It’s been apparent for a few years now that the Oilers were facing a logjam of good young prospects on the blue line. The addition of another top-quality prospect rearguard (Griffin Reinhart) has only served to intensify the situation.
An obvious solution is trade.
The Current Situation
The Oilers may lack established top-four NHL defenceman, but they have no shortage of promising young/inexperienced NHL’ers and good prospects. Here’s a look at the significant players with less than 100 NHL games the team will have at the professional level next year:
Three of those players look like can’t-miss NHL’ers. Edmonton’s NHL future is going to depend to a large degree on the development of Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart, all of whom are being pegged to play significant roles in coming years.
That trio alone will be a lot for Edmonton to break in on the blue line over the next few seasons; there isn’t going to be much room for other prospects to find their way. That was probably at least part of the reason why the Oilers shipped out Martin Marincin and brought in Eric Gryba at the draft; Marincin’s ceiling is certainly higher but Gryba is 27 years old and has five professional seasons under his belt.
Even if we only add one name from the rest of that pro prospect group to Edmonton’s depth chart over the next three years, the Oilers will be breaking in four players who presently have less than 100 games of NHL experience over that span. It’s an awfully hard thing to do, particularly if the team wants to win some games over that stretch.
Additionally, even if all of Klefbom, Nurse and Reinhart make the big club out of camp next year, the Oilers will have seven prospects on their AHL blue line – and that’s before even looking at minor league mentors like Brad Hunt.
The trouble is that with the possible exception of Musil (and given his skating concerns, even that’s pushing it) none of those players are going to command a lot in a deal. Still, there are at least three kinds of trade that might make sense for Edmonton:
- Sweetener on a larger deal. Over the course of making trades, generally there arises a situation where a team has to sweeten the pot to get a deal done. A good recent example would be the inclusion of Colin Miller in the Milan Lucic trade between Boston and Los Angeles. If the Oilers make a bigger deal and need to top up their side of it, a defensive prospect is the obvious choice.
- Prospect-for-pick. The Canucks dealt a third-round pick and a contract (Alexandre Mallet, then toiling in the ECHL) to the Islanders for defensive prospect Andrey Pedan this year (another example would be the Reinhart trade, though the value on that is on a different level entirely). Other recent examples might include the trades of Magnus Hellberg and Max Reinhart for later picks. One team addresses an area of need, the other adds a pick. We shouldn’t be surprised if the Oilers opt for that kind of move.
- Prospect-for-prospect. A good example of this came at the trade deadline, when Colorado swapped forward Michael Sgarbossa to Anaheim for defenceman Mat Clark. Lots of teams have the opposite issue of the Oilers – plenty of good forwards, but a lack of solid defencemen. Edmonton’s forward prospect group isn’t especially strong, and moving a second-tier defensive prospect for a second-tier forward prospect would solve two problems at once.