Well, it’s that time of year again that the Oilers begin searching for right-handed defensemen. Now, we all know about the high-value targets like Hamonic, or the RFAs like Vatanen and Trouba, or the guys with one year left on their deal with high value like Shattenkirk or Burns. However, even if the Oilers obtain someone who might be considered elite, there’s still a missing hole to address on the second pairing. It might be that the Oilers manage to land two of this list, but if they don’t, the Oilers need a backup plan.
Assuming the best odds are landing a player like Hamonic, it means the Oilers need a second pairing defenseman with high powerplay skills who’s naturally a right side defenseman. Now, for this spot, we’re not necessarily looking for a long-term player, but an older (and still effective) defenseman. Likely, to get a good deal, they’ll have high dollars on their contract but short term.
The targets who fit this are:
Dennis Wideman, 33 years old, natural RHD, with one year left at $5.25mil
Cody Franson, 28 years old, natural RHD, with one year left at $3.325mil
Dan Girardi, 31 years old, natural RHD, with far too many years left at $5.7mil
Mark Streit, 38 years old, left handed defenseman who can play right side, one year left at $5.25mil
Matthew Carle, 31 years old, left handed defenseman who can play right side, two years left at $5.5mil
James Wisniewski, 32 years old, natural RHD with one year left at $5.5mil
First off, let’s eliminate the ones with too many years left. That means you, Dan Girardi.
The rest have either one or two years left, and with the exception of Franson, are all in the $5.25-$5.5mil range, which the Oilers can afford under the cap.
Now, as a comparator, we’ll use the Oilers existing top right-hand defenseman, the much maligned Mark Fayne. Let’s see how they stack up…
I won’t go into detailed analysis of each option, we’ll use a simple warrior chart (courtesy of ownthepuck.blogspot.ca) to narrow the list.
First, Dennis Wideman:
So, what do we see here? Wideman is a very good point producer, especially relative to Fayne, but he’s a black hole defensively who doesn’t even have 3rd pairing defensive skills. Ok, this isn’t a great solution, he goes in the no pile.
Next up, Cody Franson:
Well, although his offense (surprisingly since he was considered an offensive defenseman) isn’t all that good, his defensive numbers are all very good, and he still provides far more offense than Mark Fayne. He’s on the 3rd pairing in Buffalo due to Bogosian’s place on the 2nd pair, and Ristolainen’s hard charge up to be the top pairing guy, but he’d be a defensive upgrade on Fayne and his assists at least are second pairing level. Sure, his overall goals and points per 60 isn’t really at a 2nd pairing level, but this is compensated by his top-two defensive play.This player would be an upgrade, and his contract price is agreeable. We’ll put him in the yes pile.
Next, Mark Streit:
Ok, so he’s older, and he is valuable to Philly, but from the sounds of it they may need the cap space, and they need to upgrade their Top-6 scoring desperately. As we can see, other than shot suppression, he’s a very good overall defenseman and would be an elite second pairing option, even at his age. He also goes into the yes pile, he’d be a good mentor and he can still run a powerplay.
After that, Matthew Carle:
Well.. Decent offense.. Brutal defense.. Shows how good Victor Hedman is that he’s basically carrying Carle this playoffs on the top pairing.. This is a clear pass..
Lastly, we have James Wisniewski:
Well, he’s not much of a goal suppressor, but past that, his stats are either second pairing level (for goal generation and shot supression) or first pairing level. This is a player who can be considered a very quality second-pairing option, and one who can slide into a top pairing and probably perform well with a solid partner. He’d be a serious upgrade on the second pairing, and if worst came to worse, we could call him a top pairing option next to Klefbom for next season.
So, we have Cody Franson, Mark Streit, and James Wisniewski left.
Of those three, any of them would be upgrades on the second pairing, with Franson or Streit fitting in well here. Wisniewski, however, might be an intriguing option for the top pairing if the other options fall through, and he’d definitely be worth going after for our second pairing.
Now, when it comes to Streit or Wisniewski, both teams would want scoring. It’s a weakness for Philly and Carolina right now. In the case of Streit, Philly could use a winger with size, and they need some cap savings. Here, the option might be to dangle Benoit Pouliot. Although he’s a frequent whipping boy for the Oilers, he’s aggressive, skilled, and at a $4mil cap hit would be a $1.5mil savings for the Flyers. He’s familiar with the East, and he’s the type of player who might fit in well for their system. Right now, he’s slotting in as the 3rd line LW for the Oilers, so he’s a good player to deal here.
Looking at Carolina, this is a team wanting scoring, and they’d ideally like a scoring center. However, Nugent-Hopkins is an overpay here, but we do have a scoring forward and a replacement veteran right side defenseman that may pique their interest. If we were to send them Mark Fayne, along with Nail Yakupov, their combined salaries are roughly equivalent to the Wiz himself. Carolina would get some possible Top-6 scoring to add to their mix, as well as a replacement defenseman with low term and a low hit who has thrived in the East before. This, again, may interest them, although it’s hard to say what they’d want for a player who essentially has never played a game for him. When he was dealt from Columbus to Anaheim, he brought back an overpriced Top-9 forward, a forward prospect and a 2nd round pick. When he was sent to Carolina, Anaheim took a backup goaltender in trade, since he turned out to be a bad fit in Anaheim he was “sold low”. I’d guess that a Yakupov + Fayne for Wisniewski and someone who could step in for the Oilers at 3C would be a workable deal here for both teams.
Lastly, when it comes to Franson, Buffalo’s ok on forward, but they could use some potential on the left side of their defense. We have some potential on our left side in Jordan Oesterle, Joey LaLeggia, Dillon Simpson, and the like who could probably convince Buffalo to make a deal here.
Now, I’ll admit, these aren’t the sexy names we’re looking for. Having said that, what if the Oilers did all 3 deals? We deal Benoit Pouliot, Mark Fayne, Nail Yakupov, and Jordan Oesterle, and we obtain the Wiz, Streit and Franson and some form of 3rd line center.
Our defense is now:
And we let Nurse go down and dominate in the AHL for a season.
Total cost on the back-end.. Well, Franson and Fayne are a salary wash, so we’re adding about $11 million in salary there. Subtract Gryba and Nikitin from that, we’re adding about $5 million to the back-end.
At forward, we’re subtracting about $6.5 million also, and functionally we lose our 3rd line LW and our 3rd line RW, although both could be considered Top-6 players for their new clubs, it’s a price the Oilers can afford to pay.
So, we end up with a bit of cap room, and the forward core doesn’t take much of a hit. Optimally, we’d land that true “1st pairing” guy in a big deal, and then land Wisniewski, Franson or Streit (in that order) for the second pairing, and the 3rd can have a few options.
I’ll ask you sport fans. Although that D doesn’t have the star we want, they’d likely be a damn sight better on the powerplay, penalty kill and 5 on 5, and we wouldn’t be giving up anything high dollar to get them. Let me know your thoughts!
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