Jordan Eberle’s future in Edmonton is very much up in the air right now. He could be dealt this summer, or next summer, or play brilliantly next season and stay for the duration of his contract. It’s difficult to say without knowing the discussions going on inside the Oilers’ front office.
In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, I wanted to consider a couple of hypothetical trade scenarios this summer that might appeal to both the Oilers and a team looking for an offensive winger.
Hypothetical No. 1: Nick Bjugstad
A year ago, Bjugstad was a big part of the long-term plan for Florida. But a miserable season combined with a hefty contract means it’s at least plausible that he’s available.
First, the good news: Bjugstad is a 6’6”, 218-pound right-shooting centre. He doesn’t even turn 25 until July. In the three years prior to this one, he averaged 18 goals and 38 points per season. It’s easy to see why the Panthers would like him.
This year, Bjugstad fell to 14 points in 54 games. His underlying numbers imploded as Florida had its teeth kicked in both in terms of shots and goals when he was on the ice. If we were talking about a 29-year-old journeyman rather than a 24-year-old member of the core, he would probably have cleared waivers with that performance. And he has four years left on a deal with a $4.1 million cap hit and $4.6 million average salary.
It’s a pretty grand gamble, and to be clear, this is entirely hypothetical. But if you were Peter Chiarelli, and this deal (or something broadly similar) was available, would you do it?
Hypothetical No. 2: Cody Eakin
Second on our list of possibly available players is another guy signed long-term coming off a terrible year.
Eakin, who just turned 26, is an all-situations centre. In the three years preceding this one, he averaged 17 goals and 37 points annually. He’s a little undersized, but he’s also reasonably physical, kills penalties and does well in the faceoff circle.
This year, Eakin fell to three goals and 12 points over 60 games. His consistently mediocre shot metrics stayed run-of-the-mill, but the Stars were badly outscored when he was on the ice, mostly because his line couldn’t generate a lick of offence. He has three seasons left at a $3.85 million cap hit.
This is less of a gamble than Bjugstad, with less risk (Eakin does things beyond scoring, and he continued to do them last year) but also lower potential reward. If this deal, or something broadly similar to it, were on the table, would you pull the trigger?
Hypothetical No. 3: Ryan Strome & Nikolai Kulemin
Our final hypothetical, because any discussion of Eberle potentially being shipped out of town must reference his international play with John Tavares. The two were teammates on the 2009 World Junior team that won Gold, as well as on several Canadian world championship entries, and there always seems to be a search going on in New York for players to complement their team captain.
The Isles’ cap situation means something close to a dollar-for-dollar deal would need to happen, hence the hypothetical inclusion of Kulemin, who has a $4.19 million cap hit and $5.25 million actual salary on the last year of his current deal. Presumably the team would welcome a chance to get that bloated salary off the payroll.
The carrot from an Oilers perspective is Strome. The 2011 No. 5 pick hasn’t developed as hoped, but did put up 30 points in 69 games for New York last season. He’s a right-shooting pivot who had 50 points in 2014-15 but has struggled to duplicate that production. His cap hit for this season is $2.5 million, after which he is a restricted free agent.
In Chiarelli’s position, would any of these three proposals appeal, or would you prefer to just hang on to Eberle?