Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Desperate times could be exactly the phrase necessary to describe the situation the Edmonton Oilers are in following the news that defender Andrej Sekera would be out indefinitely with a torn Achilles tendon. With a defense that already looked porous without the 32-year-old Slovakian for much of the 2017-18 season, the Oilers are in a situation where they’re likely going to have to make a move to fill this hole sooner than later.
Whether that move comes internally or externally is unclear right now,. There are, however, multiple free agent options for the team, such as Brandon Davidson, Toby Enstrom, Luca Sbisa, Paul Martin, Jason Garrison, Alexei Emelin, Kevin Bieksa, Kyle Quincey, Cody Franson and Johnny Oduya.
The team also has a young bluechip prospect on defense in Evan Bouchard who was selected 10th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Still, the team may want to explore their other options before forcing yet another young player to step in right away and try to make an impact.
The Oilers have done that multiple times in recent years with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi each burning a year off of their rookie contracts just months after being drafted. While the team didn’t keep Draisaitl and Puljujarvi on their NHL roster for the entirety of their rookie seasons, the damage was still done in terms of contract length.
While desperate measures could apply to the Oilers using Bouchard to fill in on defense early, it could also apply to the team finding an unusual trade partner to strike a deal with to bolster their defensive group prior to the start of the season if the free agent market doesn’t appeal to them.
That partner would be a familiar one for Oilers’ president and general manager Peter Chiarelli, though that familiarity is also what classifies this partner as unusual.
Bruins and Oilers Could Strike a Trade
When Chiarelli was fired as the general manager of the Bruins, it appeared that there were certain bridges that were burned that seemed unlikely to ever be mended. Just three seasons later, however, the Bruins and Oilers could be in a position to work out a trade.
There were rumors early on in the 2018 offseason that linked Boston and Edmonton together with the 10th overall pick, defenders Oskar Klefbom and Torey Krug together in various capacities. These rumors and reports ultimately never amounted to anything substantial but the possibility created a stir nonetheless.
Fast-forward two months and the Bruins and Oilers could once again be linked with defense as the focus of the discussion. This time, however, the players in question wouldn’t be anything nearly as substantial as Krug, Klefbom or the 10th overall pick which would eventually become Bouchard.
If the Oilers are looking to make a move to shore up their defense, the Bruins could be prime for the picking with right-shot defenders Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller both possibly available via the trade market. There’s also the possibility that Matt Grzlecyk or even Torey Krug could be available, but such a deal would have more costly ramifications for the Bruins at the end of the day.
Bruins Have the Defensive Depth
When looking at the Bruins depth chart, the team has eight clear NHL defenders on their roster:
Bruins NHL Defense Depth Chart
This list, of course, doesn’t take into account the Bruins willingness to play defenders on their off-hand if necessary, which would likely mean Moore and Miller could see times on the right and left-side respectively if the situation calls for it. This also doesn’t include players like Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon or, to a lesser extent, Jakub Zboril, who will all be competing for jobs out of camp.
All of this is to say that the Bruins have a plethora of NHL-ready defenders and if the Oilers are looking to patch things up quickly, Chiarelli’s familiarity with players like McQuaid and Miller could help them in the short-term.
Of note is that Sekera is a left-shot defender and while McQuaid and Miller are both right-shot defenders, the Oilers currently project to play veteran blue-liner Kris Russell on the right-side as a natural left-shot defender. If the Oilers slide Russell back to the left side, they could fill in the opening with McQuaid or Miller, the former having one year remaining on his contract that carries a $2.75 million cap hit, and the latter with two years left and a $2.5 million cap hit.
McQuaid the Logical Trade Chip
Assuming the Bruins would prefer to keep Miller under contract given how well he’s played in recent years whenever his number is called, McQuaid is the more realistic of the two to be dealt.
For the Bruins, the optimal scenario here would be to move McQuaid to clear up some of their log-jam on defense, get something for an expiring contract and make their intentions a little more clear heading into the season.
For the Oilers, this would give them a legitimate option on the right side who has experience killing penalties and playing a physical brand of hockey. If there’s any one word that can be used to describe McQuaid (other than warrior) it would have to be loyal. No player defends their teammates quite like McQuaid does and that could go a long way in helping the Oilers out of this jam.
To be clear, nobody is saying McQuaid will step into the Oilers’ depth chart and create such a huge impact that parades will be thrown. This level of deal is nothing worth singing home about as it would be a quick-fix for Edmonton without long-term repercussions.
The Oilers have seven draft picks in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and while they’re missing a fifth-round selection, they do have two third-round selections courtesy of the New York Islanders. A third-round pick is an interesting cost in such a deal as McQuaid’s lack of offensive ability may give Oilers’ fans pause, as could McQuaid’s history with injuries in his own right.
With that said, worse players are regularly dealt for a higher premium by the time the trade deadline rolls around. If the Bruins wait until then, the cost could be higher, the return could be worse and the season could already be lost. A fourth-round pick wouldn’t be as favorable for the Bruins but the cap-space flexibility gained could be helpful.
If the Bruins are looking to maximize their value on an expiring, bottom-pairing defender while also clearing up some cap space and the Oilers are interested, this minor deal could benefit both sides.