Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of the return, trading RNH is insane and unnecessary

It seems like every offseason there comes a point where the topic of trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes up and needs to be discussed. Those who think it’s a good idea often say things like this:

“The Oilers have three good centres, they can afford to trade one.”

“Think of the return you would get for a player like Nugent-Hopkins.”

“They need to get a good defenseman and Nugent-Hopkins is what it will cost.”

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The people who think trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a good idea are flat out wrong. Everyone has a price, I understand that, and obviously if someone came and offered you a truly elite puck moving defenseman who’s under contract and not over 30-years-old, you would do it. But Morgan Rielly, Victor Hedman, Seth Jones, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, or anyone in that tier isn’t going to be coming up in trade discussions anytime soon.

I go back to my original argument that while the Oilers would benefit from a puck-moving defenseman, their biggest need is quality forwards who can support McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins. If they had more than one scoring line this season, they would be in the playoff race. It’s simple as that.

The six defensemen they currently have healthy and in the lineup are the same six that were on the team when they finished with 103 points in 2016/17. They aren’t perfect, but they’ve proven they can do it before. Some players (Sekera, Russell) aren’t as effective as they were a few years ago, I can acknowledge that, but the Oilers are two quality NHL forwards away from having a competitive group up front. If they trade Nugent-Hopkins for a defenseman, they will immediately miss the production and stability that he brings to the lineup.

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As the old saying goes: you can’t rob Peter to pay Paul. The Oilers are not in a position to do that.

Jan 14, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a first period goal against the Buffalo Sabres at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

People will point to the fact that plenty of quality defensemen have been traded in the past and if the Oilers want to get one, they need to pay the price. Well, let’s look at those deals.

Shea Weber for PK Subban: This deal was two teams swapping quality defensemen. The Oilers don’t have a quality defenseman to trade, so I’m not sure how they can do a trade like this. Nashville and Montreal weren’t going to move either of these pieces without getting a quality defenseman in return.

Erik Karlsson to San Jose: Like most star players, Karlsson had some control over where he was traded. That took the Oilers out of the running immediately. Karlsson was also dealt from a rebuilding team, so the return didn’t involve an established NHLer that’s at the level of Nugent-Hopkins. Instead, it took a young defenseman (Dylan DeMelo), a bottom-six forward (Chris Tierney), a former first-round pick (Josh Norris), another prospect (Rudolfs Balcers), two second-round picks (one conditional), and two conditional first-round picks. That’s pretty far from a one for one swap and there’s no one on the market this summer as good as Karlsson.

Seth Jones to Columbus: This deal saw Ryan Johansen go back to Nashville. Straight up. The deal was one-for-one. This is the only example I could find where a high-end forward was traded for a high-end defenseman. Now, Jones and Johansen weren’t exactly proven NHL stars at the time, each side had to assume some risk. If the Oilers find a deal like this, they better be ready to assume some risk and they better get it right. Columbus got it right and ended up with a bonafide Norris trophy quality defenseman in my opinion. But this seems to be a rare case.

Dougie Hamilton to Calgary: After three years in the league, a rather unproven Hamilton was dealt from Boston in exchange for a first round pick (15th overall) and two second rounders (45th & 52nd). That’s a deal I would like to see the Oilers entertain. Give up some picks in the 2019 or 2020 drafts and bring in a young puck moving defenseman. It’s rare but you can do that without giving up a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

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Dougie Hamilton to Carolina: This past summer Hamilton was packaged with forward Michael Ferland and prospect Adam Fox and sent to the Hurricanes in exchange for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. Many have said this is the type of deal the Oilers need to make and while I agree, there is risk involved as well. If the Oilers are going to make a straight-up “hockey trade” involving Nugent-Hopkins, they better get it right.

Ryan McDonagh to Tampa Bay: McDonagh is unique because he was a deadline acquisition and he was a part of a larger package. Along with JT Miller, he was sent from New York to Tampa Bay in exchange for a young forward (Vlad Namestnikov), two prospects (Libor Hajek & Brett Howden), a first round pick, and a conditional second rounder. Again, it was a rental at the time, but a quality top four d-man was moved for a group of pieces that didn’t involve a proven high-end centre, which Nugent-Hopkins is.

Brandon Montour to Buffalo: He isn’t exactly elite, but he’s an example of a good, young, offensive right-shot defenseman whos’ been traded recently. The price for him was a young prospect (Brendan Guhle) and a first-round pick in this year’s draft. That’s a price the Oilers might be able to afford this summer and it wouldn’t take away from their current core.

I guess my real point with all of this is that it isn’t impossible to acquire a talented young defenseman and there are plenty of different ways to go about doing it and if you look at the past few years, it is possible to make the type of deal the Oilers need without sacrificing a significant piece of the Oilers core.

The Oilers would benefit from a puck-moving defenseman, but if the cost is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, they should avoid it altogether. Package future assets and pieces you aren’t 100% sure on. Not the piece that you know will help you win games in 2019-20.

But there’s also the idea that the Oilers have a surplus of centres and should look into dealing one of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl for a legit scoring winger, which this team so desperately needs.

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My argument against that is simple. The Oilers don’t have three quality NHL centres, they have three high-end forwards who are capable of playing centre. They rarely ever have the three big guns on separate lines. If you deal Nugent-Hopkins for Nikolaj Ehlers, all you’re doing is acquiring a player who is far less versatile.

The Oilers have a high-end scoring winger to play with Connor McDavid and his name is Leon Draisaitl. The presence of Nugent-Hopkins allows them to play McDavid and Draisaitl together. If you trade Nugent-Hopkins, then you would be forced to split up the most dangerous duo in the NHL for the sake of centre depth.

The focus this offseason should be to finding a scoring winger to compliment their second line centre. What if they find a guy who can slide onto his wing and help him re-create or even surpass his current career year? Wouldn’t that help this team win more than dealing Nugent-Hopkins for someone like Brett Pesce?

The second you trade a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, regardless of the return, you begin searching for someone exactly like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That’s the bottom line.

    • HockeyRooster

      There are plenty of doctors available to help with your Oilers obsession. Shouldn’t you be getting ready to take your shirt off on the red mile with all those wins your team is going to rack up in the playoffs? You should be, but here you are posting on a random Oilers article…multiple times. Scary.

        • Himynameistaylor

          What inferiority complex? They’re ahead of us in the standings. Their forward group is superior to ours, their goaltending is far and away better and that’s with Mike Smith who would easily be better than koskinen.

          There’s no inferiority. If anything there should’ve jealousy from oilers fans.

          • The inferiority complex lies in their determination to make the BOA a thing when we all know they are really the Atlanta Flames and they will never be Alberta’s team. They may be located there, but the Oilers are Alberta’s team.

  • rnj

    Trading him for salary doesn’t make sense and isn’t necessary. For the guys still saying this:

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins [6.0M]
    Thomas Vanek [3.0M]
    Jujhar Khaira [875k]
    Milan Lucic [6.0M]
    Joseph Gambardella [725k]
    Connor McDavid [12.5M]
    Leon Draisaitl [8.5M]
    Kyle Brodziak [1.15M]
    Colby Cave [675k]
    Cooper Marody [925k]
    Richard Panik [3.0M]
    Sam Gagner [3.15M]
    Josh Currie [687k]
    Patrick Russell [700k]
    Ty Rattie [800k]

    • rnj

      Darnell Nurse [3.2M]
      Oscar Klefbom [4.167M]
      Andrej Sekera [5.5M]
      Kevin Gravel [700k]

      Colton Parayko [5.5M]
      Adam Larsson [4.166M]
      Matt Benning [1.9M]
      Alex Petrovic [875k]
      DEFENCE TOTAL: $26 M

      Mikko Koskinen [4.5M]
      Antii Niemi [950k]

      TEAM TOTAL: $82,953,999

        • Beer

          I’d do that.
          I like Klef and Sek’s as much anybody, but the chances of both of them being dressed for 82 games is the same as me winning a Stanley. There’s you cap space.

          • rnj

            Russell’s a good defender on a good contract. Puljujarvi has some question marks and could do really well with the Blues forward group. If you gotta do a first instead of a second or a first and a second, do it.

            If you read blogs on the Blues there’s complaints about him being underutilized and them needing a prospect forward.

            Russel + Puljujarvi + 1st + 2nd .. you think they say no? You think the Oilers wouldn’t? They get a downgrade on second pairing two great picks and a high potential project along with 1.5M in cap. Oilers get better right away. Worth it

  • Total Points

    The Oilers have 2 choices – stay the course and wait for the younger players to develop, Bouchard, yamo, Puju, etc and wait to be competitive in a few years or trade a few of these young players and future draft picks for help now.

    I say build a team now and trade the young guys plus picks to teams who are rebuilding and prepared to give up a stud defenceman or forward while Connor, Drai and Nuge are entering their prime.

    • Ranford.85

      I agree 100%
      If Chia did one positive thing while he was here, is that he brought in some good depth in Bakersfield that has helped players progress.
      While the Oil won’t want to give away too much or rush any players, I feel a pick and a young prospect or two could fetch a decent 2RD. There isn’t much cap space though for a trade like that.
      At the end of the day, unloading/burying contracts might be as important as a big trade.

      • rdebruys

        Chia had less to do with the depth in Bakersfield than you seem to think. Keith Gretzky ran the draft the last two years, those picks were his. All those good young players coming up are, for the most part, Gretzky picks.

    • OilTastic

      trying to convince a fan base that has been conditioned all these years into thinking the next star player is waiting to be drafted and that trading picks for established players is a good idea is going to be a hard sell !

    • rdebruys

      There are many reasons why not to do this, but here’s the biggest one. In a cap system, you need good players on bargain ELC and RFA deals – look at Tampa Bay, Winnipeg or Boston for examples. You need high end players too of course – but you only need so many. if you mortgage the future now you take that opportunity away. One D or a winger isn’t going to change the team as drastically as 3 or 4 good young players will. If you have 2 guys on ELCs that score 15 each, that’s 1 30 goal scorer you would have had to pay 6 million for.

  • KootenayDan

    Trading Russell and not resigning Reider plus burying Brodziak in the AHL would free up 7 million would that not be the first move freeing up some cap space. Cave can replace Brodziaks role and prospects could easily replace zero goal Reider and all I can do is block shots Russell.

  • RJ

    Trading McDavid or Drai is insane. Trading anyone else is dependent upon return.

    As someone else mentioned, there was a possibility of trading for Seth Jones. Giving up Nuge would have been a blow, but adding a young RHD with legit Norris potential shouldn’t have been passed up.

    I wouldn’t trade Nuge for an aging dman. A package of prospects wouldn’t be enough. But a quality NHL RHD with some offensive upside? It would depend on who.

    The other side is that Oilers fans have gotten so conditioned by Oilers management that the Oil will lose every trade, I can see why people are gunshy. But a real GM should be able to make this trade.

  • Oiler Al

    There isn’t enough scoring because the defense isn’t feeding the forwards to assist in scoring. Where then is 97,29, and 93 getting passes from, they seem to be scoring? The problem is the rest of the forwards are simply plugs.Josi,Hedman,Suban playing on the Oilers defense couldn’t get these plugs to score.

  • Oil9744

    Nuge for Matt Dumba. Both players are the same age and same cap hit. Oilers top 4 D is set for years. Nurse Dumba
    Klefbomb Larsson.
    Sign some frowards in free agency to replace Nuge’s points. Jeff Skinner would be the home run but Dzingel, Ferland, for example. I’m not dying to trade Nuge by any means but I think the Oilers need that offence from the blue line and a young puck moving defensemen more then anything. Oilers current top 4 isn’t good enough. Russel is not the answer to be playing with Nurse. It’s about time Nurse gets a good young D to play with and with the season he’s having him and Dumba would be solid. If a player like that isn’t on the table then we keep Nuge.

  • Ben918

    I have to agree. Especially after Matthews contract. Prices for top 3 players are about to sky rocket and the Oilers need to add at least 1 top 6 player, not trade one of the only 3 they have. Nuge is a two way forward the likes of guys like Toews and Bergeron that do so much off the score sheet that they are incredibly valuable to a team. He can play any position in any role. Plus he likes the Oilers and Edmonton, he has a great attitude and his type of play is infectious to other players on the team. He is the type of player you want mentoring our younger players. Unless the return is a top 10 defender/goalie (which it won’t be) there is no reason to trade him. So maybe I don’t agree. Everyone has a price it is just not realistic that anyone will offer what he is worth to the team. Even McDavid has a price but it is something in the way of 5 top 10 players all willing to sign contracts at 1 mil a year and they take all our huge contracts in return. Plus some first rounders and a rink made of gold. Everyone has a price, just the Oilers shouldn’t be shopping any of their top 3.

  • jesse says yep

    Can anyone point to the stats that prove that Drai can produce as a second line center? Me either, but I can surely point to the stats that show Nuge is an elite 2nd line center. End of story.

  • Anton CP

    It is with the article like this that the current writers on ON has almost no credibility. Nowadays that only Brownlee and Gregor’s articles are still worth reading that the rest of the writers here are either fans or idiot fans.

    The part of mentioning “Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen” actually without mentioning the Oilers did offer RNH for Seth Jones but Poile chose Johansen instead. Were you not born at the time to not ever known that??

    This season is the first time ever for Nuge to crack the 60 points plateau, which makes him the 9th player from his draft year to do so after 7 seasons. Nuge has only getting paid for 6m per due to being the 3rd wheel of Hall and Eberle and he is still remain with the team for the reason of he is the worst of the trio. Nuge is still with the team because no one else wants him.

    • Stallions #35

      3rd wheel??? Okay I would say he may be behind Hall but if you think Eberle is better than Nuge, you are sadly mistaken. I would take Nuge over Eberle even solely for the fact that Nuge can play Center and Wing, can run a PP and PK…
      Based on his professionalism alone, I might take him over Hall but at some point we have to look at point production and contribution.

      • Anton CP

        At the current stage of their careers that Nuge is better than Eberle sure, it was not the case when all three of them are with the Oilers. Nuge was never playing on wings until near the end of last season.

        Professionalism means nothing if the team cannot win anything. Patrick Kane was a notorious party animal that got him into trouble many times but so what? He is a three time Stanley Cup winner and fans are still loving him for it despite many of the bad behaviors. Professional athletes are compete to win championships, not competing for community awards and we already had Andrew Ference for that just a few years ago.

        • DannyGallivan

          Oil have virtually no offense beyond McJ, Drai and RNH. The next 3 are 2D and a PTO. McJ and Drai played a lot together and their numbers are incredible. RHN spent most of the season without any capable wingers and still managed to put up terrific numbers.

          The Oil need wingers that can score more than D. Trading away one third of your scoring fwds MAKES NO SENSE. Maroon, Hall, Ebs, Perron – hell even Cagguila (18 goal rate for full season) production never got replaced (boys and girls can you say Strome, Spooner, Aberg, Desharnais, Lucic and Reider).

          No one wants a player with 28+ goals who, on most nights, plays C or W with NOBODY? Think again. BTW: Johansen trails RNH’s in both points and goals and he plays with Arvidson, Neal and Forsberg. Same last year but for RNH’s injury (only 62 games).

    • jesse says yep

      How many other players in Nuge’s draft class were going up against NHL top lines before they turned 22? Nuge was putting up his point totals against the leagues best before he was old enough to drink in the states. Now that he has someone to play in front of him we are only starting to see him come into his own offensively

  • JimmyV1965

    The only way I trade RNH is if the team decides on another slow rebuild this summer, instead of acquiring the two wingers and one dman needed to turn this thing around. If the Oil stink again next year, there’s a good chance that RNH walks in free agency two years from now. Who would blame him? So if you’re not going to make a conscious effort to improve the team, then you trade him.