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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers shouldn’t trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

With the grey cloud that’s hung over the Edmonton Oilers this season, the few standouts that have kept their year from falling into utter disrepair haven’t had enough light shone on their success.

One player that immediately comes to mind is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who scored the overtime winner in last night’s 3-2 Oilers win over the Arizona Coyotes. The Oilers just as easily could’ve lost that game, in which the Coyotes out-shot and out-chanced them, according to the data tracked at www.NaturalStatTrick.com.

As far as low points go, losing to the then 6-17-3 Coyotes on home ice is digging for Hades. Could the Oilers recover from that? It’s said that Connor McJesus can produce miracles, but that’s asking a bit much.

Fortunately, that’s a question not worth asking, and that’s due in large to Nugent-Hopkins. He’s been a big part of keeping this team from those depths for a while now.

That’s why it’s peculiar, if a little disconcerting, that Nugent-Hopkins has been a permanent fixture in the NHL’s rumour mill since the start of the season. It was always assumed that the Oilers long-term financial outlook would force Nugent-Hopkins and the $6-million they owe him annually for the next four seasons from their roster in the summer. And certainly, there’s merit to the argument that it’s one of the better options available to Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli to balance the books for next year and beyond.

How are the Oilers at a point where this is even worth exploring in earnest with over 50 games left to play though?

The only way one could have foreseen that timeline accelerating itself is if the Oilers found themselves mired in the type of season they’re currently suffering. Nothing brings on panic, and panic moves, quite like expectations unmet. When the expectations are as lofty and unforgiving as the Stanley Cup, you have a recipe for disaster.

As far as options go, the Oilers don’t have many. Especially as it concerns assets that hold significant value.

That’s how one of their most consistently productive players in Nugent-Hopkins finds himself dangled to and fro in trade rumours. If the Oilers want to shake things up, that’s about all they have left to them to accomplish that end.

Making a move for the sake of making one doesn’t usually work to the advantage of the team that’s forcing the issue, though. Chiarelli should know this all too well, as his footprint with the Oilers can so readily attest.

The Oilers lack secondary scoring and need help on their back-end, which is striking since Chiarelli’s been making moves in a similar vein to the one we’ve been forced to hypothesize for a while now. We’re not going to relitigate the Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle trades because that’s history, but a Nugent-Hopkins trade at this venture feels like a continuation of that timeline, and that’s been a dark chapter for this team.

If Nugent-Hopkins continues at his current scoring rate, he’ll establish a new career high in points with 59. Nugent-Hopkins is converting on north of 15 per cent of his shots at the moment, so it seems unlikely that he’ll continue to score at this clip, but he’s an 11 per cent career shooter, so the drop off in goal production won’t be immense.

The good news is, Nugent-Hopkins’ on-ice shooting percentage checks out at a sustainable level, so his primary contributions as a playmaker aren’t in jeopardy of parting with him down the stretch, either.

Based on the fact that Nugent-Hopkins is scoring himself at an unsustainably high rate and still owning a normalized on-ice shooting percentage suggests to me that as his individual goal-scoring tails off, his linemates should be able to pick up the slack, assuming regression to the mean. It’s possible Nugent-Hopkins’ raw counting stats are understating how efficient a distributor of the puck he’s been thus far.

Meanwhile, Nugent-Hopkins has been reliable as always in terms of pushing play in the right direction. The almost 52 per cent of shot attempts that the Oilers are controlling with Nugent-Hopkins on the ice may seem unspectacular compared to most Edmonton skaters, but it’s more impressive than most give credit. Consider that Nugent-Hopkins is providing that value without having played even two minutes at even strength with Connor McDavid. Instead, Nugent-Hopkins has played with Milan Lucic (far from a possession anchor, but not as good as he once was in this regard) and Ryan Strome.

The good news is that this story has had more cold water poured on it lately than gas. As Oilers Nation’s Baggedmilk highlighted in his recap of yesterday’s rumours and ruminations from around the league, focus seems to have shifted to Patrick Maroon and away from Nugent-Hopkins as far as moveable pieces in Edmonton are concerned.

Hopefully, for the Oilers’ sakes, there’s merit to those reports. This team can’t afford to trade Nugent-Hopkins. Certainly not this season, and if he remains this productive any longer, perhaps not for the foreseeable future period.

      • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

        Losing grades? Chiarelli lost 2. Nothing more. All of his other trades have panned out.

        Hall for Larson – Yes please
        Talbot for picks – take that deal all day
        Kassian for Scrivens – how’s Europe Ben?
        Maroon for a pick, a player, and retained salary – what was Anaheims GM thinking?
        Eberle for Strome – could’ve done better there (maybe Lee?)
        Reinhardt for 16th and 33rd – NEWSFLASH Edmonton wasn’t going to take Barzal, but Chiarelli gave up too much.

        • Dr

          I agree with you. Most trades have worked quite well. The ones that haven’t have been high profile and allowed the critics to focus on them and keep harping on them. They conveniently leave out the fact that seemingly everyone wanted Eberle out of town, even if he was left exposed in the expansion draft. Personally, I like Strome. He’s coming around, and he’s far more versatile than Eberle.
          As for the Reinhart deal…. at the time, I liked the deal because Reinhart was awesome during the Oil Kings’ Memorial Cup run.

    • kiaora

      Doesn’t it depend on what the trade options are? I like Nuge, but heck, if someone told me he could be traded for Crosby I would do it. More realistically, I can see maybe a trade for a top flight scoring D, as good as Nuge is, some more solidity and some back end scoring would be pretty valuable too.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    When you have a young centre locked up for 3 more years at 6mil and he plays like a 6mil centre…. NO brainer. Keep. Keep Keep. Sorry Maroon.

  • Ginbaby

    He will be a value contract in the last years of his deal. He makes no sense to trade as he possesses speed and skill and in my opinion has yet to peak. Maybe this is the beginning of said peak but to me he is a bit of a late bloomer physically and is now finding that strength he needs to compete night in, night out.

  • Svart kaffe

    I hope Chia’s master plan all along was to convince Russell to go along with a trade. I don’t hate him but I like Nuge more, and 4×4 is too much. But he could be given away for future considerations if he agrees to a destination.

    Who is up for some 18/19 roster projections?!

    • Svart kaffe

      Btw, if some people on the team are angry at Draisaitl it should be because he’s selfish and his contract will break up the band. He should have taken less.

  • RJ

    The Oilers trade Chia back to the Senators. Garth Snow signs as new Oilers GM. I’d trade Nuge there.

    The Oilers would end up with Erik Karlsson and a 1st for Nuge.

  • BringitbacklikeSlats

    I don’t look back on the Taylor Hall trade and the 2016/17 season as anything but fabulous. After 10 years of losing and watching Hall fake backchecking effort I was more than ready for Adam Larssen… whose given a breath of fresh air to a blue line that was perennially the worst in League.

    Eberle getting an earful from young Connor on the bench for a lazy backcheck just about summed up what was already suspected… and then confirmed by his weak ass playoffs which should have been no surprise after a few years of margarine soft play. And now the two of them decide to complain about the town and the media? Pleeeeease
    We’ll be fine. Some setbacks this year, but I’ll stay optimistic that it’s a character builder for which the team will ultimately be stronger for.
    So happy for Nuge and I’d really like to see some confidence shown towards Kassian. This guy is better than he gets credit for.

    • camdog

      If Slats had traded a Hall for Larsson at minimum he would have gotten another 2 high draft picks, maybe a prospect included in the deal. Maybe those picks would even have made it into the line up by now.

  • Serious Gord

    Sure everyone wishes that the oil keep RNH. And everyone wishes that santa was for real.

    But it simply is almost impossible for them to keep him. I would ask the author THE most important question: HOW does J.D. Burke propose that it can be done?

    Assuming the cap next year is $80 million:

    MCD – 15
    Drai – 9
    Lucic – 7
    RNH – 6
    Sekera 5.5
    klefbom 4
    larrson 4.85
    russell 4.5
    talbot 4.2

    that’s 60.05 mill leaving 20 mill to sign nurse and puljarvi and a backup goalie and 14 other players.

    Aint gonna happen – make sure you get a selfie with him before he’s wearing a different jersey…

  • Sean17

    I will never understand the Pouliot buyout. 4 years of 1.3 million. Was he stealing office supplies? You absolutely had to buy him out this year instead of next year? I will never understand the logic behind that decision.

    • Winterkush

      This is the same person who traded for Reinheart, burned a yr of JP ELC, sign Russel with a NMC. Traded Ebs for Strome and Hall for Larsson. I like Larrson but Hall is a Top LW in the NHL and Ebs puts up almost twice as many points as Strome. And signed a 4th LIne RW to $1.95 and Lucic who can’t skate, shoot or pass. Sekera has legs made of glass.

  • SLURVE

    I guess it was inevitable the time has come to face who will be traded in order to make room for McDavid’s contract kicking in next year, Nurse and Strome’s RFA, Benning and Maroon sigining. A few things to consider: Lucic has not made an impact as I thought he would and with his hefty 6 milion or so salary that is practically untradable (NMC) for 5 more years, it is going to hurt the Oilers one way or another. RNH is coming along and maturing into a dependable two-way player who can add speed and offence but with a 6 million contract for 3 more years-another tough pill to swallow. Draisaitl’s big contract of 8.5 million per year for 7 years is too big too soon. With a cap space of about 10 million or so, and possibly another 5 million increase in cap salary, the Oilers have to make some tough decisions. As much as it pains me, I would not trade a guy who has the best work ethics and can provide both two-way play and offence along with speed and that is HUGE, I mean Nuge. I would keep Nuge over Draisaitl. There, I said it.

    • Dr Dragon

      Oilers are MARRIED to Leon even tho Nuge has out played him all year we all know deep down Nuge is going sooner then later. Oilers are in a cap bind next year thanks to Chiarelli and all the stupid contracts he handed out

  • Dr Dragon

    If Chiarelli gave Leon a bridge contract (2-3years) we wouldnt be having this conversation… You gotta remember Chiarelli had all the leverage in the summer but he caved to the agents demands… Now cuz of that we lose Nuge cuz of Chiarelli’s stupidity. This is the cap world just look at all the players chicago had to give away for pretty much free but at least they got a few cups outta it. We got one good year out of it and now were back in the toilet

  • Winterkush

    Keep putting pending rfa with McDavid So they can be worth 6-9 million per year. If the oilers kept there wingers Leon would be worth$4million/yr. he would’ve played 3rd C instead of 1st RW

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    me thinks both Nuge and Maroon could be traded and it worries me because trades aren’t Chia’s forte so would we get good value back or lose them again or, more likely, end up with magic bean picks and more kids that this franchise seems to be so enthralled with?

  • russ99a

    With our record, we should think less about this year and more about the years to come.

    Leon will surpass Nuge and is strong in all the things that Nuge is weaker, faceoffs, keeping the puck on the wall, playing in the cycle and creating his own space for his shot.

    With Leon locked down, Nuge is soon to be an overplayed third line center.

    Ryan has been a good Oiler but if we can cut cap space and return quality talent to fill some of our needs, a deal going to happen, and it should happen before next summer while Nuge’s strong points are obvious and before GMs lowball us because they know we have limited cap space and need to move a big salary.

    Then we can sign a two-way center in FA who’s better suited to physical, defensive play that we will need against the Pacific and Central winners in the postseason.

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    Do the Oilers really need cap space next year? I know CMcD’s contract kicks in but they have something like $7-10MM in cap space right now. I think that its not as big of deal as its being made out to be.

    p.s. don’t trade the baby faces assassin (unless its for a true first paring D-man)

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    To all the Chia haters….At least he hasn’t traded away all of our further draft picks. With the two maga contracts (and a couple of bad ones) the Oilers are going to need a constant supply of good/cheap players on entry level deal to compliment the core.

    • Rock11

      And if he had received fair value for the trades he has made then there should have been at least 2 more 2nd round picks in the organization right now. No way that Hall shouldn’t have been worth a 2nd rounder added to Larsson and the same on the Eberle deal.