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.

  • 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

  • Gravis82

    Nuge for Trouba. Include a draft pick going to them or coming back to us. Not sure which side would need to put in a little extra here.

    never cracked 30 points, so I think that’s fair.

      • Gravis82

        Im sorry, I have been a fan of Nuge for a long time. But he is just not going to cut it as a 2C. As a 3C, yes if another C was on that line to take faceoffs. Have you noticed how slow he is actually? I am not sure what happened, but the guy is slow now. Maybe too much emphasis on building muscle mass instead of functional speed?

        Problem is he is never going to take 3C money.

        I think he can be replaced in free agency with a 3C, and in return get a D man.

        I dont suggest doing that this season though, or ever unless there is a plan to fill the hole that will appear after moving him.

        • Not a First Tier Fan

          That was a much nicer reply than my snarkogram deserved. Cheers.

          I can meet you on the ‘Nuge is slightly overpaid argument – sure. If he can see accepting $1M to $2M less a year I can see him playing out the rest of his career here in Edmonton.

          The mistake is to view him as a third line center though. He is our second line center which allows us to use Draisatl on the first line – or wherever on the line up makes sense.

          Out of curiosity which third line center would you replace his minutes with? There have been a bunch shipped through town the last little while and Letestu has been the best of them. Good centres seem to be just as little easier to find then good top four D…

        • Shameless Plugger

          Do you watch the games? This is the fastest Nuge has ever looked. Not saying he’s lighting up the league or anything. But to suggest he’s slow is completely inaccurate.

  • btrain

    This must be a joke. Hall gets you Larsson who is still establishing himself and you think Eberle or RNH can fetch an established top 4 guy? For real! Especially when that top 4 guy needs to be right handed and power play proven! Good luck!

    Also, I cannot understand how people think 20 to 30 goal scorers are so easily obtainable. Like you can just find them on the cheap or create them. Any that are available or comparible to Eberle make as much or more than he does. Pulljujarvi will be a great player but to bank on him now would be a horrible mistake. People need to stop rushing the process. This team is competing and in a playoff spot. They shouldn’t be a cup contender overnight.

    • Harry2

      What is this rediculous hangup that people seem to have on a powerplay proven rhd?

      When you have Draisaitl and McD along with an emerging Klefbom on your pp why do we need an overpaid Barrie type pp rhd?

      I would much rather have a Hamonic type then an overpaid defensive liability type like Barrie.

      Dont mean to beat a dead horse but anyone coning in on a trade should have a smaller cap hit. Larsson/Klefbom’s contracts are going to look amazing in a year or two. Otherwise dont make a trade.

  • Oilers-Entourage

    The difference is last year we were a bottom feeder club. Now we have been in a playoff spot all year. We desperately needed anyone in the top 4 defence, now we still need one but can live without him for now. More power in trade talks for us, at least we doing fine without another dman for now.

  • 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

  • BobbyCanuck

    Well that was close…read the headline…instantly thought about Connor…

    And our farm system is getting thin on grade A prospects, we need to increase our draft picks for the next couple of years, not trade them away

  • AJ88

    I am not sure why people continue talking about landing a top 2/3 Dman via trade, it is not based on the realities of today’s NHL. Supply of top 2/3 Dman that can QB a power play is very limited while demand is quite high. The value of a top 6 forward does not equate to a top 2/3 Dman. Trades in today’s NHL of top 2/3 Dmen will most likely involve a swap of similar players (Subban/Weber) or an elite forward. The Oilers have basically one elite forward so I am not sure why ON keeps writing articles based on one sided hypothetical trades.

    I hope the Oilers keep themselves in the playoff hunt throughout the remainder of the year, true value of players will be easier to scrutinize, criticize or commend at that time.

    At the game last night and you never hear of ON talking about Gary Suter, what a smooth, intelligent Dman.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • ¯\_(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.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_law_of_headlines

    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.

  • You just got LITT up!

    Honestly, if anyone thinks that either Nuge or Ebs returns us a decent dman … I have a bridge for sale. WOW! Think about it, Hall (warts and all … is / was better than either) and Hall returned us Larsson. If the Oilers are serious about a top 4 dman, I think they need to consider retaining some salary. Ebs and Nuge at $6MM are not exactly great value for money contracts.

    I hope it is Nuge that is traded, I can’t wait for ON to explode when Chia trades:
    3 consecutive 1st OV picks for:
    A. Larsson
    Z. Pochiro (ECHL player)
    3rd round pick
    __[ insert “average” dman ] ____.

    lols (just terrible asset management).

  • 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.

  • @Hallsy4

    I’d trade both of them, Pouliot, Hendo, Griffin, and Whoever else from the Minor League levels of the leftorium. Things are looking good now and for the future.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • @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.

  • 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.

  • Aendayana777

    I think we all agree we need to aim high for the dman. Someone who can be the qb for the pp. Clearly there is only a handful and not any really available. Not unless you overpay significantly. I don’t believe Eberle brings enough back himself, but what if we do give up maybe Davidson and some draft picks along. I already like our defence but this would complete it for the future. Klefbom/Larsson Nurse/Karlsson perhaps? Crazy to think Ottawa would even consider but they are not as good as they seem. They have a zero goal differential fifth in the conference only because of their goaltending why they are contending. They won’t make the playoffs imho. If you make an offer they can’t refuse? What’s the most one would need to offer and believe they would accept? Maybe RNH+Davidson+1st round pick would start the conversation but probably not nearly enough. Add Eberle, and offer salary relief? I know if I would entertain the idea of trading another top forward I would aim as high as I can. No one else in that caliber is probably available with Burns having signed his extension. Go big PC!

  • 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