Like any hockey fan, I also occasionally take a look around the league and see which teams might be able to create “win-win” scenarios for one another by executing a trade that works to the benefit of both franchises. I think I see such an opportunity right now and it happens to involve the Edmonton Oilers, so I figured I should write a little something about it. Here goes...
Ok so let’s throw the deal out there right off the top and then I’ll get into why I think it works for both teams:
Jordan Eberle (RW) & Kris Russell (D)
Travis Hamonic (D) & Jaroslav Halak (G)
Why it works for the Oilers
First, the pros: From an obvious standpoint, Edmonton still needs a third piece to fill out the right side of their blueline, preferably in a top 4 role. While ideally that player would be a more offence-first player like a Justin Faulk or Tyson Barrie, those players don’t exactly fall off trees and Hamonic is a good player on an excellent contract for 3 more years beyond this one that has value beyond simply what he brings on the ice. At 26 he is also in his prime years and his contract will expire before any diminishing returns set in. As for Halak, it’s pretty evident that the Oilers don’t currently have a legitimate back-up option for Cam Talbot. As good as Talbot has been, it’s important to note he’s never played this volume of hockey before in his career and one stroke of bad luck could derail what has been an overwhelmingly successful year for the Oilers. Halak is an insurance policy for Talbot. Additionally, he’s a goalie of some value to expose in the expansion draft and may even be worth Las Vegas considering as an asset to grab from Edmonton in June. Lastly, due to an over-crowded crease in New York he’s currently buried in the AHL and taking his contact for this year and next likely negates any need to retain salary on Jordan Eberle’s contract to balance the books, which helps in a year’s time as Halak would be off the books before any extension to Connor McDavid kicks in. Any salary retained in trading Eberle would not. The inclusion of Russell in the deal de-clutters the blueline with the addition of Hamonic and helps balance the finances of the transaction for this season so Edmonton can address the loss of Eberle on the right wing in a separate transaction.
The cons: Jordan Eberle is a good hockey player. Edmonton lacks those in places, particularly on the right wing. So, in a vaccuum this trade creates an even more significant lack of depth and lack of right-handed shooting forwards in the top 9 for the Oilers. Fortunately for Edmonton, there are a multitude of decent top 9 right-handed forwards on expiring deals at the trade deadline this season. Radim Vrbata (my personal choice), Jaromir Jagr, PA Parentau, Patrick Eaves, Jarome Iginla, and Drew Stafford are all potential short term adds to keep Edmonton competitive this season.
Expansion draft impact: The Oilers had a decision to make before regarding a 7-3-1 protected list or a 4-4-1 list. Patrick Maroon’s success this season had forced their hand into the 7-3-1 territory despite not really having a 6th and 7th forward asset worth protecting. By moving Eberle for Hamonic, Edmonton can revert back to the 4-4-1 set-up and protect Sekera, Klefbom, Larsson and Hamonic. Add the exempt Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning to that and you basically have next year’s blueline locked in before the off-season starts. If they manage to hold on to Brandon Davidson, even better. Up front the list is Lucic, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Maroon. Considering cost-effective wingers are easier to come-by than top 4 right-handed defencemen I think this sets Edmonton up very well longer term.
Why it works for the Islanders
First, the pros: The Islanders are in dire need of a legitimate scoring winger to pair with John Tavares. The let Kyle Okposo go last season and didn’t really replace him and his absence has hurt them. Tavares’ most common linemate this season has been Josh Bailey. While Bailey’s not a terrible player, he’s only ever reached 15 goals and 40 points once in his career (both in the same season, 2014/15). Jordan Eberle is widely accepted to be having a “down-season” and he’s a 26 year-old with an established history of producing 60-70 points per season and would instantly become their 2nd best offensive forward. The Islanders also get out from under the cap hit of Jaroslav Halak without having to pay anyone additional assets in order to take it off their hands. That’s not nothing when you’re talking about a player you’ve buried in the AHL who still has another full season with a cap hit of more than $3M. Just ask Mark Fayne. They also get Kris Russell, who, I’ve been among the largest critics of, though I have always maintained he was a legitimate NHL Dman. Russell’s inclusion is a short-term plug for the hole left by the loss of Hamonic.
The cons: This move results in the Islanders taking on over $2M in extra cap space per season and Eberle is only under contract for 2 additional seasons compared to Hamonic’s 3. That’s heavily off-set by the departure of Halak though. Russell is also not an equivalent replacement for Hamonic, but he’s not under contract beyond this season so the Isles have an opportunity to look for a longer term solution.
Expansion draft impact: The Islanders were in a tough spot already regarding the expansion draft and while this doesn’t solve all their issues, it likely provides some clarity. The Isles currently have four Dmen they either have to keep or should desperately want to: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy and Calvin De Haan. That doesn’t even get into Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Tomas Hickey who are all also eligible to be drafted. The departure of Hamonic allows them to protect De Haan and then decide among their remaining Dmen, or, more likely, go 7-3-1 with their forwards. The addition of Eberle would let them protect Tavares, Eberle, Anders Lee, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd (NMC) and then one of Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas or Cal Clutterbuck. Either way, they are going to lose a decent player in the draft but exchanging Hamonic for Eberle (essentially) and keeping De Haan would likely be preferable to losing De Haan for nothing.
Depending on your allegiance as a fan, you might think this trade proposal needs a little something else going from one side to the other in either direction, and I’m not opposed to that concept. Certainly Edmonton would love to grab Ryan Strome if there was a way to expand this deal, but I think there is far more pro than con for both franchises in that it addresses significant issues for them and while it does create new challenges, they are significantly easier to solve than the ones alleviated with a move like this.
What are your thoughts Oiler fans?