McDavid: Trade Chip, or Saviour?

After the events of this season, it's becoming painfully obvious that the Oilers roster has been murdered by Chiarelli. As covered in length by a number of editors here, I'll save the breakdowns of the roster for them to cover. But, one of the questions that never seems to come up, is the question of Connor McDavid.

You may have noticed me from time to time making a comment on a post, saying that McDavid should be traded. Recently, I was called on it. I was going to write a reply, but decided that, in the best interests of being thorough, that I will write my second fanpost on here. My original one, "The Oilers, the NHL, and Optics," explained about how the optics of the team can be influenced by the fanbase, and that a bad optic can create mayhem for investors, the owners, and even the league itself.

So, by even suggesting that McDavid should be traded, sounds like I'm going against my own article. Heck, even bringing up "The Trade" to any Oilers fan will likely lead to pitchforks. But, I am, and there is a very important reason why.

McDavid is worth a gold's ransom.

However, there is a significant difference with McDavid today, than Gretsky in 1988; Gretsky was traded, not because the Oilers were losing - in fact, they had just won the cup two hours before Gretsky was told by his father that the Oilers planned to trade him - but rather that the owner of the team was in deep financial trouble, and needed to liquidate his best player for cash - $15,000,000 (~$32,000,000 in today's dollars) in all.

Even with the financial boon, the team was able to negotiate for no less than three 1st round picks, recently acquired 1st rounder Martin "The Eliminator" Gélinas, and 1986 2nd overall pick Jimmy Carson, who, although wasn't worth much in his own right, was used as a trade chip with Kevin McClelland to get Adam Graves, Petr Klíma, and Joe Murthy.

In exchange? Gretsky, McSorley, and Krushelnyski.

As awful as the optics of the trade was, it led to the Oilers winning the 1990 Stanley Cup without and against Gretsky. They even closed the series against the Kings 4-0, and even kept Gretsky off the scoresheet!

So, if you were to consider that Connor McDavid is very early into his NHL career, which means he could have decades of life in him, and considering that the team is not in financial jeopardy, I strongly believe that the team could trade McDavid for even more - say six 1st round picks, a few solid players, and maybe even make those picks have clauses where the Oilers can choose to pass on it for a year, and use it the following year instead, if the 1st rounders that year aren't suitable for them. In other words, perfect trade bait.

There's the other thing too, and this is the most important part of all: His cap hit.

At $12,500,000 per season, and $100,000,000 total over 8 years, this eats up no less than 15.6% of the entire Oilers cap. With that, you could easily fund all of those picks, and trades, that you would get from it, and allow the team to limp along with Lucic's overpriced $6,000,000 cap hit, along with numerous other bad trades and contracts that the Chiarelli era has placed on the team.

Which brings me to my final point: The cap.

The Oilers and the Cap are very much like someone who has a low-paying job, gets a massive low-interest mortgage, and buys an overpriced house for their ability to pay.

Using the real life example of the 2008 mortgage crisis, everything is fine, until the interest rates go up, and up, and up, until eventually the person is forced to sell. But, because their house is worth less than the mortgage, they still have to pay, or declare bankruptcy. And this happened to a lot of people.

This is also happening to the Oilers; the Cap is the 'interest rate', the bad trades and contracts are the 'overpriced mortgage', and Connor McDavid is the house.

Connor McDavid is an amazing player, and he has blown the doors of the competition whenever he's on the ice. Yet, the team can't afford to give him the backup he needs to win.

For example, this year, he's 3rd in points (beaten by Nikita Kucherov and Patrick Kane), 5th in assists (beaten by Nikita Kucherov,m Blake Wheeler, Brent Burns, and Patrick Kane), 9th in goals (beaten by Alex Ovechkin, Jeff Skinner, Patrick Kane, Leon Draisaitl (yay! Keep him!), Brayden Point, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, and Cam Atkinson), and 474th in +/- (I'm not going to bother compiling that list for obvious reasons).

So, in other words, he's being beaten in all categories by a number of other stars because of the rest of the team, and is suffering tremendously for it. On top of that Sidney Crosby, another superstar who is in his twilight years of his prime, has won all six games against him.

Finally, we have to consider McDavid's age and health, both physically, and mentally. Like a foreclosed house that's been abandoned to the elements, McDavid's play with an inferior team has taken a toll on him. Sunilagni wrote a very good article on this, "Reality Check," which provided this alarming chart:

You can only blame a change in coaching for so much; I think part of it is dealing with the constant negativity from the media, terrible decisions by management, combined with an illness where he should have stayed at home resting the entire time, instead of being brought back early to save the team's playoff chances.

You also have to consider the fact that the team was never truly competitive to begin with this year; even though the team has been close to a Wild Card spot for most of the year, the sheer difference in points and other statistics is alarming, which I predict that, had the Oilers reached the Playoffs, the team would have lost 4-0 in the 1st round in a sheer embarrassment for fans and the team. Even though the short term financial benefits would have helped the team, the long term would have been disastrous for keeping season-ticket holders and selling merchandise.

Finally, you also have to consider that, in order to properly rebuild the team, you would have to buy out a ton of immovable contracts - yes, including the 'immovable' Lucic. Even though it wouldn't fix his cap issue, it would free up a bit of money, and, most importantly, a roster spot. If you buy out all the problem players, and fill them with all the new picks you could pick up, a large number of upcoming prospects, and have the team playing competitively as soon as next year. But you need McDavid's $12,500,000 a season to do it, and he's one of only two players (the other being Draisaitl) that you can get a good return for. Heck, trade both, and have your rebuild finished within only a few years, especially if you trade picks for other picks to set them up to fall onto a potentially amazing draft.

But, even if this took a few years, McDavid will be a few years older, he'll likely lose more of his touch, and, like in buying a house (or gambling) in real life, you run the real risk of him getting seriously injured, and being untradeable. He's at his prime right now, and is at his highest trade value he will ever be, even with his plummeting stats.

I call this the McDavid bankruptcy. In order to save the team, the team may have to foreclose on their greatest asset, get what they can, flush the cap, and start over.

I feel it's the only true way the team will be able to compete again within the next few years. Because, if you keep your highest-prized asset on, you won't have enough free cap, enough 1st round picks, and enough negotiating power to be able to ever make this team competitive for the duration of McDavid's contract. And that you can squarely put on Chiarelli. He bankrupted the team of any value, and is one of the reasons why I've become jaded with the team. I even said that I'm more of a fan of McDavid than the Oilers (at this point, was what I should have added at the time). But I'm still a fan.

I would be sad to see McDavid leave the Oilers, but the Oilers could get lucky, and draw another of the likes of McDavid, Crosby, Gretsky, Lemieux, and the like. It's happened before. And it could very easily happen again. If you trade McDavid for many first round picks, it's almost guaranteed.