Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped a major revelation today regarding the Oilers search for a top pairing defenseman while appearing on Oilers Now radio show with host Bob Stauffer.
Friedman regularily appears on the 630 CHED radio show with Stauffer and hinted that GM Peter Chiarelli is working the phones in an attempt to land a No.1/2 defender and that the Oilers are on the verge with parting with a top young forward in return. He believes the Oilers are relatively close to moving a forward ranking them 1) right wing Jordan Eberle and 2) center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The Oilers have been active in the past month or so adding some depth to their roster. Zack Kassian was brought in to be a power forward in the bottom six adding some much needed grit direly missing from the teams forward ranks. Adam Clendening was claimed off waivers to add a young capable puck moving defender to the backend. Both moves in the short-term are low risk and that help the team right now, yet hardly move the Richter scale in the big picture.
Edmonton has been ravaged with injuries and currently leads the league in man games lost. Upfront Connor McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins are both out. McDavid is expected back next week while RNH isn’t expected back for another 5-7 weeks with a broken hand. The picture on the backend is much worse, and that’s saying something. Oscar Klefbom, Andrew Ference and the much improved Brandon Davidson are all out. Klefbom is expected back in the next week or so, Davidson is an unknown and Ference is out for the season.
Friedman On Oilers Defense
What adds mud to the Oilers defense is that Mark Fayne has struggled, Nikita Nikitin is all but gone having been demoted to the minors for good this time and key acquistion Griffin Reinhart has been a mixed bag of results ultimately needing more time in the minors.
*Source: GeneralFanaager.com IR; Ference $3.25, Klefbom $894K, Davidson $585K. Buried salaries; Nikitin $3.55M ($4.5M). Minors: Reinhart $863K.
“The writing is very much on the wall.” – Elliotte Friedman RE: Justin Schultz
Friedman believes as many others do that Justin Schultz time with Edmonton is coming to a close.
Schultz, 25, has 9 points in 36 games this season and is coming off a back injury. Whether the Oilers find a trade partner or don’t tender a qualifying offer allowing him to walk is still up in the air. The young defender is unlikely to ever reach the huge expectations placed on him but a change of scenery is much needed. Reading between the lines with Nikitin and Schultz coming off the books that gives the Oilers a combined $8.4M in relief just in those two players. Edmonton needs a defender to replace one or both.
Travis Hamonic Being Targeted By Oilers
Back to Friedman; he believes the Oilers key target here is Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders. Hamonic, 25, is a right handed defenseman slowly becoming one of the leagues better shutdown defenseman. Hamonic has 10 points in 43 games and averages 23:42 TOI for the Isles as their No.1 defenseman.
Hamonic requested a trade from the Islanders due to family reasons in the early part of the year and it’s been rumored the Oilers along with the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets are the key teams interested.
Friedman’s take on this whole scenario is that he has no doubt Edmonton is heavily considering Hamonic. Now if he believes it’s going to happen now or later in the summer at the draft possibly is still up to debate but it seems these two teams are locked, it’s just a matter of putting something together that works for both teams.
Staples: Why do you think Hamonic to the Oilers? What would be coming back NYI way?
Friedman: I think the fact that both sides have already had discussions about Hamonic has significance. Isles want D, will get a forward. As for which forward, depends on which one Oilers deem most expendable. Don’t think Isles would want Yakupov. As much as I have a hard time believing Snow turned down (Oilers winger Jordan) Eberle, I think he’d do it at the end of the day.
Staples: Is it a rumour in New York that Snow turned down Eberle?
Friedman: It is. I’m not buying it, and if it did happen, had to be posturing.
Breaking Up The Core
It’s worth noting various other sources in Edmonton have been chasing this rumor for quite some time. Jim Matheson, David Staples, Jonathan Willis and even Stauffer himself have had takes. The other defenseman rumoured for some time has been Sami Vatanen from Anaheim, but there seems to be more smoke with Hamonic at this point.
“I do believe we are getting closer to the day that Edmonton makes a move with one of its young forwards. I would say on the ranking of it probably (Jordan) Eberle one, (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins two for a young player, for a defenceman. I think that everybody is looking at Hamonic and saying, ‘Is there going to be a match there?’ I have no doubt that that is what the Oilers are considering. I have no doubt they’re going to try to get it done.” – Elliotte Friedman on Oilers Now 630 CHED with Bob Stauffer
The Islanders are going to be hard pressed to re-sign Kyle Okposo who could strike it rich this summer as a UFA. Okposo, 27, is coming off a deal that gives him a $2.8M cap hit and he’ll likely double that this summer if he hits market. If.
Related: Did Someone Say Bold?
Is it entirely possible the Oilers try to throw a deal together with both Hamonic and Okposo coming back the other way? That would be a blockbuster to say the least and the Oilers would need to move more than one of Eberle or RNH to get it done. For what it’s worth Okposo has 12 goals and 35 points in 45 games this season. Here’s a comparison of the three forwards:
Eberle, 22, is on pace for 21 goals and 42 points in 69 games this season, his lowest since his 43 point rookie season in 2010-11. Eberle has led the Oilers in scoring before and has been one of the teams most dynamic forwards throughout the rebuild. He’s also been one of the teams most valuable trade chips, something the previous regimes have been reluctant to part with. Eberle will get the Oilers the best possible return amongst the group they are willing to move. It’s now looking more and more likely that this is the guy that’s going to go, even more so considering where Friedman’s insider knowledge is stating.
RNH, 22, is also having a down year and prior to his injury had 8 goals and 30 points in 46 games. It was believed earlier this season that a deal with Nashville for Seth Jones had RNH going the other way. Rumors. Regardless head coach Todd McLellan has found himself a 200-ft player in RNH, someone he compares to Joe Pavelski in San Jose, dependable.
It’s going to be a hard pill to swallow and fans need to realize that to get quality you need to give up quality. Nashville and Columbus learned that the hard way when Jones and Ryan Johansen switched places, Edmonton and Islander fans are about to learn the same lesson.