Random Thoughts: A Nugent-Hopkins Rumour out of Boston, the draft, Mattias Ekholm, and more

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
11 months ago
Happy Sunday, Internet friends! As we inch toward the NHL Entry Draft, the Oilers will have some interesting decisions to make as they look to improve the roster on a limited budget, and that has a few random thoughts rolling around in my head that I could use your help with clearing up. This week, I’m looking at an RNH rumour out of Boston, Damon Severson as a potential RHD option, and what the team might do at the NHL draft.


Don’t you love the offseason? It’s that special time in the NHL calendar when your team is out of the playoffs, you know you need to upgrade the roster, and all that’s left to do is make things up for the sake of pageviews. That’s kinda how I felt when a handful of you sent me this “rumour” from a “league source” in Boston that has the Oilers shopping either Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and/or Ryan McLeod.
When asked Monday, about potential external replacements at center the Boston Bruins could target if Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retire, an NHL source told Boston Hockey Now that the Oilers ‘might move’ 30-year-old center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and that they’re looking for a defenseman in the return.
One would think that change for cap flexibility surely wouldn’t involve taking on a 30-year-old Hopkins who still has six years remaining on an eight-year contract that carries a $5.1M AAV. One look at the rest of the Oilers’ roster and, besides the untouchables in the middle in Connor McvDavid and Leon Draisaitl, other than Nugent-Hopkins, there’s no immediate help that could jump into the Bruins top 6 if needed next season. Could there be a bottom six option?
Another NHL source on Monday suggested the Bruins look into 23-year-old, 6-foot-3, 201-pound Oilers center Ryan McLeod. Edmonton drafted McLeod with a second round (40th overall) pick at the 2018 NHL Draft. McLeod is coming out of his rookie season that saw him score 11 goals and add 12 assists in 57 games. He’s also coming out of his three-year entry-level contract that carried a $834,167 AAV.
Normally, I wouldn’t even waste time talking about this, but since I was sent the link to this article a few times I figured I’d throw in my post today to say that it’s nonsense. As much as I can understand why some Oilers fans would be bummed out with Nuge after the playoffs he just had and why a Boston writer would covet a player of his handsomeness, the reality is that the Oilers are not going to move on from the guy after he put up 104 points — it’s not going to happen. While I absolutely understand why some would suggest selling high, the reality is that the Oilers would be hard-pressed to find a comparable player with a similar skillset for $5.125 million dollars, making this a moot conversation from the jump.
Unless Ken Holland has lost his mind, the likelihood of an RNH trade — or even a McLeod trade for that matter — is next to zero. I’m not saying that either player is untouchable if the right deal comes along, but I find it incredibly hard to believe that there’s anyone available on Boston’s roster that would get the job done. Are there Bruins you could circle as options you’d like to have? Sure, but would Boston even consider moving whoever you’re probably thinking about? Unlikely.


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On Oilersnation Everyday this past week, Tyler had Frank Seravalli on the show to talk about what the Oilers are going to do with their roster this season, and the NHL insider seems to think that Ken Holland plans on being aggressive. What does that mean exactly? No one knows for sure, but one thing that Frank did mention was the possibility of moving on from Cody Ceci (and Yamamoto) and using that money to chase a guy like Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils. In 81 games played, Severson registered seven goals and 26 assists for 33 points to go along with 38 PIMS and a +9 rating while averaging 19:57 in TOI.
Personally, I think Severson would be a nice upgrade in our top four but I also say that as someone that didn’t watch a whole lot of New Jersey games since he’s been there. Looking at the fancies, his 51.9 oZS% suggests that he’s used mostly in the offensive zone but the 56.5 CF% suggests that he tends to keep the puck there too. Given that Severson is likely looking at a raise from the $4.16 million he’s been making for the last six years, my question is whether he’s a big enough upgrade over Ceci to justify what could realistically be near double the money. Not to mention, the Oilers haven’t exactly had the best luck with fishing for defencemen from the New Jersey Devils. If you remember, Mark Fayne’s analytics were also fantastic before he got here. Not that I’m comparing Severson to Fayne as players, all I’m saying is that we’ve been hurt before and my heart doesn’t forget.


As we draw nearer to the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and hear about how strong this year’s class of prospects should be, I wonder if Ken Holland will try to work some magic to move back up into the first round. With only one pick available in the first four rounds — the Oilers’ second round doesn’t roll around until #56 — I’d love to know how big of an appetite Uncle Ken has to try and make a deal happen that gives the scouts a few more bullets. How would he make that happen, however, is the tricky part.
Even though we know Kailer Yamamoto and Cody Ceci are likely on the block, I highly doubt either guy would command anything close to a first round pick in return so I wonder if there would be a play that saw them get traded for lesser picks and then another deal with those bonus selections to move back up? Is it even possible? All I know for sure is that this year’s NHL Entry Draft is going to be completely unique from anything we’ve experienced around these parts in quite some time.


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I don’t know how I missed this interview from a couple of weeks back that Mattias Ekholm did with Christine Simpson, but it is a fantastic look at Big Viking Daddy’s life and approach to the game. Maybe it’s just because I love the player we acquired at the deadline more by the day, but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after hearing both Mattias and his wife gush about playing in Edmonton. Not that I would expect him to say he hates it here in a Sportsnet interview or something, but I genuinely came away from this little sitdown feeling even more excited about what Ekholm will be like in his first full year with the club. Not to mention, the Ekholm’s love of IKEA is truly fantastic.


On this week’s podcast, I talked about what’s next for the Edmonton Oilers and what the team needs to do to take a step forward despite having little cap space to play with to get the job done. Subscribe to Better Lait Than Never on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you get podcasts.

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