WWYDW: Which Oilers defencemen should be in the long-term plans?

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The Edmonton Oilers have used nine defencemen already this season, but unfortunately for the club the old pattern of having quantity but not quality is producing similar results as it has in previous years. In today’s edition of WWYDW, we ask which defencemen our readers would be inclined to keep for next season, and which ones need to be cut loose to make space for better players.

The Depth Chart

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Via NHL Numbers, the following is a list of relevant players and their contracts. I’ve also included David Musil, who will require waivers to be sent to the AHL next year.

(As I read the CBA, both Jordan Oesterle and Joey Laleggia can be demoted next year without needing to clear waivers, provided that each is still under the 60 NHL games played mark.)

  • Andrej Sekera: $5.5 million cap hit through 2020-21. Natural LD, can play RD.
  • Oscar Klefbom: $4.167 million cap hit through 2022-23. Natural LD, can play RD.
  • Justin Schultz: RFA, coming off a $3.9 million cap hit. RD.
  • Mark Fayne: $3.625 million cap hit through 2017-18. RD.
  • Eric Gryba: UFA, coming off a $1.25 million cap hit. RD.
  • Griffin Reinhart: $833,000 cap hit (up to $3.213 million with bonuses) through 2016-17. Natural LD, can play RD.
  • Darnell Nurse: $833,000 cap hit (up to $1.713 million with bonuses) through 2017-18. LD.
  • Brandon Davidson: RFA, coming off a $585,000 cap hit. Natural LD, can play RD. 
  • Andrew Ference: $3.25 million cap hit through 2016-17. Natural LD, can play RD.
  • Nikita Nikitin: UFA, coming off $4.5 million cap hit. Natural LD, may actually be more effective at RD.
  • David Musil: RFA, coming off $894,000 cap hit. Natural LD, can play RD. (needs to clear waivers)

That is a total of 11 players, plus any additions made to bolster the blue line. So: Who should the Oilers keep, and who should they part ways with?

My Take

Darnell Nurse

Sekera stays. I don’t think he’s been as bad as most others do, I’ve been impressed by what I saw of him in L.A. and Carolina, and I think it’s also natural to expect an adjustment period as he gets used to a more prominent role on a new team. Klefbom stays, obviously, as do Nurse and Reinhart given their respective ages (with the caveat that if an obviously excellent defenceman became available, Reinhart in particular might make sense as part of the return package).

That’s four spots taken up, most of them on the left side. If I’m building the team, ideally I want seven defencemen total and one of those seven to be an off-season addition (Dustin Byfuglien is a popular name; basically the idea here is to grab a top-pair defender who ideally shoots right).

That leaves two spots for the other 11 incumbents. Nikitin obviously walks; just as obviously Ference is bought out of his contract. In Peter Chiarelli’s position, I’d be open to trading all of Schultz, Fayne and Gryba. Gryba will obviously have value at the deadline given his expiring contract; the Oilers should be able to get more than they paid for him. Schultz will also be on an expiring contract and a team with power play problems might be interested at the deadline; I suspect he’s tradeable and I’d move on because I see him as a No. 4/5 defenceman and he’s just paid too much. I like Fayne quite a bit, but I tend to think he can be replaced in the summer at a lower dollar figure, so if there’s a deal that makes sense take it and if not he’s welcome to stay.

I like Davidson and I like Musil, but there’s already a ton of youth on the blue line and both guys are left shots (like every other defenceman on the team). If there’s a trade out there, great; if not there’s a training camp battle to be fought for one of the depth jobs.

When all is said and done, that leaves Klefbom, Sekera, one of Nurse/Reinhart and a newcomer in top-four spots next season, as well as the other of Nurse/Reinhart on the third pairing with either Fayne or a cheap newcomer, with one of Davidson/Musil in the No. 7 slot. That’s not a particularly reassuring defence – even if the newcomer is somebody like Byfuglien – but at this point the Oilers don’t have much choice but to give the ball to their young players and hope they run with it.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • For Pete's Sake!

    Would this line up work for the Oilers:?

    Jor.Benn

    Demers

    Goligoski

    Jokipakka

    Klingberg

    Oduya

    Happens to be the line-up for the 2nd place team in the NHL.Their goaltending numbers are a shade over .900 as well.

    Would you trade the Oilers Defense for these guys?

    Dallas is making it happen without studs on the back end, as are many other teams. The SORE, is deeper than the defense.

    • For Pete's Sake!

      John Klingberg is a stud. and goligosky and oduya are strong top4 d-men so the stars are getting by by having a top 3 offence in the league and defense that while not full of shut-down monsters are all competent skaters and puck-movers which fits in what people think the nhl is trending toward. compare that to the oilers problems of have nikitin,ference,gryba,musil,fayne as defensive options when they are all below average skaters and some of them are actual turnstiles installed on the ice when they are dressed

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    in my opinion only, if they are going forward with very inexperienced kids like Klefbom, Nurse and Reinhart, with only Sekera as the long signed vet d-man who will actually play a lot, then they MUST sign two GOOD, experienced d-men who can play with Sekera and help guide the kids along. top d-men like UFA’s Buff, Coburn, Yandle, and consider *maybe* top 4 guys Polak, Gunnarsson, Bartkowski, Ehrhoff, Demers, Grossman, Lovejoy….

  • chickenStew

    Trade for a STUD Defenseman is a dream. NO team has two studs and they aren’t going to give up their best player.

    Free agency is too expensive and too much term to get that Stud player.

    We need to focus Reinhart type trades (gambles).

    I like Adam Larsson as an add your team.

    Nurse-Sekera
    Klefblom-Larsson
    Reinhart-Shultz
    Davidson/Musil

    Big, can skate/pass and can break up the cycle

      • chickenStew

        Calgary paid a 1st and 2 seconds for Hamilton
        Edmonton paid a first and second for Reinhart

        These seem to set the market.

        If they wanted a player instead of the first Eberle or Yakupov and second should get the deal done.

  • Igor Ulanov 55

    Too many NMC clauses and not enough true number 1 D’s. That’s why rebuilds take so long, and that the Oilers tanking hasn’t yielded results. This isn’t a superstar league like the NBA where one top draft pick can turn around a team. Teams are build from the net out and the only way to do that is to draft and develop successfully.

    The majority of top draft picks are forwards, that’s the easy part.

  • Igor Ulanov 55

    To all the Hall lovers out there. He us a very talented player but to many times I see him skate himself out of a play. He is an all about me player. Nashville needs scoring and will never be able to resign Jossi, Jones and Ellis. Jones is probably the only one they would let go. With jones and nurse on our blue, they will be the Seabrook Keith tadem we need to win the cup.

    • Cowbell_Feva

      Hall still makes junior mistake after junior mistake. Yet he still gets prime ice-time and PP time. The kid can skate like the wind and can make some nice plays, but then literally turn the puck over 3 times on a single PP and then rip it high and wide, just to self clear the puck on his own teammates. This literally happened last night.

      He is not a cerebral player. All kinds of natural talent, very little in hockey IQ. Just my opinion.

      I have said for a long time to trade Hall for a stud, and Seth Jones was the guy I would target. However, Poile would probably ask for Hall and another piece, in order to get that stud he knows he has.

      Saying that…Nashville might be the most complete team in the NHL and he won’t want to rock the boat.

      It would be sweet to have Darnell and Seth on opposite shifts of each other with RNH and McDavid up the middle for the next decade!!!