It’s been a while since we’ve looked at a hypothetical trade here on What Would You Do Wednesday, so let’s try a somewhat plausible one.
Nashville needs a top centre, and Edmonton needs help on the right side of its defence. These are dots that have been connected over and over again by fans and media alike who follow the Oilers. Is there a trade to be made there?
I made the case a month ago against Edmonton dealing Nugent-Hopkins. The whole piece is here, but basically it boiled down to the following points:
- Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are awfully inexperienced.
- Nugent-Hopkins was once in the same honeymoon phase of his career that Draisaitl is in now.
- Nugent-Hopkins is a more defensively accomplished player than McDavid or Draisaitl.
- It’s awfully nice to have three good centres.
If a trade involving an Edmonton centre is made, however, Nugent-Hopkins is the most plausible candidate. McDavid, obviously, is untouchable, and the 20-year-old Draisaitl brings size and much of the same raw defensive material that Nugent-Hopkins brought when he was at the same stage of his career. Draisaitl is also closer in age to McDavid, who is now the centerpiece of the franchise.
Nashville’s Right-Shooting Options
Shea Weber. Weber has been the dream for Oilers fans for years now, and it’s easy to see why. He does everything. He’s big and mean, a quality passer with a wicked shot, and he’s generally regarded as an elite two-way defenceman.
However, he also turns 31 in August. His $110-million contract runs through 2026 (age 41) at a cap hit of $7.86 million. In the prime of McDavid’s career, he’ll be at roughly the same point that Zdeno Chara is right now. Finally, unlike Chara he hasn’t been a dominant puck possession player the last few years; he plays brutally tough minutes but it’s worth noting that his numbers in that department have taken a hit over the last two seasons.
Seth Jones. Jones isn’t the no-questions-asked elite No. 1 defenceman Edmonton wants, but the potential is there. The 6’4”, 208-pound rearguard was the No. 4 pick in the 2013 Draft, and combines that size with exceptional speed and hockey sense. Red Line Report projected him as a “#1, franchise cornerstone defenceman” in his draft year and compared him to Chris Pronger.
The 21-year-old isn’t there yet, though:
— NateInVegas (@NateInVegas) December 30, 2015
The risk in trading for potential is of course that it’s just potential. Jones has great potential, but he isn’t yet as proven as Nugent-Hopkins.
Ryan Ellis. Ellis isn’t in the same category as Weber or Jones in terms of value, but he’d be a nice fit for Edmonton. He’s been one of the league’s best offensive defenceman in terms of five-on-five points/hour for years now, though he has yet to be promoted to the first unit power play (Weber, Roman Josi). He’s not big (5’10”, 180 pounds) but he’s a good player and only Josi and Weber get more ice time in Nashville.
The other player Oilers fans might be interested in is Roman Josi, but he’s a left shot defenceman and frankly Edmonton already has too many of those players. Between Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Brandon Davidson, Griffin Reinhart and virtually every prospect in the system, that position is filled. The move now is to find a right-side option who can mesh with that group.
Making a Deal
Is there a deal there worth making?
From my vantage point, all three players are of interest. Weber would be a big help in the here-and-now, but his age makes him a bad fit for the McDavid cluster and I’m a little worried about how his on-ice shot numbers have moved over the last couple of years. As difficult as it is to say, I think it would be a mistake to trade a centre still on the upswing of his career for a defenceman in his 30’s given the age of the core of the team.
Jones isn’t proven, and I’d like to go back and watch him play a bunch before committing to a move like this one, but if he is what I think he is, I’d make that trade. In Peter Chiarelli’s shoes I wouldn’t like the idea of parting with Nugent-Hopkins, but Jones is a fantastic fit in terms of age and ability for Edmonton’s core and to get that player a good player has to be on the way out. I doubt Nashville does that deal, particularly because the Predators are a small-market team and they can control Jones’ cost to a degree, but you never know.
Ellis is a fascinating player. He’s not worth Nugent-Hopkins, but if the Predators ever did decide to move him he’d be a fantastic partner for any of Edmonton’s big left-side defencemen.
As always, though, the point of What Would You Do Wednesday is to ask what our readers would do. So, dear readers: What would you do?