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The four options the Oilers have with Philip Broberg

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Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
NHL_Sid
6 months ago
In this past week, many rumors have circulated surrounding Edmonton Oilers defenceman Philip Broberg.
It was initially reported that the team granted permission to Broberg to seek a trade. However, Ryan Rishaug of TSN reported that Ken Holland did not permit Broberg’s camp to pursue a potential trade.
Regardless of whether Edmonton granted permission or not, it remains quite possible that Broberg may have played his last game in Edmonton, according to Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic. On 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman also mentioned that it may be the last time we see Broberg as an Oiler.
Broberg was Ken Holland’s first draft pick as Edmonton’s GM, selecting him 8th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. Broberg played his first two seasons following the draft selection in the SHL, and has rotated between Edmonton’s roster and the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors in the past three seasons. In his current DY+5 season, Broberg has yet to prove himself as an established NHLer.
At the moment, I believe that Edmonton possesses four different options with Broberg. Here is a deep dive into what Edmonton could and should do with the 22-year-old Swedish defenceman.

Option 1: Don’t trade Broberg; keep him in Bakersfield, and let him play 20+ minutes per night

On Thursday, the Oilers sent Broberg down to Bakersfield and recalled Ben Gleason, who is projected to be their seventh/extra defenceman for the time being. Right now, this is the correct decision.
This season, the Oilers have primarily kept Broberg as the 7th defenceman on their NHL roster, and he has hardly obtained any consistent playing time. Broberg has been a healthy scratch in 12 of Edmonton’s last 14 games, and averaged just 10:32 per game when he did play. Simply put, regardless of what you believe Broberg’s potential or ceiling is, no young defensive prospect will excel in such limited deployment.
One option for Edmonton is to simply stick with Broberg, and be patient. Let Broberg play 20-25 minutes per night in Bakersfield, develop his game, and gain some confidence by actually playing significant minutes. This would be markedly more beneficial for his development as opposed to simply sitting in the press box with Edmonton. 
Broberg is not eligible for waivers, so they always possess the option of simply recalling him back to Edmonton if needed. Injuries are inevitable, and having Broberg as a depth recall option is a good idea. While it may not happen particularly soon, eventually, you’d hope he can develop into a top-four defenceman for the team.

Option 2: Give Broberg an opportunity on his off-side

With Darnell Nurse, Mattias Ekholm, and Brett Kulak, Edmonton’s LHD depth is quite crowded, which is a major factor for Broberg’s limited NHL ice time on Edmonton’s roster. On the other hand, Edmonton’s RD core is certainly not as strong,
It may not be such a bad idea to give Broberg a shot at RD. However, I am not sure how successful that may be.
In North America, Broberg has little experience on his off-side. In the NHL, he played two games at RD with Duncan Keith in 2021-22, one game at RD with Ekholm this season, and around 90 minutes with Kulak in the past two seasons; nothing too noteworthy there. Broberg primarily played at LD in Bakersfield as well.
Most of Broberg’s notable experience on his off-side came in Sweden, with the Skellefteå AIK of the SHL.
However, Broberg’s overall SHL results were not too appealing. Broberg was the team’s only defenceman to post a negative 5v5 goal differential that season, as Skellefteå was out-scored 22 to 26 at 5v5 with Broberg on-ice, compared to a goal differential of 80 to 48 without Broberg.
I wrote about Broberg’s SHL play in-depth this summer, which you can read here, but in a nutshell, I went back and watched a handful of Broberg’s games myself and tracked how well he moved the puck in and out of the defensive zone. Per this study, NHL defencemen are typically considerably worse at zone exits on their off-side, and I wanted to see if this was also the case for Broberg.
Here are his zone exit and goal differential results at LD and RD:
Broberg exited the zone with control at a much higher volume when he played LD, as opposed to RD. His controlled exit efficiency increased while his turnover rate decreased. I also tracked which side of the ice a zone exit or turnover occurred, and I discovered that Broberg was much more prone to making turnovers on the right side than on the left. In the games I watched, I thought it was evident that Broberg seemed much more comfortable on his natural side, and his goal differential results also support my findings.
Consequently, given his lack of meaningful positive experience on his off-side, I doubt whether Broberg would excel at RD in the NHL, at least for now.
That said, per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, Edmonton’s assistant coach Mark Stuart had traveled to Stockholm in the off-season, showing Broberg clips of him playing on his off-side. 
Heading into training camp, it seemed that the plan was for Edmonton to try Ekholm and Broberg as a pairing together this season, with Broberg as the RD. On OilersNow, Bob Stauffer did mention this option numerous times in the summer.
Unfortunately, Ekholm was out for all of pre-season and the season opener due to a hip flexor injury, which threw a wrench in those plans. Broberg was paired with Ekholm for just one game, in a 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers, as Bouchard has almost exclusively played with Ekholm since the season opener. That pair has been excellent as of late, and I would not expect them to be split up.
Still, this remains an option. The team does have the option of deploying Broberg at RD in Bakersfield and seeing how well he can currently perform there. If that works, they can recall him and give him a shot at 3RD. If Broberg excels at 3RD in the NHL and 1RD in Bakersfield, they can promote him and grant him a chance in the top-four.
Edmonton’s RD depth is quite subpar, and if Broberg can somehow be a reliable RD, that allows Edmonton to place much more focus on addressing their goaltending situation instead. It also places them in an even better position to trade Cody Ceci and clear cap space.
Barring multiple major injuries, Broberg will not consistently play a top-four role at LD in Edmonton anytime soon, so playing on his off-side would be the most realistic way for him to make a meaningful impact with Edmonton. It’s why it could be worth a shot.
Of course, the big question is whether he can play well in that role in the first place. Note that Broberg has not even beaten out Vincent Desharnais for a third-pairing role on the NHL roster yet.

Option 3: Trade Kulak and grant Broberg the 3LD spot

One way to open up opportunity for Broberg with the Oilers is to trade LHD Brett Kulak. Currently, Kulak is the team’s 3LD.
Kulak makes $2.75M and has three years left on his contract, including this one. He turns 30 in December. Instead of trading Broberg, the team has the alternative option of trading an older and more expensive Kulak, which would open up some additional cap room. More importantly, in this case, it opens up an opportunity for Broberg to play regular NHL minutes on his natural side.
However, I am not as fond of this option, as I like Kulak. He has not had the greatest start to the season, but generally, Kulak is a very consistent, reliable #4-5 defenceman and one of the team’s best rush defenders. For a team that has had struggles defending the blueline this season, they need more defenders like Kulak. Currently, Kulak is a better NHL player than Broberg, and on paper, it makes the team worse.
But, it is an option with some advantages, and could be considered.

Option 4: Trade Broberg to address an area of need

In two years, both Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard will require contracts. Bouchard currently has 27 points in 24 games, a 92 (!) point pace over 82 games; after two full seasons on Edmonton’s power-play unit, his asking price could be sky-high, especially with a rising cap. In three years, Connor McDavid will also require a contract. Furthermore, RNH, Kane, Hyman, Nurse, and Ekholm will all be well into their thirties by that time, and make a combined $31M. 
Consequently, Edmonton’s ideal window to win a Cup will be in the next 2-3 years. 
Management must ask themselves this question; how can Philip Broberg increase Edmonton’s chances of a Stanley Cup in this cup window? 
Can Broberg be an impactful NHL player for the team as a bonafide top-four defenceman? Or, would they be better served by using Broberg’s value to address an actual area of need?
To go back to the previous option, there are a couple of advantages to alternatively trading Kulak. But, even with Kulak dealt, Broberg will not play in the top-four on his natural side with Nurse and Ekholm ahead of him, barring injuries. Obviously, Nurse is not going anywhere with that contract, and even at age 33, I believe it is unlikely that Ekholm immediately sees a significant regression. As mentioned previously, Broberg could play on his off-side, but again, he does not possess significant positive experience at RD. There is no guarantee Broberg will be a quality NHL 2RD.
In the next 2-3 years, there is not a particularly high chance that Broberg will be a regular, impactful top-four defender for the Oilers, simply because he may not have the opportunity to do so. The chance of Broberg eventually developing into a top-four defenceman remains very possible, but that may not happen in Edmonton.
Meanwhile, Broberg could still have some notable trade value; he’s 22, 6’3, 212 lbs, a former 8th overall pick, and has solid underlying on-ice numbers in a limited role.
“I definitely think there is interest,” said Friedman, in regards to Broberg on 32 Thoughts. “I definitely think that the Oilers know that they can do this if they want, and it’s just a matter of what they determine they want as price. I’ve heard there’s a lot of interest out there.”
“There’s always teams that are interested in someone who’s young, who doesn’t work out in the first place. You can always find a lineup of teams that are interested in that.”
Edmonton’s LD depth is one of their strengths. Broberg’s value could be used to address their actual areas of need, potentially as part of a trade package for a right-defenceman or a goaltender. A potential 2RD or a goaltender would make much more of an impact on Edmonton’s current roster than Broberg would by playing in Bakersfield or playing limited 6/7D minutes in the NHL.
Trading Broberg is an option that could benefit both sides, and should be seriously considered by Edmonton’s management.

Final Thoughts

Nov 20, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) battles Edmonton Oilers defenseman Philip Broberg (86) for the puck during the second period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Selecting Broberg 8th overall was a big error by Ken Holland. Still, Broberg is young 22-year-old defenceman, with size, quality skating, and strong underlying metrics in a sheltered role in Edmonton. Regardless of what you think about the draft pick, this is not a player that you should simply give away. 
Edmonton’s prospect pool is currently near the bottom of the league. They have not granted Broberg a proper opportunity in the NHL, and have not truly seen what he may be able to do at the current moment in Edmonton; as a result, there is a very realistic chance that Broberg will develop into a top-four defenceman on another team. There are a couple of options for Edmonton in this situation, and simply sticking with Broberg is one of them.
But, there is a very strong argument that trading Broberg would increase Edmonton’s cup chances as opposed to keeping him. There simply is not a lot of opportunity for Broberg to make a meaningful impact on Edmonton’s roster, and they could use Broberg’s trade value to address one of their areas of need. A trade is an option that could benefit both Broberg and the Oilers.
If a trade is bound to happen, there is a very realistic possibility that it could occur soon. Or, it could happen around the time of the trade deadline. For now, Broberg will play on Bakersfield’s top-pairing. In these next few weeks and months leading up to the trade deadline, it will be interesting to see what Ken Holland will eventually do with his former 8th overall draft pick.
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