Ok, in response to the challenge I have tossed together a few thoughts. This is quick and dirty, so take it for what it is...
The Trade Deadline
Steve-o has some significant decisions to make prior to the trade deadline. He has Laddy Smid, Mark Fistric, Ryan Whitney, and Ryan Jones as impending free agents. He has too many 6/7 defensemen. And he has to decide is he a buyer, a seller, or both. Tough situation to be in when making decisions is not your strong suit. What to do, what to do? Presuming the Oilers are still within 4 points of a play-off spot, the Oilers should:
- Try and re-sign Ladislav Smid if his agent will do a deal for less than $3.8M per season. Target is $3.3M to $3.5M. If Smid wants $4M or higher, then the game changes. If he wants $4M without any movement restrictions, then I think I would re-sign him anyway. But, I would do so knowing that at some point in the coming 18 months, you are going to have to trade that contract. And if Zbynek Michalek can be traded, I think a $4M Smid could be traded as well. That buys you time to find a replacement. If he wants $4M or higher and a NTC, then I think you trade Smid at the deadline. Ideally, you would approach someone like the Pens looking for Joe Morrow or Simon Despres, offering a tough veteran for a less proven commodity. It would hurt to trade Smid, but the team needs to manage its cap situation and paying Smid more than $3.8 makes no sense longer term.
- Trade Ryan Whitney if you can find a taker. Deep teams that need a boost on the powerplay should find Whitney interesting, especially if they can give him some cover 5x5. With Corey Potter, Mark Fistric and Theo Peckham available to play the 6th defenseman role, the Oilers chances of their performance being materially impacted by the loss of Whitney is minimal.
- Trade Ryan Jones. While Jones has more proven offence than his potential replacement, Hartikainen, he is not a better hockey player. The Ryan Jones' of the world are often over-valued at the trade deadline and getting a pick for him which can used later as a trading chip is worth it.
- Take a first run at an impact defenseman. My targets would include Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera, Dmitry Kulikov, Keith Yandle and Karl Alzner. I say "first run" because these players are as or more likely to be traded in the off-season, so at worst case I would be starting the dialogue for the pre-draft period
- Myers - big defender, big contract, struggling in Buffalo, but has some upside. I don't know if Buffalo would ever trade him, but now is the time to ask. The core of the offer going the other way would be one of Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, Ales Hemsky, or Martin Marincin. Overall I assume the Sabres are looking for cap flexibility and would be looking for cheaper assets going back the other way, unless they want Hemsky.
- Sekera - a down year probably puts the price to get Sekera lower than any point in recent history. Starting point of the Oilers offer would be Musil, Marincin, or Teemu Hartikainen plus non-first round draft picks
- Alzner - The Capitals seem fairly weak on the RW and must be desperate to get Alex Ovechkin going by now. So, if I am the Oilers, I am dangling the sweet-passing Hemsky. In return, I am asking for Alzner. Maybe even try for a bigger trade with Alzner and Wilson for Hemsky, Musil, and Moroz/Simpson/Fistric? In pushing this deal, I am starting from the position that Hemsky is worth more than Alzner given Alzner's limited offense so far and the Caps dire need on the RW. Wilson is exactly the kind of player the Oilers drool over, so if Hemsky is worth a little more than Alzner, but Alzner and Wilson are worth more than Hemsky, then I send Alzner's eventual replacement in Musil the other way. To close, I try to sell Mitch Moroz as Wilson light, or Mark Fistric as a short term replacement, or Dillon Simpson as a possible gem if needed. I know this deal is a long shot, but if you were paying Ovechkin $9M-10M per year and he was struggling to score goals, how far would you go to help him be successful?
- Yandle - The Coyotes are deep defensively and have David Rundblad, Brandon Gormley and others pushing for Roster spots, so the writing is likely on the wall for Yandle, either at the deadline, but more likely at the draft. The problem for the Oilers is what the Yotes would want in return. Their forward ranks look weak so Don Maloney would probably be looking for proven scorer in return. The other complicating factor is the top 2 RW spots seem to be filled, so its centres and LWs they would be seeking. For the Oilers, that limits the option to Sam Gagner and Gagner. If I am the Oilers, that's a trade I consider at the draft, but I don't do at the deadline. But I may want to get the conversation started.
- Kulikov - The guy I wanted the Oilers to draft when they took Magnus Paajarvi. I like what Paajarvi brings, but if I could trade Paajarvi for Kulikov straight up, I would do it in a heartbeat. Starting point of an Oilers offer would include one of Paajarvi, Hemsky, Klefbom, or Musil. Then it's just about top ups required on either side to balance the deal. The other option is the Oilers 1st round pick this summer. If the Oilers are hovering around the 10th pick or lower then I probably am willing to trade the pick to the Panthers if I can get Kulikov at the deadline. At the draft, when I know exactly where I am drafting, I may or may not make the deal. But that's only if Dale Tallon is willing to deal, and if I were him, I wouldn't deal Kulikov.
I don't know if any of these trades would fly, and perceptions of the players involved undoubtedly vary, but these are conversations I would want to start with. If they don't fly, they don't fly. But you have to try.
Off-season to follow: What to do about Gagner?
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