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Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Market for RFA Defensemen

There is a general belief that the Oilers will be aggressive in pursuing a dynamic offensive defenseman this summer. The most talked about targets include Justin Faulk, Torey Krug, Tyson Barrie, and Erik Karlsson.

My best guess is that the price on the last two names is far too rich for the Oilers, and honestly, I get the sense that the ask for the first two players likely involves one of Jesse Puljujarvi, Oscar Klefbom, or the 10th overall pick.

The other problem with the list of players that are reportedly available is that none of them are signed later than 2020-21. The Oilers will have to give up assets without any guarantee they have the player for more than two years.

If the Oilers want to add an offensive defenseman, they might need to find a more creative way to get that done. One option might be dipping into the RFA market.

Before you yell at me in the comments: no, I’m not suggesting an off sheet. No one should ever be suggesting an offer sheet because offer sheets simply don’t happen and it’s a massive waste of everyone’s time to even consider it. My thought is that they could acquire a young RFA d-man via trade, and there are some candidates.

MATT DUMBA – Minnesota Wild

  • He’s coming off a 2 year/$2.55 million deal and could command upwards of $4.0 million on a long-term contract.
  • His 50 pts was 19th amongst NHL d-men. He can also anchor a top powerplay unit.
  • The Wild have $7.5 million in cap space, but still have to sign Jason Zucker, who is coming off a 30 goal campaign.
  • Paul Fenton is now the GM and there are rumblings he wants to shake things up.
  • Minnesota can probably squeeze Dumba in, especially if the cap goes up to $80 million as expected.
  • If they do move him, the cost would likely be very high.

COLIN MILLER – Vegas Golden Knights

  • Finished last year with 41 points in 81gp, more than double his previous career high of 16 points.
  • Vegas has to sign Shea Theodore and they’re also rumoured to be interested in one of Erik Karlsson or John Carlson. If they add a big name, Miller might shake loose.
  • For those saying this year was a one-off: he still had a shooting percentage of just 5.6% in the regular season and his 0.88 primary points/60 was better than any Oilers d-man this year. He can generate offence.
  • His 3.83 primary points/60 on the powerplay was top-20 among NHL d-men who played 100 minutes on the PP.
  • It might be tough to pry him from a division opponent.

RYAN PULOCK – New York Islanders

  • The Islanders are focusing on bringing back John Tavares, finding support for him up front, and fixing their problems between the pipes. Once they do all of that, they’ll need to look at their four free agent d-men (Hickey, De Haan, Pulock, Davidson).
  • His 3.33 primary points/60 on the PP is incredible and ranks top-20 among NHL d-men who played at least 100 minutes on the PP. I think he’s a good bet to become a premier PP quarterback.
  • At even strength, he produced pretty well (10 goals and 22 assists) and kept his GF% over 50%.
  • Might be the most inexpensive option both in terms of trade value and money needed to sign on this list.

NOAH HANIFIN – Carolina Hurricanes

  • We know Carolina is open for business on pretty much anybody, and Hanifin’s name has been brought up in trade rumours.
  • He was an all-star last year, so the acquisition cost could be very high.
  • He usually plays the left side so he doesn’t really help even out the Oilers lefty/righty situation.
  • He’s topped 30 points once in his career, but I think he has a much much higher offensive ceiling. Heis primary points/60 was tops amongst Hurricanes d-men at 5v5 last season.
  • His powerplay numbers aren’t great, but he hasn’t had the best opportunities in Carolina. I would be interested to see what he could do in Edmonton.

OTHER NAMES

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Columbus ship out Ryan Murray this summer. He shoots left but can play the right side. I don’t think he’s a fit with the Oilers simply because Murray doesn’t bring the offence that the Oilers need. That being said, I don’t think it would take much to get him out of Columbus.

Brandon Montour of the Anaheim Ducks is an RFA as well. He would be a dream fit but Anaheim has the cap space to lock him up, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will do that.

I also mentioned Shea Theodore briefly but, similar to Montour in Anaheim, I can’t see Vegas even thinking about moving him.

The Winnipeg Jets have to be careful with the salary cap, but I can’t see them shipping out either of Josh Morrissey or Jacob Trouba this summer. If they did, the price would likely be sky high.

Brady Skjei is an interesting name as well. But I’d imagine the Rangers would like to hang on to their budding blueliner as they head into their rebuilding years.

THE PROBLEM

Feb 18, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Matt Benning (83) is congratulated for scoring a goal during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

With Matt Benning signed, and a Darnell Nurse deal not that away, the Oilers already have six solid NHL defensemen. If they spend assets to acquire an RFA d-man, and then cap space to lock him up, they’ll need to get rid of a d-man.

Kris Russell won’t go anywhere until next summer at the earliest, there’s no way they ship off Adam Larsson, and it’s doubtful the team deals Benning or Nurse right after signing them

That leaves us with either Andrej Sekera and Oscar Klefbom. If the team goes out to get a dynamic offensive d-man, they will need to make sure the player is coming in is a significant upgrade on either Sekera or Klefbom, since one of them will also need to be shipped out.

The price on pretty much every name I listed will be high, but if the Oilers could bring in a young offensive-minded defenseman who’s under team control, they should think long and hard about paying a significant price for it.

  • Phattmike

    Dumba’s points make him look sexier than he is. You still need a Dman who can play D and his shot suppression/60 is terrible. I wouldn’t like the idea of trading for a guy in Colin Miller who’s coming off a career year. You don’t know if he’s going to replicate that. Hanifin’s obviously the best choice, but his price will probably be too high. Rumours had him going to Van for a package involving the 7th pick so that’s pretty steep. That leaves you with Pulock, who is probably the most reasonably option. His passing needs work, but the rest of his game looked really good last year. Pulock’s shot contribution numbers look to be the best too. He’d be my pick based on likely price and player quality.

  • Lee

    Moving Klefbom for Trouba works for both teams.
    This wouldn’t be a trade that the Oilers would tie instead of getting crushed which is usually Peter C’s style.

  • Spydyr

    It sure looks like they will try to move Klefbom and pick up a RHD. Will they win the trade? Their recent trade record says no but even a busted clock is right twice a day. I Hope they surprise us.

  • Cowboy Bill

    From that list of Dmen Colin Miller is the guy that jumps out for me . Not sure what his pay scale is at . But he’s an ex team mate of Nurse with the grey Hounds and just happens to be a RHD .

  • OilersBro

    Great assessment of D-men on the market although i wouldn’t advise the Oilers to pursue any of them. This is the equivalent of a bull-bear market I swear.
    If we had to move Klef or Sekera (both top 3 D in my opinion) we would be moving them at their lowest value.

  • Bringer_Of_Snow

    To me, it’s so sad to think that for the last 5 years, the number one priority has been to get an offensive, Right shot dman in the summer. We’ve traded away Hart winner Taylor Hall, Eberle, a 1st and an early second and ended up with nothing close to that. Now our offseason list includes too 6 scoring wingers.

    As for the RFA dmen, Montour and Trouba are so good, Hanafin is nice but another lefty. I would say that Benning signing shouldn’t hinder anything you do. If you can trade him apart of a package you don’t even think twice about it.

  • Tonya Harding Compete Level

    Dumba might be the only upgrade on that list, and that depends on what you send back. I’d be happy if they stick with the 6 we have which are actually pretty decent.

  • Don't mind me

    “I could have Sworn our Defence issues were taken care of when we traded 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall to the Devils for Top 4 pairing Defenseman Adam Larsson?”

    • BobbyCanuck

      Yes, many disagree about Bear growing into the D man that we need the most, Oil is no position to give up NHL roster players to fill the needs, draft, develop, rinse and repeat…we just need to be patient

  • Oiler Al

    McLellan wont have his D-men wandering into the play, so why bother dreaming about guys like Karlsson.This obsession for a RHD is overated and an excuse for poor coaching! Vegas’s 2 RHD England and Miller.Not exactly Karlsson and Doughty!

  • Loil

    I say keep what we have and draft. It will take time but as far as defense-men go we can’t afford to lose more assets then we already have in attempt to fix the defense. For our top 6 forwards again either draft or grab one through free agency. There are some decent options and i’ll bet many if not all will excel on the right side of Dr.Drai or McDangles.

  • Daryl Katz

    The was Chia loses NHL trades, at least if he keeps the pick he can’t screw it up because we already know who’s likely to be there. Although I’m not against getting a Justin Faulk in return, if the guy isn’t signed long term then nothing stops him from bolting in a year or two when the contract is up and the Oilers would have nothing to show for that #10 pick.

  • Bjorn Turok

    For the love of god don’t let chia make another trade. We just have to ride out this year, take our lumps, and wait for him to get fired. I don’t think I could handle losing another trade… He has done enough damage. With any luck he’ll be gone by Christmas.

  • hockeyartist

    PC please put away the trade gun and the free agent pen. Its not worth pulling the trigger. To trade for an upgrade on D will cost too much. Signing one of the above will force an existing D out and not be much of an upgrade if at all. Patience, Nurse and Benning both still trending up. Sekera getting healthier, Larsson and Russell still solid. Klefbom very good when healthy.