WWYDW: Should Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be in the Oilers’ long-term plans?


It wasn’t all that long ago that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was
regarded in many quarters as the Oilers’ most important building block, the
first-line centre the team’s rebuild would hinge on. With the arrival of Connor
McDavid and the emergence of Leon Draisaitl, however, the idea of trading RNH
has a certain currency among segments of the fan base.

In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday, we want to get
your view on the player. If you were Edmonton’s general manager, would Nugent-Hopkins
be in your long-term plans?

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There are a lot of good reasons to keep Nugent-Hopkins on
the team.

One which should be obvious to any fan of the Oilers in
recent years is the difficulty in finding good centres in trade or via free
agency. This is a team which prior to RNH leaned on players like Shawn Horcoff
and Mike Comrie and even (for one glorious season) Todd Marchant in primary
roles down the middle. As recently as the back half of 2014-15, Derek Roy was
the best non-Nugent-Hopkins pivot on the roster.

The nature of Nugent-Hopkins’ game is another point in his
favour. He isn’t like Sam Gagner, his predecessor as Edmonton’s centre of the
future. Gagner scored early on, but always had an underdeveloped two-way game,
and seems to have settled in as an offensive specialist in the NHL.
Nugent-Hopkins is instead a dedicated 200-foot player, one with real value in a
defensive role and one who is far grittier than his critics allow.

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Then there’s the fact that centres can be stashed on the
wing. Oilers coach Todd McLellan clearly likes sticking Draisaitl on the right
side, and Draisaitl has had a lot of success in the past playing on the same
line as Nugent-Hopkins. That gives the coach a second faceoff man on the line,
and allows him flexibility in-game in the event of slump or injury.

Cherish Your Father

Nugent-Hopkins is also only 23 years old. It’s easy to
forget when looking at younger players like McDavid and Draisaitl that Nugent-Hopkins
is still years away from what should be the prime of his career.


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins2

There isn’t much debate that Nugent-Hopkins is a good and
valuable player. In at least one way, that’s kind of the point.

Edmonton has other needs. There’s an obvious spot on the
back end for a right-shooting offensive defenceman. At some point the power play
will need a real quarterback and the top-four will need an upgrade who can both
play the right side and move the puck out of the defensive zone. These players
don’t grow on trees, and RNH is a guy who could plausibly be shopped a la Ryan
Johanson-for-Seth Jones.

Speaking of the team’s needs, what about cap space?
Draisaitl is a restricted free agent this summer. McDavid, Drake Caggiula and
Darnell Nurse will be the year after that. A season later, Jesse Puljujarvi’s
entry-level deal ends, too. Nugent-Hopkins is packing a $6.0 million cap hit until 2021.

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There’s a further argument, though, one that goes beyond
Nugent-Hopkins being expendable in pursuit of other needs. It comes down to
opportunity. For his whole NHL career, RNH has been a top unit power play
quarterback. He’s done a good job, but McDavid has taken that role and it’s
reasonable to think that Nugent-Hopkins is going to have problems putting up
points as a second unit guy. That’s a pretty big part of his NHL skillset, and
so he’s always going to have more value to a team looking for a top unit playmaker
than he will to the Oilers.

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid recovers from COVID-19


Which side of the fence do you, the reader, fall on? Would
you keep Nugent-Hopkins, valuing having that extra centre and his particular skillset?
Or would you trade the player, banking that he can be used to address other
areas which will do more to help the team win? Let us know in the comments. 

  • hockey1099

    For the right price anyone but 97 can be traded. That said At best we are going to get less than what we got for hall as nuge is a lesser player. Is that type trade going to help the team? Doubtful. Right now we have legitimate center depth, I wouldn’t move Hopkins until cap space dictated that as a necessity or some team desperate for a center came knocking on our door bent over with their pants at their ankles.

  • This.Is.NHL

    Maybe if he just keeps playing his game the pucks will start to go in for him eventually LOL yeah right maybe it’s just bad puck luck LOL obviously things aren’t going his way right now but doing the same thing year after year isn’t going to change things I’ve heard this to many times. Nuge needs to focue his will and take over games and put this team on his back, force that puck to the back of the net it’s not going to be given so take it, GTG,GWG,GAG.

  • oilerjed

    If the Oil are getting rid of a smallish 6 million dollar player then Eberle should be the one to go. I would rather see Nuge sent to the wing and allow us to keep the center depth.

    He is a better two way player and is a tougher player to play against. It may cost us some ++ to get a good return from Ebs but from what I have seen over the last couple of years he is the one to go.

    Nuge will compete hard in the playoffs while Ebs will still be soft as newly made cheese. We go nowhere with Ebs but with Nuge we got a shot.

  • Total Points

    RNH’s press availablilty show his softness and lack of determination. As least Hall got pissed off once and a while.

    Nuge just seems to accept things and goes with the flow. “for sure we played hard and can take away something from this 5 – 0 loss”

  • Bubba Train

    Keep good players, it’s really simple.

    I doubt we’ll get a better player back for Nuge. We cannot afford to bleed more talent.

    The Hall For Larson took a strength away to fill a need but left us with mediocre. Let’s not do it again.

    We have a strength at centre, don’t trade it to mediocre just cause. Other answers will come along. And let the GM worry about cap hit. Really, when thing in Oilerland are going along relatively well then we nvent stuff to worry about.

    • Looch#27

      All the love for Hall on these pages baffles my mind!!! We never won anything with him we get Larrson and all of a sudden we’re looking like a playoff team and you all think we “bleed” talent?!?! I’m a Nuge fan but as a hockey fan I can’t help but think most oiler fans over rate our guys. Is Nuge a number one center? Doubtful he’s to small and no slap shot but he does have other talents and is quite useful with his dzone play kinda like Horc. Previous management had no clue and sold us on players who had yet to play a game I suspect Nuge and Eb’s won’t be here at this point next season. When the klowe koolaid is all gone PC well finally have a team full of guys who compete every game and don’t offer lame excuses for loses. In PC I trust

    • munch34m

      The Hall For Larson took a strength away to fill a need but left us with mediocre.

      So you’d sooner have Hall and be talking on the forum about who we’re going to draft FIRST OVERALL again than being in playoff contention at this time?

      Trading 6 million in salary is going to net you back 6 million in salary (Nuge for a #1 Dman) so it’s a non cap issue.

      I say keep Nuge and let him develope, heck he’s still only 23 years old.

  • Osmosis_jones

    I blame the bloggers and the people who believe everything they write for this.

    It wasn’t long ago that Lowetide who pushes the NUGE IS AWESOME train suggested that if he was traded, the only suitable replacement would be Stamkos. Ridiculous. Nuge is highly overrated by the online community.

    Here is the cold hard truth – he is a checking forward who can’t win faceoffs and can put some decent numbers up. CRAIG JANNEY.

    Should have traded him instead of Hall.

  • fasteddy

    I haven’t read one comment yet, but here’s my two cents; the guy brings much, much more to the table than the other $6mill player on the roster. Having said that I just can’t help but wonder what happened to the super-slick offensive player he was coming out of junior. In his rookie season the kid reminded me of 99; eyes in the back of his head, turn on a dime to rifle a shot or find an open teammate.

  • OilersGM

    Honestly what’s wrong with our organization, we have this great ability to turn this grade A prospects into grade A suspects so disappointing I feel bad for the kids any other organization this kids would be stars. It just shows how bad our organization is, it’s unfortunate there is bunch of clowns running the team.

    • madjam

      We built our team on maybe to much skill , but never really enough truculence in rest of team makeup to compliment them . Eakins was not such a problem , the team makeup had been severely lacking for a decade . You now see the difference with our skill surrounded by some size and truculence . Petry and Schultz going to other teams and doing better is not such a hard thing to figure out , after being on a relatively soft team such as we had been . Drafting near first most of those years it is easy to draft skill , but truculence and size may often not be part of that as we have clearly shown . We made that more difficult by adding very little in drafting beyond first round all them years .

    • Looch#27

      Dude the clowns are gone or replaced! PC has never said Cagulia is the next hart winner or that Klefbom well win a Norris that’s the previous idiots. PC has been honest and straight with all his accusations and never sold the fan base a bill of goods. Do we disagree with his use of JP ? I know I’d send him down but I’ll let PC and TM make the call and see what happens my guess is it’ll be fine

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    I would entertain offers, but only trade him if it’s a can’t-lose option. Centre-depth is an Oiler strength this season, and I wouldn’t be so quick to change that. The team has a winning record. Ride it out and see where it leads first.

  • S cottV

    Willis makes a good point about Nuge always being the go to 1C – #1PP half wall QB – kind of guy.

    Having McD and Drai come in and bump him abruptly to #2 and now #3 – is a major slap in the head that he’s still reeling from.

    I think in part – the shock to confidence levels, explains his inability to generate offense like was the case in his first few years as an Oiler.

    Its also the change in dynamics that are in play now vs a few years back.

    Hall – Nuge – Eberle, were the only line capable of and counted upon to generate offence a few years back. If their line wasn’t scoring – nobody else was likely to, so – the Coach taps them and says have at er boys, we need you to score. If the line didn’t get at least 2 – then the chances to win games was very low.

    This creates a bit of a false environment for the line, where their focus was cheat to offense. They were not gonna get 2 or 3 goals, playing it safe. So – its take your chances – roll the dice – lets hope today we get two and don’t give up 3. Which often happened.

    The dynamics for Nuge are quite different now.

    We are now likely to get 2 or 3 goals from McD and or Drai and those that surround them. We’re also likely to get another from depth guys like Letestu, Pitlick, Kassian etc.

    So – 3 or 4 goals is enough to win most hockey games.

    So – when the Coach taps him on the back – its no longer – have at her Nuge, it’s more like – ok Nuge we would like your line to score, but really its probably more important that you don’t get scored on.

    The difference in the past dynamic and present dynamic conditions – is huge.

    You cut his ice time, eliminate his go to ice time, eliminate his #1 pp QB time, give him scraps at #2 pp, take away the go for it cheat to offence dynamic, put him out with a like you to score but really just dont scored on mission – and it’s probably no big surprise at his inability to score at prior rates.

    While I would try him on the wing with both McD and Drai, I really think he might do better being one of the go to guys.

    Out of 29 other teams, I am sure there has to be a fit, where a GM still believes in him and where Nuge would rise to the challenge of being a go to guy.

    McD and Drai are gonna be the best 1 – 2c punch in the league. ON still does not fully appreciate how good Drai is and how good this guy is gonna get.

    Nuge knows he is the #3 and there is no chance at changing that.

    I would put him where he can be more in his element. What he is used to.

  • percy

    I think the problem with the team in past years had something to do with the owner wanting to make decisions he shouldn’t have been making. Have a feeling that’s why some of the management is still there. I wouldn’t trade RNH yet, I don’t think we would get fair value for him anyways. Right now we need a sniper on the first line.

    • Dreadguy

      Agree 100%. If it came down to keeping only one it’s quite simple:

      1)Both players make 6mil
      2)Nuge is a C that can play up and down the lineup at C or W, which opens up options in case of injury to other players, or shuffling lines.
      3)Eberle plays one position (sometimes well, sometimes poorly).

      I don’t dislike Eberle, but Nuge is the better asset going forward. The only way I see the Oilers trading Nuge before Eberle is if the return is too good to pass up.

  • @Hallsy4

    Trade Pouliot, Fayne, and Griffin, as soon as possible. Trade Ebs, likely in the offseason. Trade Nuge this offseason or next.

    I don’t think Nuge and Ebs have that much value though, because they don’t help win games. See Yak.

    The Oilers are in a great position, with a great future. Losing any of the aforementioned players won’t really hurt them that badly, and they’d be replaced. Keep Nuge in the meantime, but he wouldn’t be in my long term plans.

  • @Hallsy4

    He makes the same as Horcoff, has 3 goals this season (which has to be lower pace than Horcoff when he was here), and is worse defensively than Horcoff. He’s not as good as a #1 is supposed to be, but he’s not so bad that he doesn’t have trade value. Work the markets PETE.

  • Spoils

    1) centers – if we are to believe Team Canada is on to something. i would have put Hall on the World Cup 2016 Team Canada all day long, but that is the prevailing wisdom.

    2) sell high – he is struggling to find his groove as a a lowly satellite in Connor’s universe. he’ll find it. his value has to be low right now.

    3) next gear – is going to emerge even better than ever – he can’t even grow facial hair, he is a late bloomer and he will age well. i bet he peeks at the late end.

    4) shame – i can’t take another Dubnyk etc. player turning star once they shed the orange.

    so – unless you can package him to pull a true #1D OEL type out of an organization (which you can’t – cough subban) – NO

  • KMA

    The mental moron who decided to pay RNH six million dollars per year on a long term contract effectively screwed this team. After another season I am thinking the starting point for McDavid’s services will be 12 mil.

    • fasteddy

      Let me start by saying that I’m not saying Nuge is worth $6mill….ok, now that I’ve cleared that up;

      1. In my opinion the gamble to lock up higher end players for longer term coming out of entry level is typically a good bet. The price tag typically goes up if they put together another season or two of good numbers. (Yes that didn’t really happen here, but it certainly could have)

      2. Part of the process is also perception; the team needed, (or thought they needed), to show the young guys they were committed to them to lead the team going forward. The last thing they needed was a Nuge or Hall upset at a bridge deal and wanting out at 23 yrs old; makes it hard to attract players and build your team.

      3. My last point is one I rarely ever hear brought up; it’s related to the previous point….whether a young player is completely ready, or has not reached his potential yet, is somewhat irrelevant when you are talking about a high potential player. They are trying to build a long term relationship, so stuffing them in the minors for a year or two at 1/30 of the paycheque may not go over well in the long term. Bottom line is they can be divas, and that needs to be considered in the grand scheme as well.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Is there a deal with the struggling Avalanche? RNH plus a 1st plus another player for McKinnon?

    The one thing this team needs in my opinion is another right handed centre. Yes, the dman is important too but for the sake of the expansion draft I’d trade forwards for forwards and dmen for dmen.

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    I think the comparisons of RNH and Horc are quite interesting. Especially given the almost universal hatred of Horc after he received his big $ contract. I see some similarities in the 2 players, good but not great centers, not true No. ones, but maybe a reasonable facsimile at times. Horc much superior defensively in large part because he was a better than average faceoff guy. Horc’s best offensive year was 70+, will RNH ever get to that level?

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    Maybe the two most disappointing players to this point of the season may be RNH and Ebs (Pouliott could be in the this group as well, maybe even the most disappointing). I’m wondering if playing competitive games every night is something they need to adapt to. I am now wondering how many of their point in previous years came from garbage time long after a game was decided and the opposition in cruise control.

    • S cottV

      Part of the false environment. Loose as a goose, press to score. Not likely to win anyway, or – if we don’t get 2 or 3 we have no chance, so might as well go for it, or – we’re down 2 so why worry about going down 3 – lets just see if we can get one.

      All part of a higher than normal GA and GF probability.

      So – I would submit that Nuge was in an artificially high points environment. Or – not as good as it looked, since most fans identify with GF’s more than GA’s.

      Now he’s in the real world.

  • Rama Lama

    It’s worth keeping the Nuge, he plays a true 200 foot game. He is also versatile, and able to adjust to the dizzying line combinations that McLellan seems to conjure up at will.

    It is my belief that he has stopped scoring due to changing roles and the absence of Hall.

    I would venture to say the only line combination that Mclellan has not used is the Nuge with McDavid……..now this would be interesting to watch!

  • If you look at the Oilers cap situation, current and upcoming contracts, and where the room might come from. It gets pretty clear pretty quick that both Nuge and Eberle will likely need to be traded. They might be able to keep one, and if so I prefer it to be Nuge as he can do way more than Eberle. You could put Kassian on a line with McDavid and he’d get 60 points.

    Nuge not only provides another great player who’s role is not readily found in other centres, but also depth the team will need going forward if they want to stay competitive. In today’s NHL centres will go down to injury and there has to be a decent replacement for when it happens. If one of Draisaitl or God forbid McDavid goes down, I’m not sure Caggiula, Lander, Letestu, or Kaharia are up to the task of replacing them.

  • Connor McFly

    I think the Oil need a new perspective in the front office and behind the bench. Chiarelli has lost it man. Mclellan and his…ahem…coaching staff don’t have bad ideas. They have no ideas whatsoever. Criticism is coming from all quarters these days. They can’t fix the myriad of problems they created. I would not let this management group or coaching staff have any power to do or input on any trades. McLellan looks to be coaching to get fired so he can go back to SJ where his family stayed and collect the last 2 years of his contract. He is inept to the point of incompetence.