Earlier today, well-known Oilersphere commenter/writer Dennis gave me a smallish challenge:
"Jon: If you have the time, here's an idea I'd like to see explored and you've been doing a lot of good work lately and I think you might be up for it.
Over at LT's site, someone brought up the idea of dealing away Nilsson for a dman that's strong at evens and then you could move Souray's pact off the books and slot Schremp into Nilsson's spot on the Kids Line.
So, see if you can spy out some teams that have a hard time drafting and developing offensive talent while also possessing a bevy of young D; one of whom has already played top four EV min and might be ready to take the next step.
And then we could have a possible scenario that could support such a move."
I should preface this by saying I'm a really big Robert Nilsson fan. I'm such a big fan that I'm not even sure I'd trade him before Cogliano. The scenario outlined makes a lot of sense, however; the Oilers are chalk full of offensive prospects that will need an opportunity relatively soon (Schremp and Potulny stand out right now) and Nilsson's spot is prime real estate. Nilsson is also insanely moveable, due to his youth, cap hit, and not insignificant talent.
So, hypothetically, our teem needs to meet three criteria:
a) short of offensive talent
b) possesses enough young defenseman to move a legitimate player to us and
c) is plausibly willing to make such a trade with Edmonton
Criteria C automatically removes Anaheim, Buffalo and the Northwest Division, in my opinion. It also gives us a smaller number of teams to work with:
Atlanta - fails b (Enstrom, Exelby and Hainsey might qualify, but none are appealing for various reasons)
Carolina - fails a (have 8 players that could plausibly be top-6 forwards)
Detroit - fails a and b
Florida - fails b (only Bouwmeester would be of interest, and I suspect it would take more than Nilsson to bring him to Edmonton)
Los Angeles - fails c (do they even have 6 defensemen yet? If not for Lombardi's stated opinion on Souray, this would be a possible destination for him)
Montreal - fails a and b
New Jersey - fails a and b
New York Islanders - fails c (they've already given up on Nilsson; wouldn't do to bring him back)
New York Rangers - fails c (only four experienced defenders at this point in time)
Ottawa - fails a (plenty of talented forwards, including some youth)
Philadelphia - fails a (7 guys, by my count, who are in a prime scoring role, plus a few others who could fill in)
Phoenix - fails b (surprisingly bare of young defenders, although I'd love to see the Oilers acquire Derek Morris)
Pittsburgh - fails b (only Whitney and Letang in the 25-and-under club)
St. Louis - fails b (barring an Erik Johnson trade, that is)
San Jose - fails b (finally finished trading away their young defenseman; only Vlasic remains)
Tampa Bay - fails a (by my count, 17 NHL-calibre forwards)
Toronto - fails b (Anton Stralman: an island?)
For those of you following along at home, this leaves us with six teams worth further consideration: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas and Nashville in the West, Boston and Washington in the East.
Let’s start in the East.
Boston has two young blueliners who might fit Dennis’ criteria: Mark Stuart and Dennis Wideman. Stuart played against the 6th toughest competition among regular defenders and was still outscored, while Dennis Wideman is something of a powerplay ace that played tough competition with good teammates and came out ahead. Wideman, however, fits into the Gilbert-model of defender; in other words, his skills would be replicated on the Oilers roster and I can’t see him as a major player of interest to Kevin Lowe.
Washington has an incredible stable of young defensemen and some holes when it comes to secondary scoring up front, so they make an incredibly appealing partner (at least, in Dennis’ hypothetical scenario). Even eliminating Mike Green (big money, duplicated skills, more than Nilsson to acquire) we have Shaone Morrisonn (toughest competition, 2.21 GFON/60 and 2.35 GAON/60), Jeff Schultz (4th toughest competition, 2.82 GFON/60 and 2.29 GAON/60) and Milan Jurcina (5th toughest competition, 2.33 GFON/60 and 2.22 GAON/60). Shultz is huge (6’6", 225lbs) but not overly physical while Morrisonn brings nice size (6’3", 205lbs) and a bit of a mean streak. Milan Jurcina plays physically but probably isn’t ready for a shutdown role.
Turning our attention to the West, Chicago has an embarrassment of riches on defense, and the two guys who play the toughest minutes, Duncan Keith (0.91 PTS/60, 2.69 GFON/60, 1.98 GAON/60) and Brent Seabrook (0.77 PTS/60, 2.52 GFON/60, 2.18 GAON/60) would both be of serious interest to the Oilers. Both are complete players who emerged last season as legitimate top pairing options. Both block shots, while Seabrook brings a physical game and powerplay prowess (4.01 PTS/60). I can’t imagine either are available, but either would certainly be welcome, with my preference being Seabrook given his physical edge.
Columbus has two younger players playing easy, easy minutes in Kris Russell and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. Both finished in the red, and neither should be of interest. Rotislav Klesla, on the other hand, is a defenseman I’ve always liked (and can imagine Ladislav Smid turning into). He’s had unfair expectations because of his draft position (Minnesoat grabbed Gaborik- I imagine fans in Columbus imagine what would have happened if the Wild had picked 4th and the Blue Jackets 3rd but honestly, with Doug Maclean in charge, it would only have prolonged the inevitable). Klesla played the 3rd toughest minutes on his team (taking into account the departed Adam Foote) and finished with a 2.02 GFON/60 and 1.80 GAON/60. He’s also a penalty-killing whiz, and may be available.
Dallas has a group of four young defenseman, almost all of whom (with the exception of Matt Niskanen) were hidden behind Zubov/Norsttom/Robidas whenever possible. Niskanen tied with Zubov for 2nd toughest opponents,, and played with very poor teammates. Despite this, he averaged 0.79 PTS/60 and had a 2.98 GFON/60 and a 2.18 GAON/60. Seems like the real thing to me, plus he’s a Finn. He isn’t terribly physical, and his skills are replicated to some extent. Nicklas Grossman played the 5th toughest competition, with poor teammates, and had a 2.71 GFON/60 and 1.91 GAON/60, so he’s undoubtedly ready to move up the depth chart. He’s also relatively physical without taking stupid penalties. Daley played similar minutes to Niskanen, although with a 1.91 GFON/60 and 2.34 GAON/60, and Fistric came in just above even in easy minutes.
Nashville is well-known around the league as a first-rate drafter/developer of young defensemen, and that trend is evident in their roster. In terms of quality of competition, the youngsters were all over the board. Hamhuis (1st), Suter (3rd), Weber (5th) and Koistinen (7th) all played minutes close to or within their ability. Hamhuis finished with a -0.28 goal differential, Suter with a +.30, Weber with a -0.08, while Koistinen finished with a 3.68 GFON/60 and 2.09 GAON/60 playing in extremely favourable situations. Either Hamhuis or Suter would fit in very nicely on the Oilers roster.
My personal favourites in this group, both in terms of ability and price, are Seabrook, the two guys in Washington, and Matt Niskanen. Who do you like?