Does it make sense for Edmonton to aggressively pursue a Brent Seabrook trade?

Brent Seabrook

One name frequently bounced around as a potential acquisition for the Oilers is that of Brent Seabrook. It makes sense in a lot of ways, as the 30-year-old is a complete, right-shooting defenceman with just one year left on his current contract. He also plays for a team still in salary cap pain.

There are, however, counterarguments, with two striking me as particularly significant:

  • Seabrook is at an age where many players start to decline, so there’s a risk of paying for the player he was on his next contract rather than the player he actually will be.
  • Trading for Seabrook is going to require a major return, and signing him will involve a massive cap hit.

There’s simply no getting around the second point – Seabrook is a famous player on a good team, so there’s almost certainly no chance to acquire him on the cheap or sign him to a low-end deal. Players on good teams in major markets just naturally get more attention than comparable players on poor teams in small markets, and there’s a “proven winner” premium attached to players like Seabrook.

However, when a resource – such as a top-end defenceman – is scarce enough, what might otherwise be seen as an overpayment can be justifiable.

The key question is really: Will Brent Seabrook be a legitimate top-pairing defencemen over his next contract? If the answer is “yes”, a big payment is justified. If the answer is “no” the Oilers should look elsewhere.

Even-Strength Comparables

Using Hockey-Reference.com, I was able to put together a list of defencemen who played similar minutes to Seabrook and scored at about the same rate at the same age. Then, using war-on-ice.com, I was able to narrow that list down to players who had managed similar results in similar situations at five-on-five over the same time frame. I ended up with a list of five names:

Player TOI P/60 QC ZSRel FenRel
Brent Seabrook 17.0 0.6 17.5 -1.3 -1.0
Niklas Kronwall 16.4 0.6 17.6 -0.3 -0.6
Dennis Seidenberg 18.3 0.9 17.5 -1.4 -2.0
Roman Hamrlik 14.7 0.7 17.6 -0.2 -1.0
Michal Rozsival 16.2 0.8 18.0 -1.6 1.8
Adrian Aucoin 14.1 0.7 18.3 -5.2 -6.4

A quick explanation. TOI is the amount of time per game each skater played. P/60 is the number of points each player managed in an average hour. QC is a quality of competition measure, based on the ice time of each player’s opponents (higher means harder opposition). ZSRel is how often each player started in the offensive zone vs. the defensive zone, relative to his teammates (the more negative a number, the more frequently he started in the defensive end). FenRel is how well each player’s team did at out-shooting the opposition (both shots and missed shots) when he was on the ice, relative again to teammates (a higher number indicates the team did a better job with the player on the ice than with him off).

  • Niklas Kronwall was the closest match of the 20-odd names I checked into, and that’s encouraging because he’s now 34 years old and has been a solid contributor to the Red Wings all down the line. Even now, he’s a reasonable No. 2 option. Like Seabrook, he played for a good team at this age.
  • Dennis Seidenberg was another good match, and like Kronwall played for a good team (winning the Stanley Cup in the year in question). He’ll turn 34 this week and is still playing tough minutes, though arguably he’s more of a second-pairing defenceman at this stage in his career.
  • Roman Hamrlik played for a weaker team (though it was still a playoff club) and in a lesser role but is another reasonable fit. He was still logging 22-plus minutes per game in his late 30’s and is an encouraging comp.
  • Michal Rozsival was the No. 1 defenceman for a pretty good New York Rangers team at the same age that Seabrook is now, but is a less encouraging comparison because he declined significantly in the years that followed. He has, however, been a reasonably effective No. 4/5 defenceman into his late 30’s.
  • Adrian Aucoin played on a weaker team than Chicago, but was still on a club that made the playoffs at this age and was handling awfully tough minutes. He played until age 40, and while his role was reduced he was still contributing into his late 30’s.

There’s going to be a tendency to look at the names on that list and harrumph that Seabrook is a better player than this lot. It’s worth remembering that Seabrook has been Chicago’s No. 3 option at evens for a lot of years now – both Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson get more minutes five-on-five and have going back several seasons – and that the list above was pretty good around age 30. It’s also worth remembering that I’m looking at just five-on-five here, and Seabrook also contributes to both special teams.

Looking at this list, if Seabrook were to sign a five-year deal taking him from his age-31 to age-35 seasons, I’d expect that he’d be a top-pairing option for the majority of the deal and good second-pairing option even to the very end of the contract. Naturally, your mileage may vary, but that’s how I see him.

My difficulty is that I tend to rate Seabrook behind Hjalmarsson and Keith, that I see him less as a true game-changer and more as just a really good defenceman who can handle top-pairing duty. When I see a player like Cody Franson available on the open market for nothing but money or a situation like the one in Toronto where the Maple Leafs are likely willing to take a bad contract back for Dion Phaneuf, it makes me wonder if the degree to which Seabrook is superior to Franson/Phaneuf is really worth the additional cost in terms of both assets and dollars.

I like the player and think he’s a good fit, and most years I’d suggest the Oilers should jump at the chance to acquire him. But it’s been kind of a weird year for defencemen and the salary cap, and I don’t know that it makes sense to pay the premium on Seabrook when serviceable options are available much cheaper really makes sense (colleagues Jason Gregor and Robin Brownlee hold differing views, with Gregor laying out his case at length). 

I will likely feel differently if Seabrook reaches free agency next July 1.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Rock11

    I think that, sadly, the oilers are too early in their development stage to make a move on Seabrook. At this point we still really don’t know what we have in Yak, Klef, Nurse, Reinhart, Drai, Mcdavid, and to some degree Nuge.

    A year under Mcllellan with what should be better goaltending and more complete roster should help clear up some of those questions. Best case scenario is Jultz advances to a legit 2nd pair guy who can run the PP. Klefbom steps up to be a number 1 pair guy, Nurse looks like Pronger redux and Reinhart shows he can be a shutdown monster. While having all of those things happen is unlikely having two or 3 of them occur makes the cost of acquisition and cap-hit on Seabrook a terrible use of assets.

    Despite the perception that 1st pair guys are never available almost every year somebody shakes loose. Chiarelli needs to know what he has before trading away assets and cap flexibility for what amounts to a solid number 2 D-man. If we were talking about Keith or Doughty I’d feel different but Seabrook just simply isn’t in that class.

  • Zarny

    Having watched Franson with the Preds last year I would be choked if the Oilers signed him. He isn’t overly physical, is prone to boneheaded plays, rarely uses a slapper, and somehow made the Predators worse defensively. The Oilers fans would have a new whipping boy at 5mil a year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Pete’s Plan:

    He compared himself to the Grim Reaper, so here are a couple of thoughts….

    He didn’t use the first buyout period because he wasn’t sure if he’d get Sekera. Make sense to hang on to what he had, temporarily. So, initiate arbitration, not really to ‘hurry up the process’ in signing Schultz, but to open the second buyout window. It had to be Schultz as Pitlick and Davidson would certainly accept their qualifying offers.

    Then, contact Franson or Erhoff’s agents (maybe even Brad Boyes’)and make it known that their players are on the Oilers’ radar. One of them took the bait and will sign as soon as NN and/or AF are bought out.

    Hell, I’m trying to figure out why they haven’t been signed by ANYONE yet…could a deal be in place? Not only that, the off season is pretty mundane, no hockey sucks, so trying to second guess seems to make October come quicker.

  • HECTOR

    I think we need to look to our young guys to develop the top pairing d-man. We need to spread out the big contracts to avoid the CAP hell that is sure to come if we keep on sighing old expensive players. The oilers are a few years away from contending so we need to develop/trade etc to that end.

  • paul wodehouse

    Honestly I think Seabrook is overrated…he’s a star looking for super star money. That’s what happens when you win 3 cups in 6 yrs. Watching him in the Olympic games(especially the 1st game) looked lost on the big ice and granted so did a few players, made some bad plays. Long story short I wouldn’t sell the farm to get him and it would be a 3-4 yr deal. Go Oil!

    • Some of it is Johnny Oduya dragging down his numbers; that pairing played relatively tough minutes and hasn’t been particularly good together.

      But I do think it’s something to look at and be cautious about if you’re bringing in Seabrook and don’t have a Duncan Keith for him to play with.

      That’s part of the reason I rate Hjalmarsson higher, too; they’re comparable in a lot of ways (including difficulty of minutes) but Hjalmarsson’s been getting the job done primarily with Oduya while Seabrook has been doing it with Keith.

  • paul wodehouse

    Once again, Jon, brilliant article. All very good points.
    Dump Nicki and sign Franson or Errhoff then?

    OK, good, done.

    Now if only you were our Assistant Vice President of Hockey Operations. We wouldnt have Nicki, Ferrence, or Jultz dragging us down.

  • Spoils

    what I am NOT psyched about is we are saying he’ll be a top pairing guy when he is currently a 3rd pairing guy on Chicago.

    We need to go and get a TOP PAIRING GUY. under 26.

    near impossible – but we have the assets to do it.

    and I argue – if Pronger taught us anything, it will absolutely be worth it.

    The #1 guy plays 50% of the game. you just need to tie for the rest of it.

    oh, and we’ve got McJeeeze.

    • billythebullet

      Seabrook is now a 3rd pairing guy?

      Good grief, because one writer, Willis, says he isn’t a top pair Dman doesn’t mean he isn’t. He is a legit top-pairing defender. When you can name 60 Dmen better than him then he isn’t.

      Seabrook would be the best defender in Edmonton easily and he would be for at least three years.

      • Actually, Willis said quite specifically that he is a top pairing player.

        Looking at this list, if Seabrook were to sign a five-year deal taking him from his age-31 to age-35 seasons, I’d expect that he’d be a top-pairing option for the majority of the deal and good second-pairing option even to the very end of the contract.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    You can build a solid pro/con case for Seabrook. The money he will surely be receiving would soon require sacrifices be made in other areas of the roster.

    Maybe now would be a good time to apply this same effort in Adam Larssons direction. That kid looks like he could hopefully pop soon, like maybe Hedman has in Tampa. Could Jersey be interested in a Yak++/3 for 1 for Larsson. Yak, Purcell/Scrivens/Nikitin/Simpson/Pitlick. Pick 3 any 3. The Oilers sure have been on the losers end of those types of deals for the last 20 yrs or so.

    Klefbom, Nurse and Larsson could make a fine top 3 grouping of blueliners inside of McDavids ELC.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Larsson would cost you Draisatl. No question. Jersey has no pressure to move Larsson, he’s only 22, and they’re in for some lean years for the next little while. They need high end young talent, especially at forward, especially at centre, and if they move any of their young defensemen that’s what they’re going to want. And Larsson has the most potential of their young defensemen.

      They might take Nikitin or Ference off the Oilers hands to make it work, or send a little sweetener back the Oilers way, but if that’s where you’re looking that’s what it’s going to cost.

        • petrklimashelmet

          I mean, it’s worth a call. They’ve got a new GM, maybe Shero doesn’t have a good read on Larsson. Lamoriello resisted any temptation to move Larsson even though Pete DeBoer didn’t seem to have a lot of time for him. I think the new coach will probably lean on him as a defensive anchor, but it’s kind of baffling that it looks like they’re going to let him go to arbitration.

          They’re going to want a young forward, for sure, because while they’ve got some decent young defensemen they have just nothing at forward outside of the kid they just drafted, Zacha. There’s Adam Henrique and a bunch of mediocre veterans they’re waiting for the clock to run out on. Maybe Yak does get it done, but I doubt it.

    • Anton CP

      I think that Seabrook has an eye on what is transpiring with the Oilers. He may be more attracted than one might think. He truly has a hockey heart, probably more coin than 10 of us would ever need, I’d hope he’d consider it a personal adventure in gestalt hockey!

    • Anton CP

      I think that Seabrook has an eye on what is transpiring with the Oilers. He may be more attracted than one might think. He truly has a hockey heart, probably more coin than 10 of us would ever need, I’d hope he’d consider it a personal adventure in gestalt hockey!

    • Anton CP

      I think that Seabrook has an eye on what is transpiring with the Oilers. He may be more attracted than one might think. He truly has a hockey heart, probably more coin than 10 of us would ever need, I’d hope he’d consider it a personal adventure in gestalt hockey!

    • Anton CP

      I think that Seabrook has an eye on what is transpiring with the Oilers. He may be more attracted than one might think. He truly has a hockey heart, probably more coin than 10 of us would ever need, I’d hope he’d consider it a personal adventure in gestalt hockey!

    • Anton CP

      I think that Seabrook has an eye on what is transpiring with the Oilers. He may be more attracted than one might think. He truly has a hockey heart, probably more coin than 10 of us would ever need, I’d hope he’d consider it a personal adventure in gestalt hockey!

    • Anton CP

      I think that Seabrook has an eye on what is transpiring with the Oilers. He may be more attracted than one might think. He truly has a hockey heart, probably more coin than 10 of us would ever need, I’d hope he’d consider it a personal adventure in gestalt hockey!

  • petrklimashelmet

    I think most people are kind of forgetting the reason we’re even discussing Seabrook in the first place: He’s attainable.

    Everyone here talking about getting Seth Jones or whatever, it ain’t going to happen. Unless you’re Boston, teams don’t give away young franchise D men. Chicago, on the other hand, is in a really really really bad cap situation ala Boston was one year ago and will likely have to let Seabrook go for picks. Not because they want to mind you, but because they have to. Also, it likely won’t even be a high pick considering the age of the player.

    So, we should forget trading for Jones, or any other stud D man who is a franchise player, and focus on what’s attainable.

    He will be pricey to resign and may begin to decline, but these guys just don’t come around that often, and the Oilers currently have no one in development with the same game as Seabrook, unless we believe Nurse is going to be a 40 point right side D man.

  • JackB

    No.

    The asking price would likely be (Eberle + picks) or (Klefbom + prospect or picks) or (Nurse + prospect or picks) (I’m just guessing of course) and that is TOO HIGH for a declining asset who might only be a second pairing D in 2 or 3 years.

    And if the asking pridce is not that high, the cost would likely be 8 mill over 5-6 years. He’s now making just under 6 mill, and it appears he may be asking 8 mill (or higher) from Chicago now that Toews and Kane are making 13.8 mill (10.5 cap)

    The asking price would be too high and we would be giving away our future for maybe 2-3 years of immediate reward. And even if the asking price from Chicago was lower, his asking salary could put us in cap hell, and even further endanger the possibility of keeping our young assets (Hall, RNH and Eberle) in the future.

    I would say absolutely not.

    Why is it we don’t (or can’t) develop our own top assets? Seabrook was drafted in 2003 (we tool Marc Pouliott in 2003 … ahead of Ryan Kessler, Mike Richards and Corey Perry!) Seabrook then spent 2 years in junior, and now 10 years in the NHL. Chicago drafted him, then developed him.

    We may not have a potential Seabrook in our system who will become a top 2, but we have some pretty good assets: Klefbom, Nurse, Reinhart, Davidson, Simpson, Osterle, Betker, (and maybe even Schultz?) Laleggia, Lagesson, Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones.

    I say we (1) wait at least one year, (2) see what is available in next year’s in UFA pool, (3) continue to develop our own young defence (we certainly didn’t develop Schultz properly, asking him to play top two in his first 2 years in the NHL!) (4) if necessary, try for Erhoff or Hejda on a 1 year contract if we really need one more top 4 D for next year (5) show some patience and fiscal restraint (6) IMPROVE OUR SCOUTING AND DEVELOPMENT

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      That would not be the asking price. It would not make sense for a team in a cap crunch to dump 5.6 mill and take on 6 mill. That is the opposite of what they are trying to do. Seabrook will go for maybe MAYBE a 2016 1st round. But likely it will be a combo of lower picks.

  • petrklimashelmet

    I really don’t see Seabrook’s age a problem. Defensemen peak later in their careers than forwards, because the position is less about speed and more about positioning from reading and anticipating the play. That comes from experience and most of the best defencemen are in their late 20’s until mid 30’s.

    Considering his resilience throughout his career, I’d say that Seabrook is less at risk for injury and is likely to enjoy a long career. I think it is fair to expect Seabrook to be a valuable asset until 35 at the very least.

  • petrklimashelmet

    The main issue with going after Seabrook is that he only has one year left on his contract. The Oilers would need to be sure that he will re-sign, or else give up very little to get him for one year. We can’t give up our future now that we finally have some prospects emerging.

  • petrklimashelmet

    No deal.

    He is too old for PC. I like our draft going after aggressive D and I like our young D in Nurse, Klefbom & Reinhart. Save the cash for them if they go the same direction as a rocket. Term, $ & a favorable birth certificate must all go together.

    • Anton CP

      Are you out of your gourd ?? Not a top 2 Dman on what team exactly? Try to name 8 ( half the playoff teams) … Dare you.
      IMO the only reason he plays 2nd pairing is because Keith anchors the first pairing and Brent the second. Hjarmellson isn’t anywhere near the player that Seabrook is. Just look at the special teams stats ( and note both PP and PK duty and time logged). JW should would do well to place more weight on this aspect in his analysis than to simply say he plays on the second pair therefore worse. Wrong. And then to say he’s not a game changer? Have you watched the playoffs for the last 5 years Jonathon or do you sit and scribble on a notepad while the action ensues. I just don’t understand the absurdity of that statement.

      • Anton CP

        Not a No.1 D, top pairing all right but so far his only second to Keith throughout his career. Will he be the same Seabrook without Keith?

        Seabrook last year had 15 PPP and 1 SHP with total of 31 points and -3 by playing all 82 games avg 22 mins, you know who else has 31 points too? Justin Schultz. The SC bias is strong on Seabrook, he is a good solid D man but he is not 7m+ D man.

        • Spoils

          Anton,

          Dude… He does not play with Keith at 5v5 even strength. So do I think he’ll be the same without Keith the answer is exactly the same minus any special teams when he’s on the ice next to Duncan.
          Your Shultz comparison is ridiculous btw. Everyone know he had the easiest zone starts and PP time in the league. They are not in the same valuation obviously.
          As for whether or not Seabrook is worth 7 Mil. A year… It’s whatever the market will bear and whether that’s the right thing for the Oilers is debatable. The argument that he’s not a top pairing defenseman iisn’t. Quite clearly he is.

  • JackB

    Justin Schultz was handled VERY POORLY from the day he started in the NHL. But Dumb and Dumber are gone . . . AND HE KNOWS . . . that he has to become stronger, more aggressive, more defensive . . . (and he has a new coach) . . . (and he can score). He will either show he is a better defenseman . . . OR HE WILL BE GONZO !! . . . So there is one of our assets (probably the LEAST of our assets!!)

    Our other assets are NURSE, KLEFBOM, REINHART, BETKER, DAVIDSON . . .

    NOT TO MENTION SEKERA (who was – remember – the best UFA this year! and lots of teams were trying for him . . . and he picked Edmonton – when was the last time a free agent choose our city? 10-15 years ago ??) . . . AND HE’S WITH US NOW FOR SIX YEARS !! . . . (At only 5.5 cap-hit . . . not 8 to 8.5, which Seabrook probably wants)

    (Not to mention . . . possibly Simpson and Osterle ??? . . . not to mention Laleggia – a Hobey Baker finalist – who can REALLY skate and SCORE … for a smaller guy)

    (Not to mention Caleb Jones [who says he plays a “rougher/tougher game” than his big brother Seth] and who in 4-5 years could be a real 4th round find)

    (Not to mention Ethan Bear who appears to play a pretty rugged game, and may be a real 5th round steal 4 or 5 years away)

    COME ON GUYS !!

    LET’S SHOW A LITTLE PATIENCE. LET’S DEVELOP THE TALENT WE HAVE, INSTEAD OF ALWAYS WANTING THE OTHER TEAMS STARS (BECAUSE WE ARE IMPATIENT AND CAN’T WAIT FOR A CUP CONTENDER!!). . . AND THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER . . . kinda attitude

    Who Knows? Maybe Seabrook will make it to free agency next year . . . and maybe . . . ??

    I say we sign Erhoff or Hejda to a one year term (FOR A HECK OF A LOT LESS MONEY) if we need another proven veteran for a year.

    You know, I think Connor has unequalled drive and determination . . . and all of our young players will be excited by him . . . and feed off his enthusiasm . . . and will all exceed expectations . . . I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO SEE HOW HALL WILL RESPOND TO PLAYING WITH HIM . . . AND HOW NURSE IS GOING TO SURPRISE EVEYONE!!

    LET THE SEASON BEGIN !! . . . (soon I hope)

  • Spoils

    Although I’m on the fence about Seabrook mostly because of probable salary cap hit moving forward, he was a team canada Olympic team defenseman. He is easily a top 2 defenseman and instantly our best. To say he is a number 3 on Chicago simply isn’t true. Be wary of the price but if it is possible make the deal for him. Also get rid of Purcell and add hemsky. He would add a lot of versatility moving up and down the top 3 lines.