The exact nature of Edmonton’s transactions at this year’s trade deadline has yet to be determined; the Oilers could still be buyers, though it’s also possible that they will end up selling off players as the deadline approaches.
In the event that they take the latter approach, what will the team’s defencemen on expiring deals be worth?
Defencemen on Expiring Contracts
For the sake of comparison, I looked back over the last two seasons at any defencemen on expiring contracts moved between January 1 and the trade deadline. That list, including the average ice time of each defenceman with his previous team, looks like this:
- 2015: Andrej Sekera (22:46) for a 1st-round pick and Roland McKeown.
- 2014: Andrew MacDonald (25:25) for a 2nd-round pick, 3rd-round pick and Matt Mangene.
- 2015: Kimmo Timonen (inj., 20:19 previously) for a 2nd-round pick, plus a conditional pick (2nd-round pick).
- 2015: Jeff Petry (20:57) for a 2nd-round pick, plus a conditional pick (4th-round pick).
- 2015: Marek Zidlicky (21:55) for a 3rd-round pick, plus additional conditional selections (none).
- 2014: Andrej Meszaros (17:22) for a 3rd-round pick.
- 2015: Tim Gleason (16:39) for a 4th-round pick and Jack Hillen.
- 2014: Stephane Robidas (19:54) for a 4th-round pick.
- 2015: Jordan Leopold (17:14) for a 5th-round pick and Justin Falk.
- 2014: Mike Weaver (18:47) for a 5th-round pick.
- 2014: Nick Schultz (16:58) for a 5th-round pick.
- 2014: Raphael Diaz (15:58) for a 5th-round pick.
I was leery about going back much further, because the deadline fluctuates every year, though if we do we naturally find defencemen moved for less than a fifth-round draft pick. Peter Chiarelli was involved in such a deal during his time with Boston, picking up Wade Redden for a conditional seventh-round selection.
Still, this gives us a template to consider when looking at Edmonton’s rental candidates.
Justin Schultz. Schultz is a unique case in that he’s actually a restricted free agent, but given that he seems unlikely to be qualified at his current rate ($3.9 million) I’ve opted to treat him as an unrestricted free agent here. That’s not quite right, as it’s plausible that with a good team he suddenly emerges in the postseason, but it’s enough to give us a line in the sand.
Schultz has averaged 20:06 this season. It’s hard to know exactly how he’s valued around the league, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s seen as being in the same range as Petry was last year (and indeed, Petry’s performance in Montreal since the trade may be a factor that teams consider). I’d suggest a second-round pick as his deadline value, with some potential for the price to be higher. I expect the floor on his value to be no lower than a third-round draft choice.
Eric Gryba. NHL teams aren’t quite as willing to stupidly overpay for grit as they once were (Douglas Murray fetched two second-round picks from Pittsburgh in 2013, with then-G.M. Ray Shero famously adding that “you can’t measure the heart” of a player like Murray) but there’s still a premium on big guys who can play a physical game and Gryba certainly qualifies.
Gryba has averaged 17:43 this season, which pegs him as being worth roughly a third-round pick. I’d set the floor for value at the fourth-round pick Edmonton gave up to bring Gryba in last summer, and I’d be surprised if his value was that low.
Nikita Nikitin. Nikitin has averaged 14:46 this season, which puts his value below that of any of the players moved on this chart. That’s right around the time on ice total that Redden played in his final NHL season; he fetched a conditional pick that eventually ended up being a sixth-rounder after he hit certain games played thresholds. In Nikitin’s case, retained salary by the Oilers might allow Edmonton to fetch a similar conditional pick. On the other hand, Nikitin’s latest recall may have torpedoed his value entirely.
Buying. These averages also work the other way. If Edmonton ends up buying, it’s going to be extremely pricey to add a defenceman who can move the dial for the group. Dustin Byfuglien (if dealt) is likely to cost more than Sekera did at last year’s deadline; even someone like Luke Schenn will probably cost in the range of a third-round pick.
As of this writing, Edmonton owns all of its draft picks for next year, but no additional selections. In either 2016 or 2017 the Oilers will have to send a second-round pick to Boston as compensation for the hiring of Chiarelli; it’s a fair guess right now that the pick won’t move until 2017.