Should Jordan Eberle be exposed to Las Vegas in this summer’s expansion draft?
I suppose crazier things have happened but this idea, which seems to be gaining currency among segments of the Oilers fanbase, strikes me as an awful use of resources.
Basically it comes down to this: Eberle has real value, and losing him for nothing would be a waste of that value.
Over the last three seasons, Eberle ranks 47th among NHL forwards by total points with 142. That total ties him with Brandon Saad and puts him one back of Matt Duchene, a player teams will be lining up to acquire if the Avs are foolish enough to trade him. He falls to 61st by points-per-game, a total which puts him just back of Duchene and just ahead of Saad.
Over the last three seasons, Eberle also ranks 93rd among NHL forwards by 5-on-5 points/hour, with 1.79. That number has been dragged down by a lousy 2016-17, but even so ties him with Logan Couture and puts him just ahead of Nathan MacKinnon.
As there are 90 first-line forwards in the NHL, it’s fair to say that Eberle is at least in the mix by scoring totals.
Nor is he a total dunce in other areas of the game. His defensive gaffes get a lot of attention in Edmonton, and while they deserve to be noted there’s a real element of missing the forest for the trees here. Even away from Connor McDavid, Eberle’s lines have been in the black by both shot differential and goals for/against, and that isn’t playing butter-soft minutes.
This is a quality offensive right wing who can be part of a non-McDavid line that can be trusted to out-shoot and out-score the opposition without being sheltered. A bad half-season doesn’t change that.
It’s also important to put that bad half-season into context. Eberle’s presently on an 82-game pace of 50 points, which really isn’t bad. This also happens to be the worst season of his career. He’s a better player than this, and even now he’s still a pretty decent player.
He is also a player the Oilers might have some trouble replacing. It’s not always easy to simply conjure up an offensively gifted forward in the prime of his career. Looking at free agency, the only right-shooting forward under the age of 30 with similar numbers to Eberle this season is Sam Gagner, who was only able to board his plane leaving Edmonton the last time because GM Craig MacTavish confused the angry mob chasing him by throwing Teddy Purcell at them and shouting “6’2”, 6’2” over and over.
Other options in free agency include Alexander Radulov (31 in July, already making $5.75 million) and the usual laundry list of cheap bandaids (Kris Versteeg, P-A Parenteau, Radim Vrbata) that the Oilers either passed on or drove away this summer.
There’s always a trade, of course. The problem with dumping Eberle for nothing and then trading something to replace him is that it obviously is going to be a drain on the organization’s resources.
As a rule, I’m a believer in trading players when everything is going right for them. In the summer of 2012, I was one of the leading proponents behind the idea of trading Eberle because his 34-goal, 76-point season seemed an obvious high-water mark and it should have been possible to cash-in on that temporary spike in value.
By the same token, if Eberle’s value has really fallen so far as to consider giving him away for free, it’s obviously the worstp ossible time to move him out of town.
I’m not convinced that Eberle’s value has taken such a tumble, though it’s obviously difficult to move a $6.0 million contract in-season. The speculation this morning that there isn’t much market for him in the present makes sense, but doesn’t mean the same will be true in the summer, or that Edmonton couldn’t make something work if they were willing to be flexible financially. Assuming Eberle still has some value, the idea of trading him isn’t out to lunch.
That’s the key, though. An Eberle trade for fair value the other way wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest and would be entirely defensible. Dumping Eberle for absolutely nothing during what is obviously a temporary downturn? That would be a mistake.