The story of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ season has more twists than an ‘It’s Always Sunny’ episode, and I expect we could see some fireworks around draft day. If you add up all the rumors, what do they tell us?
Today in his 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman mentioned RNH and his injury:
- Friedman: You could almost hear a league-wide groan when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left Tuesday night’s game in Arizona after taking a Connor Murphy hit. Don’t know if his future is in the Alberta capital or elsewhere,
but it certainly complicates matters if he finishes the season injured.
I’d keep him, but it’s not only the Oilers who recognize his value.
Friedman frames this in an interesting way, and the last sentence is worth discussing further. Often, when we discuss the idea of trading our favorite players (I am absolutely a Nuge fan), there is a defensiveness that kicks in and the conversation online craters into something resembling childhood verbal with your brother. Friedman correctly identifies the talent, and then tells it like it is: You have to give in order to get, and fooling another NHL team is damn difficult (depending on what Vancouver does with their management situation this summer).
When the Nuge rumors first hit (I believe Seth Jones was the trade idea mentioned), I mentioned that any deal involving the Nuge heading out of town would require two things:
- A quality defender (right-handed, one hopes) who can play in all three disciplines (EV,PP,PK)
- A suitable replacement at center, an experienced hand who could play that two-way style
At that point, the idea of doing that kind of deal made little sense to me. Unless you have someone in mind to replace Nuge (a less expensive but capable player) then why even entertain the thought? And my specific concern about the Seth Jones trade came from a lack of experience in the case of Seth Jones. There is a lot of risk in trading for young defensemen, and even though Jones is a dynamic young blue, things can change and injuries often impact D more than F. It is a risk.
OUR MAN NUGE
If we are going to find a case for keeping Nuge, we don’t have very far to go.
- He is a center, a two-way type and the Oilers don’t have many who can help on offense and without the puck.
- He can play in all disciplines.
- He is very good on the power play, his numbers are almost always near the top in team performance.
- He can play 20 minutes a night.
- He is an underrated shooter.
If we are looking for weaknesses, there are some things to mention:
- His 5×5 performance has been uneven throughout his career.
- His faceoff percentage (44.6 this year, 43 percent overall) has never been close to 50 percent.
- He is not a big man.
- He is left-handed, and that can be an issue on the power play (although Edmonton has had success with him out there).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think Peter Chiarelli is going to have to make a difficult decision. I think RNH is going to be the ask on some significant trade opportunities. I am on record saying Nuge should stay, but that Friedman line is a subtle, powerful counter argument. What’s that old Chinese proverb? May you live in interesting times? Yes. Yes, that’s it.