The Edmonton Oilers find themselves in all-too-familiar 30th
place in the NHL once again this morning — dead last, and the Maple Leafs have
three games in hand. The craziest part is that things could somehow get even uglier moving forward. It begs the question:
how desperate is this team?

I ask this because the needs are obvious: two quality defensemen who, in a perfect world, play on the
right side. They need defensemen and they need them badly.

We’ve written about Justin Schultz so much that even I’m
sick of mentioning his name, but perhaps a big
reason why the Oilers are still at the bottom of the standings is because they placed all of
their eggs in his basket. Schultz, for a variety of reasons, failed
to take the necessary steps forward to becoming a legitimate top option on defense.
The Oilers now not only need to replace Schultz, they need to replace what he
was supposed to become.

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Good luck with that.

That brings us back to the desperate and lonely place the
Oilers find themselves in today. Edmonton has to make changes. The talent is
tilted heavily towards the forwards and that has to change. In the quest to
upgrade the defense, what won’t the team be willing to part with? I’d suggest
the list is small, maybe even smaller than it probably should be.

Yesterday, for the first time, I got the sense from Oiler
fans that they would move almost anything to upgrade the blue line, even Edmonton’s own
young defensemen like Nurse and Klefbom.

I think that would be a mistake.

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I think part of the reason why Edmonton is where it is today
is because they’ve been swapping out parts on the blue line instead of
assembling a bigger collection. The Oilers find a piece that isn’t getting the
job done on its own and replace it with someone different. Every time they do
that, the next piece also fails.

Let’s pretend the Oilers pay a price for Hamonic that no
other club has been willing to pay all year. Let’s pretend the Oilers send
Darnell Nurse to the Islanders for the player who has demanded a trade to our region of the country. The cheap and effective
Islander rearguard is definitely an upgrade in the short term. The Oilers get a
steady presence, the Islanders assume the risk that Nurse will develop into a
beast. Edmonton still has the same number of defensemen. Now it’s Hamonic’s
turn to prove he can’t be the answer to all of the team’s problems by himself.

Edmonton hasn’t been building a defense at all during this rebuild. They’ve been
hoping for a miracle back there while they’ve been busy building the top six forwards.

Edmonton has three home grown defensemen right now: Klefbom,
Nurse, and Davidson. The only outsider who looks like a long term bet to stay
in the top four is Andrej Sekera. That leaves Edmonton with two spots to fill and
enough assets between their pick this year and their gluttony of high-end
forwards to fill them.

How desperate is this team? Desperate enough to fall for the
same trappings that got them here? Desperate enough to move quality, young,
homegrown defensemen out instead of someone like Jordan Eberle?

Darnell Nurse hasn’t had a great rookie campaign. He’s playing
too many minutes and is over his head at the 3/4 mark of the season. Frankly,
if Oscar Klefbom were healthy there would be a lot of good sense in returning
Nurse to the AHL in order to work on his game there instead of taking a beating
in the NHL. And while we’re on the topic of Klefbom, there wasn’t much
indication that he could be as effective as he is today during his rookie pro
campaign. I’m not quite ready to re-forecast Nurse’s ceiling based on his very
first season in the league.

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Ultimately the Oilers have more quality forwards than they
have defense. They have had more high picks than any other team in the NHL.
They are in line to pick very high again. I cant say that it makes a whole lot
of sense to me to upgrade their weak defense by trading from their defense. Not when
they have a surplus of assets elsewhere.

How desperate would I be if I were in Peter Chiarelli’s
position? I would be desperate enough to move Jordan Eberle and their first
pick in separate deals to add two defenders. I would be desperate enough to win
now that I would do everything in my power to stop the cycle of rotating pieces
out on the blueline instead of adding to them. I would not be desperate enough
to keep hoping that this time when the Oilers move out a home grown blueliner
that the one they get to replace him will be the magic elixir that solves all
their problems.

Let’s hope that Chiarelli can see a solution from the corner
that he’s been backed into that doesn’t involve moving out the best young
defensemen in his barren organization. That just doesn’t seem like the right
move, even if it’s the one his peers want him to make.

  • Spydyr

    Klefbom is close to a top pair D
    Sekera is an excellent second pairing D

    If you are putting your players in a place to succeed then these two need to be a second pairing or at the very least one of them needs to be on the second pairing.

    I would be in favour of moving two of the 6 million dollar men (Hall, Eberle, Nuge) for two top pairing D. It’s hard enough to find one I know but ideally getting two is putting your players in a place to succeed.

    Why the 6 million dollar guys? That’s because top pairing defence costs at least that themselves. Trading the 1st rounder this year is tough with cap considerations both now and moving forward.

    Team next year could look like this:

    Top pair left – Top pair right
    Klefbom – Sekera
    Davidson Fayne/Gryba

    Nurse and Reinhart as call up options and left to over mature in AHL.

    Hall – Draisaitl – Matthews/Puljujarvi/Laine
    Pouliot – McDavid – Yak or UFA

    Still a decent top 6F.

  • If one wants a top D man, one has to give up something good. Put Hall on the block for the big D man. He is very good and we could get some one very good back for him. Hall hasn’t got us pass 28th place yet either.

  • Klefbom, Davidson, Nurse, Reinhart makes for a good line-up of LD. I am a fan of Sekera but not his cost or the NMC. In a perfect world Oilers would get him to waive his NMC and send him off for Hamonic.

    In non-dreamland that means its:

    Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, Nurse, Reinhart

    Which is at least one too many LD given none of those listed are any good playing RD.

    Nurse for a guy like Parayko (not that St. Louis would do it but you know what I mean) is a good move so I disagree with the premise of the article in that respect.

    Winnipeg has tonnes of cap space so an offer sheet for Trouba won’t go anywhere.

    Reinhart may very well become the first great mis-step of the new management. If Chiarelli could move Eberle, Letestu and Reinhart for Coyle, Neiderreiter and Dumba that may be a move worth looking at.

  • toprightcorner

    I think the Oilers have to trade their first pick this year. The projected top 4 are forwards and the Oilers desperately need defense. Jakob Chychrun is the first dman ranked 5-6 range and is at least 3 years from the NHL.

    You can’t burn through McDavids and Draisaitls ELC without adding at least a top pairing and 2nd pairing dman. Oilers 1st pick is one of the top trade chips they have, not to trade it for defensive help would be dumb.

  • Randaman

    Of course, your thesis only makes sense if you are that Nurse is any good.
    Nothing this year suggests he is.
    No offense, little hockey IQ, lotscofvflailing.
    Same ridiculous model that the Oilerrs had in Schultz and Gagner, keeping crap too long, instead of cutting losses early.
    Trading Nurse for a functional defense actually helps end the endless rebuild.
    Who wants to watch another 3 years to confirm his mediocrity?
    Compare his play to OEL rookie season.
    All you need to know.
    Trading Nurse this week would help avoid another final 25 game death march thus year.

  • I will keep repeating this until the draft and into next fall: 1) take the #1 pick along with yaks and send it to the Islanders for Hamonic/cizikas. No reason to keep that pick. Draft Matthews? Great. Have another 18 year old in the line up. 2) ship RNH and Reinhart to the Blues for Shattenkirk. Like I said: RNH is NOT in the long term plans for P.C. slot Cizikas in the 3rd or 4th slot. I can dream big and this is very doable. Hamonic/Shattenkirk. Nurse/klefbom. Davidson/Sekera/Gryba. This is a bad ass defense.

  • PrairieDog19

    No matter where they are in the standings, all I want this season is for the Oilers to be in the top half of Canadian market teams, which I think is doable.

    Besides Toronto, I don’t think the other Cdn teams are looking to offload whatever talent they have in an act of desperation. For me this puts things in perspective.

    Personally I’ve been disappointed in how the team has played since the return of McDavid. You had a long stretch of close games, and despite being losses the team was playing the right way for the most part. After the two wins upon McDavid’s return the team forgot how to play and they haven’t fully recovered.

    Filling in roster holes is nice but look we had an All Star forward come join the team and besides his play the team has been hard to watch. Their home record prior to his return was fantastic. I don’t know how else to put it other than they forgot what made them competitive without him.

  • 15w40

    I wonder if the Jets would entertain a deal that would involve Tyler Myers. Perhaps Pouliot plus either Reinhart and a 2nd rd pick.

    Pouliot would cover the scoring that would be leaving in Ladd and allow them to keep the salary near what it has been historically.

    Might take an Eberle straight up.

    Another deal that might work for them is Sekera and Yak to NYI for Hamonic and Clutterbuck. Retain a little $$ on Sekera and that gives the NYI the defenseman they need for right now and a top 6 to help replace Okposo. Oilers get another top 3 defenseman an a winger that will be hard to play against in the bottom 6

    Oilers D now looks like

    Klefbom – Meyers /
    Davidson – Hamonic /
    Nurse – Fayne

    More fantasy GMing

  • #1 overall waivers pick

    Someone Please. Enlighten me. Which teams in the NHL have extra top pairing Dmen to spare? And if they are desparate, to unload one, why would we have to trade RHN or Eberle? Pronger was traded 3 times for bit pieces and draft picks. Phanauf(??) was just traded for 3 bad contracts, a B prospect and a second round draft pick.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I’m going to comment on this simply because I see people post low-ball trade suggestions all the time.

      Every once in a while you’ll see a trade like Luongo to the Panthers, or Kesler to the Ducks. One GM has all the cards. The team trading away the player get hosed badly, and they have to take it. If there was a situation like this for Edmonton, that would be great. Unfortunately, there is no All-Star defenceman demanding a trade to Edmonton and nowhere else.

      But using Hamonic as an example: he’s a legit top-pairing RHD. He wants to move back to western Canada. Edmonton is on a small list of teams he wants to play for. If he was available for only Khaira, Slepyshev and a 3rd, then Calgary would come in with a better offer just because they wouldn’t want Edmonton to have him.

      They’re either going to have to give up something legit like a Nuge or Eberle, or lower their targets. Instead of trading for a Vatanen, they trade for a Montour (offensive defenceman plays for the Ducks farm team and is an AHL All-Star).

      • Spydyr

        Are you saying that you cant trade away Purcell, Schultz, Pouliot, Yakupov and the oilers 2nd round pick ( which is really like a late 1st rounder) for that pot of gold.
        The core seems so coveted here, and nobody wants to move them which is why the team is stuck in this never ending cycle.

    • It sounds like either Petriangilo or Shattenkirk is on the market, but you would need to give up something significant for a guy who’s 25, is top pairing D, and is under contract for the next 6 years.

      Only issue with him is he has a tough time staying healthy.

      As for Shattenkirk, I guess they can’t afford or don’t want to pay him as he’s a UFA next year. I imagine Blues are trying to trade him when he still has a year left to maximize value. That would likely be similar to the Yandle deal. A conditional first, a second, John Moore(?) and Anthony Duclair.

      So a young stud forward prospect, a first and a second, that is a steep price for right shot puck moving d with only one year left.

  • PrairieDog19

    Why is it that for the past 10 years no matter who we have brought in at defence, each and every defenceman has found themselves eventually playing at their lowest level in their careers? I don’t believe we have had the worst defence in the league for 10 straight years. I believe that our core forward group, the group tasked with carrying this team, hasn’t been and won’t be as good as everyone thinks they are. To me one problem is masking the other. Trade at least half of em away and don’t look back.

    • PrairieDog19

      The injuries this season makes it hard to gauge what the team would have done. Losing Klefbom, Mcdavid, Eberle, Yakupov, for significant periods to time, has derailed this season. I still believe in the core of this team, they need to add a few defencemen, and once the contracts of Niktin, Ference, are off the books, they can use that money to make the necessary additions. The injuries are not an excuse , but they have been a factor, and the fans here need to be patient as good things are coming, and with the new arena coming, the Oilers have a bright future.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    We always hear that #1 d-men don’t get traded and you have to develop them, so it only makes sense to keep our Nurses and Klefboms and hope that they get there while trading for #3-4 guys.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Trading Nuge is largely an insane idea. This season, and past seasons, have shown what happens when your centre core is out of whack: you lose. Letestu and Lander have proven not to be offensive centres. And yet they have centred Yakupov. Not a way to win. Other teams – teams that Oilers fans looked closely at this past summer and the summer before – have some centres playing the wing to avoid this sort of pain when injury strikes. San Jose comes to mind. So does St. Louis.

    As a result, Eberle or Yakupov are the guys to trade. Otherwise, the hole from a Hall or Nuge trade has to be filled by a comparable piece (exceptions could be made for exceptional opportunities).

    It would make sense to move Nuge for another centre more in the Chiarelli mold, however. Jordan Staal, for example. Nuge provides more offense now, has offensive upside, is younger, and the dollars match.

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      Center depth is very important, and its taken the oilers years to finally get the depth, so why would we trade away Hopkins. The injuries to Klefbom and Mcdavid for the majority of the season, made this season hard to judge, it’s not an excuse but they are indeed factors . The fans here need to be patient.