Oscar Klefbom might be most valuable to the Edmonton Oilers as a trade chip

It sounds decidedly counterintuitive. The Oilers need defencemen, so why would they trade a big 20-year-old blue-liner with a range of skills just as he’s learning the North American professional game?

There are reasons why it may make sense.

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Availability

The simple fact is that Edmonton desperately needs at least one top-pairing calibre defenceman. The modern incarnation of Chris Pronger would be the dream here, which is why Shea Weber’s name never dies, but that may not be possible and if it isn’t Edmonton has to fill the void somehow.

The names that might be available on the trade market are generally some distance south of Weber. Players like Christian Ehrhoff and Brian Campbell and Dustin Byfuglien are the ones people speculate about; good, useful defenders either underrated by their current teams or playing out the string on a roster miles away from contending.

All of those guys have some warts, but all of them would represent a massive upgrade for an Edmonton team leaning on the trio of Jeff Petry, Andrew Ference and Justin Schultz. If MacTavish can’t bring in a Pronger, he needs to find at least a Boris Mironov or Janne Niinimaa or Roman Hamrlik. And given the meagre free agent pickings available, odds are good he’ll have to do it via trade.

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Perfect Storm

In this hypothetical trade for a good defenceman, Edmonton needs a package of certain quality to trade. It has to be good enough to get the other team interested. It has to be non-vital enough that it isn’t going to crush the team to lose it. And finally it needs to be fair value for the Oilers, a team that needs to put meat on the table for every shot they fire.

The 2014 first round draft pick might have fit those bills, but at this point the Oilers would need eight more points than they have just to get outside the top-five of the draft. It’s still a moveable piece, but the return on it needs to be something bigger than Mironov or Niinimaa and those returns are hard to land.

Some of the young forwards (Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) are too vital to make the list; the others (Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov) fall into the same boat as that 2014 pick, where the guy coming the other way needs to be a lot bigger than he’s likely to be. Sam Gagner’s tradable but opens up an ugly hole at centre, and the only plausible internal replacement has all of 32 career games under his belt.

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What about Darnell Nurse? Team Canada may not be in love with him but he’s a 6’4” 18-year-old with a mean streak and a near point-per-game scoring run under his belt in junior this year. He’s not going to be good enough soon enough to plug the hole on defence himself, but he’s Edmonton’s best prospect by a country mile and a perfect fit for long-term need.

Which is where Klefbom comes in. He’s a good player, with that nice blend of skills and a combination of size and speed that’s awfully hard to find. He was a first round draft pick. So he has value. But at the same time, he’s also 27 games into his AHL career, 20 years old and a guy who barely played last season; he isn’t going to fix Edmonton’s blue line problems any time soon. He can move the puck but his offensive ability has a definite ceiling; he might evolve into a very, very good shutdown guy but that’s years away and not impossible to find. He’s a left-shooting defenceman on a team with Nurse, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, Brandon Davidson and Dillon Simpson, so the Oilers have both quality and depth at the position.

Put it all together and it’s hard not to wonder if Klefbom is moved at some point. He has enough value to be the key asset in return for a good NHL player, much like he was when Edmonton moved Dustin Penner out. His absence doesn’t hurt the Oilers now, and they have a wealth of prospects at the position. And while an excellent prospect he’s not the kind of player likely to embarrass the team by winning a Norris Trophy five years down the road.

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  • Spydyr

    “Sam Gagner’s tradable but opens up an ugly hole at centre,”

    Acro can fill that hole short term until the summer.It is not like they are going to make the playoffs.

    • vetinari

      Gagner is not tradeable at the moment. Do you think any GM would take on $4.8 million for a center who is on track for less the 40 points and trending to a -30? Unless he starts playing better, a buy out will be the Oil’s only option. You are falling into the common fault of the Edmonton Sport’s media of over valuing the Oil’s players abilities.

      If you think of the Penner to LA trade a few years ago, the Oil got two first rounders for Penner ( Teubert and a pick who became Klefbom). If this is a metric it will take more than just a lower 1st round pick who has yet to show much as a pro for a higher end D man. I would suggest the Oil would need offer up at least at much as the got for Penner.

      • Spydyr

        But, but he scored eight points in a game once.

        All kidding aside anyone is tradable and GM’s value draft postilion and youth.

        The bigger concern to me is why was Gagner signed to that contract in the first place.Including a partial no trade clause.Easy answer is yes management here is that bad.It is mind numbing the incompetence of this management group.

        It is better to trade him for whatever you can get between now and the trade deadline then to buy him out for no return this summer.

        The sad,scary part is it looks like management here still believe he is part of the solution not part of the problem.

        His game and the teams record states otherwise.

        • Serious Gord

          If you put yourself in the shoes of the other team’s GM, would you even take Gangner for zero? You are stuck with the $4.8 mill for another 2 years. Why would anyone do that?

          Why was he signed is one of the key problems with the Oil. Can’t seem to evaluate player’s abilities. I think they often see “talent” as the same as a player’s ability to play the game.

          If they could get the same deal as they got for Omark (which might be zero) they should do it.

      • oilerjed

        With repect to Gags I would have to disagree. I think most GMs would see it for what it is. A solid offensive contributer having a miserable year on both defense and offense. I wouldnt put too much stock in the idea that Gagner is a worthless asset.

        • John Chambers

          At that contract number he is a worthless asset. MacT overpaid for him last summer and now he is dead weight in any trade.

          Add in the fact that he has offensive skill, but has always been defensively clueless, is small, and an average skater at best, and he has little to no value to another team.

          The smart move last year would have been to qualify him and then let him test the RFA market. If another team signed him, take the 1st round pick (or picks if someone overpaid) and go away laughing.

          Like I said when the deal was done, the smarter move would have been dealing Gagner instead of Colgiano…….

  • Spydyr

    Everyone not named Hall or Nuge should be on the table. As long as you get a equal return and fill one of the many needs on the team.

    You have to give up quality to get quality.

    ~Besides Omark was traded so him and Gagner can no longer get you Weber.~

  • Stack Pad Save

    There already is an ugly hole at 2nd line centre in the Oilers Organization. There has been a hole in that position since Mark Messier left the organization.

    But Oilers management in their infinite wisdom don’t recognize or can’t fill the 3 holes they have had for the last 10 years. No top defenseman (except when Pronger was around), No size with skill upfront and no second line centre.

    I wish this Bold move would hurry up and already happen.

  • Posti

    To get Weber you would have to trade a lot. Eberle, Klefbom and our first rounder would probably be the only way to get Nashville to talk to us.

    It might seem to be a bit of an overpay but all the best teams that have won Stanley Cups in last 20 years have a stud on D. Look at the last 8 years going backwards -> Seabrook/Keith, Doughty, Chara, Seabrook/Keith, Letang, Lidstrom, Pronger. Defense wins championships.

      • Spydyr

        That’s a good one, plus Mike Commodore, Aron Ward and an aging Glen Wesley, Cam Ward made up for their average defense.
        Johnathan, if he isn’t traded for Weber, Subban or Duncan Keith by the deadline won’t Klefbom be called up to replace a traded veteran like Nick Schultz and the team and fans will get a good look at him.

  • Rick Stroppel

    MACTAVISH THE RIVERBOAT GAMBLER

    I would love to play cards with MacTavish. He would probably say things like “this hand is crappy, I am probably going to fold” or “man, this is a great hand, you would be foolish to bet against me!”.

    Consider his recent statements. “We are getting rid of Horcoff and Hemsky, we don’t want them anymore”. That is like going to the used car lot and saying “this car of mine is a piece of junk, I would take anything if you would just take it off my hands”.

    Or “we are building around a core of 8 or 9 or 10 players”. Oh yeah? Are Dubnyk, Justin Schultz and Gagner on that ‘protected list’? The ‘for sale’ should be hung (privately) on every player except Hall and RNH.

    And “we will probably trade our first round pick, no matter how high it is”. Wouldn’t it be better to say “this is a fantastic draft year, if anyone wants that pick they better come with a very special offer”.

    If MacTavish was an NFL GM, I think he would have made Tim Tebow the number one overall pick.

    Seriously. This team is at a crossroads, BIG TIME. The next big trade may be the the most important one of the last 25 years. For the sake of the team, I hope he gets it right.