For the first time in their history, the Edmonton Oilers are about to graduate too many defensemen and may eventually have to offload some before losing them to waivers. If we make a list of players who can reasonably be described as “legit” NHL players/prospects 23 and under (and playing pro in North America), we get this:
- Justin Schultz (23)
- Phil Larsen (23)
- Brandon Davidson (22)
- Martin Marincin (21)
- Oscar Klefbom (20)
- Martin Gernat (20)
- David Musil (20)
The club also has Darnell Nurse (18) and Dillon Simpson (20) on their way to pro hockey. The five best prospects on the list (to my eye Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Simpson) represent an outstanding group, several of whom could join Justin Schultz along with Smid, Petry and others at the NHL level someday soon.
The Oilers have some pressing needs (goaltending is a major organizational issue) and it’s unlikely all of these young men will have their careers with the Oilers. The reason this is of interest for me is because of the news out of Toronto in Elliotte Friedman’s 30 thoughts yesterday:
- 14. There is definitely some level of conversation going on between other teams and Toronto involving Jake Gardiner. I despise the word “shopped,” as it’s more like a feeling-out process. If the Maple Leafs do decide to do it, it’s going to be for a young asset or assets. So, you have to look at teams with talented young players. This is PURELY my speculation, but if teams like Dallas, Florida or Minnesota would be interested, you could see a match.
I don’t think Toronto and Edmonton match up (Oilers have splendid young forwards, but don’t have such abundance they can trade one for Gardiner, whose skill–while considerable–is duplicated on the current Oil roster), but do believe the Oilers will one day be in the same position. It could come next fall when:
- Klefbom may have an NHL job
- Nurse could be pushing for an NHL job
- Marincin should be pushing for an NHL job
The club has Andrew Ference and Ladislav Smid under contract next season, and both Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry will be RFA (all others UFA). The Oilers are spending $6.75M cap hit on Smid/Ference next year, and it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get Justin Schultz under contract (with Petry’s deal being dear, too).
Will Craig MacTavish trade one of the “big four” (Smid, Petry, Ference, J Schultz) by next summer, elevating one or more of Klefbom, Nurse or Marincin? Or will he instead sign the RFA’s and slow play Marincin and Klefbom while sending Nurse back to junior?
It’s a question that is still months away from needing an answer, but it’s very important to get it right. Thoughts?
(photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)