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? 

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. 

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.

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.

  • bcoil

    My vote is to wait until we have Nurse and Davidson back and I think you will find we have 6 NHL Defensemen .Quit always trading everyone away this isn’t Monopoly

  • Dinojr

    PC had to give up Taylor Hall, a top 5 left winger in the NHL to acquire top 4 defenceman Adam Larsson. Who do you expect Nuge or Eberle to fetch in a trade?

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      Taylor Hall had how many multi-point nights he had this year?
      Anaheim, Nashville, Buffalo, Arizona.
      Alright so 4 games including injury not terrible but he was a negative player against Nashville. (3 points -1) so really top 5 left wingers? He wasnt even picked for the world cup of hockey for team canada.

      He is good dont kid me wrong just I think there can be a lot to fix to his game.*cough* not the same drive wide shoot short side *cough* or even learn how to pass/defensive game.

      • pkam

        Just went to NHL.com to check players stats on LW. Hall is second in PPG at 0.94 and is +0.

        Here are the stats of the well known top LW:

        Jamie Benn: 0.81 ppg and -6

        Alex Overchkin: 0.78 ppg and -1

        If Hall is not a top 5 LW, what will Benn and Overchkin be? Not even top 10?

  • TheRazzleDazzle

    Do we not have Sekera locked up until 2020+ at 5.5?

    I’m not entirely sure how loading contracts on the back end helps us with Drai, McDavid, Nurse all coming down the pipe.

    Let’s allow the Oilers play for longer than 3 months without calling for core assets to be shipped out.

    • Word. Regardless of the inconsistency in overall play, we are leading the west in goals scored and second in goal differential. Let’s let the team gel, find the right combinations (I still think some improvements can be made in deployment), and see what this team looks like firing on all cylinders. We’ve seen glimpses of it, but before trading the mall, let’s see if McLellan can get everyone to buy into their role. Then I think we will be truly competitive.

  • Harry2

    Eberle for Hamonic.

    I think that trade helps both clubs. NYI need someone desperately to play with Tavares and Hamonics smaller cap hit greatly helps Edm going forward.

    • I am Batman

      I would have loved this trade but not anymore.

      Hamonic is the same style of player Larsson is, maybe slightly better but that’s it.

      I’d rather see an Eberle for Barrie, Trouba, Faulkner even Dumba (defenders with more offence) – but nobody is going to give away those for Eberle

      • Sir Dudeinstein

        Harmonic is older than Larsson, Give larrson a year or two and will Harmonic be better? I dont know, Larsson is showing a better defensive game than Harmonic (which Edmonton desperately needs) Harmonic would of solved a bit more puck moving problem but I am liking Larsson ability to actually hit.

      • Harry2

        Good point but the Oilers are having no trouble scoring right now. Add Hamonic to our d core and all of a sudden our top 4 D I think would be top 10 in the league.

        I dont see how NYI isnt under massive pressure to make changes. Ladd has been a massive disappointment anf Tavares is a FA after next year. Who would want to stay with the state that team is in?

      • CaptainLander

        For once I actually agree with you…

        Ebs is struggling to score goals (although he is on pace for point totals)

        I would rather see a UFA that has a bit of offense get picked up for picks and prospects (Michael Stone has a a good shot and put up decent numbers last year). Oilers are showing they finally have some depth, I would not want to mess with it. So unless some team is willing to make a bad move (as suggested Faulk, which is comical) to get a guy like Ebs I doubt the return is worth it.

        I also cannot see Hamonic getting moved, if they did not take a Hall trade which may or may not have been an option they are not moving him for EBS.

    • Freelancer. Doing lots of writing at lots of different places. Have been covering the Winnipeg Jets since 2012 for Winnipegwhiteout.com, Arctic Ice Hockey.com and now with Jets Nation.ca. Writing about all things NHL for NHLNumbers.com and various outlets . You can find me on twitter, @NHLStoller

  • While I do agree it’s easier to acquire a goal scoring winger than it is a top four right shot D man, I think this article really lacks the forethought into what actually giving up Eberle or Nuge means for the team.

    With Eberle, sure Puljujarvi looks like he’s gonna be great, but he has miles to go. This is not plug and play Patrick Laine. Puljujarvi will find his game, but asking him to do it overnight is the way the Oilers got so bad in the first place: Trading away good players in hopes a younger newer one can fill the role.

    If this season is any indication, the Oilers are not going to be drafting very high for a long time. That should be considered as up till now, the team has been gifted high end draft picks since 2010. That pipeline is about to shut off, and the team will now have to rely on developing from within. Other than Puljujarvi, who is next on the scoring winger depth chart? Greg Chase? Lander?

    Point being, while due to cap situations I do see Eberle eventually getting traded, I don’t think right now is the time.

    As for Nuge, trading him away means Draisaitl comes off the wing and plays second line C. I’m sorry but right now Drai is much better playing the wing than he is holding down an important second line. Much of the reason is he does not have the skilled wingers to play with, unlike last year when the team had Hall. Even then the duo cooled off significantly.

    IMO Nuge should be the last to go as he gives the team versatility and depth at an important position.

    And finally, a trade might be good, but who’s coming back? Look around the league and tell me who is a reasonable get for Eberle, knowing how much Larsson cost. It’s a short list full over over 35. I’d rather take a shot at Shattenkirk in free agency.

  • freelancer

    Some people probably don’t want to hear this but Jordan Eberle is still this teams best RW. Unless you are immediately acquiring his replacement (don’t say Puljujarvi) then trading him now should not even be a topic.

    Right now I think it’s much more appropriate to talk about the Oilers acquiring a top 9 winger or a 3rd line centre for depth.

  • Dan 1919

    A list of people Eberle won’t get you:
    Larsson, Faulk, Hamonik, Trouba

    MAYBE Hopkins could shake loose one of those guys on a great day but I doubt it. If Hopkins doesn’t turn things around, don’t expect a lot in return for a $6mil third line center.
    I’d like to beleive that RNH has until the end of the year before his true value drops around the league… unfortunately though, we just had to trade Hall for Larsson, it appears the rest of the NHL has valued our players very differently than Oiler fans for some time now.

    • Dan 1919

      Scratch that, reality sucks:

      Chiarelli should have just traded Hall for Weber, then Eberle for Hamonik. My guess is he just didn’t check into it and just traded Hall on a whim. Excuse me while I go cherry pick stats now to try and explain why Eberle is an Allstar, just like how saying Hall is a top three LW sounds way better than saying Hall is a top 50NHL forward. Why not be top three instead of top 50, it’s just basic science.

  • 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.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Trade Nuge and you’re trading away centre depth. Which makes you about as smart in these things as Lowe and Tambellini.

    Oilers need a top line defenceman and Eberle will not land that for them. Trading Ebs would create a hole in the right wing, but that wouldn’t be as mind-crushingly stupid as creating a hole at centre.

    People bring up JP as a replacement for Ebs – but any trade for a top D would probably involve BOTH of them, or something similar. (Which we’d be idiotw to pay.)

    My take – once Davidson, Nurse and to a lesser extent Gryba return our D will be in the better half of the league. Our kids will develop and new prospects like Bear will be joining them. In the meantime the cure for whatever flaws we still have is in free agency – not a big trade.

    Someone posted earlier that where we’re actually in trouble now is depth in the forward prospects. Now that, I agree with…

  • This is misguided and reactionary. Only 27 games into the first season of obvious numerical improvements.
    ” but it’s not going to improve the team’s back end over night.” – No kidding, 10 years and waiting pal. We’re well used to the ideals of baby steps.
    Stop pulling the fire alarm.

  • 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!

  • I am Batman

    The time to trade lazy Ebs is gone. Once upon a time when he didn’t have the floater reputation he could have fetched a Hamonic, Vatanen, Barrie, Trouba (to the dismay of all the groupies)

    Today he probably gets us a prospect and a pick. Pass, let his contract expire, maybe he even does what his fans say he does:score a lot of points. He is Hemsky 2.0 without Hemmer’s toughness.

    As for Nuge, only if the deal is right…. he needs to start showing up more, and he needs to carry that line (lazy Ebs won’t do it), ; if so, he can fetch a good return or stay and help us in the playoffs push!

    Playoff push… 1/3 of the season done and we are still in it!

    Wooohoooo!

    What were we talking about again?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Simmerdown

    The insane need for oilers’ fans to constantly find a goat is what I call Drew Remenda effect. For the first time in 10 years things are atrocious almost….even…good. But fans still need to find fault. That way when they don’t win the cup this year it will be Ebs’ fault, or Nuge’s in the event they trade Ebs.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • Strange Tamer

    Based on Chiapets track record of trading high end forwards for second pairing defenders he would have to package both Eberle and Angie to get an Adam Larson type.

    • Harry2

      “Fans” like this must have really liked seeing Edm out of the playoffs by Halloween year after year after year…..

      Chiarelli is the best thing to happen to the Oilers front office since Katz bought the team. Get on board or cheer for the Canucks

  • Ty Guy

    My expectations of who i would want in return are way to high to entertain this conversation….i love RNH, and i think Ebs is getting a bum rap for his play. he is what he is and trading either for a Faulk or Shattenkirk (wont come to Edmonton anyway) will just make me cringe….at least until they provide back to back 100 point seasons/playoff berths.

  • TKB2677

    First it depends on what the plan for Draisaitl is. If he a center or a winger? He’s been back and forth a bit this season which is fine because he’s sooo young. But I think he is a center. He is already the best faceoff guy on the team.

    So if that is the plan, then the guy to trade is Nuge. If Drai is your second line center, I don’t see how you can have a 6 mill 3rd line center. Leon needs a new deal at the end of this season. It probably starts with a 5 at least. Then you have McDavid coming.

  • Shredder

    I’m ok with trading Nuge or Ebs for a high end defenseman, but let’s not pretend it’s easy or it’s going to be cheap. Just look at what we got for Hall. Further, the Vegas expansion draft makes things too challenging for most teams to consider it. Let that happen first, then we can keep building the team through trade.

  • 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)
    Draisaitl/McDavid/Eberle
    Lucic/Nuge/Puljujarvi
    Caggulia/RHC/Slepyshev
    Maroon/Letestu/Kassian/Pitlick

    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.