Oilers Options With Klefbom Out?

During the Edmonton Oilers 6-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche, Oscar Klefbom ran face-first into the injury bug again. A point-blank slap shot from Avs forward Sven Andrighetto seems to have caused some damage to Klefbom’s left hand. Jason Gregor has stated it’s broken fingers, and Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock said the Swedish defender would be out “weeks, not days.”

With Klefbom out for up to six weeks, that is going to leave a significant hole in the Oilers lineup. He was averaging 25:24 minutes of ice-time per game for the Oilers. That put him seventh among all defenders in the NHL, behind such names as Kris Letang, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Suter, Hampus Lindholm and Shea Weber.

Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom
Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The Oilers no.1 defenceman has played nearly 117 minutes on Edmonton’s power play to date. That is nearly 100 minutes more than Darnell Nurse, who has the second most power play ice-time among Oilers defenders with 20 minutes. I think it is safe to say that the Oilers will be looking for someone to run the point with the man advantage now that Klefbom is gone until possibly late-January.

Who Will Replace Klefbom’s Minutes?

In 2017-18, Klefbom played in only 62 games before having surgery on his shoulder. In his absence, Nurse was assigned to be Adam Larsson’s partner on the first pairing. They ended up playing over 800 minutes together five-on-five, ending the season with a CF% of 50.92 and a GF% of 56.90. Those numbers tell us that they kept their heads afloat with regards to the shot share and more goals went in than not while they were on the ice together.

If I were a betting man, I’d say that Nurse has the best odds of taking on extra minutes at even-strength and on the penalty kill. Kevin Gravel should also see his time-on-ice rise with Klefbom’s vacancy.

Edmonton Oilers defensemen Darnell Nurse
Edmonton Oilers defensemen Darnell Nurse (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

However, I’m not convinced that the former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound will take over on the first power play unit. I think to manage Nurse’s minutes and keep him as fresh as possible, the Oilers’ coaching staff might delegate that role to someone with a bit more offensive acumen.

The Internal Options on the Power Play

The Oilers have recalled their best defenseman from their American Hockey League affiliate in Bakersfield, Caleb Jones.

I didn’t think that we’d see Jones this early because Edmonton has Jason Garrison and the newly acquired Chris Wideman. I don’t see the brother of Seth Jones as a viable option to play any power-play minutes though.

I’ve watched Jones play this season and the pros I’ve come away with are that he’s an excellent puck rusher. He’s very elusive and can escape risky scenarios on his own. He’s also very sneaky with regards to jumping into the play in the offensive zone. I’ve noticed him playing the right-side this year even though he’s a left-shot, but to no detriment.

The cons will be his defensive positioning. At times, he’s prone to chasing a bit or losing his man in his own zone. Jones has also been burned on a bad pinch in the other team’s zone on quite a few occasions this season. Those are things that will drive the Oilers defensive-conscious coach mad.

Garrison and Wideman are still options, but the latter hasn’t played a game for the Oilers since Nov. 27 and only has one goal to his name this season. It was a PP goal, so he has that going for him. Garrison’s feet and legs are gone now, luckily his hockey IQ and old-man strength still remain.

Wideman was brought in specifically to help out on the power play. He’s a smooth-skating right-shot defender who can move the puck. Before he went down with a season-ending injury last season, he was on pace for approximately 15 goals and 40 points. That said, he’s undersized and defense isn’t the strongest part of his game. I would imagine that’s why he’s only played two games for the Oilers since Ottawa traded him to Edmonton. He does have one assist in that pair of games mind you.

Matt Benning is another option available to the team. He has the hardest shot on the team and he seems to be able to find ways of getting the puck on the net when he does shoot, but I don’t feel like his skating or his playmaking abilities are where they should be for a top-unit PP quarterback. He’s more suited for the second unit in my opinion.

The Oilers are only on the road for two more games this month, so they’ll have the advantage of having last change for six of their remaining eight games. That could be one of the deciding factors for Hitchcock when deciding who to put into the lineup.

Trade Options?

Even though the Oilers have Wideman, Garrison and Jones at their disposal, I wouldn’t discount Edmonton from making a trade if they really see a drop in quality of play with the best defender out of the lineup.

Recently, Matt Porter of the Boston Globe floated out the idea of Edmonton trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Bruins for defender Torey Krug and struggling young winger Jake DeBrusk. This proposal definitely has its pros and its cons. Acquiring a player like Krug would give Edmonton the point-producing blueliner they’ve been craving since the days of Sheldon Souray. Jake DeBrusk isn’t having a great season but it’d be foolish to discount what he’s done to this point in his career and he’s a local boy. You can never go wrong with the fans if one of their own is brought home to play.

Jake DeBrusk
Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins(Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

A trade like this would fill a couple of weak spots on for Edmonton but would the cost be too dear? Nugent-Hopkins, I feel, is one of the league’s great two-way forwards. He’s a threat to score in every scenario be it even-strength, power play, or on the penalty kill. Not only that, but he’s on pace for over 80 points. With the way Hitchcock has his team playing right now, it’d be a mistake to make a big move like this.

General Manager Peter Chiarelli might have better luck trying to procure the services of some lesser-known defenders where the cost isn’t as likely to be as expensive.

  • Anthony DeAngelo (NYR) – PP points/60 from 2016-17 to now: 5.01
  • Ryan Pulock (NYI) – PP points/60 from 2016-17 to now: 4.38
  • Brandon Montour (ANH) – PP points/60 from 2016-17 to now: 3.22

Drake Caggiula has been taken off of the IR and Cooper Marody has been returned to the AHL. So Edmonton will be going with one extra forwards and two extra defenders. Tobias Rieder should be back after the Christmas break and Andrej Sekera might be ready to go around the same time Klefbom is looking to return. Chiarelli is going to have some decisions to make regarding his roster and it wouldn’t surprise me if a trade or two is consummated to fit these players back into the lineup.

Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.