Oilers Trade Landscape to Change with Injury to Nugent-Hopkins?

Poor Nugey, out with a fractured sternum, which is ridiculous by the way. The Oilers, and more importantly Todd McLellan, are now forced to go with McDavid and Draisaitl down the middle. Iiro Pakarinen is back up from his destruction of the AHL to hopefully help on the PK (at home).

FYI: Lowetide has a similar post up at the Athletic. If you’re not signed up, do so through my link here and I’ll get a tidy little gift certificate for $10 from Amazon and a hardy handshake from me if we ever meet. It includes a free 7-day trial so you can try The Athletic on for size free and see if they enjoy the in-depth, ad-free coverage on the site. If you don’t feel it’s worth the $4.49/month, cancel anytime during the trial before getting charged.

I just want to answer the question presented in the title quickly and if you’d like to read on to get a more detailed answer (albeit a bit unorganized), you can continue. It’s game day and I’d rather not waste TOO much of your time, that’s what we have Oilers Twitter for 🙂

Answer: RNH’s injury will not change the Oilers trade landscape. If there’s a team that wants him and is willing to pay, he’ll be traded. IF not, he’ll be an Oiler after the deadline and most likely into next season. This isn’t a playoff team today but ask me in a month and we might have a different answer because if there’s any team in the NHL that is capable of winning 85% of their remaining games, it’s this Oilers squad.

So, we’re about to see what the team might look like sans RNH but with Leon and Connor running their own shows. If I’m not mistaken I believe the latest line combos have Strome as the 3rd line pivot and Letestu as the 4C. I would prefer Khaira to be the 3C myself but I believe it was Woodguy who said that Strome should actually move up with Caggiula to play with McDavid on Lowetide’s show this week thus moving Puljujarvi and Lucic to Draisaitl’s line and Maroon down to RNH’s. That way the unicorns are still present but of course, that was before the extent of the RNH injury was known.

Speaking of Woodguy, I guess he’s not a fan of developing players…

Isn’t that a line of bullshit if you’d ever read one.

I’ve got time for McLeod but this is where the analytics community loses its traction with folks who are on the fence. Could you imagine if there was no Twitter to be a dick on?

Listen, if Nurse is already leading the team in scoring from the blueline, it’s obvious some offence is coming and whether that’s now or in 2 years, he’s going to get paid. Not giving him the reps to become a better dman would be an egregious error on management’s and/or the coach’s parts. This isn’t a 7 game “heater”, it’s a 46 game progression. Not only that but just because a player hasn’t played on the PP in his previous 3 years doesn’t mean he can’t do it now or he’s not equipped to do it. He doesn’t have to score goals to be an effective piece of the powerplay either as you’ll see below.

Moving on…

These are the lines as of practise yesterday:

The PP units have been altered slightly as well.

Now with Nuge out 5-6 weeks, how is that going to change what direction the Oilers go on the trade market and what kind of effect will his absence have on the Oilers’ roster?

Well, we can already see that the special teams units have been affected. The 2nd unit has no true playmaker but maybe that’s not such a huge deal. I put it out on Twitter and Kurt Leavins suggested that McLellan might just load up one unit and run that group for 1:30 of the 2-minute man-advantage. I remember back in the early 90s that the Pittsburgh Penguins would run Mario Lemieux’s unit for nearly the entire PP and it was so deadly that they were rarely out there for more that 1:30. The downside to this tactic might be having to run your bottom 6ers immediately after the PP and risk a bad matchup vs. the other team’s better players.

This season Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took over Jordan Eberle’s scoring, so we may very well get hit there too. That being said, Nuge only had two goals in the last month, so I might be wrong there.

The Oilers PK could take a hit as well. Nugent-Hopkins has been a mainstay on the kill since he joined the team and I find him to be a good penalty-killer. Will the road PK continue to be top-5 in the NHL with RNH on the IR?

On the other end of the spectrum here is an opportunity. When one player goes down with an injury, it opens up the door for another player to take advantage of the situation. I believe that most fans are thinking that person will be Ryan Strome. I think it will be Jujhar Khaira. But it’s entirely possible that it’ll be both.

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Bumping Strome up to the 1st unit PP might be exactly what he needs to kick start some production out of the guy and I really love Khaira on the PK. I think he’s just as good of a player as Benoit Pouliot in that role.

Where do the Oilers go from here with the trade deadline approaching fast?

I am of the belief there are two ways they can go:

  • Go for it! – Basically, try and do the improbable and make the playoffs. Make trades that’ll better the club more than weaken it.
  • FIRE SALE! – Concede the season and make plans for the summer and next season.

There’s actually a third way to go and that’s simply staying status quo.

There’s a belief that the Oilers really need that right-handed PP guy who can improve the Oilers’ transition game but if we look at some of the teams who have top PPs we might be tempted to believe that a top RH’d defenseman isn’t what the team needs for its PP but more for its transitions.

2017/18 Top PP Teams (PP%/goals):

  1. Pittsburgh (26.9%/46) – 3 goals from dmen (Letang has 2, Oleksiak has 1)
  2. Winnipeg (25.5%/42) – 4 goals from dmen (Myers has 3, Byfuglien has 1)
  3. Tampa Bay (24.4%/39) – 3 goals from dmen (Sergachev has 2, Hedman has 1)
  4. Nashville (23.6%/38) – 12 goals from dmen (Josi has 5, Ekholm has 4, Subban has 3)
  5. San Jose (22.1%/34)- 7 goals from dmen (Burns has 4, Heed has 2, Vlasic has 1)

Edmonton’s PP is 27th in the NHL and running at a blistering 15.4% and they’ve only scored 19 times with the man advantage with Oscar Klefbom scoring the only tally from the point on said PP.

Kind of a long way of saying that maybe the Oilers don’t need to pay a premium price for an effective RH’d defenseman who can run the PP. Maybe if they’re going to make a big move using a Nugent-Hopkins or a Klefbom, that they go for an elite RH’d 2-way defender who is an upgrade on the current personnel offensively.

But I digress (sort of). Despite Nugent-Hopkins being hurt, there’d still be teams interested in him, like the Montreal Canadiens, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Arizona Coyotes, and the Carolina Hurricanes.

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A wild card might be the Colorado Avalanche though. Now that they’ve got Samuel Girard running their PP due to Tyson Barrie’s injury, is there an opportunity there for the Avs to send Barrie to Edmonton for RNH to upgrade their 2C position from Carl Soderberg?

The Boston Bruins are looking to add a LH’d dman apparently and if it weren’t for the strained relationship between Chiarelli and the Bruins brass, I’d think there would be a real chance at Chiarelli being able to strike a deal there.

Those would be summer moves though.

Realistically, the UFAs are gonzo. I’m not sure if Slepyshev will find a new home next month or head back to Russia this summer. So what we’ll be looking at is Chiarelli thinning out the wings even more so and replacing those players with temporary solutions with an eye to the summer where he’ll (if he’s around) sort out the flanks then.

Does that mean Ty Rattie and Brad Malone are coming up from Bakersfield? Does it mean we’ll finally see Slepyshev (if he survives the deadline and McLellan) up in a top-6 role? If those players were successful in their short stints, would you sit on them and look for them to continue their performances into 2017/18 or would you try to deal them or simply say thanks for helping out and let them walk?

If Chiarelli and his team decide to take a mulligan this year I’d be very excited to see who he brings in but concerned for the compete level of the team for the rest of the campaign. It’s been a bad luck year which keeps getting compounded with injuries like the one to RNH.

Would you be okay if he moved out some of the youthful players who are RFAs this summer like Drake Caggiula or Matt Benning in return for some older players who have term left on their deals? Maybe you trade both for Andrew Shaw or simply one of them for Charles Hudon (sniper with a poor sh%).

Let us know in the comments under our newest addition to the Beer League Heroes YouTube channel. We’ve got a shift-by-shift of Rasmus Dahlin’s from the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medal Game. Check it out and please SUBSCRIBE! I’m on the hunt to 1000 subscribers (currently at 638)!

Beer League Hero Written by:

I'm the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I've been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I'll never leave my Oilers, no matter what! They're with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • Lee Dicken

    Almost every top team is built by the draft, this draft has 3-4 top end right D men in it. Trying to built a top team via trades, you have to win almost every trade, does that sound like PC?
    I think the team can get a 24-31 pick for Marroon, This year is done, they should be planning for next season. They also have 2 second round picks.
    I would not trade RNH unless you win the trade, he plays the most hard minutes and there is no one on the farm that is replacing that. It always gets back to depth and your prospects.
    Most of the top teams have a 4th or 5th round draft pick that makes the big team and plays big minutes for them. The Oiler’s, not so much.
    This is where the Oilers have to get better, their drafting (ignoring the 1st over all’s) in the last decade has been amongst the worst in the league and because of this they are constantly over paying free agents or trading away top assets.
    I’m ok with them not making the playoffs this year, hell even next year if it means the team finally has the depth it needs to compete for many years after.
    You need more than McDavid to be a winner.
    Trying to hit the home run trade when you have a track record of whiffing when it really matters is not a great plan. And paying players like Lucic too much and way too much term smacks of desperation, again if they had the depth they wouldn’t have to put the team in cap misery.