When the dust settled around the blockbuster deal that saw Nashville and Columbus exchange marquee young players, – defenceman Seth Jones and center Ryan Johansen – my first impression was that the Edmonton Oilers missed out. The oil lost out on a right shot D with a ton of potential because we either didn’t have the assets to trade, or refused to do so.
However, later on in the day, after listenting to the Oiler’s produced and managed talk show, “Oiler’s Now” I had a different perspective, or at least some added perspective on where the Oiler’s brain trust is taking this team.
Host Bob Stauffer had spent the bulk of the show on the defensive, justifying why the Oiler’s hadn’t over-paid (like Columbus did) to acquire promising young defenceman Seth Jones. At the end of show he fielded the call from a “T” who said a number of things including that Stauffer was dumb, and that Nugent-Hopkins was not a strong enough asset to land Seth-Jones. That was enough to send Stauffer over the edge and the big man sent a venemous volley back to the caller.
“Actually T, you’re the dummy, because the Edmonton Oilers could have got Seth Jones for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. And he’s not the only defenseman he could have had out of Nashville. If you had a clue.”
Whoa momma. Looks like this is one of those moments when Stauffer gives up on being coy and is all in for being direct. My interpretation: the Oiler’s did enquire about Jones. No surprise. But whereas I (and many other fans) believed Nugent-Hopkins was not enough to land the burgeoning star defenceman, Stauffer lays waste to that notion.
The Oilers could have got Seth Jones, but decided the deal wasn’t fair value for the Nuge. Now that may sound off, base, considering what Nashville eventually received for Jones, but are we maybe under-valuing our asset and over-valuing Nashville’s because we are in such a deficit for right shot D?
If we look at Seth Jones’ performance with Nashville this season, he is far from a top pairing defenceman. He’s actually a third pairing defenceman. Which many argue is fair, considering he is playing behind Roman Josi, and Webber. But when we consider he is losing minutes to ostensibly lesser prospects lie Ryan Ellis and Matias Ekholm, there grows a concern.
According to Stauffer, he’s watched Jones a lot this year and noted he wasn’t exactly “hitting it out of the park.” My interpretation of that comment would be that Jones’ defensive game is deficient and he is undoubtedly lacking on the physical end. He’s not going to punish opposing forwards like, say, a Boychuck or Chara would. And when you look at what the Oilers are lacking on their blueline, that was doubtless a concern for Oiler’s GM Pete Chiarelli, who likely came to the conclusion the risk wasn’t worth the reward, and pulled the Nuge off the table.
Does Johansen’s Downside Make Him More Of A Gamble Than Nuge?
So then the additional question is, how did the Preds get an asset like Johansen when they gave up an asset that is clearly in his developmental stages? I would say there were a number of reasons for that, the biggest ones point to flaws in the Columbus organization. First off, they have a coach in Torterella who doesn’t seem to know how to get the best out of his star players. All you had to do was point to Torts insistence that the Sedins block shots to know that he doesn’t always put his players in a position to succeed. Johansen for his part, has a reputation of marching to his own drum and that doesn’t work for Torts.
Johansen is also not that far away from restricted free agency. Considering his representation and history, the Bluejackets could only look forward to a potentially long, messy negotiation that could end with Columbus losing Johansen and not getting fair value. That’s a concern.
Lastly Johansen has had health issues, specifically heart problems. If that did become a chronic issue he would have to retire, and the Bluejackets would be left with no return. Considering these factors, which Columbus likely did, their return was decent. They have one of the best young defencemen in the game with a ton of, “potential.”
Nuge Is Still Huge
Comparatively speaking, the Nuge is on a very nice contract for a top six player. He continues to round out his game, and is widely considered to be ahead of the curve with respect to two-way play and still has more upside. A 25 goal 70 point campaign was my expectation for this year, and while he’s not on pace for that, 60 points in a season is not too shabby (currently on pace for his standard 56 points) in today’s NHL, and that’s more or less where I believe he will end up.
Now, if we had a magical hockey trade wand and Roman Josi was coming back in exchange for the Nuge, I think we can all agree the Oiler’s would have to do that. But in this situation that was not the case. Stauffer refers to more than one Nashville defenceman being available and that was likely Ellis, or Ekholm, not Webber or Josi.
Landing Hamonic Now a Must
Now that the Jones’ transaction has happened you would have to think Chia and co are very focussed on in Travis Hamonic. They won’t be able fo give an equivalent top 4 D, which NYI wants, but a top 6 forward and decent defensive prospect should match Snow’s best offer. My concern is that since Chia over-paid for Griffin Reinhart, so Snow will believe he can really hit a home run on Hamonic, so there could be battle of wills here. At this point, my confidence remains with Chia.
As for the efficacy of Stauffer’s comments, I have to think he was telling the truth and not spinning. Chiarelli and McClellan’s vision of the future appears to be one where they can be dominant at both ends of the ice, and Stauffer’s comments reflect that, as the media division of the Edmonton Oiler’s should. So if the Oiler’s rob Peter to pay Paul, it won’t be an extreme exchange.