When the Edmonton Oilers sent away Ladislav Smid in early November, we heard all kinds of possible reasons for the deal. The club was worried about his contract moving forward (cap concerns), the club had too many of the same-type defenseman, and on it went with the reasons. Ladisalv Smid’s agent (Steve Kotlowitz) said “I don’t think the Oilers are done (trading)” right after the trade, but we’re a few weeks later and nothing has happened in the trade department. Where’s the beef?
THE CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS
I buy this: the Oilers under new coach Dallas Eakins felt they had too many defensemen of similar type: Smid, new captain Andrew Ference and veteran Nick Schultz are veteran defenders who can play a physical game, are paid to cover onrushing forwards, and lack offensive acumen. The coach likes the mobile defenders who can move the puck smartly, and three left-handers with similar skill-sets was probably limiting for Eakins’ plan.
Here is tonight’s listed blue:
- Belov-J Schultz
- N Schultz-Potter
Belov, Nick Schultz and Corey Potter are UFA, Petry and Justin Schultz RFA (Ference is the only defenseman signed through next season). Which means captain Ference is the only player signed beyond this season.
Oiler fans are talking so much about Christian Ehrhoff being dealt here I’m starting to believe it’s going to happen. However, there’s no real evidence of it (despite the attraction). Ehrhoff’s appeal is obvious—he’s a quality NHL defenseman with a wide range of skills playing for a team eager to set its immediate future on fire—and his contract status is a good fit for the Oilers.
Is Ehrhoff a reasonable addition? Sure. He’d be great. Is he available? No idea. Ehrhoff is the kind of defenseman Edmonton should be looking for, because he can move the puck, play defense and has good foot speed. There’s no hitch in his giddy-up, as they used to say.
Ehroff averages 24 minutes a night, 25th overall in the NHL among regular defensemen. He plays a lot at even-strength, on the penalty kill and power play. Ehrhoff’s a complete defenseman and can help any team.
HELPING IN A BIG WAY
A veteran, minutes-eating defenseman can change things in a heartbeat. A guy like Ehrhoff might have enormous impact on his partner, even a youngster like Justin Schultz. In Minnesota, 20-year old Jonas Brodin is being heralded as a phenom, but a lot of that comes from his blue partner, Ryan Suter.
A veteran, complete defenseman can make a pairing better in a heartbeat. Ehrhoff has been playing with young Mark Pysyk on the Buffalo blueline (for the most part) and has been better without him than with him (this is predictable, young blue are a struggle).
Ehrhoff could step in and help Schultz and the team:
- Ehrhoff-J Schultz
- Belov-N Schultz
and allow the team to bring in a young defenseman (Nurse, Klefbom or Marincin) for the third pairing (with Ference or Belov) next fall.
Ehrhoff is clearly the class of his current team, and can help the Oilers right now.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I remain convinced the Smid trade was to set up another move, and that move is out there waiting for the right opportunity. Craig MacTavish has all kinds of time to make the deal, but one suspects his experience at the draft will be motivation to get a fair deal and then pull the trigger before draft day.
The Oilers need their Ryan Suter, their Dion Phaneuf. Is Christian Ehrhoff that man? Maybe.