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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Is something brewing between the Oilers and Senators?

According to Mark Spector, Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was in attendance for both of the Oilers’ last two games against the Flames and Sharks. It’s standard practice for teams to send scouts to watch other teams around the league, but having another team’s general manager out to watch back-to-back games certainly suggests this is something worth talking about.

https://twitter.com/SportsnetSpec/status/974077819989848064

Ah yes, the Ottawa Senators disaster

The Sens, much like the Oilers, are trudging along at the end of an extremely disappointing season. Their implosion over the past year has been much like the one we experienced after the 2006 playoff run. Ottawa came within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Final with a gritty and endearing team that excelled due to the use of an effective trap.

It was pretty clear looking at the 2016-17 Sens’ underlying numbers that the team overachieved. Regardless, they went all in and acquired Matt Duchene a few weeks into the season, sending soon-to-be free agent Kyle Turris and multiple picks and prospects away in a three-way deal involving the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche. Then the wheels totally fell off. The Sens collapsed down the standings and ultimately began blowing their team up prior to the trade deadline.

They sent Derrick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dion Phaneuf to the Los Angeles Kings, and they were reportedly shopping captain Erik Karlsson, who’s set to become a free agent on July 1, 2019. They couldn’t get a deal done but apparently, they were trying to use Karlsson’s trade value to dump Bobby Ryan’s horrible contract. Ryan said after the deadline that he and Karlsson thought for sure they were going to be dealt.

The Oilers in 2006 went from being one win away from the Stanley Cup to having to deal away their best player in Chris Pronger and subsequently tanking out the next season despite aspirations of contention. Then came the biggest drop on the rollercoaster, trading away heart and soul Ryan Smyth at the trade deadline after him and general manager Kevin Lowe couldn’t agree on an extension.

The Sens, like I said, have endured a similar rollercoaster. They’ve gone from nearly reaching the Cup Final to making a huge trade for Matt Duchene to imploding to nearly trading away their captain and heart and soul. Also, in the middle of this whole thing has been a growing beef between owner Eugene Melnyk and Karlsson. Apparently, it’s reached a point where Melnyk came into the Sens dressing room and chewed out Karlsson for not paying him back for an Uber ride. It looks like the Sens are coming close to their Smyth moment.

It’s been a wild ride in Ottawa.

So, what’s next for the Senators?

Despite the disaster, Melnyk has shown faith in Dorion, inking him to a three-year contract extension in February. Dorion outlined a plan for how he was going to remedy this situation, and, based on the moves he’s made since getting extended, it involves rebuilding the team.

The team still has a decent amount of young talent in the system despite pulling the trigger on that Duchene deal. Among their top prospects are defenceman Thomas Chabot, who was incredible at the World Juniors in 2017, first-round picks Colin White and Logan Brown, and 2018 Canadian World Junior winners Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson, both of whom were selected outside of the first round in 2017.

The Sens will have to give Colorado their first-round pick either this year or next because of the Duchene acquisition and they don’t have their second- or third-round picks in 2018 because of two different Derrick Brassard trades. That said, they do have Pittsburgh’s first-round pick this year.

It’s reasonable to assume the Sens will continue on this path of trading away players for picks and prospects and actively trying to dump bad contracts. They have a 25-year-old Mark Stone hitting RFA status this summer and Karlsson, as I mentioned, one year away from hitting the UFA market for the first time in his career. Mike Hoffman is signed at $5,187,500 for two more seasons and Duchene is signed at $6,000,000 for one more season. Both appear to be prime trade candidates.

Dec 16, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) passes in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Where do the Oilers fit?

The Oilers aren’t really in a position to be sending Ottawa draft picks and prospects. Given Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s contracts, Edmonton will find themselves in a difficult salary cap bind beginning this summer and will need to consistently be augmenting their team with cheap, young players on entry-level deals.

The player on the Sens who appears to be the most obvious fit for Edmonton is Hoffman. He’s a good, cost-controlled winger under control for a couple more seasons. While this year was a disaster for the Oilers, there’s no doubt that the organization plans on contending in the next couple of years. The Sens, on the other hand, more than likely don’t see themselves contending during the final two years of Hoffman’s deal.

But like I said, it just doesn’t make sense for Edmonton to be giving Ottawa picks and prospects to acquire Hoffman. It seems the more likely possibility would be making a hockey trade involving Oscar Klefbom and Hoffman. Klefbom is inked at a very reasonable $4,167,000 cap hit for five more seasons. The fit is obvious for Ottawa because it would give Karlsson a fellow countryman to play beside him on the team’s top pair or a possible Karlsson replacement if the team ultimately isn’t able to re-sign him.

The Oilers have a logjam on the left side of their blueline right now. They have Klefbom, Darnell Nurse (who’s an RFA this summer), Kris Russell, and Andrej Sekera on the left side. Edmonton badly needs a good winger to score goals in the top six and Hoffman seems like a good candidate to fill that role.

Personally, I hate the idea of trading Klefbom. I think this would be yet another example of Peter Chiarelli selling low on a player after a mediocre season. I do like Hoffman, but Klefbom is a 24-year-old signed to a great contract who looked to be emerging as a top pairing defenceman as recently as last season.

If the Oilers and Sens are going to hook up on a deal, these seem to be the two players who are going to be involved. It’s certainly not inevitable, but this whole Klefbom coming back into the lineup for the two games Dorion was in the building watching makes it seem like there’s something going on.

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  • Gordie Wayne

    Heard from a second hand source with connections, so take it for what it is…

    RNH+Klefbom+2018 1st round pick (as long as Oilers don’t win lottery) for Karlsson, Hoffman

    Klefbom is only playing so that he can be showcased and RNH is with McDavid to give Ottawa best look at him. Ottawa sheds a bit of salary but also gets the high 1st round pick from Edmonton which will likely be a very good and cheap young player for years.

    I wouldn’t do the deal if I were the Oilers….but Chia…

      • Louiemac75

        So…. what if the oilers real target is mark stone and a what if it’s a three team deal? Say Nugent-Hopkins and Russel to the Canadiens, Montreal sends pics Ottawa’s way and the oilers get Mark Stone and Victor Mete?

    • Explicit

      I think it’s a fair proposal, but I wouldn’t do it. Who knows if Karlsson will still be Karlsson and I honestly like nuge’s game more than Hoffman.

      I think depth is the biggest reason the oilers can’t win. I don’t think this trade fixes anything

      • Lyxdeslic

        How does this trade not fix anything?! Karlsson is a right shot D man who is the best in the entire league on the power play (Oilers PP is worst in the league). People have to realize that in 5 NHL seasons Klefbom has produced 94 points, In 1 season Karlsson has produced as much as 82 points… in his last 5 seasons he has 347 points, and this year (after returning from achilles surgery and not fully healed) he currently sits 3rd in points by NHL Dmen with 54, and second in Points Per Game despite being on a terrible team. He is exactly what the Oilers need and would worth the price.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        I agree. Nuge’s 2 way play is so hard to replicate. Nuge is an Oiler, call me sentimental, but I want him to win an Edmonton Stanley Cup. If we can add Hoffman to the top 6 by just giving up Klef or Russell maybe. I’d be ecstatic. That’d be the type of move I’d expect from a top tier team. Add Stone, while you are at it?

    • Rama Lama

      I heard something similar that PC was considering trading RNH, Klefbom, McDavid, and Larson for Hoffman, and a dozen Senators water bottles……..I hope your sources are better than mine?

    • Rusty

      The only reason i wont believe it is because of the Senators known desire to use the Karlsson trade to dump Ryan salary and its not mentioned in that proposal. The Oilers are not one of the teams that have the cap flexibility to take on Ryan. Vegas will get him at the draft i think.

    • WillyWonka

      no way Ottowa takes that… if you want Karlson, you pay. he is a top 5 defender in the league. and the Oilers need to get a top defender, fix the defense.
      might get a RNH+Klefbom+2018 for Karlson alone, but more likely still not enough. maybe Draisaitl instead of RNH, but then he isn’t a proven commodity yet so probably not, plus Drai is way over priced

    • Dirtbag Daddy

      That’s a lot for Hoffman if Karlsson doesn’t resign. Perhaps a conditional 1st Round in 2019 should be considered in lieu of 2018. If Karlsson doesn’t resign it can be 2nd or 3rd round in 2019. I would be unhappy to see RNH and Klefbom leave but one should always be looking at fair deals and not land slide type of deals (something the Oilers are always on the losing side)

      • pkam

        So if Karlsson doesn’t resign, we are trading RNH + Klefbom + 2019 3rd round pick for Hoffman and 1 year of Karlsson. Will you trade RNH straight for Hoffman? Will you trade Klefbom and a 3rd round pick for 1 year of Karlsson? How is this not a land slide loss for us? Karlsson will ask for 10M+, can we afford 31M+ on 3 players?

  • 24% body fat

    best way to add scori g to this team is to drop the dead weight bad contracts some how and fill the gaps with decent price ufa (1 to 3million) wingers. dropping lucic and russel and ensuring caggulia is on line 4 is addition by subtraction.

  • Consultant

    Please Chia don’t trade young guys for older players. Age of the team matters when our two best players are 21 and 22. Look to develop a sniper don’t trade away our future for one… I heard that Puju kid can shoot the puck.
    God its tough having a GM like Chia, everyday is stress. That beautiful summer day when he traded Hall for Larsson caused me to go home sick that day, it was like some had kicked me right in the face. Eberle straight across for Strome, same thing, it was like a straight shot to the nuts. Every time I open TSN during the summer I cringe. Please Bob, please get us a new GM. One who understands trading players at their low point is typically not good practice and that you shouldn’t try to trade your way to success. Especially true when your trading record (value wise) is likely the worst in the history of the NHL.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      “That beautiful summer day when he traded Hall for Larsson caused me to go home sick that day, it was like some had kicked me right in the face. Eberle straight across for Strome, same thing, it was like a straight shot to the nuts”

      Wait, your nuts are on your face?

      OK seriously though, I too fear that Chia won’t take the longview and make a bad trade. Oscar at 4.1mil (for 5 more years) is exactly the kind of value contract the Oilers need during the McDavid era. Trading him for a winger (Hoffman) would be insane. Also, Hoffman only makes 900k less than RNH. Trading Nuge for a winger is even more insane. If this is going to be some sort of blockbuster including Karlsson, I’m intrigued, but equally afraid. As mentioned above, 30mil for 3 players is scary (the Chicago model)… Win now lose later, no thanks. The goal should be to build an organization that consistently makes the playoffs, then go for it.

  • ubermiguel

    Klefbom and Nuge’s contracts are so good I would hate nearly any trade they are involved in. Also the Oiler’s problem has not been a lack of right-handed defencemen, it’s more the lack of NHL defencemen, sending one away doesn’t help.

    • McRaj

      Klefbom’s contract is a good value deal if he produces like he did last year. If he plays like this year, it is a fair contract, good nor bad. Nuge’s contract is not good, it is an overpay. Nuge is a 5M player getting paid 6M which makes it an overpay. Here is a list of forwards making between 5M and 6M or that are better than Nuge: Hall, Forsberg, Panarin, Couture, Pavelski, Barkov, Seguin, Wheeler, Tavares, Schwartz, Carter. Again this is not to say Nuge ain’t good but his contract is not good or so good, rather it is slightly over priced.

      • pkam

        If you think Nuge contract is over priced, how do you describe Drisaitl’s contract?

        I understand it is a small sample size, but in the last 3 games when Nuge played with McDavid, he had 3 pts and +3. In the same 3 games, Drisaitl without McDavid had 1 pt and -4.

        Drisaitl’s fans try to defend him saying who can produce with winger like Lucic and Cammalleri. You know what, Nuge had been playing this whole year with wingers like that and he was the leading goal scorer before his injury. And when Drisaitl was playing with McDavid, they had Maroon instead of ABerg on the other side.

        I understand 3 games is a very small sample size. I hope TMac keep this lines for the rest of the season. 20 games should tell.

  • OldOilerFan

    Not many years ago we were belly aching for centermen. We’ve been after defencemen for years. Now we can apparently give them up? No! Please no! Figure it out, Draisaitl or RNH as a winger. Either or. The flexibility that trio gives us is immeasurable. I’d love to have Karlsson sure but if it just exposes a hole somewhere else I don’t understand the thought process.

  • CaptainCanada94

    Any trade that PC makes will hurt this team… enough said! For once, I’d like to see him win a trade. Are there any scenarios where Lucic is included and no salary retained? Of course that requires PC to request he waive his NMC but still. How nice it would be…

    Instead this summer lets hope PC doesn’t blow anything up, and perhaps Lucic sheds the weight he says he will then finds another gear. I think he has the attitude and competitiveness to be effective next season.

  • Hemmercules

    I dont see both Klef and Nuge remaining Oilers past this summer. Chia can’t stand pat with a basement team and Nuge and Klef are their most enticing trade chips.

    The other option is trading draft picks but it seems like draft picks alone doesn’t get the best return unless it some major picks and this teams needs it picks right now. I suppose if they are getting a young player in return trading picks isn’t always bad.

    I like Karlsson but thats a nightmare cap situation. Have the two highest paid players in the league on the team with a bunch of other big contracts to deal with. Yikes.

    • elfugosr

      It’s true that Nuge and Klef have the most value as trade bait but that tells me we should hang on to them!!! I hated the Ryan Smyth trade and any deal involving RNH would surpass it .

    • Oilman99

      Trade Nuge and you have absolutely no NHL quality wingers left, all the other wingers are over valued by the Oilers,Khaira may be the only exception. There is no way in hell the Oilers could afford Karlson, you think they have cap problems now, he is going to want 10mil or more on his next contract.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Nuge is untradable in my mind. He has Never been anything but a true Pro for us. It’s not easy to find skilled guys who are not spoiled brats. Nuge is a rare talent who carries himself like the old pros from days gone by. He is also so versatile. The guy is great on PP, PK, centre, wing, the bench, and out in public. He is not for sale!

  • Jimmer

    If I’m giving up on RNH (a valuable centre) I want cap space and a true RW that can score. Why? RNH will be the better player in a “reasonable” one for one trade. For example, how about Brendan Gallagher for Nuge? Similar age, fast, goes hard to the net, would probably average 25-30 goals a season playing with McDavid and has a cap hit of only 3.75M. BTW…he’s from Edm….who cares…but it’s a nice add on.

    • Hemmercules

      I’m thinking Hoffman for Nuge. Straight across. Thats a Chia type deal right there and that would probably be his most even trade ever which is sad to say.

    • pkam

      And if end up trading Klefbom instead of RNH for Hoffman, then essentially we’re trading Hall + Klefbom for Larsson and Hoffman, not as bad but still quite insane.

  • gordo

    katz era management isn’t known for good trades, good contracts, or good drafting. that being said the current top 20 has to change and there is probably 15 to 20 million dollars of nmc signed up over the last 3 years. trading nuge, and/or klefbom isn’t gonna make anybody happy, and i’m not sure it makes the team better

    • Penticton

      I think Hall and Klefbomb were great contracts. RNH is also turning out to be a very good contract. I do not see the logic in trading either RNH or Klefbomb.

  • crabman

    I like Klefbom but with the emergance of Nurse and the NMC of Sekera and Russell he is probably on the move this summer. Hoffman wouldn’t be a bad return but I was hoping if Klefbom was moved it would be for a comparable RHD to balance the defence.
    I’ve also said I could see him being traded for a scoring winger from a team that needs defence and then Nuge moved for the RHD we need, someone like Faulk out of Carolina, not that I would like it but because that seems like a Chiarelli type move.

    If they do move Klefbom for Hoffman they only add an extra $1M to their cap and could have enough left over to make a real run at Carlson in free agency. It would be tight and it would require them getting Nurse on a bridge deal, $3M×2years, and Strome resigned at $2.5M but possible.
    Nuge and Hoffman would be the 2 top 6 wingers we could use and Carlson fills the offensive RHD we have been chasing.
    This is a lot of ifs and is going on the speculation of an $80M cap next year but I much prefer this to losing Nuge and Klefbom this summer.

    Nuge-Mcdavid-xxx
    Hoffman-Draisaitl-xxx
    Lucic-Strome-xxx
    Pakarinen-Khaira-Kassian

    extra forwards mix and match
    Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, Caggiula, Aburg

    Nurse-Larsson
    Sekera-Carlson
    Russel-Benning
    7th D xxx

    That looks like a playoff team to me and one that would be fun to watch. Won’t happen because there are too many variables but fun to think about.

      • crabman

        Agree it could be impossible. I argued there not being room to sign Carlson , and keep Klefbom, Nuge and upgrade the forwards.
        But Cap wise for my suggestion is;

        We have 8 forwards signed next year for $37.22M, McDavid, Draisaitl, Nuge, Lucic, Kassian, Puljujarvi, Khaira, Aburg.
        $17.84M signed on D;
        Sekera, Larsson, Klefbom, Russell
        $5.23M Goal;
        Talbot, Montoya
        Buyout $1.33M
        Puljujarvi bonus, not likely, $1M
        RFAs $10M;
        Strome, Caggiula, Slepyshev, Pakarinen, Nurse, Benning
        $72.6M total.
        Hoffman for Klefbom adds $1m.
        this leaves $6+M left to sign Carlson if the cap is at $80M.
        To free up an extra $1M can move Kassian for a $.95M bottom pair winger. And the likelihood of Puljujarvi getting any of his bonuses are slim and would free up another $1M. Making a possible $8M available for Carlson. He Won’t get Burns money. He will fall somewhere between Alzner $4.6M and Burns $8M. probably in the $6-7M range. tough but doable. the next year 1 or both of Sekera and Russell are eligible to be moved.
        Like I said in OP unlikely and too many ifs but possible.

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    Listen to this: trade Klefbom, yammer or Jesse for Karrlson and sign him to $10MM extension. To relieve the cap they could sign fewer players and roll with three forward lines.

    It might be crazy enough to work…or maybe it’s just crazy. Fawk traditional thinking to do something revolutionary. I’m sure they could spread these seven minutes a game around.

  • Natejax97

    No no no no no…call me a homer but we need to stop trading players on great contracts. Just leave it alone…tinker for some speed (think grabner types) to help the penalty kill and let this young core develop. These guys have to come into training on a mission…no passengers. Make trades in October to move underperforming players out if need be.

    Bringing in Hoffman is insane for that price. It will take him a year to get comfortable with the systems and then we get 1 year at 5 million. Just keep nuge. For heaven sakes klefbom is on a great deal and he is young…just leave it alone.

  • Big Nuggets

    Klefbom for Hoffman is a terrible trade. Klef and Nuge for Hoff and Karlsson is interesting, but I’m sick of paying prime dollar for players past their prime years. Klef and Nuge are on good contracts into their prime years. build onto that instead of pissing it away. If Chia has backed himself into a corner where he can’t afford to be patient and he has to trade valueably assets for the sake of ‘shaking things up’ then it is obviously time he packed his bags. His free agent signings were dumb from day one. His trades were dumb from day one. I can’t believe we had to give up a second round pick so this guy could come in and eff up this roster.
    No quick fixes. Wait for the NTC clauses to end and move those contracts, until then focus on drafting and look for cheap and savy free agent signings. (kinda like Dallas did when they picked up this guy that appears to be an excellent depth winger with goal scoring ability named Pitlick)

    • I agree with the loss of Pitlick was a head scratcher, I mean he was my favourite player last year after Conner before his injury. He never took a shift off and I wish him luck.

      I am getting frustrated with the range of players games on this team. The latest is Leon at his best against the Avs and then Lazy and invisible since. This is why we should keep Nuge as our 2nd line centre. His effort is consistent, never has bad body language. I don’t think he would break the bank to resign . I really getting sick of players sulking when they are removed from 97’s wing. Especially well paid core players.

  • DannyGallivan

    Chia couldn’t find a good trade if it bit him in the ass. We need a scoring winger. Even if we did trade Klef for Hoffman which I think might be an OK trade (OK in that Klef is only 24 and not yet hitting his prime and Hoffman is 28 and will begin to decline from here on) it still pisses me off that we need a scoring winger. No way we give up more scoring in RNH (24 yrs and 0.65 pts/gm). Before he was injured he had more goals than McJesus. Centers have more value than Wingers and if we lose either McJesus or Drai to injury he can step in at C. He still has 2 or 3 years before he hits his prime.

    How about this for an undo trade: We give up Larsson (25 yrs) and Hoffman (28 yrs 0.72 pts/gm) and we get Klefbom (24 yrs) and Hall (26 yrs 0.92 pts/gm). I know Klef is a LD and Lars is RD but Sekera can play RD.

  • tirefire

    Chai needs to remember – “It’s hard to get a No. 1 defenseman. There are not many — over half the teams don’t have one.”

    Not that I am saying Klef is a No. 1 but if Larsson costs Hall, Chai needs to think carefully what kind of forward Klef is worth.

  • Spydyr

    So for years I have been saying play Nuge with Connor. Ottawa comes for a look see and low and behold it happens. Put two and two together and you get Nuge being showcased.

  • oilerjed

    Trading Nuge for Hoffman would be a colossal mistake. saving 800K for two years and if Hoffman works out who on here doesn’t think he will make at least 6 million? If I am Chia I am shopping Klef plus Lucic for Hoffman and a pick. The sens can swallow the salary until Lucic hits the longterm IR as they are just building their team. He would be a good mentor for young players. Not sure he would agree to go there but worth a shot. Then the Oil are down one left wing and still need a RD plus the edge pieces that will be made up from RFAs. The trick is how to get Lucic to agree to this?

  • pkam

    I don’t understand why we are trying to acquire a winger. Didn’t our depth when Chia was hired was our wingers? Now after 3 years under his management, we have to trade either a top 6 centremen or a potential 1st pair defenseman for a winger? Is this the typical example of chasing one’s own tail in circle?

    Bob Nicholson hired Chia 3 years ago after conducting a forensic analysis. I think he should do it again now. In these 3 years, Chia has been blessed with inheriting Drisaitl and McDavid to our centre. Just with these two addition, the team should be much better. Then with the maturing of Klefbom and Nurse, the defense should be better than 3 years ago even without any addition. How can this team still continue to struggle? And after all the moves Chia made, now we are so depleted in wings and are still looking to improve our defense?