So, at this point of the year, we’re left wondering with these two questions. First, what is a quality Top-6 NHL winger worth, and second, what is the going price for a quality Top-4 right-handed defenseman.
In an effort to answer these burning questions while I wait for the snow to melt so I can start golfing, because, well, that’s what us Oilers fans do in the spring, here’s my best guess.
To do this, we can essentially just look at the deals for defensemen, there’s really only been 8 deals involving high-end right-handed defensemen in recent history, and here’s how they break down:
- Jason Demers, originally a 7th round pick, had played parts of 6 seasons with the San Jose Sharks when he was dealt to the Dallas Stars for a 3rd round pick and Brenden Dillon. At that point of his career, he could safely be considered a 4/5 defenseman who has flourished in Dallas with more opportunity;
- He was dealt for a defenseman who was younger and considered to have more upside at the time, and who was 6’3 225lbs.
- Kevin Shattenkirk, in his first season with the Avalanche, was dealt along with a 2nd round pick and Chris Stewart, at the time considered a Top-6 NHL power forward, for Erik Johnson, a first round pick, and a depth forward;
- Once again, we have defensemen going both ways in this deal as a balance, and both were considered quality young defensemen with high upside;
- Matt Niskanen was dealt, along with James Neal, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Goligoski, who at the time was considered a potentially premier offensive defenseman;
- Again, we see a defenseman for a defenseman swap, with the better defensemen resulting in the inclusion of a scoring winger;
- Tyler Myers, along with pending UFA winger Drew Stafford, a pair of prospects and a first round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for Evander Kane and Zack Bogosian;
- Once again we see scoring forwards to balance the deal in favour of who gets the better defenseman, but again there are defensemen moving in the deal;
Now, to look at the deals where no other defensemen were involved:
- Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi and a first. Now, it has to be noted here, Burns was as much a winger as a defenseman at this time, and therefore was dealt for another winger with an included draft pick;
- Dustin Byfuglien (along with Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Akim Aliu) for a 1st, 2nd, and a selection of depth forwards. Once again, Byfuglien was considered as much a power forward, and therefore his price was more along the lines of a scoring forward;
- Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. This was the most recent move, where a larger 1st line center was moved for a player who, although having potential, was a 2nd pairing right-hand defenseman on his team;
- Johnny Boychuk for two 2nds and a conditional 3rd. It has to be noted that the Islanders caught Boston in a bad cap situation and was able to take advantage of it due to their cap space. This deal, although fans scream for the Oilers to make a similar one, was lighting in a bottle and is unlikely to be duplicated;
- Dougie Hamilton was dealt for a 1st and two 2nd round picks when he didn’t sign his RFA deal;
So, to summarize, we can discount the Boychuk deal as a rarity, and we can consider the Burns and Byfuglien deals to essential be for forwards (at the time). That leaves us with the various deals where they are essentially Best Defensemen in the Deal for Scoring Forward and Lesser Defenseman, and then the deal of a 2nd pairing with potential Defenseman for a Top-3 Center. This shows us how much value is generally placed on a right-handed defenseman, and we can expect one of our younger left-handed defenseman will be going alongside any winger we deal to obtain such a right-handed defenseman.
Now, one can debate the quality of players such as Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov or Taylor Hall, but as becomes clear, no one deals a quality right-handed defenseman for a winger unless a secondary defenseman was included. Goligoski for Niskanen and Neal are an example of this. The only real exception would be the Burns scenario, which would still place a rough price of approximately Jordan Eberle and our first round pick to make that deal happen. Essentially, any deal the Oilers do will probably have to include one of Oesterle, Davidson or even Klefbom along with a winger to get that quality right-side defenseman, or else our first-round pick plus a winger. The only exception would be if the Oilers chose to deal Nugent-Hopkins, who may at best on his own fetch a right-handed defenseman with “potential”.