I don’t really believe in untouchable players. If the right deal comes along, any player is moveable.
But it has to be the right deal, and I don’t think there’s one out there involving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
On Monday, Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer asked guest Jim Matheson if he’d be open to a trade that would send one of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Taylor Hall, plus Jeff Petry, plus the Oilers’ 2014 first round draft pick, to Nashville in exchange for Shea Weber.
Our own Robin Brownlee wrote his take here, saying he’d make that deal but preferably with Hall rather than Nugent-Hopkins. Matheson provided his own write-up a day later, one with a little more ambiguity, but seemed to indicate that he’d be willing to consider that deal too.
In Craig MacTavish’s shoes, I wouldn’t make that deal with Nugent-Hopkins. For that matter, I wouldn’t make any deal that involved sending Nugent-Hopkins away for a top defenceman.
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
Trades should address areas of weakness from areas of strength. Failing that, they should address hard-to-fix areas of weakness from easier-to-fix areas of weakness.
That isn’t what’s being discussed in the speculation above. The proposed deal involves blowing a massive hole in the Oilers’ centre ice depth chart in exchange for patching the massive hole in their defensive depth chart. That isn’t progress; that’s trading one problem for another.
Actually, it’s even worse than that. At least on defence, the organization has some internal candidates. Darnell Nurse is a blue chip prospect. Martin Marincin’s been exceptional as a rookie. Oscar Klefbom and Martin Gernat and Dillon Simpson are all waiting in the wings. These guys are all some distance away and none may ever be the equal of Weber, but there’s room for growth here.
At centre? Who can replace Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Sam Gagner’s not the answer, and with all due respect to Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander, neither of them is ever likely to even approximate what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be at the peak of his career. There’s nobody else in the system, and if that wasn’t enough the proposed deal would send away Edmonton’s 2014 first round pick, which would be the team’s only realistic place to find a replacement for Nugent-Hopkins. Maybe fans here are resigned to drafting Connor McDavid next year, but it’s not going to get any easier for the Oilers to put distance between themselves and the bottom of the league if they stay there another season.
Nugent-Hopkins is scoring at a 60-point pace in a power-vs.-power role at the age of 20; he’s already a first line pivot and he’s probably three-to-five years away from hitting his peak level of performance. The player he’s going to become is extremely difficult to find; the No. 1 centre tree is as non-existent as the No. 1 defenceman tree.
There is no Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade that makes sense for the Oilers that doesn’t include a first line centre coming back the other way.
Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov can be moved in the right deal because the Oilers have both of them. In a perfect world, they’re both kept, but it isn’t insanity to try and patch holes elsewhere from a strong right wing depth chart. There’s less of a case to trade Hall, who is the best forward on the team today, but left wing is less critical than centre or defence and Edmonton has the option of moving Yakupov over and some depth there in the person of David Perron.
What about that 2014 first round pick? Sure, that’s a possibility too. The Oilers will get a good young player if they draft there, and a team can never have enough good young players, but in the right deal trading a draft pick like that isn’t going to hurt Edmonton’s already paper thin NHL depth chart.