The Edmonton Oilers begin the day tied for 24th in the NHL standings. They are an improved season year over year but there’s an outstanding chance to move up the overall standings and push for the second season. One hopes the organization feels a need to reward their fans for their long suffering.
I’m not sure which team needs the W more, but the Predators are having a helluva time on the road and Edmonton should not be happy with their home record. If the Oilers can win tonight and grab points from the two games this week things should look better by the weekend. That takes us to just over a week from the deadline and perhaps there’s a chance to add someone who can help now and in the future:
- Drew Stafford is available based on reports and that’s a big winger for a skill line. He’s a $4M cap hit for the next two seasons and is having a poor year (everyone in Buffalo outside Vanek is having a poor year) but might be an interesting addition. What would he cost? Are the Oilers a better team with Hemsky-Eberle-Stafford-Yakupov than they are now?
- Ryan Clowe is also available, he’s UFA at the end of the year and I can’t imagine the Oilers would be willing to give up anything but a draft pick for a rental. At 30, Clowe might be at the end of his time as a top 9F option (he hasn’t scored yet this season) but if the price is right Edmonton would do well to consider him.
If the Oilers plan on moving Yakupov to his natural position and adding to the blueline via trade, I suspect Ales Hemsky is vulnerable to trade. Is that a good idea? I don’t think it is. In terms of offense, Hemsky’s skills create an enormous number of chances for his line, and he’s certainly finding a way to impact things (mostly on the PP this year). If you look at the 5×5/60 numbers among forwards, and assume the Nuge will climb back to top 6 eventually, who are you going to move:
- Taylor Hall 2.60
- Sam Gagner 2.26
- Ales Hemsky 1.70
- Nail Yakupov 1.58
- Magnus Paajarvi 1.47
- Jordan Eberle 1.47
- Ryan Smyth 1.24
- Shawn Horcoff 1.21
- Lennart Petrell 0.97
- Ben Eager 0.89
- Eric Belanger 0.78
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 0.76
- Ryan Jones 0.57
Would I deal Hemsky? No damn way. I admittedly get stubborn on players, but my list of “must keep” forwards goes like this:
Yes, Paajarvi. He won’t be expensive (and the rest of that list will be, believe me) and the Oilers have suffered through the growing pains so let’s keep him around to enjoy the good times.
So, you ask, how are the Oilers going to find a big body for their top 6? Well, I think Hartikainen could help in that area and also believe we’re at a point where Taylor Hall can be considered ‘bona fide’ and no longer in need of protection (save for pre-game skate). Also, I think it is established that the cost of adding a protector who can also play hockey is so dear that it’s impossible to attain, so beyond trading for a guy like Stafford the options are limited. Better to see if Harski can fill that role methinks.
And for heaven’s sake keep Hemsky and Gagner. The wasted money won’t be on those contracts, it’ll be on the goalie they’re bringing in to push Dubnyk or some other free agent signing. If the Oilers need to unload salary, Nick Schultz is the answer not Hemsky–and I don’t think there will be a cap crunch this summer anyway.
Today, we begin a new feature called “Ask Ralph” in which a question about the roster is asked and we get to the bottom of the coach’s thinking. Today’s question: who do you consider to be your top 6 forwards? We begin by looking at this season’s even strength time-on-ice totals (10 games or more):
- Jordan Eberle 15:52 (up 1.5 minutes from one year ago)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 15:43 (up 1 minute from one year ago)
- Taylor Hall 15:05 (identical to one year ago)
- Sam Gagner 14:31 (identical to one year ago)
- Ales Hemsky 12:57 (down 2.5 minutes from one year ago)
- Nail Yakupov 11:31 (rookie)
Ryan Smyth was in last year’s top 6, he’s at 11:18 this season and that is down 3 minutes from a year ago. Ralph is running the kids, looking for goals, and he believes those #1 overalls, Gagner, Eberle and Hemsky are his best bet. The best argument for trading Hemsky is that Yakupov is going to be an impact player sooner than later (we all see it), and if he’s going to play RW the club will be dealing Eberle or Hemsky. The age of the cluster dictates Hemsky is vulnerable.
One interesting item: since Horcoff has returned, it’s the Nuge who has seen his icetime reduced. That injury is impacting him, suspect he’ll have surgery as soon as the playoff hopes fade to zero. I suspect that by the end of the season we’ll see Horcoff in or close to the top 6 in even strength minutes.
Signing Sam Gagner (and Ladislav Smid) should be a priority for the Oilers in the coming days and weeks. Let’s assume that the club signs those two players:
- G Devan Dubnyk ($3.5M)
- backup undecided
- D Ladislav Smid ($4.5M)-estimate
- D Nick Schultz ($3.5M)
- D Justin Schultz ($3.775M)
- D Jeff Petry ($1.75M)
- D Oscar Klefbom ($1.275M)
- D Corey Potter ($775k)
- C Shawn Horcoff ($5.5M)
- C Sam Gagner ($5M)-estimate
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ($3.775M)
- C Eric Belanger ($1.75M)
- C Anton Lander ($900k)
- L Taylor Hall ($6M)
- L Magnus Paajarvi ($2M)-estimate
- L Ryan Smyth ($2.25M)
- L Teemu Hartikainen ($1M)-estimate
- L Ben Eager ($1.1M)
- R Jordan Eberle ($6M)
- R Ales Hemsky ($5M)
- R Nail Yakupiv ($3.775M)
- R Mike Brown ($737k)
- 2013-14 CAP: $64,300,000
- Estimate above: $63,859,000
- That would leave $441,000 for a backup goalie and a top 4D. The Oilers are going to deal someone, now or at the deadline.