Trade speculation is part of the professional sports game, and this week the Boston Bruins are at the forefront. The Charlie Coyle talk has been going on for a few weeks now but this week, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ name was tossed into the mix. The first-overall pick from the 2011 NHL Draft and a key pivot on the Oilers’ roster makes a lot of sense for the B’s. He’s a strong offensive player with a strong two-way game and is young enough to fit in long-term.
Having watched Nugent-Hopkins’s career from the get-go, I think it’s safe to call him a ‘Bergeron-lite’ that is still coming into his own. If the Bruins can get their hands on him, they would be dumb to pass on the opportunity. Of course, just because it makes sense for the Bruins doesn’t mean it does for the Oilers.
Nuge Would Be Huge For B’s
We all know the Bruins have a dominant first line, that is well documented. After that, there are some nice pieces like Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, but nothing is clicking on a consistent basis. The B’s will make the playoffs, but can they do any damage as the roster is constructed? I’m not sure they can. It is imperative, especially when going head-to-head with teams like the Maple Leafs and Lightning, to have two consistent scoring lines. The Bruins simply do not have that.
I credited Don Sweeney over the summer for keeping his powder dry and giving the young kids a chance, but none of them has stepped up to this point. Ryan Donato looks like he could be something, but is he going to give you what you need this season? I’m not suggesting they trade him, but I don’t think you can trust him to fill a top-six role on a consistent basis just yet. That time will come, but it isn’t right now.
That’s where Nugent-Hopkins steps in. He can play center, that is his natural position, but he has also played on the wing recently. Remember, last season RNH spent the last chunk of the season playing left wing on Connor McDavid’s line. It was the best offensive stretch of his career and earned him that same job to start this season. The Oil changed things up, and RNH is now centering the second line with Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi on his wings.
People tend to get caught up on RNH’s offensive numbers, but I think that’s foolish. The Oilers were, quite frankly, the most dysfunctional team in hockey from the time that RNH arrived in 2011 until Connor McDavid arrived in 2015. RNH managed two 56-point seasons (2013-14 and 2014-15) early in his career but has yet to hit that mark since. He’s on pace to smash that career high this year (29 points in 31 games thus far) and he’s a dynamic and dangerous weapon on the power play.
When evaluating RNH’s offensive production, remember that his bread and butter is on the man advantage where he plays the same position as McDavid, and as a result has been relegated to the second unit on numerous occasions. He’d be on the top unit if he joined the B’s and I think would thrive alongside Brad Marchand David Pastrnak.
RNH, when on his game, should be a consistent 55-65-point player that can play on both special teams, while providing strong two-way play. He’d be a great fit for any team, especially the Bruins right now.
Senseless For Oilers
It doesn’t make much sense for the Oilers to move Nugent-Hopkins, no matter how good a fit he is for the Bruins. The Oilers have to make the playoffs this spring, that’s the bottom line. If they miss it, the hockey operations department will be overhauled. Chief among those to lose their jobs? Old pal Peter Chiarelli, who is under fire after committing many of the same mistakes with the Oilers that he did with the Bruins.
Ken Hitchcock has the Oilers at an 8-2-1 record under his watch and right back in the playoff race. Hitch has entrusted RNH with his own line and gone out of his way to praise the player and use him in key spots. Outside of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins is by far Edmonton’s most important forward. He’s part of the team’s core group, and that isn’t really debateable.
With the Oil in a playoff dogfight and RNH being such an important player, why would they deal him? It makes no sense. On Tuesday’s edition of ‘Felger and Mazz’ on 98.5, The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti called the Oilers a team that can score but can’t really defend and he’s right. Over the years, that is the kind of team the Oilers have been. Under Hitch, however, they have been very strong defensively and, against what Felger said, look like they finally know how to play.
The rumored price for RNH? Jake DeBrusk and Torey Krug (from ‘Could the Bruins get Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in a trade involving Torey Krug’ Matt Porter, Boston Globe – 10/12/18). DeBrusk makes a lot of sense for the Oilers because Edmonton lacks NHL wingers and DeBrusk is a modern ‘power forward’ who looks like he has the ability to score 25-30 goals per season. He’d be a perfect fit heading home to the Oilers, but likely isn’t enough to get someone like Nugent-Hopkins.
Krug, on the other hand, makes little sense here. Edmonton currently has Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Kevin Gravel and Kris Russell as left shot options on the blue line. I’d argue both Klefbom and Nurse are better players than Krug, who is making over $5 million per season. Krug is the kind of puck-moving D the Oilers need and would help on the power play, but his price point and handedness simply does not fit, especially with Andrej Sekera likely back in early January.
A Trade Not Likely
Outside of a swap of terrible contracts like the David Backes-for-Milan Lucic deal I recommended earlier this week, there really isn’t a match between the Oilers and Bruins. The Oil don’t have much forward depth and can’t afford to sacrifice RNH, even if he’s a great fit for the Bruins.