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


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


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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


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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

  • 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.

  • Sure. Why not. The next captain is sure to pick up right where Andy leaves off in the community ….. especially if its Taytay.

    And as for the Nation. Just think of all the traffic that will be “involved” in the new choice of captain.

    Good times…. good times.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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”.

  • 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.

  • Stud Muffin

    Ahhh ya. Sign the papers. Rather have Petry at 5mil, and a better defenseman in Marincin paired with Perry. No Brainer.

    Don’t feel anyone wants Ference as a number 6 at 3.5×2. Imagine we’d eat half the contract.

  • Batfink

    Keep him until somebody earns the right to take his spot his salary doesn’t hurt the cap right now. Ference is a solid citizen and is a diligent worker and kind of reminds of Staois at this stage and any return in a trade would be negligible.

  • bumblebpete

    On the Petry front i’ve noticed an abandonment of his established history of a soft style of play. He seems to be more involved in the play at both ends of the ice. If he wanted to stay in Edmonton this version of Petie 2.0 could be useful.

    Would it be too cynical of me to suggest he has become more engaged and suddenly motivated in an attempt to attract teams and jack up his asking price once he moves on to free agency? Just sayin…

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Where can a guy see a list of upcoming ufa dmen, now that capgeek is no more.

    I still think Petry and the 1st from Pitts could get the Oilers a solid dman, not just a 3rd or 2nd round pick.

    Edit: as for Ference; that’s a player you just get picks for if you do trade him

    • Kevwan

      Not sure how petry and Pitts first gets you a better dman? Any team adding petry is adding him for depth for the playoffs. They sure arnt gonna give you a roster player back

  • 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!!

  • 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.

  • Zarny

    IMO the answer is yes. Primarily to free up cap space.

    With the CDN $ tanking the cap won’t be as high as many GMs hoped and planned for. There will be good players available for those that have the cap room.

    • Batfink

      Zarny, couldn’t agree more with you. Seems like our best chance at a quality D-man in the off season is a cap dump from a strapped team. If MacT steps to the podium for the Pitt pick , this rebuild could go on forever. P.S. tell that guy in your profile pic to eat that cherry already! Haha.

    • S cottV

      Been saying this for weeks. Bettman this weekend says he falling Canadian dollar won’t be an issue this coming year 2015=16. But really I see that as lawyer speak. It can’t but have an effect on the cap if the dollar is 80-85 cents moving forward.

      The KHL announced that their salary cap is being reduced due to the falling ruble. There is also talk of teams folding and or the league contracting.

      The result will be more players looking for jobs this off season and that should drive the price of players downwards overall.

      That is why I see MacT as a very active GM at the deadline. He must see the same trends and realistically see guys like Roy and Ference and be thinking I can get similar players this summer at a fraction of the cost.

      Look at the TML and the issues they are having with the cap. They have a lot of money tied up in players like Phaneuf and Kessel and Clarkson and look at what that has resulted in.

      next season Chicago is committing 10 million a piece to Kane and Teows. Where is the money coming from to pay a player like Brandon Saad? It isn’t unless they move a guy like Hossa or Versteeg. Good luck with that.

      MacT sees the writing on the wall. There will be change and it will be at a cost.

  • Batfink

    For sure move him now as part of the master plan, along with Petry, Roy and Fasth for whatever we get in return as that is not really important. Then with a 12-14 game ” evaluation ” of one of our Baron goalies we should really be set for the basement. Just curious, who is draft eligible next year?

  • Batfink

    I think any article on trading Ference probably ought to mention that he has a full NMC. It’s only possible to move him with his express permission, and even if he agrees he is in complete control of where he will and will not accept a trade to. It’s not just a matter of finding someone to take (maybe some of) the contract, it has to be somewhere Ference is willing to go.

  • toprightcorner

    If the Oilers strongly felt that Ference would be a huge leadership loss then I would be fine if they kept him as leadership and character are more important than saving $1.5 mill on the cap.

    Adding a big quality dman should be Edmontons priority even if they don’t trade Ference. If they can trade him they still nee to have a veteran 3rd pairing dman to be paired up with a rookie. Erskine or Leopold would fill this role and each would make under $1.5 mill.

    I would overpay any top 3 dman by $1 mill saved on Ference contract.

    To me, if the Oilers felt they could live without Ferences leadership then trade him if you can.

  • 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.