Trading Oscar Klefbom would be a mistake that rivals even Peter Chiarelli’s biggest blunders, full stop.
After suffering a rather embarrassing qualification defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks the Edmonton Oilers are entering a critical offseason. Their hands are tied when it comes to the cap which means that they will have to get creative if they wish to fill the many holes that exist on the roster.
One glaring hole that was evident in the series loss was the team’s inability to defend in their own end. The Blackhawks had the Oilers running rampant in their own end for most of the series and it lead to countless goals against. It’s obvious that an upgrade on the defensive side of things is desperately needed. So, what was the first suggestion we started to hear from local reporters and insiders? That the team should explore trading Oscar Klefbom in the offseason to either acquire some much needed scoring depth or to improve upon the defensive group. A ridiculous idea to say the least.
Klefbom has been the team’s best defensive player for the better part of the past four seasons and has consistently shown his value to the club. He is a smart player who can be relied on for 20+ minutes a night and can be a useful offensive tool as times. He is currently signed to a crisp 4.16m AAV that will see him stay in Edmonton up until the end of the 2022/23 season. He is EXACTLY the type of player a cap-crunched Oilers team needs, yet that doesn’t seem to be the thinking of Edmonton’s front office.
Nurse On The Move?:
Recent reports have signalled that Ken Holland and the rest of the Oilers front office seems to think that Darnell Nurse should take priority over Klefbom when it comes to the future of the team’s blue line. On the surface it seems like a reasonable enough claim. Nurse is the younger player at 25 and was recently handed the reigns as the team’s #1 defender in the series against the Blackhawks.
The problem with this notion is that Nurse is a much higher liability than Klefbom. He struggled with the higher minutes against Chicago and was one of Edmonton’s most disappointing players throughout the series. He crumbled when it mattered the most and showed that he was not ready to be the top pairing defenceman that the Oilers desperately wanted him to be.
That isn’t to say that he is a bad player, not by any means, but he isn’t the untouchable player that the media is making him out to be. At the very best, Nurse is a pretty good second pairing defencmen that would match up well against a team’s secondary scoring line. There is also the potential to net a much higher return when dealing with Nurse.
I will be the first to say that trading Nurse shouldn’t be at the top of Holland’s priorities this summer. He is still a young defender who has plenty of room to grow but, if we take into account the sky-high cap hit and his perceived market value, it makes a lot more sense for the team to test the market on him rather than Klefbom.
If the team traded Nurse to improve their top six forward group is would leave a pretty big hole on the team's left-handed defensive group. Yet, I don’t think it would be an insurmountable absence. Klefbom would remain the team's top pairing defender while Caleb Jones could get a promotion to the second pairing, a role that he seems ready to assume. The third pairing could then be a number of options, ranging from Kris Russell and William Lagesson to a budget UFA signing. It’s hard to imagine the team struggling mightily without Nurse.
How About Larsson?:
There is also possibility that the Oilers could move on from Adam Larsson. As we all know, Larsson was the guy that came to Edmonton in the infamous Taylor Hall trade back in the summer of 2016. He has served as the team's top right-handed defender for the majority of his time with the Oilers, but it seems like he is starting a slow decent into regression. He has had some injury troubles in the past few seasons and his play hasn’t seem to be quite as good as it was when he first arrived.
Once again, I don’t mean any of this to insult or bury him as an incapable defender, it just seems like a top pairing role might be a little much to expect from him. Like Nurse, I see him as a quality second pairing defender that works a shutdown role admirably. His value might not be as high as Nurse on the open market but he could still fetch a reasonable return that could improve Edmonton’s offensive depth.
His absence could be filled by the promotion of some young talent. One particularly risky scenario that I am in favour of is seeing the promotion of Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard. Bear, who experienced a breakthrough season this past year, could be promoted to the team’s top pairing while Evan Bouchard is finally promoted to a full-time NHLer on either the team’s second or third pairing. It is insanely risky to say the least, but I think both of these players have shown that they are ready to take the next step in their development.
The Oilers would be absolutely insane to trade Oscar Klefbom for anything less than bonafide top pairing defencemen....which is not going to happen. When you take into account his cheap cap-hit it becomes moronic. The Oilers are going to have to save every bit of money as they can this summer and to trade your best defensemen for no reason just doesn't add up.
They could cut costs in a variety of other ways while also improving other parts of the roster. I wholeheartedly believe that the team could net a higher return by trading Nurse or a package involving Larsson than they could ever hope to bring in with a Klefbom trade. Not only would those deals bring back better returns, but they would also hurt the team a lot less.
It baffles me to a high degree to even see that the Oilers are seriously exploring the Klefbom trade route. A team that struggles defensively and is tight to the cap should not trade their best defender, FULL STOP.