The Oilers should strongly consider trading Leon Draisaitl


I don’t expect that the Edmonton Oilers will trade Leon
Draisaitl, but from a financial perspective he is the most logical of the team’s
high-end forwards to send out in a trade for a defenceman.

For any team with a budget or a cap problem, Draisaitl’s
lower paycheck and flexible contract future offer the kind of options that
Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle never will. That gives him
value in a trade that the other three lack.

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The Other Team’s Perspective

Next year is going to be an ugly year for cap teams. Larry
Brooks of the New York Post reported
on Sunday that a failure by the NHLPA to trigger its escalator clause would
result in a salary cap fall, with the league’s cap reduced by about $2.0
million. Even with the escalator triggered, there would be only a small
increase, a raise in the ballpark of $1.5 million.

For lots of teams with cap problems, 2016-17 is going to be
a real issue.

For budget teams, every year features a battle to stay
competitive with an internally imposed salary cap. For those teams—clubs like
Arizona, Anaheim, Ottawa—any chance to cut costs while keeping
comparable talent is welcomed. Oilers fans should be able to relate; this was
what life in Edmonton was like for a very long time, where Bill Guerin turned
into Anson Carter who turned into Radek Dvorak all in the name of shaving some
precious dollars off the payroll.

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For a team in either situation, Leon Draisaitl would be
incredibly attractive.

With a base salary next year of just
and the possibility of using the bonus cushion as a salary cap
work-around, and with the ability to potentially play a second-line centre role
already, Draisaitl is a fantastic bargain. For Edmonton, with cap space, that’s
nice. For a cap team or a budget team, that kind of financial edge is critical
and well worth paying a premium in terms of real talent.

Additionally, Draisaitl has not yet signed an extension for
when his entry-level deal ends next summer. For the Oilers, a long-term deal is
the obvious play. If they pay a little more in the first four years (when he’s
under team control) they can presumably lock him up for three or even four
years of unrestricted free agency, thereby keeping costs down at that point. 

For a cap or budget team, that lack of extension means that Draisaitl could
be given a bridge deal, which (including the one year left on his ELC) would
mean that he could be a veritable bargain for three full seasons.

For budget teams, three years of cheap production has
incredible value. For cap teams eyeing a Stanley Cup run, ditto. And it’s value
that simply isn’t available in a Hall or Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins.

Edmonton’s Perspective


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The Oilers, of course, like a deal as much as the next team.
But with deep pockets and some salary cap flexibility, Edmonton isn’t as
financially strained as other NHL teams. More critical for the Oilers is the
need to add the best possible defenceman to their roster before the start of
next season. That’s what makes Draisaitl an interesting point of conversation:
He’s going to have financial value in a trade that the $6 million-men don’t,
and Edmonton should be willing to sacrifice that financial value if it gets the
team a better return.

From a financial perspective, the Oilers need to start
worrying about the summer of 2018, when Connor McDavid’s entry-level deal
expires. Draisaitl isn’t much help there, because even if the team gives him a
bridge deal two of his three cheap seasons will be burned up by the time
McDavid gets expensive, at which point Draisaitl will presumably need to get
paid. So Draisaitl’s tremendous cap value in the present isn’t going to do the
Oilers much good in the future when the team needs to pay McDavid.

Further on the trade value, one of the other items working
in Draisaitl’s favour on the market is something that makes him popular
locally: He hasn’t been stained by losing. The glow of Hall, Eberle and
Nugent-Hopkins has been lost in years of losing, and that may impact their
trade value negatively. Draisaitl doesn’t carry that burden. The funny thing is
that had Draisaitl been in the shoes of any of those players the results would
not have been better: the other three all were better players over their first
two NHL seasons than Draisaitl has been.

Because I don’t believe that losing or winning are
infectious diseases (if they were, Hall would surely have carried his winning virus
over from junior/international play and/or brought his losing virus to Team
Canada) I don’t see much upside to moving out one of the longer-tenured
forwards. Instead, if Draisaitl has more value due to less guilt by
association, that’s a mark in favour of trading him.

Trading Draisaitl over one of the other three makes no
difference from an expansion draft viewpoint. Due to Edmonton’s ill-advised
decision to keep Draisaitl on the roster for a big chunk of 2014-15, he needs a
spot on the protected list just as much as the older trio.

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It’s also hard to argue that Draisaitl brings more talent to
the equation than someone like Nugent-Hopkins, who had superior scoring numbers
at the same age over his rookie and sophomore seasons. This is particularly
true when we consider Draisaitl’s disastrous rookie campaign or the way he imploded
away from Hall in 2015-16

So, to summarize:

  • Draisaitl has more financial value to other teams than the
    Oilers, increasing his trade value
  • Draisaitl has less guilt-by-association, increasing his
    trade value
  • Draisaitl’s NHL performance over his first two seasons is
    inferior to that of a player like Nugent-Hopkins and certainly Hall, suggesting
    his ceiling is lower
  • There is no expansion draft benefit to keeping Draisaitl
    over another forward

Put it all together and Edmonton could plausibly move a
lesser player for a greater return this summer if it’s willing to entertain
trading Draisaitl. I believe the club should strongly consider it. Having said
that, I don’t believe the team will seriously debate moving Draisaitl.

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Why? Because Draisaitl weighs 215 pounds. Hall, Eberle and
Nugent-Hopkins don’t.  

Update: Fellow Oilers writer Bruce McCurdy contacted me to point out that Draisaitl is a bit of a unique case in that he actually should have five years of team control after his ELC expires. That suggests Edmonton might opt for a bridge deal itself, and which also means there could potentially be another year of overlap between Draisaitl’s second contract and McDavid’s second contract. That does increase the Oilers’ financial motivation to hang on to the player, and weakens the argument to trade him. 

  • Ed in Edmonton 1

    Trading LD would be a high risk move as we don’t fully understand what his top end might be. But anyone not named McDavid has to be considered as a possibility.

  • TKB2677

    Congrats Mr. Willis. I thought when you wrote the article about Fayne having better numbers and insinuating that Fayne was a better Dman than Seabrook was a dumb article. This by far tops it all and is easily the stupidest article I have ever seen you write.

    The Oilers since basically Jason Arnott have been wanting a big, strong skilled, top 6 center. So they are smart and draft one. Draisaitl is a big, strong, extremely skilled, great hockey sense, strong on the puck, good skating center who out of the 3 young centers (McDavid, Nuge, Drai) was the best faceoff winning center by a lot. I expect he will be over 50% this season on the draw. Oh, and he’s only 20 years old so he’s not even close to being as good as he will be. Hell, even if all he becomes is a good second line center, who cares. Having a insanely skilled, speedster like McDavid as your #1, then you roll out a faster skating Thornton type as your #2. This isn’t me wearing Oiler colored glasses, I have a hard time thinking which team would have a better 1-2 punch in a year or 2.

    What’s the formula for every winning team? Have at least 2 really good top 6 centers, a good goalie and good defense. Typically at least one of the top 6 center is a skilled, big man. They finally have 2 really good centers, they finally have a good goalie, the last piece is the defense.

    Dumbest idea I have ever seen floated before.

    • camdog

      Worst idea I have ever read on this site was the need to keep Eakins longer because the Oilers needed some consistency out of their coaching ranks. I don’t know why their weren’t blogs in defence of Renney, because it was pretty obvious then that a new coach wasn’t going to turn the team around.

      Right now there is a wave of denial going through the Edmonton sports homer association. You can’t trade Eberle because of his limited trade value in respect to what he brings, you can’t trade RnH, because the Oilers don’t know if he is a number 1 or 2 centre of even yet a winger. When your own coach says that he’d be best on the wing rotating in at centre when it fits the team it confuses other teams on to his perceived role in the league.

      That leaves two trade options available to strengthen the team the 4th or Taylor Hall.

      • TKB2677

        Bloggers like Willis didn’t defend a coach like Renney because he doesn’t do spread sheet hockey like Eakins. Willis, Lowetide, etc are the type of guys that live and breath by spread sheet hockey. So they go off on a tangent about something because their spread sheet said so. They have been beating the drum that if the Oilers would be just fine if they went into next season with Demers and Fayne as their top 4 right shots. No sane team would do that because every GM knows they would get their heads kicked in but the spread sheet boys say it would work.

        I wonder when the article about the case to trade McDavid comes out? His trade value would be really high, his contract demands in a year are going to be huge and I am sure the spread sheet said he wasn’t good in all areas.

        Articles like these just make me shake my head.

      • herb

        Taylor Hall has been my choice to trade for a d-man going on two years. A very unpopular position back then.

        I’d like to see RnH centre the 2nd line and Leon play on the wing with McDavid, when all three centres are healthy.

      • TKB2677

        Every stat isn’t perfect and you can’t run a hockey team using a spread sheet. I’m not saying advanced stats are completely useless. They are a tool no doubt that should be considered but they aren’t the end all be all.

        To his point about Drai’s pts dropping. OK sure, they dropped. He scored 51 pts in 72 games. If he had of played all 82, he would have been close to 60 pts. Yes is production may have slumped but he for more than half the season was the ONLY OFFENSIVE center the Oilers had with McDavid hurt and Nuge either, hurt, sick or playing like hot garbage. He had no help and he went up against every teams best of the best every night at 20.

    • S cottV

      Agreed – dumb.

      Drai will be the perfect compliment to McD at 1 and 2c.

      Way better for matching purposes – to have one bigger centerman in this mix.

      Drai is gonna get bigger, stronger, tougher and wiser.

      Already shows excellent two way ability.

      Unless he returned the 2nd coming in the back end – forget it.

    • Zarny

      Congratulations, your loyalty to the Kevin Lowe School of Hockey Analysis is commendable.

      Why focus on empirical evidence of what a player has actually done and how they’ve actually performed when you can just close your eyes and focus on what you expect, assume and simply want to be true.

      Rose-colored glasses indeed.

      • TKB2677

        HE’S 20 YEARS OLD!!!! Kevin Lowe School of hockey? What the hell are you talking about? I subscribe to the wanting to keep, really good players on my team.

        Excuse me if I think it’s insanely dumb to trade a 20 yr old, 50+ pt center who’s played a grand total of 1.5 seasons of pro hockey total in his life. All the guy did was play against every other teams best centers night after night, was basically the Oilers only offensive center for half the year while McDavid and Nuge were out but heaven for bid a kid who’s not even old enough to legally buy a beer after the game in 3/4 of the Cities in the NHL has a dip in production after getting worn down and beaten up. If he had of played the other 10 games he missed due to getting sent down to the NHL, he probably would have scored 60 pts.

        • TS

          I think he’s refering to the refusal to look beyond your current ideas of what LD is/will be and see the overall picture. Anyone’s available. Anyone. If some team offered its top 5 players and every one of its draft picks for the next 10 years for McDavid you’d be a fool not to take it. By the same token, if we could get an OEL for LD, we should jump at the opportunity. There’s a difference between suggesting moving a player out and entertaining the notion of trading him.

  • @Hallsy4

    1. Don’t trade centers. It doesn’t matter if we have 3 centers and only two spots in the top 6. We can’t trade from a position of strength to improve an area of huge weakness. It just doesn’t make sense. Ask Moe Sizlack, he knows. 2. We can’t trade any of Hall, Nuge or Ebs. They have been through so much toghether. We need to magically acquire good players to surround them with. Ebs can score, it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t backcheck. Ask Sizlack, he knows. Any good player that we have we keep, don’t worry about the team. Address the D needs with Pou and Yak. Keep the pick and draft another forward. Other teams want our spare parts. And for goodness sake peter, hire Moe Sizlack. He knows what to do.

    • Zarny

      Actually, trading from a position of strength to improve an area of huge weakness makes perfect sense. You could call it…logical.

      Sort of like what Nashville did moving Jones for Johansen. They had 5 high quality D so they moved 1 for the C they needed.

      • @Hallsy4

        But then a player that used to be an Oiler has the chance to do well on another team! It doesn’t matter if we improve as a team. Moe Sizlack knows, Hall Nuge and Ebs will win a cup toghether, and Drai will be around too. It’s a perfect plan, there’s just a small gap between 29th to the cup finals, where ebs scores a goal like he did in world Juniors. It will happen. Ask Moe Sizlack, he knows. If we sign demers and pay him Sekera like money and term I can’t possibly foresee any problems. Moe Knows Hockey.

  • Zarny


    Yes, the Kevin Lowe School of Hockey – you expect, you assume, you want. Why focus on what a player has actually done when you can close your eyes and just want.

    Like I said…Kevin Lowe. Now, let’s stick to reality.

    Draisaitl did not play against every other teams’ best C night after night. That was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Maybe check a player usage chart or actually watch the games.

    Being the Oilers only offensive C because the other 2 offense C were hurt isn’t actually a point. It’s certainly completely and utterly irrelevant when comparing assets and determining who to move.

    Take a breathe and try to think. No one said Draisaitl was a bad hockey player. He’s actually pretty good. How good is the question.

    Despite what you want, assume and expect the empirical evidence shows that RNH is the more skilled player. RNH’s freshman and sophomore seasons were better than Draisaitl’s on worse teams.

    The only clear advantage Draisaitl has is size. And I agree because he’s 215 lbs Chiarelli won’t move 29, but it isn’t the dumbest idea ever because there is a good chance in 2-3 years Draisaitl will still be 3rd behind McDavid and Nuge on the goodness scale.

    Always assuming 20 y/o will become what you want them to become is classic Kevin Lowe methodology. How has that worked out?

    • @Hallsy4

      We can’t trade anyone. All of our potential will come together at the right time and we will watch Hall, Nuge and Ebs parade around with the Cup. Ask Moe Sizlack, he knows hockey. Teams often go from 29th to cup contender overnight without making any major changes. We only have 3 years of Ebs left, and we must stay the course. Even if we never make the playoffs with him, it’s worth it because we get to enjoy watching him not try in the D zone. I for one like spending hundreds of dollars Keep the core intact and lose endlessly with very little effort.

      • McRaj

        Madjam knows as well. Keep the entire core. The Core is great. Hall, Ebs, and Nuge. Don’t trade any of them. Even if we finish 30th next year. Add Nolan Patrick. JUST PLEASE DON’T TRADE THE CORE. Oh man oh man what will we possibly do if the core is traded. I mean like we have already hit rock bottom so not like we will hit rock bottom and there’s a great chance that if we were to trade a core player for a top pairing D man, the team improves substantially but still DON’T TRADE THE CORE PLEASE PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE.

        • madjam

          Are you insinuating our young core is not the sound foundation we should be building on and adding to ? Your linear thinking of gutting the core rather than looking at other ways/options to add to them , is tiresome and ridiculous . Time for you to get off your one tract mind solution .

  • Arr Dub

    Great article! I’ve been saying they should consider trading Draisaitl for months. I like him, he’s big, he’s talented, he’s the exact combination of player that the Oilers haven’t had for years. I get that. In an ideal world, you’d keep him. However, he is coming off an amazing year in which he played at an unsustainable high level. His value is higher now than it will ever be. Just like Eberle after his 2nd year, Yakupov before the draft, and Gagner after his 8 point night. His salary cap hit is also a good point though.

  • madjam

    BUILDING A TEAM THE EASY WAY : Keep those players acceptable in their positions and get the problem areas upgraded . Oilers need minimum two upgrades . One R winger and one R. defenseman . Depending on the degree you want will determine how much of an upgrade you end up with . As an example , a L.Stempniak and a Demers is still a reasonable upgrade and not over extending to incumbent lineup . It is not adviseable and often more detrimental to have to start taking apart the positives already in place , until such time as you have made those adjustments first . Maroon and Kassian are just such moves that upgraded without going overboard . Still leaves space for a major upgrade with an abundance of left side strength that can be used with Yak and draft , as well as buyouts , more Ufa’s , etc . on or after the draft . I expect 2 -3 to be added not using our main core or players already in a positive way at their positions . It not only can be done as such effectively , it should be done .

  • camdog

    “Draisaitl’s NHL performance over his first two seasons is inferior to that of a player like Nugent-Hopkins and certainly Hall, suggesting his ceiling is lower”

    During the 2011-12 season you wrote many blogs stating beyond doubt that Eberle’s shooting percentage was not sustainable. Not only were Eberle’s goals total inflated that season but so were RnH’s assist totals. Taking your words into consideration RnH`s point total are not inferior to LD`s for their first two seasons.

    • Ed in Edmonton 1

      One thing to keep in mind when comparing RNH and LD’s first 2 seasons is that LD was thrown in usually vs other teams second line in his rookie year. MacT figured he was up to it. RNH did have the benefit of having sheltered minutes in his rookie year. I don’t think it is a coincidence that RNH’s high water mark for PPG was his rookie season.