If the volume of trade rumours is anything to go by, the time between the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs and draft day (June 30) is going to be nuts. At the centre of a lot of it is Edmonton – general manager Craig MacTavish has made no secret of his desire to immediately and significantly put his stamp on the team, and at this point it would be more of a surprise not to find the Oilers involved in significant trades than to see them pull the trigger on a deal.
Kris Letang. Jason Gregor wrote yesterday about reports out of Pittsburgh that Kris Letang could well be moved, and floated a package of Jeff Petry, the number seven pick and a young forward. While that’s a dear price to pay, Letang is a 26-year old rearguard who played number one minutes (more than 27:00 per game, including time in all situations) on a team that went to the Conference Final this year. He scored at better than a point per game pace in both the regular season and the playoffs. He is a legitimate top-pairing defenceman and would improve the Oilers’ blue line a lot. As long as the Oilers were allowed to talk to him about a contract extension before acquiring him, he’d be a great target for this team. The only argument against is that the Oilers already have Justin Schultz – another right-side defenceman with high-level offensive ability – but right now Letang is a vastly superior player and in a three-for-one situation it seems unlikely Edmonton would regret making a deal.
Jonathan Bernier. There isn’t really a lot of buzz for the idea of Bernier ending up in Edmonton – probably at least in part because Los Angeles has been hesitant in the past to move him within their own division. From my perspective, that’s a good thing: Bernier might be the next big thing, but he’s also a 6’ goalie with just 62 NHL games played and a 0.912 save percentage. Because of draft pedigree and reputation, Bernier is going to cost a lot, but whoever acquires him is running a major risk. It’s a good risk for some teams, but Edmonton has a pretty decent goalie in Devan Dubnyk so they don’t need to swing hard for an unproven goalie.
Jake Gardiner. A 22-year old defenceman who moves the puck brilliantly and seems chronically undervalued by the Leafs? Personally, I think the ‘7th overall for Gardiner and the 21st overall’ trade scenarios are ludicrously one-sided in Edmonton’s favour and I’d be surprised to see the Leafs bite, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the cost of acquiring Gardiner is significantly lower than the immediate impact he would have on the blue line.
Tom Gilbert. In the last season Craig MacTavish coached, Tom Gilbert played second pairing minutes and picked up a career-high 45 points. Now, after a year with an impossibly bad 0.877 on-ice even-strength save percentage (keep in mind: this isn’t something Gilbert could control), the Wild may buyout Gilbert because Dany Heatley’s injury prevents them from paying him to go away. If the Oilers can get him for basically nothing in trade or sign him cheaply after a buyout for the third-pairing, that’s a clear win for the organization, I think.
The Toronto Maple Leafs. Robin Brownlee had a nice take on the now famous Nick Kypreos picture (above) of Craig MacTavish and Dave Nonis standing there, talking to each other – one which blew up because Edmonton and Toronto seem like a trade match in some ways. As Brownlee put it, we have no idea whether the two are talking “a whole bunch of something or a whole lot of nothing.” Certainly the fact that general managers OCCASIONALLY. TALK. TO. EACH. OTHER. isn’t news. Still, the Maple Leafs are a funny organization – they tried hard to bring in a finished Miikka Kiprusoff at the deadline, seem to have no confidence in a very good goaltender in James Reimer, blew most of Jake Gardiner’s season in the minors and just in general seem like a team that has some good pieces they undervalue. They have good players at both forward and on defence that seem to have at least somewhat fallen out of favour; that makes them a very good team to be talking to in general terms. But again: that photo means almost nothing, despite the buzz it generated.
The Draft. It’s really hard not to get the sense that moving up in a meaningful way is going to be all but impossible for the Oilers at this year’s draft, which is a shame because a guy like Aleksander Barkov looks like a good bet to add real value in the fourth overall slot and would be a perfect fit for organizational need. Elias Lindholm is a guy who probably adds real value but isn’t a perfect fit because he might end up on wing in the NHL, while Darnell Nurse is a good fit for immediate team need but would need time and would also join a prospect pipeline already loaded with defencemen – albeit ones without his particular skillset. Still, an idea Craig Mactavish floated (seemingly) long ago – adding some help now and moving down in the first round – looks more reasonable all the time.
Recently around the Nation Network
Tyler Bozak isn’t a name mentioned above, but one that a few Oilers fans have asked me about as a possible fit for Edmonton. I don’t like him given his likely price point, and in Mythbusters: Tyler Bozak Edition LeafsNation’s Cam Charron does a good job of explaining why. There’s a lot there and it’s worth reading, but this picture alone says a lot:
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