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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Big-Game Hunting

Given the question marks on the blueline of the Edmonton Oilers and the obvious need to do something about them, Ryan Rishaug of TSN grabbed my attention this morning in an interview with Dustin Nielson when he said he believes GM Peter Chiarelli will be big-game hunting to get something done this off-season. First, Rishaug is connected. Second, the need is there.

“I think the Oilers are going to be big-game hunting for their blueline,” Rishaug said. “I think they’re going to be looking at big names and weighting out those options. I think Peter Chiarelli being so vocal about having a first-round pick in play, where that pick is . . . . I think they’re going to be big-game hunting.

“I don’t know exactly what it looks like. I don’t know how they do it, but I don’t think they’re going to be complacent in trying to fill this very obvious void. I’ve been saying for a long time it’s their number one need by a mile. I still maintain that. I think they’re going to try to be really aggressive in filling that need. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to get it done, but I do believe that they feel it is a massive need.” The entire interview is here.

Being aggressive makes sense to me. The problem is, when Chiarelli loads up that high-caliber, big-game gun of his, his track record shows he has a disconcerting habit of blowing off one of his own feet, or at least a few toes, as often as he hits the mark. The names we know – Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, giving up two draft choices for Griffin Reinhart. You can see a list of his work here. Chiarelli has filled himself full of lead a time or two. So, yes, I wonder how this plays out.

WHAT’S THE MOVE?

No knock on 24-year-old Swedish D-man Joel Persson, but interest in him by the Oilers – Rishaug put that out from Denmark early today — doesn’t come close to qualifying as big-game hunting. So, if Rishaug is on to something, how does Chiarelli get that done without ruining more perfectly good shoe leather? And what’s the target, aside from those wing-tipped size 11s?

One possibility that sent shivers down my spine was some spit-balling by Rishaug about Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen. Might the 23-year-old Finn be available with the Sabres having the first pick in the NHL Entry Draft, a selection they will use to take Rasmus Dahlin? Sure, could be. I like Ristolainen just fine and if the Sabres are willing to move him rather than provide some cover for Dahlin, that’s a call I’d make. The peril, as always, is in the ask going the other way.

If it’s Oscar Klefbom plus the 10th overall pick, do you make that trade? I don’t. While Ristolainen has put together three straight seasons of 40-plus points, I don’t see the difference in value (it can be reasonably argued there isn’t any) between Klefbom, who is coming off a down season after having 38 points in 2016-17, and Ristolainen being the 10th selection. I wonder if Chiarelli, who needs to do something after a disappointing season, sees it differently.

We don’t know, of course, for certain if Ristolainen is even in Chiarelli’s sights or if he’d be willing to part with Klefbom. As of right now, that’s just speculation, so it’s premature to assume that Chiarelli has already got a deal in the chamber. That said, I wonder how many of Chiarelli’s peers around the NHL might be picking up the phone to find out if there’s anything to this big-game talk or if there’s anything else they can “help” Peg Leg Pete with.

More than a few, I bet.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • OriginalPouzar

    Risto has more value than Klefbom (due to being a right shot, more proven offence and less injury prone), however he does have his warts – he is not very good defensively and a material amount of his offence is on the PP (i.e. he’s not that great at even strength). He was rushed to the NHL and fed tough minutes and his overall game has suffered.

    Yes, he has more value than Klefbom but not so much that the 10th overall pick should be added – that pick has more value than the delta between Klef and Risto.

    I’m excited to see Klef this up and coming season – he has had shoulder issues for years and, from accounts, the procedure he had earlier in the spring should make him healthier than he’s been in a very long time.

    He is going to be insane value for his $4.1M cap hit next season.

    • 24% body fat

      the difference in the players ability and value of that is offset by the term and cost of Klefboms contracts. Risto is a better player but based on everything I might lean towards and even trade or Buffalo throwing in a small sweetner.

  • Craig1981

    1. Buffallo had one of the worst Blue lines in the NHL last year. Aquiring one FUTURE allstar, doesn’t mean they have too many defencemen.
    2. When healthy, Kelfom/Nurse/Larson/Sekera is a solid top 4 (minus the right hand shot issue)
    3. How can we have a GM that makes as poor of trades as we do?

    • crabman

      I agree it would make no sense for Buffalo to trade away their current top defenceman just because they are drafting a potentially generational defenceman. I wouldn’t trade away Ristolianen. But there has been a lot of talk surrounding Ristolianen and if he may be available. Not just here at Oilersnation. It doesn’t mean anything for sure but where there’s smoke there’s fire. If Buffalo was able to sign Carlson to play 1RD after drafting Dahlin as their start LD, Ristolianen could be available in a deal that brought back a top4 like Klefbom if the kicker was th 10th pick where they would get another good prospect. Without adding Carlson or another top RD I can’t see why Ristolianen would be moved though.

      • Craig1981

        Even if they did sign Carlson (which likely can’t happen until after the draft) they will still need a 2nd line R shot D-man and Bogosian cant seem to stay healthy. Truth is if Buffalo did sign Carlson and Daphlin does step into a top pairing at 18, Buffallo only has an above average Blueline.

        • crabman

          I don’t disagree. I was just giving a reason they may move Ristolainen. And pointed out there is a considerable amount of chatter surrounding a possible Ristolainen move.

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    what scares me now (and i’m sure some others) is that Chia is a DESPERATE man trying to save his job….desperate times call for desperate measures in his mind…. he may mortgage much of the future for a last ditch effort to make sure he doesn’t get fired right now…. I don’t really think he’s afraid of screwing up another big move, its “hail mary” time for him and if he makes a “big” move and it backfires, oh well for Chia, he gets fired and then it becomes someone else’s problem… if he succeeds, then he keeps his job for a bit longer I guess…..

    • Just a Fan

      I have heard the rhetoric “Chia is a DESPERATE man” several times on several sites and it does not ring true. Chia is very well paid and has a contract so there is no financial reason for him to be DESPERATE. If he is fired from the Oilers the only thing that will prevent him from getting another job is doing something DESPERATE while working for the Oilers. So there is no professional reason for him to be DESPERATE.

      I am not in his head and don’t know him personally. Perhaps the stigma of being fired is enough for him to be DESPERATE but I am not buying it. For better or for worse, I believe Chia will make decisions that he thinks are best for the Oilers regardless of how the outcome will affect his Oilers future.

      • Dapper Dan 3099

        this is a good point…I personally think that him being at risk of getting the reputation of the gm who had mcdavid and still screwed up is enough to make him desperate this summer, but u do bring up a very valid point….its actually nice to get some valid arguments on here once in a while, cheers!

      • oilerjed

        Ill add this to your thoughts, if Bob Nicholson was thinking of firing Pete next season, depending on how things shake out, he probably would have given him the axe this year rather then risk the chance that Chia would implode the teams future due to desperation. I’m thinking that during one of the many talks these two probably had, Chia has been given support of the organization going through the end of his contract.

  • crabman

    My concern with Chiarelli “big game hunting” is less the defenceman he targets and more the plan B defenceman he eventually lands on.
    Hamilton would have been a great pickup but when that fell through and he landed on Rienhart, for close to the same price, that smacks of desperation. I fear another desperate move because he feels he needs to make a deal.

  • MrBung

    I have zero confidence in Chia to pull off a big trade. This will be one of his final big pieces of work that we will look back on when analyzing how badly he destroyed the team and urinated away value.

    • Edmonton Eulers

      If that were possible (Sekera or Russel + 10th for Ristolainen), then I would do that trade in a heartbeat. But I highly doubt Buffalo would do that deal.

  • Kr55

    With the 10th pick is an overpay. Klef is a more complete player when healthy.

    A 1 for 1 swap could make sense. Since we boxed ourselves into a corner with our LHD depth chart, and badly need a RH offensive Dman. No way we should give up more though. Klef has a great contract and will be healthy next year.

  • Cambridge

    I don’t think that Defence is the team’s biggest problem. Larsson, Klefbom, Nurse, Sekera, Russell, and Benning are all real-life NHL defencemen. There may not be a Norris Trophy winner among them, but they are all legitimate full time players. That is a startling improvement from where the team was four years ago. There may well be an upgrade to be made at the position, but it is not the the first thing on the wish list.

  • Rama Lama

    The shooting yourself in the foot, or blowing off his toes, is perfect………cant stop laughing. This is the best description of PC trading players……….. which is not his best asset.

    Having come to my senses now, I fear he will trade a key player/players for a defenceman, and next year we will be looking for forwards, sigh!

  • bazmagoo

    Klefbom and the 10th for Ristolainen is not something I would consider.

    Nurse and the 10th for Ristolainen and #32 would be one I would consider.

    I love Darnell, but I think he could be the sacrificial lamb this offseason.

      • Fire Woodcroft!

        Defensive much?

        I’m not a fan of the guy. To tell you the truth other than a few notable exceptions I don’t have much of an opinion of hockey reporters in general after the multiple McDavid snubs over the past few years (among other things). There’s some writers on this site that I appreciate and after that it’s a pretty short list.

        That’s my opinion. You obviously think differently and that’s fine. I’ve explained my thInking for ya but as an Edmonton fan I don’t really feel I have justify having a poor view of the hockey press.

          • Fire Woodcroft!

            I don’t know man… it seemed a little defensive.

            Here. On edit: I hope he is wrong. As in the past I have sometimes found him to post or report on behind-the-scenes conversations that don’t eventually turn out. I hope this turns out to be a similar situation.

            Hope that’s better.

  • crabman

    Robin, I think there is a difference in value between Klefbom and Ristolianen. As another commenter posted, Ristolianen is a RHD which always seems to have more value, has been healthier over his career, and has consistently been more productive. I would add Ristolianen plays a more physical game as well and plays more minutes. If he was traded to the Oilers I could see him lined up with a healthy Sekera as a 2nd pair leaving the toughest defensive assignments to Nurse and Larsson. I would ease Ristolianen’s minutes a bit and quality of comp would be lower and his defensive partner would be better than he has had in Buffalo. I think Ristolainen would be a much better player in Edmonton than he has shown in Buffalo while adding exactly what we need on the pp. I think that holds a lot of value.
    What do you think fair value would be for Klefbom and the 10th? Ristolainen and the 32nd? Ristolainen, the 32nd and a prospect?
    With Sekera and Russell having their NMC I don’t see how the Oilers add a top4 RD without moving out Klefbom or Nurse to fill the hole. I like Klefbom and have defended his injury history here on many occasions but if it came down to Nurse or Klefbom I would keep Nurse. I think his ceiling is the same as Klefbom but he plays a more Physical game, skates like the wind and has had less injury history (counting before the NHL as well). A defence group of
    Nurse-Larsson
    Sekera-Ristolainen
    Russell-Benning

    looks awfully good to me. Ristolainen would be a great add depending on the price but Klefbom alone won’t/shouldn’t get him.

    • El Oilero

      it all comes down to price.
      Note: Bear would be 4th RD developing in Bakersfield and available for injury call up. Jones can develop on his own pace as it will be a couple of years before Sekera or Russell can be moved out.
      Klefbom seems to be always injured.

    • Kepler62c

      Hockey wise, Risto may have a little more value for the reasons you mentioned. However, Klefbom is ~$1.3M cheaper and has an extra year to his contract. That counts for something too in the salary cap era.

      • El Oilero

        Makes you wonder why PC paid $4M for Russell (he is at best worth 2.5) and $2.5M for a backup goalie from the KHL who has never played in the NHL (while still paying Montoya $1M)

        • crabman

          If Montoya isn’t traded or makes the team out of camp he can be sent to the AHL and the team will only be on the hook for $62.5K of his contract. Montoya will still get paid his $1.065M but $1M will come off his cap hit if he spends the season in the AHL.

      • crabman

        @Kepler62c,

        Ristolainen is 23rd in the league for scoring as a defenceman over the past 3 years with 127 pts Klefbom is tied for 62nd with 71. I know Klefbom has played less but Ristolainen is a consistent 40 pt Dman and plays the right side which typically has more value. I would add any value the $1.3M cap savings would have would be negated by the risk Buffalo would be taking trading a consistently healthy player for a player with a long injury history.
        Cap difference also only has value if the cap room is needed and I’m not convinced Buffalo is in a bad cap situation. They need to figure out their goalie situation and have Rienhart as a RFA to deal with. They will also need to consider performance bonuses for Dahlin and Mittelstadt but they should have enough cap space to get everything under the cap plus make some upgrades without needing the $1.3M savings they would get trading Ristolainen for Klefbom. And after next year they will have almost another $10M available, plus any cap increase, when Pominville and Moulson come off the books.

  • DannyGallivan

    We traded Hart and Ted Lindsay finalist Hall for Larsson – not sure if we also got a bag of pucks. Chia pet already went big game hunting with a trophy player and ended up with less than. I have NO CONFIDENCE in his ability to make a favorable trade so I am worried. Do we need trades to fill holes – yes. Is he the guy to do it, don’t think so.