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Deadline to Deal for a D-man?

The Expansion Draft Protected list deadline is 3 p.m. tomorrow, so teams have just over hours to make a deal instead of potentially losing a valuable asset for nothing. This unique deadline has the rumour mill churning out names faster than Frank and Claire Underwood make backdoor deals to preserve their spot in the White House. How awesome would this deadline be if we had GMs turn and face the camera to share their views? I love it when Frank talks directly to the audience in House of Cards.

I’m not sure any of the GMs have the ruthlessness of Underwood, but it would be great.

“Shake with your right hand, but hold a rock in your left,” Underwood.

Chiarelli doesn’t need to be desperate before Saturday’s deadline, but a quick scan of the Oilers blueline shows it is clear they have some holes to fill before the start of the season.

Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson are the top pair.

Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning are the third pair, and as they continue to develop both could push into the top-four.

Currently, there is no second pair to start the season. Andrej Sekera had knee surgery on May 18th, and he’ll be out six to nine months. Let’s split the difference and say he returns January 1st (7 1/2 months). That means they need a second pairing LD for the first three months of the season.

Nurse could play there and gain valuable experience. He only has 128 games of NHL experience (reg season and playoffs), so there will still be some bumps, but Chiarelli made it clear at his end-of-season presser his challenge will be filling out his D corps, while also allowing his young defenders room to grow. Meaning they need to play and the organization will want them to dip their feet in the top-four waters here and there.

The Oilers only have four healthy D-men signed. They need to sign two, possibly three, especially if they lose Griffin Reinhart in the expansion draft.

So today and tomorrow Chiarelli will be working the phones, but finding quality second pairing defenders won’t be easy. The Oilers could use Jordan Eberle as trade bait, and it sounds like there is a strong possibility he could be moved before the deadline according to Bob McKenzie. Moving him creates a void at RW. Jesse Puljujarvi, Anton Slepyshev and Zack Kassian would be the three right wingers remaining. Yes, you could move Leon Draisaitl to the wing, but long-term I believe he is much more valuable on his own line creating a great 1-2 punch with Connor McDavid.

DEFENCE OPTIONS

“If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table,” Underwood.

Chiarelli could re-sign Kris Russell, but that won’t happen until after the expansion draft. Despite a misguided, inaccurate and false suggestions that he “Isn’t good at hockey,” Russell is actually a very competent defender. He’s played 690 regular season and playoff games. Who else could Chiarelli have signed last year to a one-year deal at $3 million who would have played as well as Russell? None that I saw. It was a great signing, but that was last year. This summer is different and the tough balancing act for any GM is to not let the past influence too much of the future.

Russell isn’t an elite defender, but last season he was an excellent value contract for the Oilers at $3 million. If Chiarelli can convince him to sign another one or two year deal it would be a great move. I’m sure Russell would like more, but if it is three years or four the cap hit needs to be lower in my eyes. The ideal contract would be two years, which gives the team time to allow Nurse and Benning to keep developing, growing their confidence and not forcing them into top-four minutes every night. If at some point in the next two years they prove they are consistently better, then you can lower Russell’s minutes and increase Benning’s.

The challenge for Chiarelli is Russell likely wants a three or four year deal. Why wouldn’t he? The NHL hands out three and four year deals regularly to unrestricted free agents. Maybe Chiarelli can wait him out, like he did last year, but none of us can predict that. The wildcard in free agency is knowing when to pull the trigger on a deal and to find the sweet spot in money and term where the organization doesn’t regret the deal two years down the road.

TRADES

“For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.” Underwood.

I would love to be a fly on the wall listening to and reading all of the phone and text conversations going on among NHL GMs. Chiarelli has over a decade of experience as a GM. Only Ken Holland, David Poile, Lou Lamoriello, Dale Tallon, Doug Wilson, George McPhee and Jim Rutherford have been a GM longer. Experience doesn’t guarantee success, but Chiarelli has heard a lot of chatter, banter and bargaining, and he might be able to pick up on a weakness better than GMs in their first or second year, when discussing possible trade scenarios.

The most likely names for a possible trade prior to Saturday for RD include:

Sami Vatanen, Mark Pysyk, Alex Petrovic, Matt Dumba and Jason Demers, because the Ducks, Panthers, Wild and Islanders have more D-men than they can protect.

I get the sense Florida wants to keep Petrovic. He’s the only big, strong, physical defender they have. You can’t have all puck movers and no puck retrievers or puck separators (I made up that term). New coach Bob Boughner likes to play aggressive and that includes having someone with a physical presence. I believe they find a way to keep Petrovic.

Demers toured Edmonton as a UFA last summer, but he elected to sign in Florida. He has four years remaining with a $4.5 mill cap hit. He has a small no-trade clause, with a list of eight teams he can’t be traded to, and if he toured Edmonton last season I’m guessing they are one of the 21 teams to which he could be moved. Todd McLellan knows him well from their time in San Jose, and I could see Florida being more willing to move him than Petrovic or Pysyk, who are both 25 and RFAs.

The Panthers currently have 16 players signed for $60 million. Would Jordan Eberle for Demers make sense? It might, but if they acquire Demers they likely don’t sign Russell, unless it is a one-year deal. Does subtracting Russell and Eberle for Demers and Jesse Puljujarvi make the Oilers better? That is likely the question the Oilers are asking about any trade involving a defender and Eberle.

Hamonic would be ideal for the Oilers. He is a proven top-four RD and he has an excellent contract, but many teams will after him. The other aspect about trading for a D-man, is it means Mark Letestu and Kassian would be exposed. Letestu was excellent for the Oilers on and off the ice. He was a jack-of-all-trades and while he isn’t a major piece, replacing a solid complementary player isn’t always as easy as some think.

Chiarelli will weigh the factors of a trade and how, if any, it impacts the expansion draft. Maybe he swings a deal to ensure Vegas doesn’t take either Letestu or Kassian.

FREE AGENTS…

Jan 12, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) reacts during a NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. The Kings defeated the Blues 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“Treading water is like drowning for people like you and me. Good luck. I’ll be watching.” Underwood.

The list of UFA right-shot defenders isn’t very long:

Kevin Shattenkirk, Michael Stone, Cody Franson and Dan Girardi are the top four. Shattenkirk wants to play in the east and with the Rangers buying out Girardi I sense they make a big play for him. He will cost a lot and likely be overpaid. Franson’s footspeed would be an issue. I think he is a third pair guy on a good team. I don’t see him as a fit with McLellan’s or Chiarelli’s style.

Stone is the most attractive candidate. He would be a solid second pair RD. The Oilers are lucky because their top-pairing combines to make only $8.32 million/year for the next four seasons. I’m sure Stone will want four or five years at $4.5 million, maybe more. Of course that doesn’t mean he’ll get it, but that is likely what he is looking for. I don’t see him as much of an upgrade over Russell though.

Girardi is an interesting player. He isn’t a top-pairing guy anymore, but if you could sign him for $2 million he’d be an excellent third pairing guy who could play in your second pairing if an injury occurs. It is amazing how the perception of a player can change when their cap hit and on-ice usage is more in line with their ability. He wants to go to a winner and Edmonton is now a team NHL players believe has a chance to win because of McDavid, Draisaitl and the supporting cast.

PARTING SHOT…

The injury to Sekera has made Chiarelli’s off-season much more difficult. Sekera should return in January, but even then he might need another month of playing time before he is back to his usual playing level. Coming of an ACL injury is never easy and every player is different in how quickly they can return to their previous level of play.

Ideally, Chiarelli would like to sign or acquire a D-man who he sees as a top-four RD for the next few seasons. That allows Nurse and Benning time to mature and develop without being force-fed top-four minutes right away. However, Sekera’s injury means they need another competent defender to start the season, preferably one on a short-term contract.

It will be difficult to find another one-year Russell-type contract. That was an excellent signing. It was one year and very cost effective for the amount of solid minutes Russell provided. I doubt Russell would sign another one-year deal, especially early in the free agent period. And because of his solid season, he won’t be remain unsigned until October.

The expansion draft has put more names on the trade market. Can Chiarelli land one, and at what cost? Will he make a deal and still re-sign Russell? We wait.

“A lion does not ask permission before he eats a zebra.” Underwood.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • FISTO Siltanen

    The one thing about Hamonic is his deal is backloaded. He’ll be high in demand among playoff contenders but budget teams might be hesitant to take a guy who’ll cost an extra million over his cap hit.

    Which is why I could see NY Islanders interested in moving him regardless of the expansion draft.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Not sure why he’d come here to also not be protected. I understand his NMC guarantees he has to be protected but unless the Oilers are saving $2.5-3M off his cap hit and giving next to nothing in return (say a 2018 5th round pick) I don’t see much logic in trading for him nevermind the Senators getting so little either. Can’t imagine how this trade fits today.

    • NoBuBlackOPS

      All I’ve herd so far is the oil are on his list of team he’d accept a trade to. Not sure he makes sense being a LD with I believe 4 years left at 7mil a year. Even if Ottawa ate some money or took a bad contract back I don’t think he makes a lot of sense for the oil.

    • Clubhouse

      I’m not surprised Edmonton is on his list both him and his wife are big time into being and living in Canada. Also he played junior in Red Deer and started his career in Calgary not to far away. He isn’t a good fit for OIL money or term he has played very well (way better than I expected) for Ottawa though I think about 23 min a night in the playoffs. Sometime soon I’m guessing his play falls off a cliff from age and his play style as well so I highly doubt Chia is interested.

  • bazmagoo

    Expect the unexpected. I think this is going to be the most interesting 3 weeks of roster moves we’ve seen in years.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vegas sign Russell to a long term deal. Nothing would really be surprising right now.

  • DarknessMyOldFriend

    Despite a misguided, inaccurate and false suggestions that he “Isn’t good at hockey,”…

    It is misguided, inaccurate and false to suggest that Henderson’s article can be rebutted with a simple “He’s played 690 regular season and playoff games.”

    • The Whispererer

      Wasn’t there scuttlebutt fairly recently about the NHL making some new rules about shot- blocking because of injuries, and to increase scoring opportunities? Something about no sprawling on the ice or dropping to one knee ? What value would Russell have if even small changes were made to those rules ? Would it be higher than zero ?

    • ed from edmonton

      Really? Over 8 seasons a series of professional coaches considered Russel good enough to play in the NHL certainly says something and likely more than Hendo and Willis pouring over their stat sheets. So yes 690 NHL games would suggest that Russel is better than “not good at jockey”.

      • NoBuBlackOPS

        By my count rustys played on 6 teams over 10 years. If he is as good as you make him out to be he would probably lasted more than 3 years on any one team. Is he a NHL player yes he is but it seems he is a stop gap player till you get someone better. And would be a huge mistake at 4×4 for the oilers both in term and money he’s at best a 3rd paring dman.

      • Rock11

        Don’t be so obtuse Gregor. You should be better than that. Of course Henderson is relating him to the rest of his NHL peers when he uses that line. You want to make an argument KR is actually good then by all means do it instead of insulting those of us with a different opinion than yours. Grab a clue. Seriously.

        • Oilerchild77

          Here’s a clue for you then. You guys and your idiotic advanced stat arguments are usually wrong in your asessments. If we listened to you guys, our top line would have Hall and Yakupov on it, and Marincin in our top four so close your nerdy spread sheets and learn to evaluate players.

          • Rock11

            EFF you. You have no idea what I think or how I evaluate players and I certainly am not going to trust your judgement based on that last comment. If you were wondering by the way I dislike Russell as a top 4 option cause when I ACTUALLY WATCH THE GAME he is always scrambling around his own end like a demon trying to prevent a catastrophe. I prefer my top 4 D to get the puck out of the zone and make the other team defend. No spreadsheet needed. Just the anticipation of a goal for when he’s not on the ice and the fear of a goal against when he is.

      • OilersGM

        Mr I know it all Gregor you don’t have to be so ignorant in your response to other comments. Everyone has an opinion and not all have to be like yours. You come a cross as very ignorant PofS. Mr I know it all, but you don’t. Don’t think you are better than everyone you are not.

      • Samesame

        So your argument is that he’s better than most of the populace who could never make it to the NHL ? Yes, you’re totally right. Let’s sign him long term

    • Samesame

      This

      And the one year contract working out favourably doesn’t really say much either

      He’s a warrior and a quality skater. No doubt. But he’s a mess at suppressing shots and we generally get rinsed in possession and attack time when he’s on the ice. He kinda masquerades as s 2nd pairing guy, but he’s a 3rd that needs low minutes.

      1 year again or he can go elsewhere

  • 24% body fat

    i dont get the idea of some of those teams trading an asset because they might lose them in expansion. Specifically the wild. you trade dumba you still lose scandella or nidereirter or coyle etc. What your getting in return is not as proven or needs to be protected. So in a sense you trade one to lose the other and end up losing two quality players.

  • Republic of oil

    Get hamonic for eberle and sign hanzal and vanek in free agency. Oil could use their experience and hanzal is a must add. Hes a beast that wins 58 percent of his faceoffs

  • The Soup Fascist

    Hmm. Ken Hitchcock coached him for a lot of his 600 plus games in the league and thought he was an actual NHL defenseman. An Indiana Jones wannabe whose only exposure to actual ice has been in his glass of Mountain Dew Bold, does not.
    Call me crazy but I will side with the big fella.
    Having said that, 4 x4 is too much money and way too much term.

  • connor is god

    if there is a trade of eberle for harmonic or barrie do it fast!dont worry about who you expose,I love kassian and letestuu but if our defence going forward is klefbom,larsson,nurse,benning and harmonic we are set for years to come!sign mcjeseus,dr.d and find a way to keep Hopkins and our goalie is set,our defence is set and our center position is set for a run at the cup,just make it happen

  • misfit

    Even a month of playing time after returning to the lineup is generous. He’ll be usefull, I’m sure, but I wouldn’t expect a pre-injury quality Sekera until next year. I’m fine with Russell returning, and I’m fine with a Russell replacement, but we still need another top 4 defenseman for this year. I’m sure there are guys whose deals run out after this year that could be available fairly cheap because of their cap hits. Josh Gorges, Dan Hamhuis come to mind.

  • Randaman

    All this is assuming Nurse and Benning will become top 4 D. I still have my doubts about Nurses hockey IQ and Benning’s concussion issue last season was very apparent for quite a while when he returned. No to Shattenkirk, Stone and Girardi

    • Big Nuggets

      Hockey IQ is too broad a term to be useful. All decisions made on the ice are in the context of the play on the ice, recent coaching advice and how developed a player’s hockey skills are. To write off Nurse because of hockey IQ is dumb. I hope anyone that is claiming he has no Hockey IQ has also already written off Reinhardt, because Reinhardt has been showing less than Nurse since before Chiarelli traded a first rounder for him.

  • freelancer

    Good Argument: “I don’t want Russell on the team because I think the Oil should look for players who are better puck moving defensemen.”

    Bad Argument: “Russell sucks and is bad at hockey and should not be playing in the NHL and anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot.”

    Don’t be that guy who uses the bad argument.

    • Anton CP

      I think the reason with so much debate about Russell is pretty much that Russell is versatile jack-of-all-trades defenseman. A great depth defenseman that can play in all situations but at the same time that he is neither offensive nor defensive specialist. He is what a winning team needs but he is not the solution to blueline needs.

  • madjam

    Feel Eberle will go for 2 players from Isles . One forward R.Strome and one potential lethal shot RD in R.Pulock. Two for one , and still save on cap and one less player needed to add on team should both pan out . Maybe not as sexy as a big name , but perhaps best overall for team and handling of the cap down the line .

  • OilRider

    I used to be in the “trade Eberle” camp. But I’ve kind’ve come around over the last while. I keep seeing Johnathan Drouin described as a “gifted playmaker” in every article I see about that trade, and his best season so far is about the same as Eberle’s worst.

    That being said, if you can get some quality D for him, like a Barrie, or whoever, obviously you need to do it

  • GCW

    Your equation is wrong. Its not Eberle and Russell for Demers and JP. Its Eberle and Russell for Demers and $4.6M (or more, of you think resigning Russell will cost more than this years $3.1M) in cap space. Its what they do with the cap space that determines whether the team is better. What if they buy Galchenyuk or Justin Williams with that cap space?

  • madjam

    Did all these trades just happen according to Cap Friendly 12 hours ago ?

    Trade one : Gallagher , Plecanec and 2017 2nd round pick to Oilers for Hopkins , Pouliot and Oilers 2017 3rd rond pick .
    Trade 2 : B.Jenner and J.Johnson to Oilers for Eberle and C.Jones .
    Trade 3 : J.Halak, R.Pulock and 2017 2nd round pick to Oilers for R.Mantha , M.Fayne and Oilers 1st round pick 2017 .
    Oilers also signed M.Stone and Gryba UFA’s by Cap Friendly .

  • Mitch92

    I have a soft spot for Cody Franson. Does he fit with the Oilers? Well that depends on how you look at it. One skill that Franson has that might fit well with the Oilers is his ability to hammer the puck out of the defensive zone with authority toward rushing forwards. While this does result in many icings, it might fit our system if our top skating forwards fly the D-zone once they recognize that Cody is going to gain control of the puck in the corner or behind the net. I think more pucks would be heading north with Franson in our lineup. He is also a powerplay specialist who will provide offense on the PP. I see him as a fit on the third pairing playing on the top PP unit. I believe he would come at a reasonable cost as I think the Oilers could sign him for under $3.75 x 3 years.

  • Thumby

    My 2 cents: Russell: hard working, gives his all, probably a good team guy. Also, can pass well, no offence really to speak of and the play stays in his end a lot of the time. I think he’d be a great 3 liner but he’s a little under water when playing 2 line minutes. You need good puck movers in the top 4 and he’s really “Mr. Plexiglass” when it gets right down to it…blocking shots is great – taking shots is better. Still, I like the guy and there is a spot but not at 4 x 4 IMO.

  • OilCan2

    Keep Ebs. He’s #3 in points for us and could easily repeat that feat. As for the D question mark I would prefer to see Russell waited out for another summer time short contract while PC scours the college ranks for another Benning. The KHL might have a decent D man and Slepyshev could have a roomie to swap Ruskie jokes with.