In mid-April, during his exit interview, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish talked about additions needed over the summer. MacT: “In my mind I’d like to add a very high-end defenseman.” Yeah, you and 29 other teams, Mac.
HIGH-END IS HIGH-RENT
Depending on your definition, there are very few high-end defenders in the NHL, and only a very small percentage of those come available every blue moon. Here are possible options for the Oilers.
Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo. He is signed through 2021 to a very reasonable $4 million dollar per season contract. Ehrhoff delivered solid to very good results despite playing on a dog in Buffalo this season. He’s an expert puck mover, has some edge—although he’s not a natural thug—and is an experienced lefty defenseman. Ehrhoff played 24 minutes a night for the Sabres, substantial amounts in all three disciplines. Asking price: Something shy of the third overall selection. Buffalo has the 31st overall selection, and could end up with the Islanders pick at number five, if it comes to that at the draft.
- Matt Niskanen, Pittsburgh. He is a UFA this summer, coming off a $2.3 million dollar deal he signed two summers ago. Niskanen is playing over 20 minutes a night for the Penguins, including a heavy workload on the power play in their series with Columbus. He’s a righty, and Niskanen’s skills are already duplicated on the roster by Justin Schultz. Asking price: As a free agent, all that’s required are dollars and term. Edmonton would have to overpay to get him, I’d imagine we’re dealing in a number beginning with a 4.
- Brian Campbell, Florida. Campbell is a big ticket item, his contract has two more years and is north of $7 million per season. He is a minutes muncher, playing 27 a night this season. It’s easy to imagine the Oilers pairing Campbell with any of the righties and putting together an effective tandem. Asking price: Florida would no doubt be looking for some offense in return, and the asking price would be significant.
- Marc Staal, NY Rangers. A young veteran who has had some concussion issues, Staal may come available because he’s one year away from free agency. Slats likes to move on from these players and may be more gun shy than normal because of the Ryan Callahan result. Edmonton would have to make certain they could sign him long term, but the “Staals in Carolina” dream seems unlikely now. Asking price: Sather drives a hard bargain, it would no doubt be one of the young blue plus something nice.
- Braydon Coburn, Philadelphia. He has two years left at $4.5 million, and we know the Oilers were in conversations last summer. This isn’t a 25-minute man, he averaged 22 minutes in the regular season, strong on PK where he spent four minutes a night. He could be a very nice partner for Schultz. Asking price: Crazy. The draft is in Philly this season, if Edmonton makes a deal with Holmgren it will likely involve third overall. Flyers pick 17th currently (pending playoff outcomes) if it comes to that at the draft.
- Alex Edler, Vancouver Canucks. Signed through 2019 at $5 million a year, Edler’s -39 is a real eyesore. However, his overall resume is strong and he possesses a nice range of skills, is young enough to be a part of this team for a long time, and may be available for one summer only. Asking price: Even after a ghastly season, Vancouver will want the sun, moon and stars—especially from a team in their division.
THE VALUE OF THE THIRD OVERALL PICK
I’m inclined to believe the 3rd overall pick has more value than any of the defensemen above, but a package deal may work that allows a team to snare the lottery pick from Edmonton. If Buffalo grabs that Islander pick, we could see fireworks, and don’t forget the draft is in Philly so the Flyers will bring the hot and cold running crazy.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Trading third overall selections can make you look like an idiot, but it’s very likely the number one item on shopping lists when dealing with Edmonton. Other asks might include Sam Gagner, Jeff Petry, Nail Yakupov and Martin Marincin.
Next time: How many assets are off limits? If the number is more than two, let’s have another look at the standings.