This past Monday, Lowetide and I discussed players that might be shipped away at the deadline and what the Oilers could possibly get in return. Teddy Purcell is the most likely forward to be dealt considering his expiring contract and his high trade value. And on the blueline, the Oilers could potentially trade away Mark Fayne who has struggled at times under the new coaching staff or Eric Gryba whose contract is expiring this summer and who might be of value to a playoff-bound team looking for a 6th/7th defencemen. Justin Schultz is another prime candidate to be shipped out as he hasn't exactly proven himself to be a $3.9 million player.
Now obviously the Oilers can't get rid of all three of these defencemen as they play on the right-side. But based on the possession numbers and the contract situations going into the summer, something has to give. And now that they've claimed a right shooting defencemen in Adam Clendening, who is touted as an offensive player, something is likely to give in the next few weeks.
To get a sense of the value each defencemen brings to the team and the different lines, I compiled the Corsi For % of each player with the different centermen at even-strength this season (Source: Hockey Analysis). I took this idea from TSN's Travis Yost who did a piece on the Lightning this week, which is well worth a read. I've excluded Connor McDavid only because he dressed for 13 games and hadn't played more than 100 minutes at even-strength with any of the Oilers defencemen.
First thing that jumps out is how well young Leon Draisaitl has played with each defenceman, a sure sign that he has been a real driver playing alongside Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is obviously struggling this season likely due to some sort of injury or ailment, but he does relatively well with both Eric Gryba or Mark Fayne and not so much with the Sekera/Nurse combination. Anton Lander is an interesting player in that he does well possession-wise with Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson, but completely craters with Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse or Justin Schultz, all of which have played a lot of minutes this season.
As for the defencemen, we see how young Klefbom has played with all four lines this season, a good indicator that he has been a driver anytime he's on the ice. The rest of the defencemen post different numbers depending on the centerman, with most doing better with Draisaitl and worse with Letestu or Lander. Brandon Davidson by eye and by numbers has had a good season with the Oilers, with the club often getting a higher share of shot attempts when he's on the ice (CF% Rel = +4.2). I was a little surprised by the 59.1% Corsi For percentage Davidson has posted with Lander in over 90 minutes of ice time together this season. One of the few positives of Lander's season I guess.
I really don't have much to add regarding Darnell Nurse. He's a fantastic prospect that's getting way too many minutes at the NHL level. He has struggled now for months and the coaching staff continues to deploy him like a top line player. His performance has really depended on who his defensive partner is and who the forwards are, sure signs that he's not quite ready for the minutes he's been receiving. Same goes for Justin Schultz who has posted similar numbers in the past, having relied on the best forwards on the team to generate shots and produce points.
And as for the Gryba vs Fayne debate, the two are posting some similar numbers with the various centermen. Worth nothing that both do worse with Letestu, who has seen a steady increase in ice time recently. It'll be interesting to see how these possession numbers shake out by the end of the year. I can see the Oilers extending Gryba for a few seasons to play in a strictly depth role, but it should not come at the expense of Fayne who has a track record of success playing top-line minutes against the best competition.
Based on these numbers, I'd say that the left side is pretty solid with Klefbom, Davidson and Sekera moving forward, and with Nurse developing hopefully at the proper level. This shouldn't be news to anyone, but the right side is in need of an overhaul, with Schultz as the prime candidate to be shipped out by the deadline. Sekera does have the ability to play on the right side, but there's still a pressing need to bring in at least two NHL-caliber defencemen by the start of next season.
As always, curious to hear the community's thoughts and what expectations are for the trade deadline.