Yesterday, I took a look at scenarios which might, maybe, possibly exist that could justify the trading of Darnell Nurse. Let's just say the reviews on that idea were mixed (I think at least 4 people agreed with me). Regardless of your opinion on that suggestion, the underlying sentiment is that the Oilers should be exploring every possible avenue to finally fix the near-decade long problem with a sub-standard blueline.
This brings me to Jonathan Drouin.
Now, the Oilers don't really have an opening for Drouin in their top six, and really need to be focused primarily on addressing their blueline. It's obvious Drouin is not being dealt to Edmonton, but I'm not so sure there isn't a scenario that exists where the Oilers could leverage Drouin's name being out there on the trade market to manufacture a deal that gets them some of the help they need on the blueline.
Vatanen is a good example of a player who is an excellent fit for the Oilers. He's young (24), a right shot defenceman, he's a strong possession player and contributes heavily on both special teams and he's shown to be a strong point producer in his few years in the league. Beyond not being 6'5" 215 lbs. which matters a great deal to some people, Vatanen checks all the boxes in regards to being a big part of the solution in Edmonton for a long time if they could acquire him. He's also on an inexpensive deal that expires this summer and is in a position to sign a lengthy deal at a reasonable cap hit similar to what the Oilers have done with Oscar Klefbom.
Here's a quick look at Vatanen's on-ice impact:
So, accepting the premise that Vatanen is a great choice for the Oilers to pursue, what does he have to do with Jonathan Drouin?
The rarely-seen "Three-Way-Deal"
The Ducks are open to moving Vatanen due to an over-abundance of good young defencemen and the emergence of Shea Theodore this season. Their goal is to bring in some offensive help for a team that has struggled to score this season. What they ideally want is a LW to play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and according to many reports, they think Drouin might just be that guy, which makes a lot of sense. There's just one problem with that though...Yzerman is reportedly considering asking for a young forward in return for Drouin, which is why names like Robbie Fabbri from the Blues have been tossed around in recent weeks.
Hey, Nail Yakupov is still young!
Yes. Yes he is. He's also inexpensive due to the Oilers signing him to a bridge deal rather than going with a longer-term higher cap hit contract like they did with their previous first overall picks in Hall and RNH. Yak is signed for another year at the reasonable cap hit of $2.5M and will still be under team control after that, which is something Yzerman covets...long-term team control.
While deals of this nature are frequently not as simple as one-for-one-for-one, the basic framework of such a swap would see Anaheim get the player they covet in Drouin, and the Lightning get a young, affordable, high-end talent in Yakupov who has shown the versatility to play both wings. Meaning he could step into the role they envisioned for Drouin on the left side, or slide over to the right should the team need a new shooter if Steven Stamkos walks in the off-season. Edmonton of course ends up with the young, established defenceman they have been looking for and everyone potentially comes out satisfied. I can certainly see a scenario where Edmonton needs to sweeten the offer slightly to appease Tampa, as Yak's market value is likely below Drouin's right now, but I think that's a plausible scenario to sort out.
Is this likely?
Of course not. I'd never classify any potential trade proposal as "likely". In a league where trades don't happen very often, and three-way trades are almost like unicorns, I'm not exactly expecting to see such a move come to fruition, but as I noted above, I think any scenario that could plausibly lead to Edmonton finding balance on their roster for the first time in years should be aggressively explored. This certainly qualifies as something worthy of consideration.
I'm curious if such a scenario is something that has been discussed in Pete Chiarelli's office in recent weeks. I certainly hope so since they should be leaving no stone un-turned to fix the travesty that is the right-side of the Oiler blueline.