TRADE WINDS….

The 2013 NHL trade deadline is next Wednesday at 1 p.m. MST, and the next week will be great for those who love trade rumours. One rumour got squashed yesterday when it was reported that Mikka Kiprusoff would not report to his new team if the Calgary Flames traded him, which of course was met by laughter amongst Edmonton fans.

Thankfully there are many other rumblings, rumours and potential deals floating around.

What will the Oilers do?

Nikolai Khabibulin made Doug Maclean’s suggestion that he could fetch a 2nd rounder seem realistic after his 43-save performance last night.

The tougher question is are the Oilers better off having Khabibulin as a $1.2 million back up next year, or moving him for a draft pick?

So let’s look at some of the options the Oilers have to trade. These thoughts are a combination of my views as well as what I’ve heard and read as far as pros and cons for each player from pundits and fans. I don’t agree or disagree with all of them, but respect the differing views.

KHABIBULIN

  • Would he want to play for $1.2 million?
  • He turns 41next January, and age catches up with most players.
  • Unreliable due to injuries.
  • His history of injuries is the main concern. The interesting thing about Khabibulin is that he works incredibly hard to stay in shape. He’s in really good shape, but you wonder if his body is breaking down. Maybe he pushes too hard, because he seems to tweak something every few weeks.
  • When he plays he’s played very well. In six starts he has a sparkling 1.93 GAA and a .941SV%. Those numbers are unattainable over a long period, but we’ve seen that when he plays he can still win games.
  • He works well with Dubnyk. They have a healthy and respectful relationship.
  • I don’t see the Oilers being able to overhaul the blueline in one summer. It would require three solid moves, and while it is possible, I’m not sure it is realistic. If the Oilers don’t land highly touted college prospect Danny Dekeyser (who is good, but far from a saviour or lock to be a top-four), and another D-man via a trade of UFA signing (weak pool) then their D won’t be much better next year and they will need a reliable back up.

RYAN WHITNEY

  • The free agent list isn’t very good, especially for D-men under the age of 30.
  • Justin Schultz would be the only excellent puck mover remaining. The Oilers need D-men who can move the puck quickly and accurately to their skilled forwards.
  • The Oilers recent history of signing UFAs to come into Edmonton isn’t great. There is no guarantee they will find a better replacement. There is also a good chance Whitney performs well in another environment. Being comfortable and feeling confident is a huge factor in how a player performs on the ice.
  • The advanced stats show he’s struggled.
  • He will never be able to turn due to his surgeries.
  • It is clear the coaching staff doesn’t have a lot of confidence in him. When that happens, usually it is hard to change it. If a player is worried about making a mistake and getting benched, usually they make more mistakes.

RYAN JONES

  • For a team that struggles to score ES, at least he can score 5-on-5.
  • He goes to the net regularly and scores garbage goals. Oilers don’t have a lot of guys like that.
  • Jones is a complimentary player. He won’t be a key cog in winning, but he’s shown the ability to produce. While surrendering scoring chances doesn’t look good on paper, scoring goals trumps that.
  • He is on the ice for way too many scoring chances against.
  • Teemu Hartikainen is bigger and can replace him.
  • He isn’t physical enough on a team that desperately needs some guys who are harder to play against. He’s a solid NHLer, but if needed they can find a veteran UFA to replace him.

I suspect those three would make garner the most interest, amongst players the Oilers would consider trading.

There are some other names that have been tossed around for the Oilers…

Ladislav Smid

  • I think the Oilers would be foolish to deal him. I outlined the available free agent D-men yesterday, and no one on that list looks like a potential upgrade to Smid. Smid knows his role and he’s good at it. He plays hard and is the most physical D-man who plays every night. I still believe the Oilers and Smid will come to an agreement prior to April 3rd. If they don’t we can chat about then after the 3rd.

Ales Hemsky

  • If you trade him at the deadline you are likely only getting picks and prospects in return. At this point in the rebuild the Oilers need to move him in a deal where you get a proven NHL player back in return rather than picks. He’s played much better now that his shoulder issues are behind him and I suspect there would be more interest in the summer.

Sam Gagner

  • Gagner has been the lightning rod for years in Edmonton. He’s had a great start to the season and will get a raise on his current $3.2 million contract this summer. His trade value is much higher now than it was last year, so the return would be better. Gagner is very popular in the dressing room, he has worked hard at improving his game and no one questions his desire. I don’t see any reason to move him at the deadline, and if he they consider moving him in the summer they have to get a solid D-man of big, skilled forward in return. I don’t trade Gagner for anything less than a proven player.

LOOKING AHEAD

No one knows what the future holds, but at some point the results have to match the "potential"and "patience" that has been talked about for years in Edmonton.

For me there is one obvious conclusion coming for the Edmonton Oilers. They won’t be able to move forward with all six of their young 19-23 year-old forwards. They don’t have the right combination of size, skill and sandpaper needed to succeed in the NHL. That doesn’t mean they all won’t be successful NHL players, it just means I don’t see all of them developing with the Oilers.

Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will make $6 million next year. Gagner is in line for a raise that will put him close to $5 million next year and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins likely gets a contract similar to Hall and Eberle starting in 2014.

The Oilers still haven’t found a recipe to win, and when they do they won’t be able to afford all of their young stars, even if you believe they can win with six skilled forwards.

The Oilers need to get some size down the middle, improve their blueline and get some productive veterans into their lineup. The issue is many think they can do this without trading any of their young skilled players. Reality check, that isn’t going to be possible.

The way I see it the Oilers will end up moving two, maybe three players amongst Hemsky, Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi and Nail Yakupov. You might not like that reality, but I don’t see any other way this team will be able to improve and afford their lineup if they don’t make those types of moves.

There is a good chance that the Oilers trade those guys and they put up decent numbers on another team, and likely more than the players coming to Edmonton, but that doesn’t mean the Oilers will lose those trades. If they acquire a strong, steady defenceman for one of them that makes them more competitive.

If they acquire a skilled forward who plays physical, scores, is a good puck retriever and goes to the net that will make them better. The Oilers will still have three very good skilled players remaining, in Hall, RNH and Eberle and one or two of 64, 89, 91 and 83.

You can’t expect the Oilers to have six forwards score 55+ points regularly. It just doesn’t happen in today’s game. You need a good mix in your lineup. You need some some skilled players with size and grit. Suggesting you don’t doesn’t jive with teams that win championships.

Here are the top scorers, with at least 34 points, of the last four Cup winners: 

LOS ANGELES          
Player  Pos  GP  G  A  P
Anze Kopitar C 82 25 51 76
Justin Williams R 82 22 37 59
Dustin Brown R 82 22 32 54
Mike Richards C 74 18 26 44
Drew Doughty D 77 10 26 36
Jeff Carter L 55 21 13 34
           
BOSTON          
Player  Pos GP  G  A  P
Milan Lucic L 79 30 32 62
David Krejci C 75 13 49 62
Patrice Bergeron C 80 22 35 57
Nathan Horton R 80 26 27 53
Mark Recchi R 81 14 34 48
Tomas Kaberle D 82 4 43 47
Zdeno Chara D 81 14 30 44
Brad Marchand L 77 21 20 41
Rich Peverley C 82 18 23 41
Michael Ryder R 79 18 23 41
           
CHICAGO Pos GP  G  A  P
Patrick Kane R 82 30 58 88
Duncan Keith D 82 14 55 69
Jonathan Toews C 76 25 43 68
Patrick Sharp L 82 25 41 66
Marian Hossa R 57 24 27 51
Kris Versteeg R 79 20 24 44
Troy Brouwer R 78 22 18 40
Andrew Ladd L 82 17 21 38
Brian Campbell D 68 7 31 38
           
PITTSBURGH          
Evgeni Malkin C 82 35 78 113
Sidney Crosby C 77 33 70 103
Chris Kunitz L 82 23 30 53
Jordan Staal C 82 22 27 49
Bill Guerin R 78 21 27 48
Petr Sykora R 76 25 21 46
Ruslan Fedotenko L 65 16 23 39
Miroslav Satan R 65 17 19 36
Tyler Kennedy C 67 15 20 35

Do you honestly believe the Oilers top-six resembles any of those teams?

The reality is the Oilers will need to move some of their skilled forwards.

The difficult question will be when and who?

THINKING OUTLOUD…

Yesterday on my radio show, I asked Jason Strudwick if he’d deal Nail Yakupov for David Clarkson. Of course the deal would hinge on Clarkson having a new contract and the Oilers getting something else in return. It wasn’t a one-for-one deal.

The point of the question was to point out  that the Oilers will need to trade away a skilled player; one who likely will produce points elsewhere. (Yakupov was just an example. Not saying he is the 1st one I’d trade) And by trading one or two of them away, that doesn’t mean they are bad players. It just means the Oilers need to alter their lineup to become more successful.

The difficult decision for the Oilers GM, whoever that is when the time comes to trade one of them, is making the right move. The move won’t be made solely on statistics. They will have to look at other things: contracts, attitude, competitive nature, size, etc.

It won’t be easy, but it you believe it won’t happen I think you are fooling yourself.

The reactions to the Clarkson topic ranged from "You’re an idiot," to "Yakupov could be like Stamkos."

Both made me chuckle, but the latter really stuck with me. Stamkos is the best goal scorer in the game, so of course it is realistic to compare Yakupov to him because they were both #1 picks and because Yakupov has a good one-timer. I hope for Yakupov’s sake he becomes like Stamkos, but Stamkos has more to his game than a great one-timer. Stamkos has incredibly high hockey sense, and he’s excellent at anticipating where the openings are in the offensive zone to get himself in good scoring areas.

Yakupov might become a very good scorer, but suggesting he’ll be like Stamkos is the ultimate best-case scenario. It is unlikely, however. Just like it is unlikely that the first overall picks taken between Stamkos and Yakupov, John Tavares, Hall and RNH, will score as often as Stamkos.

Many people want the Oilers to acquire good players, but they aren’t willing to give up anything of substance. Instead they want to offer up spare parts, usually players you feel are junk, to get players like Clarkson, Lucic, Clowe or others.  

If the Oilers are going to improve moving forward they will eventually need to change the mix amongst their top forwards. It will be a difficult decision, and the organization has to ensure they have the right guy calling the shots. Based on recent decisions, it is fair to question whether the current regime is prepared and able to make the right choice.

This type of trade will occur in the near future, and when it does, the Oilers must make the correct decision and they need the right man calling the shots.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • If you trade a 1st overall pick 1 year removed from the draft you are getting pennies on the dollar.

    I understand that the Oilers need a different mix in the top 6, but moving a guy 30 games into his NHL career is foolish.

    If (and I say IF) the Oilers ever decide to move this kid, it shouldn’t be until AT LEAST after his entry level contract is over. At least give the kid a chance to grow into something before you’re ready to send him off.

  • OilersBrass

    No way Yakupov is moved in the next two years. I agree that there will come a time but trading away a first overall pick after his first season is Milbury.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Jason….So these are cup winning stats right? Why dont we just wait until our young bucks grow up and then take a look at the stats, I am tired of hearing under sized, no grit etc. Lets get behind the core quit talking about trading them, cheer for than to keep competing for a playoffs spot (isn’t that what we were expecting?) and 2-3 years look at these stats again

    • Jason Gregor

      Did you not see the part about waiting until they are all veterans that you won’t be able to afford them all? I think that is pretty realistic outcome.

      Why makes you believe that in two years that a few of them evolve into into Brown, Richards, Kopitar, Ladd, Hossa, Brouwer, Horton, Lucic, Marchand, Malkin or Guerin.

      • Good point on the evolution of personnel, however, if the team continues to hire these
        “Philosopher Kings” as coaches, then yes, I would not expect too much development.

        I bet my last buck, that if someone like Carlyle,
        Quinville, or Therien, were coaching this same team, you would see different and better results.

  • Spydyr

    A pretty balanced and informed argument which is nice to see.

    I wouldn’ trade Yakupov for Clarkson because this team isn’t ready to compete for at least 2 years. It’s kind of the equivelent of Toronto trading 2 firsts for Kessel. We have Yakupov, who is only an RFA after his entry level deal. These players can get a ton of return as they mature. Selling Yakupov for Clarkson is selling low, and buying high….and all at a time where we are not ready to compete.

    That’s why I am not a fan of trading young talent for older players at this stage.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      Are you talking about the same Toronto Maple Leafs that are solidly in 6th in the eastern conference and 9 points ahead of the Oilers in the standings?

      Looks like the Kessel trade isn’t working out too badly for them.

        • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

          You’re missing my point.

          If the season ended today, Toronto’s in the playoffs and the Oilers aren’t. If you want to find an example of a team trading futures for “win now” and falling flat on their face, you have to look elsewhere.

          • Yes and what about next year?

            The leafs could miss the playoffs next year, with this year being no guarantee either.

            Obviously, if you’re going to trade it needs to make sense for now and in the future.

            I’m not sure the Kessel trade falls in that category, I think it was horrible deal by toronto

            if such a deal wins you a cup then it’s worth it, toronto winning a cup in the near future seems very unlikely

          • HockeyBoss

            We are arguing different things then. My goal for the team is not to hurt the long term health of the team, just to squeak in the playoffs. Sure, we could trade Hall and Eberle right now, probably get Ovechkin and Backstrom. How this helps the team going forward is the question.

            If we are about throwing our eggs in one basket to make the playoffs next year just seems impatient. When what we are building for is to build a constant contender, not just a 1 year or 2 year window, where the deal itself might get us into the playoffs, but not make us a legimiate contender.

      • Yep, the same Leafs.

        Kessel has worked out for them pretty well, but you forget what they gave up. The picks turned into Tyler Sequin and Dougie Hamilton which are both playing pretty amazing for the Bruins. They could have had these guys on entry level deals, instead of Kessel who becomes a UFA before the Leafs are even a contender.