WWYDW: Trade Deadline Strategy

16-Purcell-3

It’s a little early to talk about the trade deadline this season, but not ridiculously so. The NHL’s holiday trade freeze kicks in on December 19 and lifts on December 28; historically teams become more active on the trade front once the holidays are passed.

This year there’s a two-month window between the lifting of the freeze and the actual deadline, and Edmonton’s in a very interesting situation because of the weird state of the Western Conference.

Standings

12.15.15 Pacific standings

Two weeks ago, I was pretty forcefully arguing that Edmonton’s season was all but over and the playoffs were a pipe dream. I still think it’s unlikely that the Oilers make the postseason, but I was wrong to be so dismissive. I didn’t see Edmonton’s six-game winning streak coming, and at least as importantly I didn’t properly appreciate what a disaster the Pacific is (San Jose was on a tear at the time and I was still banking on a resurgent Ducks team). I was wrong.

Here’s one way to look at the current situation:

  • Gap between dead last in the West and second in the Pacific: Four points
  • Gap between second in the Pacific and the final wild card slot: Five points

At this point of the year, the team slated to start the playoffs on home ice is closer to the bottom of the conference than it is to catching the No. 5 team in the Central division.

Apparently the mountain does occasionally come to Mohammed.

Edmonton’s Position

97-McDavid-5

As I’ve said, my personal view is that the playoffs are unlikely for Edmonton. However, the Oilers are going to get a big boost from returning players—particularly the line of Benoit Pouliot, Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov—and if the goaltending holds up it’s possible that the club not only makes the playoffs but has home ice advantage in the first round.

This puts general manager Peter Chiarelli in a position where he could pursue a number of different trade strategies over the next two months.

Buy now. Anything can happen in the playoffs. If, for example, the Oilers were to add pending free agent Dustin Byfuglien to the fold at the trade deadline (Winnipeg is currently tied with Edmonton but six points out of the postseason because Central division) it’s fun to imagine the possibilities—perhaps Oscar Klefbom and Byfuglien on the top pair, Brandon Davidson and Andrej Sekera rounding out the top-four and a third pairing of Darnell Nurse and Justin Schultz.

After all the losing, it’s tempting to gun it for the postseason, particularly if the player brought in as a rental would be auditioning for a permanent job in Edmonton. The downside here is that the Oilers are still flawed and likely to have trouble advancing through the playoffs, and of course that rentals tend to have inflated value at the deadline.

Stand pat, more or less. Steve Tambellini was in a similar spot in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and this is what he opted to do. The Oilers held on to their pending free agents, notably defenceman Ryan Whitney, and sent a fourth-round pick to Florida to bring in Jerrod Smithson. Edmonton crumbled down the stretch, the Oilers missed out on the playoffs, and Tambellini’s strategy left the team slightly poorer in terms of draft picks but had no other long-term implications.

Straddling the fence has its advantages here. If Chiarelli takes this path, it allows him to show confidence in the team he has and doesn’t weaken them for a potential playoff run. At the same time, he safeguards the club’s draft picks and prospects, keeping an eye on the long-term. The downside is that Edmonton then wouldn’t get assets for its own pending free agents, and at the same time wouldn’t be bolstering its roster for the postseason.

Sell. This is the usual play for the Oilers at the deadline, though this year’s candidates aren’t likely to bring home a pile of assets. Teddy Purcell is the obvious trade candidate this year, particularly given how effective he has been with Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl. Eric Gryba will have value, Nikita Nikitin might fetch a mid-round pick, and of course I like the idea of treating Justin Schultz like a pending UFA, too.

The upside here is that Edmonton could presumably add some draft picks now which would have more value in the summer, thereby improving their stock of ammunition as they get set for next year. Gryba, for example, seems like a good bet to be worth more in-season than the fourth-round pick that the Oilers gave up for him at the draft. The trouble is that if Edmonton comes up just short of the postseason it’s going to look awfully silly to have shipped away a bunch of the supporting cast for low-end returns.

Decisions, Decisions

Peter Chiarelli2

In my view, if the current dynamics in the Pacific hold, and Edmonton is in the playoff race but also clearly behind the entirety of the Central division, the course to take is a little of Option No. 2 and a little of Option No. 3.

In other words: Stand pat unless a) the return is really significant or b) the player can be moved without any real loss of effectiveness.

As was the case with Whitney way back when, the Oilers have a number of defencemen they could move without really taking a step back. Griffin Reinhart and Mark Fayne are currently in the minors; your mileage may vary but I don’t see a massive gap between that duo and the current NHL trio of Gryba, Schultz and Nikitin. There’s always at least some interest in defensive depth, and Edmonton has a bunch of plausible third-pair types on the roster and in the AHL.

If the Oilers fall out of the picture, it becomes easier to sell; if they start separating themselves from the pack in the Pacific and challenging a team like the Kings it becomes easier to buy.

As always with What Would You Do Wednesday, we leave the final word to our readers. What strategy should Chiarelli pursue between now and the deadline?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • The Future Never Comes

    I wouldn’t be oppossed to them making the playoffs. Let the boys get a handle for the playoffs to see who steps up to handle the pressure and who folds like a cheap tent. Playoffs would show them what it takes to come together as a team, and turn the boys into men.

  • Ever the Optimist

    Well first of all we need to acknowledge what the plan might be for Chia. I believe it will be making us a better team for years to come rather than a push for this year. That said he can still give the oilers a push this year by targeting rfa’s rather than rentals.

    I would work on moving the dead weight contracts first. Fayne, Ference, Nikitin and Scrivens can all be moved for what ever we can get for then so long as fayne and ference don’t need more than a million in salary retention for 16/17.

    For Defence I would target Gudas from Tampa and Gudbranson from Florida as both are rhd with size and hard point shots. I would also only target one forward at that time from the blue jackets … boone jenner …. size and skill to compliment in the top 6.

    To make these 3 trades possible we will need to give up some talent that we all love. My suggestions are Nuge, Eberle and Schultz as needed. Also as a caveat if Nuge gets moved then possible UFA Backes would be a huge target in the off season as a vet center will be a must to bring in at that point.

  • Oilers89

    PC has to hold the cards close to his chest for as long as possible.

    When the Oilers get healthy they will go on a few more streaks. A strong finish will help us move into a buyers position. (as stated in article)

    Ference will be a buy out target and we can let one or a couple of Nikitin, Gryba, and Shultz walk. Fayne may play himself into staying but he will more likely be gone at the deadline.

    This situation should see a reasonable shot at attracting a UFA second pairing defenceman next July 1. A deal for Hamonic would be amazing but not likely. A young prospect that steps in and clicks (Reinhart?) would also be amazing.

  • Soiled Trousers

    I wonder what a couple games at Rexall is worth to the Oilers/Katz.

    Regardless, I think they’ll go with what they got. Trade for only good returns.

    The Oiler’s have a shot at making the playoffs. They should continue to improve through experience and with McDavid coming back. However, if I was to bet on an over/under today on the Oilers making the playoffs, I would feel more confident on the under.

  • Jaxon

    We’re looking to build a Cup winner and the sad state of affairs in the Pacific presents a unique opportunity to see what certain players bring to the table when the pressure is on. Jordan Eberle, the source of many rumours this year, is a guy who rode into the NHL on the coattails of back-to-back World Junior magic, scoring big goals at the 11th hour to win gold.

    Is Jordan Eberle a penultimate playoff performer at the NHL level? We don’t know that! Hopefully we have a good run and find out more about these young men.

    There are some pieces that can be parted with. Trade some expiring contracts, the extra Dmen, Purcell, maybe even Talbot if Anders continues his good play. Take back picks, because it takes 3-4 years for some of those picks to become NHL options. Over 3-4 years, Hall, RNH, Nurse contracts will be coming up. Need younger cheaper players to keep this thing going.

  • Concur

    JW,

    I like you option of a little from option 2 and 3 and I would go 1 step farther and even include option 1. If you can get a rental player ala Byflugien that you want to resign, do it. Stand pat on some one like Purcell or other forwards if you can. An sell, sell, sell on your defense. Shultz, Fayne, Gryba, and Nikitin will not be terribly missed and can be replaced by prospects.

    This gives the Oilers a weakened defense in terms of depth but if they get that rental player then and don’t give up on any forwards then they have the ‘chance’ of continuing for the playoffs. They also can stock their draft picks for anything necessary in the off season.

  • Jaxon

    I think they should get rid of anyone who is overpriced that they can replace on the UFA market and get rid of all fringers. I think they can be sellers and buyers at the deadline.

    Players that I would consider selling would be Ference, Nikitin, Gryba, Fayne, Schultz, Musil, Hunt, Gernat on D and Moroz, Pitlick, Korpikoski, Letestu, Lander, Hendricks and Purcell on forward and maybe Scrivens if anyone will take him (I still expect him to bounce back as a solid backup maybe more).

    I think the veteran forwards can be replaced at a cheaper price point on the UFA market and within the organization. If the Oilers are going with some form of 3 scoring lines for the next few years then they will be playing 3 lines 18 minutes per night and that 4th line will only get 6 minutes worth of high energy, hit-everything-that-moves shifts and PK time. For that, all you need is a good faceoff man or two, and fast players who like to hit and get shots on net. That can be had for $1M to $1.5M or less. Khaira/Klinkhammer or Gazdic with Lander or Yakimov and Pakarinen or Chase or Platzer might do the trick. 2016 UFAs center Brad Malone ($0.65M) and LW Michael Raffl ($1.1M) might be good targets for a role like this and you could play Raffl, Malone and Pakarinen as a 4th line that could perform similar to NYI’s Martin, Cizikas and Clutterbuck. They fly around and hit everything that moves and charge up their team and the crowd. Relentless forecheckers who know D. They may not score but the keep the D pinned in their own end for a while while the skilled guys rest.

    I’d love to see them in the playoffs but I think the smart play is to build a better future team with the goal being a run at the Stanley Cup in 2018. Given that the Oilers still have holes at RD and RW, I would target teams with excess at those positions for their younger final contract year players and up-and-comers.

    Buffalo has Nicholas Baptiste, Justin Bailey and Hudson Fasching on RW and Mark Pysyk on RD. Minnesota has Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba on RD and Alex Tuch, Mario Lucia and Adam Gilmour on RW. Washington has Riley Barber on RW and Madison Bowey on RD. NYI has Travis Hamonic of course, as well as Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield on RD and Josh Ho-Sand and Sebastien Collberg on RW. The Devils have Adam Larsson (big fish that probably isn’t going anywhere), Damon Severson, Steve Santini and Joshua Jacobs on RD. Florida has Alex Petrovic on RD. RD Michael Paliotta in Columbus could be next year’s Clayton Parayko (big Rd who can score). Speaking of Parayko, St Louis also has Jordan Schmaltz on RD. Montreal has Nikita Scherbak on RW and Dalton Thrower on RD.

    I think those are players that the Oilers should be keeping an eye out when making any deals. Players that will grow with the core and shouldn’t cost much as they are still unestablished but also have great potential.

    Outside of Hamonic, I think (in order of value): Bowey, Paliotta, Barber, Pysyk, Petrovic, Bailey, Baptiste, Scherbak and Thrower would be my targets so CBJ, WSH, BUF, MTL and FLA. All Eastern teams and therefore more likely trade partners. Florida, Montreal and Washington may be be looking for help for a playoff run at the deadline so they may give away some future for some seasoned pros like Hendricks, Letestu, Korpikoski, Fayne, Ference, Nikitin, Gryba and Purcell or immediate offense, like Purcell, or Schultz if he actually shows some before then. It doesn’t look like CBJ or BUF will be buyers but maybe they would trade future at a position they have depth for futures at a position they do not. For instance, BUF was rumoured to be looking for LD and has an abundance of RD, therefore a Musil (or maybe even Davidson or Reinhart) for Pysyk trade may make sense.

    I know much of this post seems like trading vets for ‘magic beans’, but you have to sew a few of those beans with contracts that may walk away or are more expensive than necessary. I love Hendricks, but $6.15M for the 4th line of Letestu, Hendricks and Korpikoski is crazy, especially if they end up running 3 scoring lines a 17-19 minutes a piece and one checking line at 6 minutes per game. I think many of these prospects are pretty good bets to become good NHLers and they are young enough that they will be cheap for the next few years.

  • TKB2677

    “and if the goaltending holds up it’s possible that the club not only makes the playoffs but has home ice advantage in the first round.”

    Oh man this is exciting! Who knew! The parity in the leauge is crazy right now. Everyone is so close in the standings! I don’t think oilers make the playoffs but some games I’ve seen this team play have been outstanding!

    Particularly the two games against Chicago and Washington. Both loses but they outshot and played as good as I’ve seen Them play in a decade. McClellan is more interested in the process and some nights the team seems to just click and get it. Once this becomes more consistent it’s going to be real fun for all of us here at the nation!

  • Chet.

    What’s this “not the year to make the playoffs” garbage? If they make the playoffs I’ll be ecstatic. I agree though that you don’t sell the farm just to squeak in.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    I don’t like trading actual NHL players however weak for late round pics that are longshots to ever play. Oiler scouting staff couldn’t find their asses with both hands. I think Chiarelli is going to demonstrate his GM chops by making actual trades using assets he has too much of to acquire assets he needs. Enough nibbling around the edges fooling with bottom pairing D and bottom six forwards. His choice of Gryba was poor. The guy is somewhat physical but a a slow thinking slow moving stumble bum.

    If both Nilsson and Talbot get it going in the future, he could trade one and bring Broissoit up as a number 2 possibly. I would definitely dump Schultz for whatever I could get for him. Someone is going to think he could be an extra piece going into the playoffs. He is already being outplayed by Klefbom, Nurse and Davidson (IMO). He has proven he is beyond repair. His stats suck and he’s soft and can’t run the PP. What is mystifying is the fact he is failing miserably but still has received a load of ice time.

    Trading bottom pairing D and bottom six forwards is MacT’s recipe for disaster. Enough already.

    I will be interested to see what Chiarelli does comes up with.

  • Soiled Trousers

    I would like to see Draisaitl’s off season trainer work with some of the Oil’s slower footed players like Reinhart, Yakimov, Slepyshev and Musil. They are all fair sized guys and could all use a little more foot speed at the NHL level. Draisaitl credited his father’s former trainer for his Czech team named Varda for his improved quickness in the first three strides as well as his overall top end power. Draisaitl’s leg and core strength is quite remarkablr for a 20 year old. Especially compared to last year, he is a handful.

  • lav

    Please Chia don’t pull a Tambelini and grab a Smitheson. Go big this year. Why not. We have the talent up front and the playoff experience would be invaluable.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    Curious, we are VERY strong now at centre position, there is going to be a log jam at centre when McDavid returns and we can’t put him or Nuge on the third line(waste of talent and less minutes).The only viable option is to put Dr.Drai on the wing to insure he won’t end up on the third line.

    Would you guys consider trading Nuge and Ebs(or other core) for Stamkos? I think i would just not sure it’s enough for Stamkos. I hope Chiarelli is going to throw some sort of offer at Stamkos if he doesn’t re-sign. Superstars don’t come available that often and he would look awesome on one of our top lines imo.

  • Derzie

    Keep in mind that ‘no one wants your garbage’ is always in effect. Everyone you are looking to ‘trade’ has little to no value to anyone else. For example, Schultz being not-NHL-worthy still applies to non-Oiler teams. He’s an AHL asset with a massive pricetag. The only way to get rid of these players is to bury in the minors at the expense of the young players you are trying to groom there OR serve them popcorn until their contract runs out.