If the Edmonton Oilers can trade Andrew Ference, should they?

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Would it be wise for the Oilers to attempt to trade Andrew Ference, both in the name of clearing dollars and gaining a more favourable position in the 2015 draft lottery?

The Benefits of a Deal

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Robin Brownlee brought this topic to mind on Saturday, when he wrote about the merits of a Ference deal from a tanking perspective. Here’s how Brownlee put it:

Ference, 35, won’t be a part of the picture when the Oilers are any good. Many would argue the captain is not a significant part of the picture now. Ference won’t command a return of any note, but he might, however, be of some value to a contending team looking for experienced depth on the back end. Again, not much coming back, but his departure would open up a second spot and weaken an already overmatched blue line.

No arguments here. Ference, while not nearly a perfect player, is a veteran hand on what at the best of times is only an approximation of a real NHL defence corps. If he were to be moved at the deadline along with Jeff Petry that would leave the ‘veteran mentor’ role in the hands of Mark Fayne and, uh, Nikita Nikitin. It doesn’t take a degree in mathematical modeling to guess what that will do to the team.

But there are other positives to moving him.

Firstly, Ference is overpaid at $3.25 million relative to what he brings to an NHL team’s defensive group. When the Oilers signed him he was the No. 4 defenceman in terms of minutes at both even-strength and on the power play; that was nearly two years ago now and on a decent team he’s likely a pretty decent fit as a third-pairing defenceman and second unit penalty-killer. The overpayment involved isn’t ludicrous – the Los Angeles Kings will pay Matt Greene $2.5 million/season until he’s 34 for essentially the same minutes – but every little bit of efficiency gained against the cap helps.

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Darnell Nurse

That role perhaps isn’t ideal either. The Oilers have a bunch of defencemen coming in on the left side – Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, maybe Martin Marincin (though the signs that the team has soured on him are obvious) – and the team would be better served by a veteran presence higher up the depth chart, leaving the third-pairing minutes to youth. Granted, Ference could be shifted over to the right side but he’s been most effective on the left.

For size junkies, there’s an additional benefit to moving him. It’s not a secret that the Oilers are on the small side by NHL standards and Ference – listed at 5’11”, 184 pounds – is part of that. If it’s the fight in the dog rather than the size of the dog in the fight that matters that’s less of a problem; Ference’s work ethic has always garnered high praise and watching him play it isn’t hard to see why. He’s fiercely competitive in front of his own net, even if he isn’t 6’2” and 210 pounds. But it sure doesn’t hurt to be 6’2” and 210 pounds.

Moving Ference (assuming he’s moveable) would make the team worse in the here-and-now, which is all the better for tanking. It would clear salary and a roster spot for a bigger, better defenceman next year. Plus it would garner some sort of return (say a 2016 fourth round draft pick) and that never hurts.

The Case Against

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There’s a pretty massive assumption underpinning the biggest benefit to moving Ference: That the Oilers can land a bigger, better defenceman who can play higher up the depth chart. Recall that last summer their answer to bigger-and-better was Nikita Nikitin, and they had to pay him $4.5 million per season to get him to sign.

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The professional scouting group over the last few years has had several cracks at adding a top-four defenceman and simply hasn’t gotten the job done. Nikitin, Ference and Fayne are part of a group that since 2010 includes Nick Schultz, Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton, Kurtis Foster, Cam Barker, Mark Fistric and Denis Grebeshkov. Some of those guys could play – Sutton in particular was a pleasant surprise for me – but could any one of them really anchor a second pairing? For my money Fayne’s the best of the group in terms of overall talent and ideally he’d probably slot in as a No. 4/5 rearguard.

Craig MAcTavish5

But let’s assume for a moment that the Oilers’ search for answers this year sees them solve the obvious assessment problem the team has. This year’s free agent crop is nothing to write home about and there’s no guarantee that Paul Martin or Johnny Boychuk or whoever will be willing to sign with a team that contends with Western Conference travel, a northern climate and a never-ending rebuild. Really good defencemen have lots of options in a weak free agent year, and while money can mitigate that to a certain degree general manager Craig MacTavish is doubtless going to have some real challenges selling players on coming to Edmonton.

There’s another assumption involved, too: That the Oilers’ young defencemen really are best-served by jumping to the NHL immediately. I know how people feel about Darnell Nurse coming out of the World Juniors, but it’s worth remembering he’s still a few weeks from his 20th birthday and he has all of two NHL games under his belt. Is it really a good idea to be writing his name on the 2015-16 roster in ink at this point?

For me, the case for moving Ference basically comes down to faith in Edmonton’s management group; both their ability to find a better defenceman and their willingness to be patient with prospects. Based on recent history that’s quite a leap.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

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  • Tikkanese

    “For me, the case for moving Ference basically comes down to faith in Edmonton’s management group; both their ability to find a better defenceman and their willingness to be patient with prospects. Based on recent history that’s quite leap.”

    Faith in the management group? Your funny. This team is so screwed.

  • If there’s a deal out there, Ference should be dealt. Although he seems like a stand up guy in the dressing room, he’s just not consistent enough. Therefore, he’s expendable, I think. I’m thinking he’ll be retained though since he was one of MacT’s prized signings. So, he’ll blindly stick with him based on that premise alone. MacT is probably able to see something in Ference the rest of us do not, much like how he sees the coddled Justin Schultz to project as a better dman than the soon to be departed Jeff Petry. Perhaps a forensic audit needs to be done on the pro scout group, who determined that guys like Nikitin, Ference and Norris Schultz (over Petry) were good signings.

  • CMG30

    One of the more frustrating things about this management group is how they have their ‘anointed’ players who you know are going to be part of the ‘core’ no matter what. -I’m looking at you Schultz- While other players who’ve fought their way up the roster -Marincin- seem to be viewed as an annoyance then thrown to the wolves in the hope they falter giving management cover to get rid of them.

  • freelancer

    In an ideal case, Petry, Fayne and Klefbom are the only defensemen here next year from this group.
    But we know that isn’t happening. Doubt Ferrence and Nikitin go any where. And petry will.
    God damn, this d core is f’d. Gonna get worse before theres any chance of improving. A lot worse.

  • freelancer

    I just want to know who management expects to mentor Nurse, Marincin, Klefbom, etc next season. Like you said Fayne and Nikitin isn’t going to cut it. Look back at any of our defensive prospects over the years. Which vet defenseman is teaching Schultz on how to be an offensive defenseman, who are our skilled vets who are teaching Eberle and Hall and Yak? You look at the success that Calgary has had this year, and while they look shaky at times, they’re success has come because they’ve paired their younger players with vets who can actually contribute on the scoreboard.

  • My god boys enough with the tank talk!

    Here’s a new trade strategy we should consider:

    Hold onto actual NHL’ers until such time a trade can bring in at least as good an NHL’er or lead to a better NHL’er NOW.

    The only thing we’re going to get for Ference is wishes, hopes and dreams…err… “draft picks”.

  • bumblebpete

    Please move AF and NN for anything……….I would take later round draft picks!

    I do believe that Andrew Ference could play a role in management, if he learns how to stop talking that is. I think he could be good in a player development role…….but playing hockey is not something he is very good ar.

    I would love to find out who MM pissed off………if it’s Eakins then who cares. If it comes down to something he may or may not have said……..it speks volumes to the pettiness and thin skin of the current managment group!

  • Oilers4Ever

    I can’t believe katz is trusting this bumbling mgmt to restart the rebuild of the rebuilD of the rebuild. Obviously his desire to hang out with boys on the bus is more important than putting a winning team on the ice.

  • Serious Gord

    But, yes they should move him if a chance comes up. Don’t give the captaincy to any one. But if it must, I’m not sure how its Hall anymore… I know its a short period of struggle, but Nuge seems the most worthy this season.

  • Batfink

    Given Mact’s flawed judgement he’ll likely keep Ference. Remember this is a management group who refuses to admit an error of judgement or accept responsibility…ever.

    Ference is not strong enough in terms of ability to break up the cycle or as a leader IMO. He is slow and of little effectiveness on either side of the puck. He may have modest value as a depth D on a really strong defensive corps.

    Move him, he is neither the present nor the future.

  • Kevwan

    Ference adds grit and character to the team. Unfortunately he doesn’t skate well enough for the NHL these days. Of course you move him.

    And give him a nice ovation on his first game back at Rexall.

  • A-Mc

    Yes. Trade him now for value. If that is a 4th in 2016 so be it.Kieth Aulie fills that position better and has better size.

    The need to get younger and bigger and more physical on the backend is a huge need.

    Teams like LA-SJ-ANA-Cal and Van run our show down low on the cycle and we just get killed because we are not big enough and physical enough on the backend. Hence Marincin’s return to OKC this season. Needs to be more physical. Petry’s imminent departure. Goodbye.For me he lacks any ability to stuff the cycle. At all. Sure he can make the pass and looks nice skating up ice. But where is the finish? Where is the booming cannon from the point like 108mph Shea Weber. Please show me where he deserves 5million plus a season for what he lacks is what we need in a dman.

    The Oilers d corps instills absolutely no fear in anyone in the NHL. In our zeal to play a possession game we forget that when we don’t have the puck we need guys who can defend and be heavy on the puck.We as a team have made it much it to easy on opponents to impose their will on our team in the defensive zone.

    We need to get dmen who are more ugly.I can count the amount of times I have seen Petry and Shultz get into a scrap on one hand.Never will accuse those two of being too aggressive.

    Ference’s time was up as soon as Eakins was shown the door. Move him out and say thank you for coming.
    The Captaincy should fall to either Nuge or Hall. Sooner than later.

  • toprightcorner

    Can’t we trade Schultz instead? Get rid of bad players, bring in better ones. Easy. Why trade NHL players? This is year freaking 5 of the rebuild!!

  • toprightcorner

    If Ference is in fact traded, I do not think Hall is ready for the “C’ yet. He has not show the maturity required at points this season and I would rather Hall focus on turning his game around then taking on added responsibility.

  • WTF2

    Careful what you wish for. Trading Ference before you have his replacement could be very similar to the Gagner trade. MacT said in public he needed center ice depth and couldn’t sign or trade for one even from the cash strapped teams. Same situation this year for Dmen. Doesn’t look like much on the free agent market and may not be able to trade for one either. Almost all the teams are looking for dmen. Trade Ference and you might end up with a bunch of young guys that aren’t ready yet.

    • WTF2

      Replacement for a bottom pairing dman? Mark Fistric was available for free on waivers.

      Marincin is better and he rots in the minors.

      Ference’s best asset is you drive over him with a Mac Truck and he would get up. He is slow, prone to poor play, can’t handle players on the cycle. His recent good play is great, but the player he is with will be gone in a month.

      The Gagner trade was great, removed a bloated contract and got arguably the better player. Problem was not the trade, its that MacT needed a second line center and did gave the job to an Eighteen year old.

    • R U Kidding Me!

      You’re on the wrong website for that common sense. Most people here wanna run Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin. Heck some people are wanting Hanifin to play to!!