philly. MacT has already played his hand publically (from the KLowe school of management), so the Oilers are stuck finding any way to move Hemsky for a legitimate player in return. This is where the 4 spot difference in draft spots comes into play.

        In my opinion, this is the best deal the Oilers could come across. Also I think the Oilers will likely lose this deal, as Hemsky has more upside than Coburn. The picks are both a lottery, so you never really know.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    if i read “COL”burn one more time i’m going to slap some of you Fish Bowl hockey fans.


  • Quicksilver ballet

    All roads in a possible deal with the Flyers must go through Couturierville. Philly has decided Coburn isn’t worth the coin he’s making anymore. Why do we need to see him disappoint here, when he’s done precisely that there? Puck Coburn, send him to Carolina for the 5th please, we don’t need him.