Compared to the previous five off-seasons, the anticipation of a major trade involving the Edmonton Oilers seems much more realistic this year. Peter Chiarelli stated, “I’m reasonably confident I will be able to address our defense in a meaningful way,” at his end-of-season media availability.
Depending on how the draft lottery unfolds next Saturday, he could dangle his first round draft pick, or most likely, he will trade one or two of his skilled forwards to acquire the much needed top-pairing, right-shot defender.
If you want quality you need to give up quality, so the most obvious names in trade talks are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. There is a risk in trading any of them, as they are all very good in their own way.
Hall is a proven top-end producer. He’s been top-ten in NHL scoring twice. He had an “off” year this year and still finished with 65 points and 23rd in league scoring.
Eberle is an excellent point-producer, especially at even strength. Matt Henderson astutely reminded fans why trading Eberle would create a void. From 2011-2015, Eberle was tied for first in points per 60 minutes at 2.28 P/60. That was before Connor McDavid.
Nugent-Hopkins turned 23 last week, and he still hasn’t reached his full potential. He’s had to swim in the deep end of the NHL sooner than he should have, but he’s survived and, of the three forwards, his long-term outlook has the most uncertainty. Not negatively, just more unknown.
Hall has proven he can be an elite scorer. Eberle turns 26 next month and is a proven 60-point player. RNH could reach 60 points, maybe he scores 70, or maybe he is a solid two-way 55-point player. There is a bit more unknown with #93.
Either way, all three are legit top-six forwards and if you trade them they will leave a void.
However, I believe moving one of them is the best way to obtain a proven, veteran defenceman.
I would need a #1 defender to trade Hall, and since those trades are unlikely, I don’t see him being moved.
Trading Eberle or RNH comes with a risk. Eberle is the only proven scoring RW on the team. Moving him creates a hole. Same with RNH. He’s the most experienced offensive centre they have, and he’s perceived as the best-two way centre on the team.
But is he really as good defensively as his supporters claim?
TSN analyst and former NHLer Matt Kassian isn’t so sure. Kassian watched the Oilers closely this year, working as the pre and post-game analyst and he said this about RNH on my show earlier this week.
“If they will only do the Hamonic deal for Eberle, then you
do it, but I don’t see it that way at all (trading Eberle before RNH). If you
have the choice to trade Eberle or RNH, I trade Nugent-Hopkins, because you
likely will get more value, but I also think the Oilers have more strength down
the middle and I want a proven goal scoring right winger to play with McDavid.
“I had some serious issues with him (RNH) this year,
especially regarding his defensive game. I saw repeated problems this year and
often it didn’t have to do with size. I mentioned it often on the post-game
show where he lost track of his man back checking. He tracked to the
wrong guy. He didn’t pick up a guy, or he got beat off the wall in the
defensive zone. He hasn’t been as fantastic a defensive player as some make him
out to be.”
The entire Oilers team hasn’t been great defensively the past six seasons. All three forwards have had their defensive struggles, which is normal for any young, skilled forward, but RNH seemed to be deemed the best of the three for the past few years.
I’ve said for the past few years I was unsure if he could be the elite two-way centre many Oilers fans wanted him to be, simply because of his size. It is extremely hard to go head-to-head against Ryan Getzlaf, Anze Kopitar or Joe Thornton for any opposing centre, but it is more difficult when you aren’t 6’3 and 200 pounds.
I felt size was RNH’s biggest disadvantage moving forward even when he becomes more experienced, but Kassian believes RNH’s defensive struggles last year had little to do with size.
Do you agree or disagree?
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