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.


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

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.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • 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.

  • vetinari

    Is it glue-sniffing season already in Edmonton?
    Who’d be breaking down the doors for a Dman who can’t stay healthy and has 10 career points in (far) lesser leagues?
    The NHL’s competent GMs are not eager to relieve The Mickey Mouse Club of its draft mistakes.
    Or is somebody going to point out that Klefbom’s corgis in close against tough Fenwicks on 5×5 zone starts are more important than his “counting numbers”?

  • vetinari

    I get real scared when I think of Oiler trades.You know Lowe Katz and probably Katz’s son have final say. I would like something better than Campbell or Erhoff. If you are going to trade a dman with lots of upside such as Klefbom make it a blockbuster ,Klefbom our first and possibly Eberle, that would be very very bold.Nobody else on our 2nd 3rd or 4th lines have any real cache.

  • 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…

  • A-Mc

    A major deal for a top defenseman would, I think, be more likely in the summer.

    The package we received for Pronger was a skill player, a first round pick and a defensive prospect. A package of Eberle, 2014 1st(top 5), and Klefbom is a superior mix and could, maybe, be enough to get Nashville intrigued.

    For a lesser D such as Ehrhoff I imagine a team like Buffalo would like a prospect the caliber of Klefbom and may be happy to dump that contract and trade straight across. I’m not sure that we have the right pieces to include in such a deal.

    JW, do you think the oilers have the necessary assets to gain an Ehrhoff caliber defenseman without over paying?

  • Serious Gord

    In light of the Gleason trade and the Phaneuf and ference signings I think it’s fair to say that the position that is undergoing the highest appreciation rate is the seasoned top four defenseman. (ference isn’t even a solid top four and he got paid pretty big dough for being a 4-5 player)

    That teams who lack strength in said top 1-4 players are all struggling in the standings justifies the rapid inflation rate and that is exacerbated by the looming big jump in cap room.

    That begets two things:

    1. Getting a player of the quality EDM needs cannot be done via Free agency – no potential candidate is coming of their own free will to a team that has so many non-monetary liabilities.

    2. It is going to take some stones on MacT’s part to consummate a deal as he will have to give up assets and take on cap commitments that will be viewed by the vast majority of oil fans as being a massive overpay. MacT has already shown a chronic tendency to overvalue the assets he has or knows – gagner, grebs and many many others – so I doubt he is prepared to take the plunge unless its prospects like klefbom or perhaps a player who is at odds with management (yak). And the latter has happened several times before so i suspect it may happen again.

    And, while there is some merit to making a move at the deadline – motivated trade partners, time during this season to acclimatize the team and get a better start next year – i think it would be a big mistake.

    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.

    That and the fact that there will be many more options available in the off-season than there will be at the trade deadline.

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

      I think MacT is prepared to overpay and I don’t think he thinks he can afford to let any opportunity go untapped…..I believe he will be in the thick of things at the deadline in both directions….moving players out and moving players in……of course many other teams will be trying to outbid him…we’ll see if the prep work he’s doing now pays off or not.

      It’s almost certain that the majority of Oilers fans will not be happy with the overpays….but it will take an overpay to make anything significant happen in our favour.

    • Serious Gord

      Your a complete idiot.

      You think these guys need MORE losing!? Tanking on purpose for the sake of a draft pick is 100% loser talk. Try and tell the to Hall or Eakins.

      Further more you say Mac’s signings have been questionable. How good are Hall and RNH and hopefully Ebs going to look at 6 mil when the cap is approaching 80mill in 3-4 years?

      I dont fully put the blame on yourself however for this assinine opinion. Years of bad management and losing clouds people judgement.

      • Serious Gord

        Let me clarify a bit. As the team is currently constituted there is almost no chance they will finish out of the bottom five. It would be more likely that they finish worse (30th) than they are now as buffalo seems to be getting a bit better and is playing most of its games against the east whereas EDM will be getting its teeth kicked in most games against the western powerhouses.

        Thus making significant additions – improvements – is pointless and risky. Better to stand pat and see what the current group can do and not give Eakins any excuse to avoid being fired for continued incompetency.

        • Spydyr

          Have you looked at Edms record in their last 20? Dont kid yourself the preperations for next year begin now! Not at the draft or the trade deadline. Losing is never an option. I am impressed what ive seen from our top players in the past 10 games ( other than st louis of course). So these guys should be playing pissed off and carry that over to training camp. Not recieving the message from management or the fans that losing is the goal in order to get a “potential” difference maker via a top 5 pick. Give your head a shake!!!!

          • OnlyOil

            Harry I totally agree with you, losing is not an option for this team. Losing the loser mentality has got to be the only way from here on out. If the players refuse to buy in to the team systems on how MacT and Eakins want this team to play…then move them out. In case nobody has noticed river hockey, free wheeling, defensively irresponsible hockey is for losers, this team doesn’t have the talent of the 80’s Oilers did, they must be defensively responsible. Taylor Hall is a champion and he will not tolerate this losing BS

          • A-Mc

            You’re blurring the lines between the different perspectives on the team.

            From the Players perspective, you’re right, losing CAN’T be the mandate. But from the GM’s perspective (Serious Gord’s position) getting the highest draft pick possible is best if you’re going to suck anyway.

            You’re using insulting words by calling him a complete idiot and then you’re arguing a position that is from a perspective NOT related to personnel acquisition.

            The Subject matter of the original article suggests that we are to put our GM thinking caps on so please drop the crap about player mentality.

          • Spydyr

            If you.are a gm whos team has finished in the bottom of the standings 5years running and your still.saying we should lose more and more and more that is what constitutes a complete idiot.

            Arent you sick of losing?

  • The Soup Fascist

    “…. an Edmonton team leaning on the trio of Jeff Petry, Andrew Ference and Justin Schultz”.

    With these three guys chomping up the tough minutes as effortlessly as they are, it is easy to see why Smid was expendable ….

    The Oilers are at least two QUALITY defensemen away from being adequate. If a borderline #1 like Dion Phaneuf costs $49 million a year over 7 years ….. what is a free agent going to cost this summer – assuming you can convince an impact guy to sign here? A big trade with one of the kids or waiting and hoping for a Nurse, Klefbom et al to become serviceable appear to be the only options. Neither option (trading a kid / waiting) is particularly attractive.

  • 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.

  • Stack Pad Save

    I wouldn’t be opposed to trading him. The simple fact is that Mac will need to cough something up to get a good player and considering whats in the pipe on Defense I would imagine Klefbom or Gernat would be the likely moves out but Klefbom has more value. I would vote for a Dustin Byfuglien trade as I think he brings a lot of things this team needs including some attitude, he has a Cup under his belt and is still 28. His conditioning might be an issue but I’m sure Eakins can take care of that.

    So JW what do you think it would take in a trade the get Dustin Byfuglien?

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

        I would take Byfuglien in a heartbeat……but I don’t think he’s what the Oilers mgt is looking for….too tough, too much of a rebel for their tastes and eats too many doughnuts…….for Oilers mgt it’s Penner and Souray all over again….and they don’t like, and can’t seem to manage,outspoken players who go against the grain……unfortunately …

      • John Chambers

        Byfuglien is the guy I would target instead of Ehrhoff because he has both offensive abilities as well as size and nastiness that this team hasn’t had since Souray.

        Although Ehrhoff’s contract is a bargain, and worth trading for in and of itself.

        • The Soup Fascist

          With the new liberal cannabis laws in Colorado which came into effect January 1st, expect ‘ol Dusty to end up with the Avs in the not too distant future.

          Byfuglien’s list of teams in a limited NTC: Colorado Avs, Seattle (upon being granted a expansion team) and Jamaica.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • oilerjed

    My question for a big trade to happen is WHEN? Ive said it before and Ill say it again, sooner is better if this team wants to gain some momentum to start next season. I hate the thought of another summer of a few tweaks and then letting it roll. Why not get it started today, most teams we are talking about already know the score on these players too.

    In your opinion is MacT working it now or is he bidng his time until the trade deadline and draft. I hope not.

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

      There have been reports from credible sources that MacT and his team have been communicating with pretty much every team in the league for many weeks now. On the one hand they should be prepared for the deadline. On the other hand, GMs in today’s league seem to like the confidence they get by waiting for the deadline. They get to see what market value looks like….they get to peruse the players they want in order of priority, they get to save a few bucks in salary by not buying until the last minute, etc…..and the sellers perceive their leverage to be highest right at the deadline…..so lots of forces at play to make an early trade less likely.

    • A-Mc

      I would really like to see Klefbom play for a couple years before he gets traded away. Based on MacT’s comments, it sounded like Klefbom was going to make the team sometime THIS year; which obviously hasn’t happened.

      I suppose the ultimate goal is a major D addition and if Klefbom has to be a piece of the trade, then so be it. But imo, he doesnt get moved unless it’s part of a package trade that has a significant piece coming the other way.

      No Klefbom for Horak + Goalie prospects, please…

      PS: Not sure why it says i replied to you OilerJed. I didn’t mean to!

  • 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.~

  • 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…….