Players Really Like Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers Should Too

The Edmonton Oilers are being run by a new general manager who likely doesn’t think the same way to the old one did. Perhaps asking Ken Holland to hold onto a valuable asset — and a likely better human being — in Ryan Nugent Hopkins is like asking you not to shove a pencil in your eye while you read this. Chances are, you weren’t going to do that anyway.

That said, the Oilers have made some questionable trades in the past and there is enough speculation around the team to suggest, at least at one point or another, the Oilers have considered trading Nugent-Hopkins to improve their blue line or free up some much-needed cap space.

There are many reasons not to do this. The most important might be how appreciated Nugent-Hopkins seems to be within the Oilers organization.

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Nugent-Hopkins as a Player

A versatile center, there is a lot to like about Nugent-Hopkins game that makes him someone you can’t consider trading easily. He just came off a 69-point season, he wears an “A” for the team as an assistant captain, kills penalties, plays on the power play and is a center who can play the wing or stay down the middle giving Edmonton extreme depth at that position.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers, Oct. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He does all of this at a reasonable $6 million cap hit per season.

He had what many might call a breakout season last year and if paired with a winger who can ensure he’s not stranded on the second line alone, he’ll be dangerous again this season. He might be dangerous anyway.

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Nugent-Hopkins as a Teammate

Sometimes more important than the on-ice result is what a player brings in the dressing room. A good example was a player like Matt Hendricks whose absence had a direct correlation to a dip in productivity.

Hendricks wasn’t the sole reason Edmonton went from a playoff team to a potential lottery team but there were countless insiders who suggested Hendrick’s absence as a leader was far more crushing than the team might have ever anticipated. Like Hendricks, Nugent-Hopkins is clearly another guy the team respects.

If one needed proof, look at the photo of Nugent-Hopkins at his wedding this past weekend. A Twitter user posted a photo of Nugent-Hopkins and a number of his current and former teammates standing arm-in-arm wearing “Keep Nuge Forever” tees courtesy of Oilers Nation.

Outside of this being extremely cool, it says a lot about what these players think of the Nuge and how vital he is to the Oilers. It would be a mistake for the franchise to trade another player the team so fondly likes and respects.

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Don’t Make the Same Mistake Oilers

Last season alone, Edmonton traded players out of the franchise that were beloved by their teammates. From Drake Caggiula to Ryan Strome, this only names two in a calendar year. This team also traded Taylor Hall (who was close to Connor McDavid), Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz (both of whom also were tightly knit within the locker room.)

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Every team has players that come and go and other players inside the locker room are sad to see them leave: last season Henrick Lundqvist was in tears when Mats Zuccarello was traded from the New York Rangers to the Dallas Stars. Such is the nature of professional sports. That said, the Oilers have made these kinds of trades a bad habit.

Perhaps Holland has no desire to trade Nugent-Hopkins. But, if there’s any thought in his mind to doing so; hopefully, he sees this photo and understands there is an appreciation for what “The Nuge” brings to the team that is far more than just the skillset he offers on the ice.

The same goes for Darnell Nurse. Let’s hope any talk of the Oilers moving him comes with a serious “are you sure you want to do this?” warning. We all know McDavid is a consummate professional, but at what point does watching your friends leave get a bit frustrating.