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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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.

Perfect Storm

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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.

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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Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Zarny

    Why everybody want Weber so much? Nashville is not in a playoff spot with Weber on the team, having a good Dman but the rest of the team don’t play defense will not win you games. With Pronger we didn’t win game 7 of Cup Finals in 2006. Stop being stupid and wake up all of you. This team will get better just be patient and bring in some bigger players in. An experienced coach will do too, instead of this AHL coach in training.

  • Rdubb

    Question for you Gregor;
    We (Oiler fans & media alike) run down the Oilers defense, almost daily these days, so why doesn’t MacT bring up more of these guys from OKC and see what they can do in the NHL?
    Some guys who are average minor leaguers, to above average minor leaguers can turn out to be very good guys @ the top level of their profession. Look @ Nascar for one, Jimmy Johnson was less than an average driver in the Nationwide series but turned out to be the greatest driver of this generation in Nascars main series.
    I am also positive that you could find SEVERAL NHL’ers who are in the same boat (the only problem is that I cannot think of any off hand, mostly because I have never really followed the AHL, sorry, & I do not really know how to find these stats so quickly to put into here), & for a guy who follows the AHL like yourself, you most likely can put some names in here…
    So, why not give 2 or 3 or even 4 of these a chance, perhaps all @ once and see how they do. They few times some of them have been called up they have done extremely well in their game or two stint, so let’s give them an extended look. The season’s a loss anyway, so why not see what we have coming up? Greb’s (although in OKC last I knew), Belov, N.Schultz can all sit, as should J.Schultz for all his costly turnovers and mistakes, it’d do him some good to sit & watch for a while anyway. Even Petry could take a seat for a game or two. Really, Ference is the only guy who we cannot afford to sit @ this time…
    What are your thoughts Gregor?


  • Rick Stroppel

    I must say I’m astonished at how many posters do not seem to realize that it takes another GM to agree to make a trade.

    And that all the other GM’s are fully aware of what our players are worth. And also fully aware of the pressure Mac is under to get something done.

    Mac is the carcass and the other GM’s are the vultures.

    Bold can turn into Stupid pretty fast. I think we should be realizing an elephant this big ain’t gonna be eaten in one or two gulps…

  • Stack Pad Save

    Willis I have a question for you that you might be able to figure out for me.

    Does the value for players actually go up or down at trade deadline? Is there a trend of players being over valued in trades or undervalued?

    The reason I ask, is if the Oilers are waiting to trade deadline to sell-off pieces again is it better to sell early and get more value or alternative if they are going for BOLD moves, can they get a better player on the cheap at trade deadline?

    • It depends, but for a lot of players the value goes up, and certainly for rentals the transaction becomes a lot easier because a team that won’t take on 40 games of say, Nick Schultz’s salary, might be willing to take on 20 if it gives them a vet they can plug in at the five/six/seven spot in the playoffs.

      My guess is that if you’re taking money back in a deal, the deadline acts solely as a catalyst, forcing two interested parties to come together. But if you’re not taking money back then a lot of times waiting until the deadline is the only way to go.

  • vetinari

    I could easily see MacT packaging up one of either Eberele (the most trade value with a locked in long term contract) or Yakupov (the red-headed stepchild) together with Klefbom for some veteran defensive help and then use the 2014 first rounder to pick yet another forward to replace the outgoing forward. Just a hunch given that we hate to “waste” top 5 picks on defencemen…

  • oilerjed

    @ Serious Gord
    “Like it or not tanking for the rest of the season should be the goal – sadly the only advantage to having a disastrous season – the remainder of the year. to play their way out of a top five pick – a pick that could get that high-end defenseman or some other desperately needed asset would be a silly, face-saving gesture that goes against the long-term interests of the team.”

    Maybe this should read POTENTIAL high end defencemen, unless you meant that you wanted the top 5 as a trade asset.

  • Oilers4Ever

    What are you people on? I mean it–what good drugs do you clearly have?

    The Oilers players are, on the whole, only of value to the Oilers. On a REAL hockey team, sadly, most of these players would be fringe/injury insurance at best.

    No one wants Gags, even if we did decide to trade before the NTC kicks in. Certainly not for a player of value, even in a package (unless part of that package is RNH, Hall, or maaaybe Ebs). No one really wants Hemmer, and if they do, they’ll sit tight until off-season, then pick him up without having to give us a thing.

    Most teams aren’t going to give us a solid dman, a 2C, a goalie, etc, etc. etc. for any of our prospects or even possibly the pick. You want improvement, you have to give to get. And we can’t afford more seasons of giving crap to get different crap.

    We can continue to try that, or wait on our prospects, but it wont be long until the “trade me out of this hell hole please” rumblings start from RNH, Ebs, Hall, Perron, etc.

    • PutzStew

      I agree. Who would want Gagner right now? What is his current value? At the moment very little.
      Hemsky is a 2cd or 3rd round pick. Maybe.

      N Shultz? 4-6 th round. His numbers are awful.

      The only way we get any of our needs is by trading away other key pieces.

      Then the pundits want MacT to piss away a possible 1-5 pick. For what? So we can still suck 5 years from now.

      Good teams develop players longterm. A franchise needs to draft and develop players continuously.

      What is this the point of all this losing if we only glory once? We need to build a team and an organization that is competitive over time. Not for just short spurts.

      MacT knows this and I hope he will do the right thing for this franchise longterm.

  • DoubleJ

    I’m all over getting a better d instantly. I also think Klefbom has been over hyped from day one. So I have no problems using him to get one.

    I do think the oilers will get a better dman at the draft. I keep saying Yandle is the guy. Phoenix is loaded on d, but there’s no way hey’re going to give him up this season.

    The Oilers have the forwards to make this move. Plus Yandle is the best dman that could be available.

    So as much as I hate not having a better d. we would get a better dman in the offseason.

    • DoubleJ

      Give this kid time. Two years ago, he was named top defensemen at the world jrs as a 18 yr old at a 20 yr old tourney. Never played last year due to injury. Now ur expecting him to step into the NHL. Hes as good as Brodin from Minny.

  • Oilerz4life

    I see a lot of comments who seem to be rather more interested in staying the course, developing our prospects and picks, etc. Don’t trade away our star assets for pieces now, just be patient.

    And while I can understand this, I really can–because it will HURT to say goodbye to a quality piece or two to solve needs now–I think people miss the point. That if you DON’T do this now, you take the patient, slow-moving, build for the future approach, you may lose those stars anyways.

    By the time our prospects, picks, etc. develop into (hopefully) top-notch NHL quality players, our core guys contracts will be coming up. Anyone here want to tell me they see Hall, or RNH, or Eberle, re-signing here if they’ve been in a crappy re-build, finishing last or close to it, for the last 5-6 years?

  • Rick Stroppel

    Um… I think you folks might be over-estimating Shea Weber’s value a tad.

    There are a lot of names being thrown around and it seems like most of you think it’ll take two of Hall, Nuge, Eberle, and J-Schultz, along with Klefbom and the No. 1 pick.

    But I can quote some case-law that suggests that a deal for Weber could be done for less than that. And it’s a case involving another trade the Oilers made for adefenceman.

    In the summer of 2005, the Oilers traded Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka for a 30-year-old Chris Pronger.

    The Oilers got the league’s best defenceman for a decent No.3/4 defenceman, plus two mid-level prospects.

    Yes, I know – the Oilers were taking advantage of some Blues’ cap troubles. But, upon closer examination, the Blues’ troubles weren’t actually that bad.

    You’ll recall that, about five minutes after trading for Pronger, the Oilers signed him to a five-year contract worth $31.5 million US ($6.25 million US annually). But what is sometimes forgotten is that, before the trade, the Blues had tendered a qualifying offer to Pronger that would have paid him $7.22 million-per. Their problem was they also made similar offers to Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight which would have meant that three players would have eaten up almost $20 million of their cap space (at the time, the cap was $39 million).

    In other words, the Blues weren’t really in “cap trouble,” but more “cap-inconvenience.” It’s my opinion that they could have lived with that arrangement and probably done OK … but I’m not a GM, and whoever was at the time obviously thought that Pronger was worth one quality NHL rearguard and two middling defensive prospects in a cap-motivated trade.

    I’d argue that the Predators could be in the same boat with Weber. And, I’d take it one step further and say that the Preds have a chance to do a better “hockey deal” than the Blues did eight years ago.

    Last time I checked, the Preds score at a rate of one goal a week. Eberle plus Klefbom plus the No. 1 pick should just about do it. Honestly. These are the deals that get made nowadays.

    Hall plus Nuge plus Klefbom plus the No. 1 pick? Don’t be silly, people. The Oilers didn’t get that for No. 99.

  • I’m not an Edmonton fan but I was perusing this comment thread out of general interest.

    All of you are criminally underrating Ehrhoff. His numbers in Vancouver were terrific. He was the straw that stirred the best power play in hockey. His numbers in Buffalo have been nothing short of remarkable given how horrible that team is. He is a possession, play driving monster.

    Preferring Byfuglien over him is just plain wrong. And crazy and silly.

    Your solution to your problem on D is a defenseman who isn’t good at defence?

  • Rick Stroppel

    I’ve said this since last season. Klefbom won’t be traded. Management sent him here all the way from Europe(yes MacT was with us. They made him a normal occurrence in the dressing room, he met the whole team,all of management, and even some fans. They clearly see him in our future. If they trade a defensive prospect it will most certainly be Marty Marincin(as much as I hate it)

  • 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.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    fans must come to the realization that some players they may feel are vital to this team, but may not actually be….like Eberle, Gagner, Hemsky, Yak…may be the ones that need to go (no not all together), when looking at #1 d-men coming here, as well as the 1st rounder, though if i’m the Oilers, with very little in the cupboard for GOOD forwards in the system, i’m still keeping the pick and taking a forward if outside the top 2.

  • oilerjed

    Teams that are competing for the post season or adding a missing piece or two for a cup run will not be trading actual NHL players at the deadline. MacT. will likely trade some pieces on the edge, aka N. Schultz, and others to stock pile draft picks which he will then turn into real NHL players as part of a package at the draft. Only way it works to maximize value of the assets. Flipping it around and trading picks for assets at the TD is what contenders do. We’re not there.

  • Rick Stroppel


    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.

  • Serious Gord

    Sooner or later, we have to give up something of value in order to get value. We can keep shipping out guys like Ladislav Smid, Nick Shultz and Ryan Jones for draft picks and prospects but eventually we will need to trade a useful piece knowing full well that they could contribute to another organization. We do have pieces that other teams could find useful, they’re all just too young or bring the same things to the table. Not all of our prospect Dmen will get the opportunity to play for the Edmonton Oilers so, other than Nurse, they should be available for the right price.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I’d suspect that they are already looking to move Sam Gagner. His NTC kicks in this summer. Maybe that’s why we saw Roman Horak get a looksee at centre.

    I don’t think I’ve seen anybody mention Kulikov here. He’s risky in terms of his development and risk of flight to the KHL, but if Sam Gagner’s value is as low as some of you suggest it is, then maybe that’s the deal you could complete without surrendering too much.

  • Spydyr

    JW we might see 10 points this month. Might. The schedule makers have not been kind. Its a murderers row of the WC’s top teams. My expectations are low for Oilers going into the Olympic break. Which will be a needed break both physically and mentally.

    The Olympic break will certainly be a most interesting time for the Oilers management and coaching staff. A time to look at the current players and review its plan moving forward.

    The tradeline will see some players moved. Whether there will any current Oilers moved is another question. We have some tradeable assets in our own deluded opinions. We’ll have to see if our reality matches any of the other 29 GM’s.

    If I had m druthers I would keep out 2014 pick. I would try to get Eckblad or Sam Rheinhart. I like Ritchie also. DalColle?

    Many of you have posted about the lack of FA signings that we’ll see. As far as defencemen goes really has anyone but me looked at the list? Its a list of 5-6 dmen. Anyone worth having as a number 1 is signed long term already by their respective clubs.

    Forwards? A second line center? Good luck finding one.

    MacT and Eakins are running this team. I have no doubt. What I hope for is that MacT can find more Perron’s and less Grebeshkov’s next summer.

    Development and Patience.

  • OnlyOil

    They will have to include one of Klefbom or Marincin (depending on which is valued higher by the trading partner) to get some value back.

    They should also try and make some smaller like for like kind of trades with some forwards where the players may be more or less a wash, but the incoming player is coming from a successful team that plays the way the Oilers should be playing. Guys who will finish a check and go into the hard areas. This was apparently a big part of the Ference signing. We just need more of them even if they are of the 3 line variety.

    I can’t imagine Hall wants to wait for Nurse, Klembom, Marincin etc. to impact an NHL game

  • pkam

    I know of 3 types of trades.

    1st type is playoff teams trade their futures for immediate help to push for the playoff and the cup. Usually, you give up more in this kind of trade. Since we are not a playoff team so so I don’t think we are looking at the 1st type of trade.

    2nd type is exchange of garbage. Hopefully your garbage may work better than mine. I don’t think this type of trade is going to help us but at least it will quiet some fans with new faces.

    3rd type is two teams trade away their redundant strength to fill a hole of their own.

    I know we have needs in at least one 1st pairing D, more likely 2. A big 2C, a starting goalie, bigger 3rd line winger, and a 4C. But where is our redundant strength?

    The only position we may have some redundancy is top 2 RW in Eberle, Yak and Hemsky. But some suggests that Eberle has already reached his maximum potential, Yak is still a big gamble, and Hemsky has no more value and we should let him walk UFA. So even our deepest position is not that deep. If we have so many holes and no real redundancy, what does it mean?

    Some suggest packaging RNH/Hall for Weber. So we fill the top D hole with a new hole in 1C or 1LW? How is this helping our team?

    So how can we improve the team but filling one hole with another?

    I don’t know about you, IMO, we are not ready yet. No trade is going to fix the problem. If we can’t lure UFA to come here, the only option we have is to be patient and fill up our cupboard first.

    If we are to trade away our young core players for some immediately help to push for playoff, we will never have a team good enough for the cup. Isn’t it what we we did prior to 2010?

    • Spydyr

      This is exactly what we did. I agree with your reasoning. It reflects what I have been saying about drafting and developing.

      I totally disagree with those who feel that making the playoffs is the goal. Yup we’ve seen where that path lead year after year. Losses to Dallas/Detroit/Colorado and so on.

      Just getting there is and should not be the end all and be all.
      It should be about being competitive long term like those Sharks were playing tonight.

      The experience factor is so huge. And what do our top 6 lack vs the top 6 teams in the WC. Experience.
      Teows and Kane are 4 years ahead of Hall and Ebs and RNH. Minimum.

      Yup we should be their equal because we say so.Does not happen. Hall has made great strides as a player. But it takes more than Hall to win.
      It will take time and patience.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Who would you package with Klefbom, Jonathan?
    Nick Schultz? Or would you throw in more D prospects (we have a lot of them)?

    And who would you target?

  • Zarny

    It’s not counter-intuitive at all.

    We’ve seen the problems with the young F’s all playing together. Adding 3 rookies (Klefbom, Marincin, Nurse) to a group including Petry (195 games) and J. Schultz (83 games) is a recipe for disaster.

    The LA Kings traded Schenn for Richards. That’s the way MacT has to think.

    Klefbom and Marincin – Keep one and trade the other. I’d prefer to trade Marincin but Klefbom has more value. Regardless, when Nurse is ready MacT should probably look at trading whoever is left between Klefbom and Marincin too.

    Petry, Schultz and Nurse are all the young D the Oilers need. 2-3 of the remaining D prospects should be moved to fill the holes on the roster.