It’s always the paradox when critiquing any aspect of the Edmonton Oilers. If you criticize the goaltending, the question arises: Is it really the goaltending or the sloppy D that gives up grade A chances? Is the bottom six so un-productive? Or would their numbers improve if they had a Defense that could get them the puck? Looking for a solution in this tail chasing exercise always comes to the same conclusion: The Oilers need to make a meaningful trade to get an efficient puckmover for their blueline.
The question is timing, and if there is enough of a sense of urgency to trade a valuable asset now, or continue to develop their current crop of young D. However, with Justin Schultz’s potential a bit hazy, sooner, rather than later, should be the order of the day. But who should be the target? Looking for an established top four defender is not easy. For proof of recent failed attempts, simply look to Oiler’s farm team or pressbox where a couple of failed free agents reside.
The problem is, teams don’t trade their top pairing defencemen, so you need to gamble on a player that’s on the rise, or target a team that has a surplus of D, that could lead them to cap trouble if they don’t make a decision. Following that logic, the Oiler’s should consider the St. Louis Blues, and offensive D-man dynamo, Kevin Shattenkirk.
To identify why Shattenkirk might be available, you only have to look at the St. Louis Blues’ success in drafting, developing, and acquiring d-men. Joel Edmundson is a 2nd round draft-pick from 2011 who will be an RFA this summer and is playing on the top pair with Alex Pieterangelo. Pieterangelo was acquired via the draft in 2008, 4th overall, and anchors the top pairing.
In the 3 spot there is veteran Jay Bouwmeester partnered with towering 3rd round revelation, Colton Parayko, who has been having a solid season to this point and (with Shattenkirk injured) has slid into the four spot on the depth chart. This puts the St. Louis Blues in the driver’s seat as far as their blueline personnel goes. Shattenkirk will be a UFA in 2016 – 17, but they have options. With the young D-corps they have, they don’t need to mortgage the farm to keep him, in reality, they can let him walk. But why let a legitimate top four defender walk when they can gain an asset?
For Shattenkirk, this is a bad situation. If he continues to lose ice time to Parayko his stats will suffer, and that won’t help his case leading up to free agency two seasons away. Alternatively, If he played out his contract in Edmonton, he would be playing on the top pairing all the time, feeding the likes of Mcdavid and Hall, making a 60 point plus season a very real possibility.
Could Edmonton Make a Deal Work?
For Edmonton, Shattenkirk would be a very nice fit, and solve more than a couple of problems on the Oil blueline. The book on Shattenkirk is decent defense, and exceptional offense. He reads plays well, has a powerful point shot, sends out accurate passes to his forwards, and quarterbacks the powerplay as good as anyone in the league. He has registered 40 points or more in three of his last four seasons including 44 points in 56 games last year. If he had played the full season he would have set the standard for offense from the D that season. Currently, the Oilers don’t have a defenseman that can do all those things consistently and wish they did.
How Might a Potential Deal Look?
There is no rush for St. Louis to trade Shattenkirk, but as early as December they will likely be identifying needs for the playoffs. If Parayko continues to fit in well on the Blueline, and there are no major injuries, they may be looking for a deal. Do the Oilers have assets to help them? Currently the Blues are being hard hit by the injury bug. Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Steve Ott, and Patrik Berglund are all in the infirmary. They could use some depth and support there. The Blues are always looking for more value and draft better than most, so a high pick might be worthwhile too. Since they are losing a D-man, a defensive prospect in return might be worthwhile. So my initial offer would be:
2016 first round pick plus Anton Lander for Kevin Shattenkirk
This is where things get risky, more for the Oilers than for the Blues. At their current pace, the Oilers will likely again be in a high percentage lottery position and with American born phenom Auston Matthews the potential prize, that would be a lot to lose.
However, from another perspective, the Oilers aren’t likely to finish that low in the draft selection. Even in their current funk I would see them drafting somewhere in the 6 to 8 spot. Drafting there should be enticing enough for the Blues. And would the Oilers be willing to give up a first rounder for a proven commodity? At this stage I would think so.
Including Anton Lander may be an overpay but would be of interest to the Blues as they could use reinforcements on a long playoff run, especially one so proficient in winning face-offs. And in return, the Oilers receive an offensively gifted defenseman who wouldn’t look so over his head in a top pairing spot like Sekera or Schultz.
Speaking of Schultz, Shattenkirk’s arrival could allow the Oilers make a definite decision on that player. Playing the two on separate pairings, it would make sense that by the trade deadline they could either trade Schultz for some kind of asset, or walk away from him at the end of the season. Either way, a trade for Shattenkirk could go a long way to solidifying a still shaky D.
But could the Oilers pull this off without giving up any part of their core? I would think so, simply because the Oilers forward corps doesn’t match well with what the Blues are looking for, and, while Shattenkirk is an upgrade, he’s not a true number one, and therefore wouldn’t warrant the return of our top four fourwards. Whether Chiarelli can pull a deal like this off is another question, but its a question worth asking.