Trading The Nuge: Pump The Brakes

Let’s file this one under “bad ideas we had when we got too
excited”: Trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins because Leon Draisaitl has emerged.

On Saturday I wrote this article about the emergence of Leon
Draisaitl and his incredible point production over the first 10 games of the
season. Coles Notes: ZOMG GERMAN GRETZKY IS AMAZING.

By the end of that article I was thinking about depth at the centre position.
I was musing about three lines consisting of duos that complement each other
and that could provide wave after wave of offensive pressure. While
dreaming up a scenario where Edmonton had high-end depth that could be the envy
of the NHL, others were dreaming up trade scenarios.

I like trade talk – it’s fun. Trying to think about different
options that could work for Team X and also Team Y is a great way to get some
creative juices flowing and if done right is a great excuse to get to know
other teams better than you might currently.

However, if the first reaction to the Oilers getting depth
down the middle for the first time since the Glory Years is to trade one of
those centres away, then we need to slow down. Let’s all take a deep breath and
step back.

The thing with depth is that it’s not really a thing if it’s
only on paper. It has to actually exist before teams can reap the benefits from
it. Edmonton has only had all of Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and McDavid in the
lineup at the same time for three games. Well, actually, two-and-a-half games
because McDavid’s clavicle was broken part of the way through the would-be
third game.

In addition to being limited to just three games with those
players in the lineup together, the Oilers have actually played zero (zilch,
nada) games with those three all playing centre. It has never happened.
Draisaitl started the season playing on the wing.

So Edmonton has actually not yet played a game at it’s full
potential yet this year even though we are 20 games into the season. This is
something, perhaps, that should be remedied before we get ahead of ourselves
and dream up trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The Nuge is still Edmonton’s most utilized forward,
averaging 21:15 per game. That’s more than a minute ahead of Taylor Hall on a
per game basis. He can be trusted at even strength, the power play, and on the
penalty kill. He plays against the top defenses of the opposition and the most
dangerous forwards. Despite this he does an admirable job offensively and territorially.

RNH has 15 points in 19 games this year, a 65 point pace
over 82 games, and yet he hasn’t looked like he’s been quite unlocked
offensively. There are going to be more opportunities open up for him when
teams have to choose between either his, Draisaitl, or McDavid’s line to focus
their attention on.

But what if the Oilers don’t want three scoring lines? Wouldn’t
the Oilers have TOO MANY centers?

No. Wait…what?

There is absolutely no team in the NHL that has “too many”
quality centers. It’s just not a thing that ever happens because if it doesn’t make
sense to play one of RNH/McDavid/Draisaitl on a third line then one of
those players will switch to the wing. We know Draisaitl can play the wing very
effectively. We don’t really know how well RNH could do it, but I’m not exactly
worried about it.

It will always be more beneficial to slide a center to the
wing than trade him away and keep someone who is strictly a winger. Injuries
happen and wingers are significantly more abundant than competent centers.

Trade speculation these days is (justifiably) centred
around Travis Hamonic and quality defenders coming back to the Oilers. If the
logic behind trading RNH is that he is very valuable so he could net the club
more, rest your mind at ease. Jordan Eberle is also highly regarded around the
league. The upgrade from Eberle to Nuge is not so much that the Oilers would go
from Hamonic to Subban. It simply doesn’t make sense to move 93 ahead of other
similarly priced, similarly regarded wingers they also have available.

This young man is in his fifth NHL season, he’s
just 22 years old, and he’s signed long term. Nuge is only now starting to look
like a man (as opposed to a kid). He skates with speed and grace. He plays in
every situation. He plays more minutes than every other forward for a reason.
He is not the player the Oilers should be thinking of trading just because they
have two other centers who are also very good. Let’s just take this opportunity
to count to ten and come up with better ideas.

  • bazmagoo

    In a perverse kind of way I would love to see the Oil draft #1 in the 2016 draft taking Auston Matthews. Why you ask? Because I would love to watch heads explode at NHL HQ, TSN, Sportsnet and CBC.

    Yes. I am freaking bitter and twisted.

    • hagar

      I would love to build a time machine, go back 4 months, and bet 99 percent of the people on this site including myself that the oilers would be last place again.

        • hagar

          I went into the season wanting nothing more. It is there to happen if the defense can string together some performances.

          We will see just how far along we truly are against the caps.

          If either of us build a time machine, can we both agree to go back in time and push klowe down the stairs like 20 years ago?

          It would save a whole heck load of lost sleep for the nation.

  • Oilerz4life

    They won’t trade Nuge. He’s a talented, character player. He works hard every game and has noticeably improved going into every season.

    As good as Hall is showing now and other than CMD, RNH is the franchise player.

    • Oilerz4life

      In fact you should be ashamed writing this article. When RNH reads it, because I’m sure all the Oilers read on, he’s going to be quite upset. And rightfully so.

  • THRNHJE

    I’ll pile on a bit with how dumb it is to think of trading Nuge with another comparison. There is a certain centre in the league that has dominated with his takeaway proficiency and his 200ft game and his excellent passing that STARTED in the league at the age Nuge is now. the name on his jersey is Datsyuk.

    Nuge is a very similar player. When you have a chance to have a centre depth whose comparables are Crosby, Kopitar, and Datsyuk, You keep that in tact.

  • CMG30

    A couple other points, the guys I would be thinking about trading are Yak and Pouliot, assuming the Pou-RNH-Ebs line starts performing at a high level.

    Pouliot is likely to start getting points at a pace above his skill level, which should make him overvalued by years end, and he has an appealing contract.

    If McDavid comes back and Yak finishes as a plus player and 55-60 points, trade him. Purcell is already UFA, so no good there.

    Like I said, with our pairs, we should be able to drag at least one guy up per line and make him overvalued, then you trade that guy.

    Like I said in another thread, it is just like what they used to do with Lemieux in Pittsburgh years back.

    Right now, untouchables for me are RNH, McDavid, Hall, Draisaitl, Ebs, Nurse.

    Guys that I would not trade as we would not get fair return are Klefbom, Davidson and Reinhart.

    The rest I would pull the trigger on assuming we got fair value. Although really the Oilers should be trying to trade picks and prospects and leave our active players alone, unless they could take one of our so so D, package them with a pick and get an upgrade.

    Like Fayne or Shultz + our 1st or 2nd round pick for a top pairing d-man for instance. That would be something I would pull the trigger on in a heartbeat. To bad a Hamonic deal can not be done for something like that.

  • Jaxon

    Look, the reason Chiarelli has been dealing with the Islander GM for Six months on Hamonic with no success is both GMs want to come out on top. Neither wants to lose any trade. Suggestions by people on this site recommending trading Draisaitl, Hall, RNH, Klefbom or Nurse to acquire Hamonic are out of their freaking minds. Some boneheads have suggested giving up multiple Oiler players. One dude suggested Schultz AND Eberle for heavens sakes. That is why those people are GMs of nothing.

    When Calgary gave up so little relatively speaking to snatch up Hamilton from Boston is a case in point. Hamilton IMO is a better overall D than Hamonic with all due respect to him. Hamilton is likely a better overall addition to the Flames. Calgary did not trade Brody or Giordano to get Hamilton.

    End o’ story. Get it?

  • S cottV

    Nice arguments Hagar and Serious Gord.

    And Wintoon – omg, another guy who tried to compare Yak to Kurri. Geez – Kurri was so good that it’s debatable who was carrying who.

    This whole blind love for our baby stars is out of control, when we sit in last place and out of the playoffs for 10 years.

    I guess it’s a microcosm that runs throughout the organization, starting with Katz’s love affair for the Boys on the Bus.

    We love our guys more than we love to win.

    Lets just pretend. Nuge is gone and we have a high end developing dman in the fold, who develops into an impact – game changer d man within 3 years. The kind of guy, you could leave out for 30 minutes if need be.

    In 3 years – McD and Drai are the best veteran one two punch at centre, in the NHL.

    Our developed – impact d man and Nurse are among the best first rotation d men in the NHL. We just kind of leave them out there for most of the game.

    The only guy that survived from the Hall era of high first rounders – is Hall who is thriving.

    Nuge, Eberle, Yak, Shultz – gone, to get our high end d man, get bigger, get harder to play against and to balance out the cap.

    We pick a couple more good young players that fit the bigger – hard to play against mode and they are contributing.

    We pick up a couple of good veteran ufa’s who are willing to play for less, for a chance to win a Stanley Cup.

    Coach McClellan completes a 3 year process to get the Oilers playing as a true – two way hockey club. It takes that long because the organization has been playing without structure for many many years.

    We finally figured out that is wasn’t the goaltending after all. Just about anyone can play in an Oiler net, but we’re not gonna be fair to the NHL and we go with a competent goalie anyway.

    The Oilers win the Stanley Cup.

    We can dream cant we?

  • Shaugger is special… first Leon is no good because he is fixated on the backhand….now.. Leon has had ten good games… Nuge may be expendable.

    He gets paid for such insights people.

    Is this a great country or what!!!

  • THRNHJE

    Right you are, Mr. H. You DON’T trade a young Yzerman because you might have a young Jaeger. You KEEP him because of that. Oh yes, and you also have a Mario…. and a Messier… Haha! (insane miser’s laughter) …THE WEALTH! THE WEALTH!!

  • Serious Gord

    Right you are, Mr. H. You DON’T trade a young Yzerman because you might have a young Jaeger. You KEEP him because of that. Oh yes, and you also have a Mario…. and a Messier… Haha! (insane miser’s laughter) …THE WEALTH! THE WEALTH!!

  • Jaxon

    I’ve been arguing with the ‘we must win now’, ‘we must turn a corner now’ crowd for the past 3 or 4 years. 2017-2018 should have always been the target season for building this team. I identified it as such in the summer of 2012 and that still stands.

    In 2012, I was arguing on Oilers blogs for trying to send out veterans and players approaching UFA status for prospects like Michael Stone, Tyson Barrie, David Savard, Cody Franson, Alex Petrovic, Damon Severson, Ryan Ellis, David Rundblad, Erik Gudbranson and Connor Murphy when they all could have been had for peanuts. If they went after more prospects at that time by picking up a few of them when they were not worth near as much as they are today, the Oilers would be in pretty good shape at RD. Those players could have been had for someone like Hemsky. I was also pushing for signing college free agents Kenney Morrison and Trevor Van Riemsdyk who have the skills to change the RD makeup.

    In my 2012 posts I was also saying they should trade for prospects like Joe Colborne, Nick Bjugstad, Brock Nelson, Victor Rask, Tyler Toffoli, Jimmy Hayes, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Boone Jenner, Reilly Smith and Charlie Coyle, all of who are now big contributors.

    And goalies, I was saying they should be going after prospect goalies like Maritn Jones, Brayden Holtby, Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, Chad Johnson, Jake Allen, Jhonas Enroth and everyone was replying, “No, we need a proven goalie, not a prospect.”

    They should still be building toward the 2017-2018 season. That is when this team will peak and have its best chance at a Cup. The Oilers would look pretty good if they had looked at when the core Oilers were going to peak at that time and built the team accordingly. There is a lot of good info out there about prospects to make informed decisions, especially if you have a staff dedicated to it. All missed opportunities in the name of “win now”.

    I got jumped all over in the comments with comments like, “Yes, that’s all we need is more prospects”.

      • 99CupsofCoffey

        I just don’t see the Oil trading away a guy who is a guaranteed 2nd line center (and 1st on more than a few teams).

        Weber, at 29, and with only 15 goals last year, may be slowing down. And he has an $8Mil cap hit. Granted, he’s better than anything Edmonton can throw on the ice, but i just don’t see it.

        I think Nurse is the answer. Well, in a few games lol.

  • S cottV

    Nuge is not a top end 2 way centreman.

    Sure – good forechecker and backchecker.

    The problem is the d zone and that happens to be the most important criteria to qualify as a top end two way centreman.

    For one – he is not optimally built to handle the heavy going in the d zone. There are many large skilled centremen with big linemates – particularly in the Western Conference. Having McD and Nuge as back to back C’s, does not allow for any escape from physical mismatching through line matching.

    He tends to get sucked to the opposition puck carrier when in the d zone. Nuge is not a natural at coordinating with his d men, to evaluate the threat from all around – low in the d zone. He sucks on the puck – way too much and sure enough, the puck works it’s way, to the guy behind him or beside him and it’s in the back of the wrong net.

    So – you say he is young and he will eventually get it. Well – I don’t know some guys just don’t compute this way. It’s not their thing. Gagner was the worst at it and he never got it.

    I have watched McD and Drai very carefully at the same thing in their own end. Both – are advanced, for their age – at identifying threats around them. Watch them – watch Nuge. You will see it. The heat is on – McD and Drai are looking at puck carrier – looking all around and adjusting to the threat. Nuge – he’s looking puck, puck, puck.

    So – its not like there are not any weaknesses in Nuge’s game.

    That being said – there are indeed many strengths.

    Enough to maybe get us a real d man, because nobody else has the value to do that.

    Its a compliment.

  • bazmagoo

    The real problem is that other teams do not want to give away their top players, particularly defensemen. That is why you will never get “fair” value back when offer up guys like Nuge or Eberle. I bet you that Snow would not trade Hamonic for say Ebs + a piece.. yet Hamonic is a 3-4 defensemen at best.

    To me Ebs would be an overpay for Hamonic.

    I use Eberle as an example because I would trade him long before I would trade Nuge, only because centers are premium to wingers, and you can always use a guy like Drisaitl on the wing.

  • hagar

    It’s straight forward for me. The Nuge is movable if the return is right. Hamonic is not a big enough return but if an elite #1 d-man was available and at it took a package that included him then you make the move. We have next to no untouchables on this team, even McDavid could be traded for the right return.