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:

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m reminded of a Sean Connery line in the movie The Untouchables…

    Don’t wait for things to happen,

    don’t even want for things to happen…

    just watch what does happen.

    The week long trade deadline’esque extravaganza has disappointed so far.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Paying a 1st for Schneider is assinine in itself, paying another prospect or asset is (can’t think of something worse the assinine) Stupid rumour with no legs. What the heck has Schneider done. Took 7 years to make it to Vancouver, got gravy backup duty. Plays with an cough cough semi Elite goalie in Lou, with a perenial powerhouse in front of him. He choked in the playoffs, got pulled and has done squat to show hes better then what we got. Put the hockeybuzz rumour to bed already.

      • J-Dogg

        These are exceptions , however Tukka was never put up for sale. Schneider is and has not looked like an elite goalie yet. If Vancouver thought Schneider was going to become the best in the league, they would never play games like this.

        • DSF

          That’s just nonsense.

          Schneider has been exceptional other than this last playoff season whyen he had a pulled groin.

          Rask’s save percentage in the last 3 seasons:

          .918

          .929

          .929

          Schneider:

          .929

          .937

          .927

          Both Rask and Schneider have played behind very good defensive teams but are among the best young goaltenders in the league.

          Vancouver isn’t “playing games”.

          They were contacted by a team(s) to see if Schneider was in play. I’d wager that team was the Edmonton Oilers.

          Vancouver doesn’t WANT to trade Schneider but the Luongo situation is forcing them to consider all their options.

          Good teams are built from the back end out and up the middle and, if the Oilers could come away from this draft with Schneider, Letang and a #2C they would be an instant playoff team.

          We’ll soon see how good MacT is at his job.

          • DSF

            I remember they interviewed Schneider before the playoff game this year and on camera he said he was ready. Lou started but it did not pass the smell test . Yes they said groin. But I have my doubts.

            I don’t think anything will happen anyway. Vancouver would be putting itself in a hole with an aging goalie who may have 1 -2 yrs more at elite level or who knows. 34 yr old starting goalies are a risk.

          • DSF

            Living out here on Vancouver Island I can’t help but hear a lot of Canucks chatter.

            The Canucks said he was “fine” all along but after their playoff ouster admitted he had a groin pull.

            Vancouver has very little risk in moving either goaltender since they have tremendous depth at the position.

            Eddie Lack – .925 in the AHL (hip surgery this season)

            Joacim Eriksson – .931 SEL

            Joe Cannatta – .912 AHL (only 23)

          • DSF

            The Canucks window to win a Cup with the current core is rapidly closing… Some would argue its already closed. They would absolutely trade Schneider and keep Luongo for the 2-4 years he’s good for. 2 years is about what time they have left to win.

            This rumour is sickening. If it happens and we give up the 7th overall pick I will instantly change my mind about MacT’s intelligence. This would be a moronic move.

          • DSF

            Sure.So where and how does any one team have the assets to make these moves in a weekend without gutting the organization?What and who would you give up on this team with out making the team totally imbalanced and ruining the farm,also logical for the other team real world ideas please?

          • DSF

            Vinny is UFA…make him an offer he can’t refuse. #2C

            Trade the 7th, Hemsky (keeping half his cap hit), Petry and a 2nd to Pittsburgh for Letang. #1D

            Trade Eberle, Gagner and a 2nd to Vancouver for Schneider. #1G

            Vancouver would likely flip Gagner for a bigger player but moving Eberle ($6M) Gagner (likely $5M) and Hemsky ($2.5M) frees up cap space to sign Vinny and trade for Letang.

            Do I get the job?

          • DSF

            Not even close!Vinny will not come here period so keep dreaming!Vancouver’s in a cap crunch and they want Vinny,so taking a 6 and 5 million dollar player a year not happening,and that package to Pit not even close to enough for them!

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I’m hearing 6.5 to 7.5 per, on atleast a 5 yr deal.

        Hope so, still like to see them have to cut Seguin loose. I hope Lecavilier signs there too, just to insure that.

        • DSF

          Just a hunch, but I’d bet Vinny signs in Dallas.

          Their new billionaire owner (from Vancouver) is pulling out all the stops to build a winner quickly.

          Having Jim Nill running the show doesn’t hurt either.

          Well, at least the Oilers hired a more qualified GM 🙂

      • DSF

        After the top 20 picks, you might just as well play pin the tail on the donkey but there are a few teams like LA and Detroit that have a much better record than random.

        • DSF

          Other than Darren Helm and maybe Gustav Nyquist, name one player of marginal consequence that Detroit has drafted after the second round in the last 10 years. They made their rep over a decade ago and have been dining out on it ever since.

          • DSF

            Last 10 years?

            2003 Kyle Quincy, 4th round 293 GP

            2004 Johan Franzen, 3rd round 513GP

            2005 Darren Helm, 5th round 249GP

            2006 Shawn Matthias very late 2nd round 253GP

            2007 Joachim Andersson 3rd round 43GP (now full time on the Wings roster)

            2008 Gustav Nyqvist 4th round 40GP (just emerging)

            Since Detroit brings its prospects along so slowly its’ tough to get a read but I would bet these guys have NHL careers too even though they were selected lat in the second round.

            2009: Tomas Tatar

            2010: Calle Jarnkrok, Riley Sheehan

            2011: Tomas Jurco

            2012 Martin Frk.

          • Stud Muffin

            Missed Franzen, forgot he was 4th round. Matthias never played a game in the Red wings organization. Quincy kicked around the NHL playing for two other organizations before signing back with Detroit. Anderson has 8 points in 43 games and is already in his 7th year of pro hockey. Hardly consequential, and certainly not indicative that Detroit some kind of unearthly prescience in drafting. Since their windfalls of the late 90s and early00s they have been as hit and miss as any other organization.

            The others (Tatar. Jarnkrok, Sheenan et al) are mere potential. My point is Detroit’s drafting record over the past decade has been no better than average. They have been living off the reputation of Datsyuk and Zetterberg since 1999. And maybe they bring their prospects along slowly because they ain’t good enough to crack the roster.

          • DSF

            What a crock.

            Here is the Oilers performance over the same period.

            2003 Zack Stortini 3rd round 257 GP

            2004 Liam Reddox 4th round 17GP

            2005 Danny Syrvet 3rd round 59GP

            2006 Theo Peckham 3rd round 160GP

            2007 Linus Omark 4th round 65GP

            2008 Teemu Hartikainen 6th round 52GP

            2009 Hesketh, Abney, Bigos, Rajala, Roy 0GP

            2010 Ryan Martindale LOL

            2011 Samu Perhonen

            Please note that over the same period the Oilers haven’t found even ONE NHL roster player and most of those draft picks have already been flushed.

            Get a grip.

  • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    Really don’t like the idea of bringing in Schneider for the 7th + prospect. I don’t see any proof that he’s a substantial upgrade on DD and missing out on 7th overall (Lindholm, Monahan, Nurse, or someone else) would likely look like a horrible move in a year or two. Nevermind that it gives a divisional rival cap relief…

    JW, what’s your opinion: if (and it’s a big if) MacT brings in Schneider, does he shop DD for a cheaper backup or does he roll with a #1, #1A goalie combo?

  • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    Do what you have to do to get Tyler Seguin. If someone told you 2 years
    ago you could have Hall And Seguin what would you say ? Seguin brings what we dont have and will only get better. Eberle and a High Second ?
    i would do it. Seguin is the real deal. You have to give to get folks.

    Clutterbuck for Jones and a 4th…. Fair to me.

    • Here’s the thing.

      Eberle is not in play, and the asking price for most of these players mentioned will be prospects and picks not 6 million dollar players with long term.

      Teams like Boston, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota can’t take back big salary.

      So picks and prospects maybe a cheap roster player will be the assets in return.

      The Oilers may get players on the cheap tomorrow.

      I will say this, I am extremely scared for Yakupov right now.

        • I can foresee Yakupov being included in a Seguin deal or a Letang deal.

          Especially if the Oilers are trying to hold onto that pick, That’s the skinny of it.

          Yakupov projects to be an elite finisher. has little money against the cap and still has a term.

          I personally would give Yakupov at least three years before thinking of dealing him.

          The name I would sacrifice first would be Paajarvi, then I would start with the seconds followed by next years second and first.

          A team with Nichushkin – Seguin – Yakupov would be scary good.

          We also have to remember MacTavish mandate, he wants nobody older then 27-28ish

          • @ Bazmagoo

            I think Seguin is a long shot personally.

            But…..If I was MacTavish, I would be swinging for the fences on that one.

            The Oilers would have to get a second first rounder to make it work.

            Paajarvi -the 37th pick, A first this year( not the 7th ) , a first next year, plus a Marincin

            Low cost on Paajarvi, two first’s plus the second maybe gets it done, provided Boston doesn’t want a lot of cash coming back.

          • Totally agree.

            I will say this; it is refreshing to be rumored to be in on major deals instead of.

            “The Oilers are so proud to select”

            I will stress the flat out reluctance I have at using the 7th overall for trade bait though.

    • I think Eberle and Seguin would be a fair trade without the second round pick though I think the only reason Seguin is even being talked about is because the Bruins will face cap issues having to resign Rask this year and extensions/raises for both Bergeron and Krejci. I think they would do it for less like the 7th pick, PRV and Marincin.

  • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    Dithers’ illustrious track record started with getting Khabibulin, didn’t it? Look where that went.

    MacT wants to start his tenure as GM with a Bobby Lou anchor contract or a Schnieder overpay?

    Why? Why? Why?

    My drinking will go into overdrive if this happens…

    • taking luongos contract would be stupid and make me drink,but schinder and dubby would be a good young tandom that we have not had since god knows when,as long as not a huge overpay to get him(do not trade 7th pick) then i say go for it!

  • Klima's Mullet

    The Score on Sportsnet now indicates the Oilers will select D Ryan Pulock at 7th. Who the hell is Ryan Pulock and what makes him so special to rate at 7th?

    And the Oil interested in Schneider? The last piece of the roster puzzle is goal. The club is woefully deficient at C, 3 slots no less, and a #1 or #2 D. Add to this is complementary forwards with grit and can play (like score goals).

    What’s going on in New Jersey? Is everyone smoking pot?

    • magisterrex

      Pulock an offensive defenceman (probably the best in draft ) with the hardest shot @101MPH . Pronman rates him right their with Nurse , but two different styles . Definitely more upside with Pulock when it comes to offense . If we trade for Coburn you have already got your Nurse type player already NHL ready . Surprisingly that deal makes good sense to swap with Philly if we are going to land both . Heck of a lot better than just getting Nurse .

  • JCDavies

    I agree with one big thing > three small things…that big piece being Seguin. If the Oilers could turn this draft into bringing Seguin and Coburn without having to lose Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Yak, Scultz and Klefbom then I would sign up for the waiting list for season tickets

  • 15w40

    The Schneider deal is a big gamble – especially if you have to burn the 7th overall pick plus assets to get it.

    Dubnyk has been fine and not in any way shape or form the reason for where they finished last year.

    Just the 7th overall is too much IMHO – what is the highest a goalie will be drafted this year? They need more defense help and big time help up the middle.

    To me the best case is Lecavalier but the odds of him having the Oilers on his list of teams for consideration is quite remote.

    Boyd Gordon – YES
    Cal Clutterbuck – YES
    Brayden Coburn – YES
    Jordin Tootoo – YES

    If you trade for Schneider, do you keep Dubnyk??
    What is he worth on the market??

    Seguin is intriguing but that is a lot of high $$$ personnel on your roster. I think 7th overall for him would be a good move. (Bruins may not)

    Is Letang worth $7.5M on a longer term deal? I think what he turned down from the Penguins is right in the wheelhouse of where he should be. Justin Schultz may get to a similar end point as Letang offensively.

    Sounds like there is no market for Hemsky or Horcoff right now so unless you buy them out they are back on your roster.

    The long and the short of it is the successful teams are getting good mileage out of their roster that is making $1.5M and less.

  • Klima's Mullet

    MacT is taking the temperature of most deals so he has an idea what teams are looking for. Potential deals need to be in place because you need to act fast at the draft. A dress rehearsal

  • J-Dogg

    Well there’s no question left that MacT has enough connections in the business to have as many irons in the fire as he apparently does.

    Now let’s just hope his bartering and creativity are as strong as his networking.

    • bazmagoo

      I think Paajarvi is given the opportunity of top 6 minutes this year. MacT and Eakins are both defence minded hockey guys, so why not have one defence minded guy per line?

      Hall-RNH-Ebs
      Paajarvi-Gagner-Yakupov
      Smyth(he’s going to need to step up)-Gordon-Clutterbuck
      McLaren-Smithson-Hamilton
      Brown

      Plain and simple the Oilers need to get much tougher and bigger, period. If it doesn’t happen in the top 6 I don’t think it’s the end of the world. Smithson is still a capable 4th line centre (decent at faceoffs, likely had for around $750-000 to a million), thrown into a bad ill timed trade, but he could be replaced with pretty much anyone. Was thinking Belanger for a second(to avoid buying him out), but he’s a wimp,lol, so it wouldn’t fly with that 4th line. Smithson can at least scrum it up.

        • bazmagoo

          I’d go with Frazer McLaren and Ryan Hamilton from the Toronto system. Both could be had for under a million per, have played under Eakins for the last few years, are big, and both their careers are projecting in the right direction.

          Solves a lot of problems imo and both have solid potential for likely between $750,000 and $1,000,000 per on a two way deal.

          *edit* Hamilton would likely be on a two way deal – McLaren I don’t think we could get on a two way deal

  • Klima's Mullet

    Nice piece JW. What strikes me is as aggressive MacT is going after a goalie, he totally has no patience or faith in Dubnyk. That’s interesting when you consider that this is a position of apparent “strength” at present. You can imagine what he’s spinning in his mind for the know positions of “weakness”