Even though the Edmonton Oilers aren’t involved in the playoffs, there are numerous story lines which could become intertwined with the Oilers this off-season.
Travis Hamonic is a hell of a player. I liked him before, but watching him versus the Florida Panthers has made me even more bullish on his abilities. I was perplexed when people suggested he wasn’t a top-pairing defender because he doesn’t score 40 points. He doesn’t need to. He does best, what the Oilers struggle with the most: he knows how to defend.
He played 29:35 yesterday, his third game in four days. He’s averaging 25:53/game in the series and he’s played 71:46 at EV, the most on the team and 15 minutes more than Johnny Boychuk. Watch the series and you will see why Hamonic is so valuable, and why Islanders GM Garth Snow won’t just give him away this summer.
Hamonic’s defensive prowess, solid puck moving abilities and his ridiculously low cap hit of $3.85 million for four more years make him very valuable. Despite Hamonic’s request for a trade, I don’t see Snow dealing from a position of weakness. If anything, the rearguard’s postseason play could strengthen Snow’s trade demands.
I know Snow is on record saying he wants a D-man, but the Islanders have pretty good depth on the blueline and I think Snow could be swayed if he receives a legit top-six, or better, forward. I’d still trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for Hamonic. I realize the Oilers would be giving up a good, young centre, but they desperately need a right shot D who can play top-pairing minutes.
4th Overall Draft Picks
- One example doesn’t guarantee anything, but if you need an example of a slow developer, look no further than Thomas Hickey. Hickey was drafted fourth overall in 2007. He was ranked 13th on Bob McKenzie’s list prior to the draft. It was a bit of surprise seeing him go fourth overall, but it wasn’t a Jesse Niinimaki type of reach. Hickey didn’t pan out with the Los Angeles Kings, although he was put on waivers the year after they won the Stanley Cup.
The Islanders claimed him on waivers January 15th, 2013, after three and a half seasons in the AHL. He played 39 games in the lockout shortened season as a #5 Dman. He played #4 minutes the following year, and has been a solid #5 the past two seasons. He is playing 18 minutes a night for the Islanders, and has become a solid NHLer.
Since 1979, we have seen 13 defencemen taken fourth overall:
Larry Murphy 1980.
Al Iafrate 1984.
Zarley Zalapski 1986.
Wayne McBean 1987.
Scott Lachance 1991.
Bryan Allen 1998.
Rostislav Klesla 2000.
Joni Pitkanen 2002.
Thomas Hickey 2007.
Alex Pietrangelo 2008.
Adam Larsson 2011.
Griffin Reinhart 2012.
Seth Jones 2013.
Murphy was traded by the Kings to the Capitals three years after being drafted. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
Iafrate was traded six years after being drafted. Had a solid career, cut short by knee injuries.
Zalapski was traded five years after the Penguins called his name. He was dealt to Hartford as part of the Ron Francis trade and finished his career with 637 games and tallied 384 points.
McBean was traded before his 20th birthday. Numerous injuries early in his career limited his play and he finished with 211 NHL games.
Lachance went right to the NHL, played eight seasons with the Islanders before he was dealt. He played 819 games and was a solid stay-at-home defender.
Allen didn’t become a regular NHLer until he was 22. He was a rugged defender and four years later he was part of the Roberto Luongo/Todd Bertuzzi trade. He played 721 NHL games and was a mean defensive defenceman.
Klesla debuted at 19 with Columbus and played eight and a half years with CBJ before being dealt to Phoenix. He tallied 159 points in 659 games. A solid career.
Pitkanen debuted at 19, spent four seasons with the Flyers (one in AHL during lockout) before being traded to the Oilers along with Geoff Sanderson for Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith. He only played one year with the Oilers before being dealt to Carolina for Erik Cole. He was a top-four defender with Carolina before breaking his heel in the final year of his contract. He never played again in the NHL.
Pietrangelo debuted at 20 and has been a top pairing defender since entering the league. He’s an excellent defender.
Larsson made the NHL at 18 and played 65 games for the Devils, but the next two seasons he split time between the AHL and NHL. This past season, his 5th as a pro, he played 22:30/game exclusively at EV and on the PK. He led the Devils blueline with 18 EV points.
Jones was traded for Ryan Johansen this season and finished the year on the top pairing in Columbus scoring 20 points in 41 games.
Half of them were traded or claimed on waivers before their 22nd birthday. They had varying degrees of success, and while taken fourth overall, I think it is unrealistic to expect Reinhart to become a dominant defender. However, I still believe he has the ability to be a solid #5 or #4 defender and have a long, successful career. He needs to put in the work this summer and get stronger, especially his lower body.
HERE AND THERE….
- The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks were a combined 51-22-9 at home in the regular season, but they are 0-4 at home in playoffs. The uncertainty of the playoffs is what makes them so enticing to watch.
- A first round exit by the Ducks will lead to changes. Bruce Boudreau will most certainly be gone, and the urgency to move a defender for a forward will increase. Sami Vatanen is the obvious choice, and he would fill a void as a puck moving defender, but he is a third pairing guy at EV. While I would part with RNH or Jordan Eberle for Hamonic, the asking price for Vatanen will be much lower. A first round playoff exit by the Ducks could help Peter Chiarelli in his quest for a puck moving defender.
- A first round exit by the Kings will also kickstart some changes. Buying out Dustin Brown has to be a possibility. Brown has six more years at $5.875 million cap hit. His past three seasons he has scored 27, 27 and 28 points. He is a third line player now. If they want to re-sign Milan Lucic, buying out Brown makes sense, but I wonder if Lombardi will be hesitant to give Lucic an eight-year deal. I believe the Kings would much rather pay him a bit higher cap hit and sign him for five years, so his contract expires when he is 32. If Brown becomes a free agent, would you sign him for $2.5 million/year?
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