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

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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

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  • For Pete's Sake!

    I know you don’t like Gryba, Jonathan. But he brings a level of toughness to our blueline that we desperately need.

    For me, we should keep Nurse, Klefbom, Sekera, Reinhart, Gryba and Davidson. Pretty much what we’ve got now but we’ve got to give these young guys a chance to mature.

    The coach has got it right.

    But for next year we’ve just got to get Byfuglien.
    What a shot of confidence and grit he would add to our blueline.

    • Eh Blinkin

      Gryba is fine as our 6/7 def at this time. He’s playing to his potential and adds some physical play. We are stuck with Sekera for the long haul. He’s extremely overpaid for what he brings and he isn’t going to get better as a 30 year old. Really hoping Klefbom isn’t the next whipping boy but he looks terrible out there. Reinhart has too much invested in him so he will be given extra opportunity because hex was Chias first big move. Hopefully Nurse will figure the game out but his physical gifts lead to hope. I’m not as down on Schultz as some here and hopefully he returns soon so we can see if he can become something. The rest including the other prospects dont lead to a lot of hope in my opinion.

    • I think everybody needs to stop acting like they are the General Manager or Coach. Bob Nicholson is the boss and he knows what he is doing. Chiarelli turned a terrible Boston team into a winner and the results started a year into the job. McClellan is a exceptional coach. It is not either one of these guys’s fault with the team they inherited. I have the utmost confidence they will turn this around. Find the right defense and proper forwards. Cannot happen overnight.

    • More like:

      Nurse – Byfuglien/Yandle
      Sekera – Klefbom
      Reinhart – Davidson
      Fayne

      Sekera and Fayne are not likely going anywhere.
      Ferrence has to get bought out next year.
      Justin Shultz can be a guy that the Oilers trade or walk away from.

      I am guessing the Oilers are going to be looking to spend heavy on Byfuglien or Yandle.

      Hopefully they get one or the other.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    I’m so tired of the guys saying, “trade Hall for this or this defenseman.” It’s never going to happen so just stop talking about it.

    First of all, after McDavid, Hall is our best player. Haters hate all you want but that’s simply a fact.

    Second, you’re not ever going to get Arizona to trade OEL or Nashville to trade Weber, or Montreal to trade P.K. That’s the kind of guy you’re going to have to get for an equal value return on Taylor Hall.

    The only way a team can pickup a decent first pairing Dman nowadays is through free agency. That’s how the Islanders did it.

    We’re just going to have to be patient and wait until next summer and hope that Buff picks us.

  • CMG30

    Musil? Thought consensus was that in the modern NHL his foot speed would keep him from having an impact at the NHL level.

    Davidson has been a revelation as a 5-6 defender. But after that the pipeline includes Osterle, and Simpson, and Joey Legg’s. None project more then a bottom pair defender.

  • 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