Should the Oilers trade a high-end forward for a defenseman

It’s no secret that the Oilers need to improve their defensive core. 

Trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson was a step in the right direction, but it’s not going to improve the team’s back end over night. Acquiring someone like Adam Larsson shouldn’t be the only step the Oilers take to improving their biggest weakness.

The Oilers have a handful of very prominent forwards surrounding Connor McDavid. What about flipping one of those forwards in exchange for another top-four defender? 

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Adding another top-four defender to the group of Darnell Nurse (once he returns to full health), Adam Larsson, and Oscar Klefbom could be the move that helps the Oilers reach their potential. Now, how do the Oilers accomplish that? There are a handful of scenarios, but two prime assets that could be expandable are Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Eberle’s struggles to start out the year have been well documented and he’s emerging into somewhat of a scapegoat for Oilers fans. As frustrated as Oilers fans may be with Eberle, let’s not forget that Eberle still has significant use as a top-six winger and, more importantly, has value on the trade market. 

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Trading Eberle could garner a valuable defenseman in return, and with his struggles in Edmonton under a microscope, a change of scenery may be what’s best for him. Acquiring a top-four defenseman is no easy task and a player of Eberle’s calibre would have to be in the mix for any chance of getting a high-end defenseman.  

What about trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? This narrative hasn’t been entertained thoroughly, but there’s a case to be made for trading Nugent-Hopkins. As it stands now, the Burnaby native is penciled in as Edmonton’s second line centre. For a good portion of the last two years, Nugent-Hopkins has found himself as the team’s third-line centre as Leon Draisaitl has leapfrogged him and become the team’s second-line centre. For the time being, Draisaitl is on McDavid’s wing, but I think the Oilers still see Draisaitl as the team’s second-line centre. 

Having Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as your third-line centre is quite the treat, but it’s underutilization of a prime asset. The young centre has been riddled with injuries and now he’s behind McDavid and Draisaitl on the depth chart. He could certainly use a change of scenery. League personnel around the NHL know that and teams would give up a hefty sum for him because of his potential to evolve into a quality number-two centre. 

Trading either Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle for a top-four defenseman is something that wouldn’t hurt the Oilers up front, it would help them greatly. Trading someone like Benoit Pouliot could likely garner a bottom-pair defenseman, but the Oilers have their fair share of those in their system. They need an undisputed top-four defender that can help round out Edmonton’s back end. 

Let’s not forget, if the Oilers were to trade Nugent-Hopkins or Eberle, they would still have Draisaitl, Lucic, and a potentially dangerous forward in Jesse Puljujarvi once he further ripens. The matter of the fact is, it’s easier to acquire a 20-30 goal scorer than it is to acquire a top-four defender. The Oilers have the assets and picks to pull off a deal to acquire a top-four defender and they have a phenom in McDavid, which will be able to attract forwards to the Oil for years to come.

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The Oilers will have no problem finding 20-30 goal scorers to play with McDavid as the years go on and because of that, they should pull off any deal they can to acquire a top-four defenseman right now. It may seem far-fetched to consider moving another “core piece” after shipping off Taylor Hall not long ago, but it’s a new era in Edmonton: it’s McDavid’s team. 

It’s time for the Oilers to tailor their craft to build an all-around team, not just high-flying offense.

  • Glass

    I think we should acquire depth first. A veteran 3rd RHC could mentor the inexperienced players, add center depth to the bottom 6, and move Caggulia to the LW. To acquire this, I’d move Pouliot. I prefer Draisaitl & Lucic above him, he is too expensive for bottom 6, Caggulia has more offensive potential, and Maroon is bonafide depth.

    If we extend Russel for 1-2 years (or find a similar stop-gap), it will allow us to add an offensive RHD prospect and allow them to develop. When Russel comes off the books, one of our RHD prospects will be able to step into the 2nd pairing.

    To acquire that young, offensive RHD, I’m thinking Montour/Sproul, we could shed from our leftorium. We have Davidson, Oesterle, Simpson, Musil, Laleggia, Paigan, Jones, and Reinhart. I would love to have Montour, and would definitely make a package to get him.

    You have to give to get, and the price to pay for Barrie/Vatanen would likely be too dear. However, acquiring players who have yet to be established, yet show lots of potential, is less likely to cripple other parts of our roster.

    If those moves were made, we could see this in 2017-18: (D core remains pretty much the same)

    If I had to choose between Eberle & Nuge, Eberle is going. Our strength is our center depth in McDavid, Draisaitl, Nuge, and Caggulia, who are all under 25 years old.

  • Word to the Bird

    The defense could still use some work, but GM’s are smart enough to realize when the time is right to make a move. The only move I could really see happening this year is Benoit Pouliot being shipped out so Chiarelli has cap space to play with. When the D is healthy we have Klefbom, Larrson, Sekera, Russel, Nurse and Davidson. Not amazing but certainly enough to get by. Could it be better? Absolutely but Chiarelli isn’t desperate, after all we’re still in a playoff spot last time I checked…

  • NZOF

    He’s likely 2-3 years away from making it to the big team, but Ethan Bear is trending very nicely as a prospect.

    24 pts in 25 games so far this season. Young, right hand shot, can play on the pp, isn’t a defensive liability. Lots to like so far.

  • @Hallsy4

    Don’t think a deal will be made in season unless it’s Pouliot, Hendo, or the like, or else at the deadline. However, if the Oilers are still in the hunt at the deadline I don’t see EBS getting traded. So now probably isn’t the time, although I’d love to see an old fashioned blockbuster.

  • Makaveli

    Wow, first we get not one but TWO of the most asinine articles by Matt Henderson regarding Kris Russell, now this crap!

    If the price of acquiring someone like Larson was Taylor Hall, how the hell do you think Eberle or RNH with fetch you a top 4 Dman, particularly an established, RH shot, powerplay Dman??!!??

    Its time the guys in charge of Oilers Nation, start cutting ties with some of these bloggers trying to pass themselves off as “experts”.

    If this is the crap they are going to give us, they might as well just post user comments as “articles and analysis”

    Honesty, if it wasn’t for guys like Lowetide, Gregor, Willis and a couple others, this site would be a complete f’n joke!

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I do not make a trade at this time, Why here are my reasons in order of importance.
    1. The CMD Factor A defenseman will want to come here and we will not have to trade for it to happen.
    2. The odds of us going to the final this year given the game maturity of the team is low and I feel patience is worth waiting for the right guy.
    3. What we really want is not coming back for any player not named CMD IMO and of coarse I’m not trading him for any one alive.
    4. Some team out of the playoffs may be willing to trade us a blue chip player on an expiring contract. Lets just wait and see what shakes out. If this is a real problem next summer then maybe we make a trade.

  • rusty

    this article seems a bit premature when some of our top prospects on D are just coming into fruition. Benning looks to have a lot of offensive upside. Klefbom scores from time to time. Davidson has a bomb of a shot and looks to be legit top 4. I think the oilers just need to be healthy more than anything.

  • Valar Morghulis

    I would do it in a heartbeat if it was even possible.

    It doesn’t matter whether you love or hate Nuge and/or Ebs, they will both be gone before their contracts are up. They will both still be RFA and due for the 10%+ raise qualifying offer that comes along with that. Nuge has four years left and Ebs two, so I could definitely see Ebs gone first, but after the Hall trade, who the hell knows anymore.

  • NZOF

    Can’t we just agree that maybe the Hall for Larsson was a win for both teams?

    They needed offence. Box checked.

    We badly needed defense. Box checked.
    Well, one of them anyway. Could still be better, but we’ve yet to ice our top 6 D this season due to injuries so it’s tough to fully evaluate exactly where we’re at.

  • percy

    think we should leave our def alone for now. There young and developing nicely. Making the playoffs this year could be a long shot anyways. The second line is what needs to be addressed now. I think the 1st, 3rd and 4th lines are starting to come together. We need our second line to be putting up points(bottom line).Not near good enough. As far as our def, let them build slowly. Come playoff time there will be teams unloading to create space.

  • Boom or Bust

    Defense is better than it used to be..these guys will mature with each other, learn and become deadly. I’d like another offensive guy in the mix. I feel Pouliet and Ebs could be replaced. Ebs keeps getting knocked off the puck alot and his back checking stinks.

  • Oiler Al

    Team on most nights can barely scrape together a couple of goals, and you want to trade top six forwards for 2nd string defense men. The depth,currently, is not what you think it is.Think about injuries. Only guys that you would not really miss from up front are Pouliot and Letestu… and they get you a pail of pucks and four pylons in a trade.

  • Namudi

    I had the worst nightmare last night we drafted Nolan Patrick and chia traded Mcdavid for Zack pochiro. I woke up and check twitter quickly hahahah thanks god it was a dream

  • Looch#27

    Ugh this drivel was just about as painful to read as Matt’s earlier this week….let’s blow up a young team that’s finally moving in the right direction. Nuge is easily a 2c and for the most part excels in his role of shutdown center with some offence.whats with the PC haters?!? These nubs must love losing and Hall is gone get over it already we’re a better team and he’s doing good things for NJ it’s a wash

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Jacob Stoller wrote:

    Trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson was a step in the right direction, but it’s not going to improve the team’s back end over night.

    Q: How does Edmonton rank in GAA this year compared to last year?

    A: 25th last year but now 14th. The team has improved the back end “over night.”

    Do just a little bit of research if you don’t want to look like a complete idiot.

    This is less about hockey and more about clickbait.

    And aside from the poor punctuation of the writer of the headline (completely lacking, actually), this is a clear example of Betteridge’s law in action.

    Sales must be down and Xmas bonuses are on the line.

    The more obvious answer (that doesn’t require an article) is that the return of Nurse and Davidson would help the team greatly. And they obviously need 2ndary scoring beyond Paddy Maroon. A “High end Forward” would provide this.

  • ubermiguel

    “It’s no secret that the Oilers need to improve their defensive core.” You lost me at the first sentence. The Oilers are in the middle of the league for GA/GP and they’ve been missing a starter for a long time (Davidson). The two key defencemen (Klefbom, Larsson are in their early 20s; Davidson’s just hitting his prime years; Nurse and Benning are young and still learning; Sekera and Russell are the old-timers and they’re in their early 30s. Time and good coaching will improve this core, no need to give away assets.

  • dangilitis

    1) The oilers do not have offensive depth as this article claims. Far from it. Their only AHL scoring prospect is Khaira and that’s more 3rd line potential.

    2) Trading Eberle because we have Jesse P is the epitome of poor oilers management decisions of years gone by. Jesse could be the next MPS and he certainly hasn’t showed well enough to trade our only scoring RW. Draisaitl is trying out 1 RW but that still leaves a need for a 2nd line scoring RW and a hole at center, hence trading RNH leaves a similarly massive hole

    3) Defensive development is well underway. Add in Bear Ziyat Jones to Nurse, Benning, Larsson, Klefbom, Davidson, all well under 30 years old and the cupboard’s a lot more full at this age than the current forward cluster.

    4) You don’t leave a massive hole in your forward group in order to add another top 4D, we have several of those already. Using the Hall trade is a bad comparison because it was lopsided. You don’t do business with any GM who uses this as a starting point, because it is a bad frame of reference to begin a negotiation

  • OilCan2

    Dumb idea. Nuge & Ebs are part of a WINNING team right now.

    Just because Lander got a hat trick with the Condors last week does not give us scoring depth beyond our regular NHL guys.

    Grab a roster NHL D for Hendo or Pou and get on with it already.

  • S cottV

    I think Eberle’s net offence is replaceable. Remember – he is often the weakest link or a contributor toward far too many ga’s.

    At this point in his career, I don’t see much changing in that regard. Some guys just do not have an aptitude for the flip side of the game and his is so low – it’s a net problem.

    If there is a reasonable deal, even one that resembles the Hall / Larsson trade – to clear cap space – PC should pull the pin.

    As for Nuge – I would like to see how he does on McD’s left wing. I’ve been rooting for McD Drai for some time and we know it works. When things cool a bit for them – or if Nuge can’t get the 2nd line going enough, maybe put Nuge with McD and Drai with Lucic.

    If Nuge can produce with McD that offers versatility value. High scoring LW and backup top 2C. Probably a bit of a long shot but worth a look at some point.

    With some time together – we might find that Lucic works better with Drai in 2nd rotation.

  • Reinman

    Sekera has 10 points in 27 games, is a plus 9 and does not make it into your top 4?

    I think the Oilers just need to let there defense grow now. We still would like a top 4 RD, but I would be dangling one of our left shot D to try and get him. Who are our top 4 left D? Klefbom – Sekera (Now) – Nurse (Later) ?

    Where does that leave Davidson and Reinhart?

    On the right side, we still need another top 4 RD man. Although, I would suggest a Sekera type might fit the bill, meaning a 30ish year old guy.

    I don’t think you even need to consider your third pairing D, since those guys are a dime a dozen. I mean hell, the Oilers are even overflowing with 3rd pairing right shot D. (Fayne(Paid as a top 4 man), Gryba, Benning)

    On the right side we have Larsson, and as above, lots of third pairing options. I would suggest that I would be happy with Davidson to play in the top 4, if he shot right, instead of left. I would see if we can move Davidson, and Pouliot or Hendricks for someone with a similar outlook to Davidson, that is a right shot, even if he is late 20’s. I am not that keen on touching our core up front. I think this team is going to get hot soon, and go on a bit of a run. Nuge and Ebs are better then their stats so far this year, they will turn it around. Once we get both of our top 2 lines firing on all cylinders, we will be a very tough team to beat. Nuge and Ebs have done it before, no reason to believe they won’t get it going the right direction again. Maybe during the playoffs? That sounds good doesn’t it.

  • GCW

    Wow, weak article.

    Eberle is on pace for 60-65 points, right around his established norm. The depth chart after Eberle is JP (21 point pace, 1 goal), Pitlick (21 point pace), Kassian (18), and Sleppy (12). He’s also the engine that makes Nuge go.

    If you trade Nuge, your tough minute alternatives are Letestu, Lander and Drake. If that doesn’t scare the heck out of you, it should.

    The Oilers will have to trade Nuge or Eberle one day, but they lack the depth to do it now. Nuge is also below his norm for offence, meaning you would be selling low.

    Oh yeah, and there’s this little thing called the expansion draft. If they want to make a move like that, after the draft is the time to do it, because if they do it now they have to expose three extra forwards.

  • Derzie

    As soon as handedness comes into the discussion, it’s over. When it is super-hard to get D of any quality, discussion of handedness is moronic. It’s like looking for a house in a zero vacancy market and eliminating houses that don’t have the right doorbell chime.