Since finding out that Andrej Sekera will likely miss the entire 2018-2019 season, the Oilers have inked Jakub Jerabek to a one-year deal and signed veteran Jason Garrison to a professional try-out.
I don’t think this team is done and I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Chiarelli tries to find another defenseman via trade.
The problem with that is the team’s lack of cap space. They currently have $3.9 million in cap space and they still need to sign Darnell Nurse. If they were to hit the trade market, they would have to send some salary back to the other team. But, they aren’t even in a position to do that given their lack of depth and the fact that most of their “bad” contracts appear to be unmovable.
The team will gain $5.5 million in cap space once Andrej Sekera is placed on LTIR, but, Chiarelli will have to wait until the season starts on October 3rd to officially put Sekera on LTIR and get the cap relief. There are really two options here:
- The Oilers could agree to terms with Darnell Nurse on a contract and then officially sign it on October 3rd, when Sekera could be put on LTIR. The downside here is that Nurse wouldn’t play in any preseason games. I can’t imagine this a route they want to take.
- They could agree to a trade with a team and simply announce the deal after placing Sekera on LTIR. This allows them to upgrade their blueline before the season starts and let Nurse participate in the preseason.
Both of these seem like stretches but if Chiarelli is going to upgrade his blueline, and I expect he will, a trade is the only way to bring back a quality NHL player at this point. I found one option who I think would be a big splash, one option who would be a smaller bet, and then looked at the upcoming crop of free agents.
His name has been linked to the Oilers for what feels like an eternity and the fanbase is pretty split on the idea of acquiring Faulk. I dug around, and did a very specific twitter poll, and what I learnt is that a strong majority of fans would love Justin Faulk on the team, but are worried about the acquisition cost.
SCENARIO FOR OILERS FANS:
If the team were to acquire Justin Faulk, and don't give up a top-six forward, Yamo/JP, or a 1st round pick (Very specific, I know), you would be:
— Tyler Yaremchuk (@tyleryaremchuk) September 5, 2018
I don’t think Faulk has very much value on the trade market, and if he did, I believe the Hurricanes would have moved him by now. If Chiarelli does get a deal done I think it will cost less than we expect. A draft pick and lower level roster player.
What could Faulk bring to the team? I think he could play on their second or third pairing at even-strength and push for some a spot on the team’s top powerplay unit.
Last year, the Oilers had five defensemen play over 1000 minutes at even strength (Faulk is the 6th D on the Oilers in the table below), while the Hurricanes had six. I looked at a number of statistical categories and found out where Faulk ranked amongst his teammates and where he would have ranked amongst Oilers d-men.
|Justin Faulk||Rank Amongst Hurricanes D||Rank Amongst Oilers D|
|Primary Points/60||0.27/60||5 out of 6||6 out of 6|
|Goals For %||42.02%||6 out of 6||6 out of 6|
|Corsi For %||55.26%||3 out of 6||1 out of 6|
|Offensive Zone Start %||37.41%||4 out of 6||2 out of 6|
Faulk also logged 220 minutes on the power play, more than any other defenseman on either the Hurricanes or the Oilers. In that time he posted a primary points per 60 of 2.45 which was more than double any of the regular powerplay d-men on either team.
Compared to the rest of the league and other defensemen who played at least 100 minutes, Faulk’s primary points per 60 sits 39th. His 14.55 individual shots for per 60 was up with some of the NHL’s elite powerplay quarterbacks. His production isn’t great, but it would spike if he was on a unit with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
On a good team, I think Faulk is a capable 5v5 player who can benefit from starting in the offensive zone a lot and can be very effective on the powerplay. He would make the Oilers defence better, and if the cost isn’t too high, I think Chiarelli should jump on it.
When you think of impact NHL defensemen, you definitely don’t think of Alex Petrovic. When you consider his rocky relationship with the Florida Panthers, the fact he seems to be underutilized there, and that he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, this could be a perfect trade target.
Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged just 54 games a season, which is less than impressive. He has nice possession numbers, but has also been given some easy zone starts. He has a bit of a mean streak as well, which Peter Chiarelli likes. He’s also 26-years-old, so there is a reason to believe his best years are still ahead of him.
I think Petrovic is the perfect balance of a player who has proven he can play in the league, but still has room to grow.
This would definitely be a gamble, and I wouldn’t want to see the Oilers give up more than a 4th or 5th round pick, but Petrovic has some upside and I think he would be an upgrade on Jakub Jerabek, Kevin Gravel, and Jason Garrison.
If the organization wants to go all in this year, then Faulk is the way to go. He can help their power play and can play competently at even-strength. If they want to add another layer of depth and take a chance on a younger player, then Petrovic might be a good choice, plus he would cost less to acquire and his deal expires at the end of the season.
PENDING FREE AGENTS
There are other names out there, mostly guys who are currently on expiring deals, who could be of interest to the team as well.
There are players like Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Jay Bouwmeester, Zdeno Chara, Braydon Coburn, Anton Stralman, and Marc Methot but I don’t think any of them are getting moved simply because their teams are all playoff contenders.
Niklas Kronwall is a pending free agent, but he seems set on finishing his career in Detroit. Alex Edler has slowed down a bit, but I think he would be a great fit. Vancouver appears set on contending and Edler has a no-trade clause. Those two factors alone make it a long-shot.
Ryan Murray has had an injury-riddled career thus far, and there’s always a sense that Columbus is considering cutting bait with him. He’s a pending RFA and the Blue Jackets have a lot on their plate with pending UFAs Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. If the Oilers offer the right package, I could see Columbus moving on from Murray.
Chris Wideman is on a one-year deal with the Ottawa Senators, and while he’s not exactly a proven option, he’s looked good in the limited action he’s had with the Senators. He could help on their power play as well. Similar to Petrovic, he isn’t exactly a proven name, but I think Wideman has some upside.
Jordie Benn is also a pending free agent in Montreal. Last year, he was one of three Habs defenders to play more than 1000 even strength minutes. He produced okay at even strength, and his possession numbers were okay. He doesn’t play on the power play, but can be an effective penalty killer. Add him to the list of guys who aren’t big names, but are useful NHL players. I don’t think Montreal will deal him, especially considering the injury to Weber.
I don’t believe Chiarelli is going to be satisfied with this team’s current blueline. If he wants to make a big splash, well then Justin Faulk is really his only option. The market for impact defensemen just isn’t very big. He could also go get a proven NHL defender, and while there are a handful of those who might be available, none of them are top-four options.
It might make more sense for Chiarelli to wait until the trade deadline to make a move but by that point, as we saw last year, it might be too late.