If there was any confusion about the kind of help that other NHL general managers might be willing to offer Craig MacTavish as his Oilers work their way toward yet another first overall draft pick, Jim Matheson came along on Monday and cleared it up.
Friends Like These
Matheson’s column centres primarily around the St. Louis Blues and their interest in Jordan Eberle. Matheson notes that the Blues would certainly have interest in Eberle, and might be willing to offer Patrik Berglund plus in exchange. It wouldn’t be a one-for-one deal, of course, both because Eberle has more value and because the Blues would need Edmonton to take on more salary. Maybe the Oilers could take Steve Ott’s $2.6 million deal, too.
And hey, if that’s not appealing, there’s always Montreal, who Matheson suggests might be open to trading the pint-sized David Desharnais in a deal for David Perron because they could always bump Alex Galchenyuk back to the middle.
We talk a lot about dealing from a position of weakness without spelling out exactly what that means. What it means is Matheson’s column. It means offers like mediocre third-line centre, a bad contract and some loose change for Eberle. It means that flawed centre who isn’t really in the plans for a guy like Perron. It means bad deals.
Burden to Bear
But then, this is Craig MacTavish’s own fault.
There were centres on the market in the summer – imperfect fits to be sure, though I doubt Nashville has any complaints about what it’s gotten from Mike Ribeiro – and the Oilers turned their nose up until it was too late. At the press conference announcing Justin Schultz’s one-year contract late in August, MacTavish offered the following rationale:
When you look at our depth chart, I understand and certainly agree with that position having the most question marks. I think the onus is going to be on this current group of players to show an ability to be competitive for a playoff position. The onus is going to be on Arcobello, Anton Lander, Leon Driasaitl to show that they’re ready to play. If our team is competitive and we still have a hole or a question mark in those positions, then as the season goes on we get more information, there may be a potential to deploy some of our future assets to fill that current need. That would be something that we would be interested [in doing]. The onus is on this group of players to prove, much like the group of players did in 2006 when we needed some goaltending.
That this batch of players has not shown an ability to compete for a playoff position is a monumental understatement. The trio at centre that MacTavish was counting on have all been found wanting; Lander had a bad camp and was dispatched to the minors, Draisaitl’s getting played even though he’s clearly not up to the task set out before him and Arcobello is one slot higher on the depth chart than he should be because he’s all that’s left.
And, surprise surprise, it turns out that adding centres during the year is tough to do.
Craig MacTavish needs to make a trade; the season is probably already gone but the bleeding needs to be stopped. At the same time, he has limited assets and really can’t afford to do something stupid (like trading Eberle for anything centered on Patrik Berglund). He’s in an ugly corner, and needs to find a way out.
What’s the answer? To make a trade for a centre without getting crushed in the exchange. It’s going to be brutally tough to do, but that’s the situation that the Oilers’ management group has put itself in.