Oilers Trading for a “Nasty” Defenceman Is Risky But Necessary

Trade discussions continue as the Edmonton Oilers once again gave up three goals due to weak defensive play. This was before coming back and winning their previous game against the New York Rangers. But it is very hard for a team to sustain success when they give up that many goals per night.

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The Oilers are 11-10-0, which is lower than expectations coming into the season. Their play is inconsistent, and they need a solid defenseman, and names like Jakob Chychrun and John Klingberg could be options.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Oilers are likely in on Chychrun because of their cap situation and the cheap contract he has for two more years after this one with a $4.6 million average annual value (AAV). Trade chatter has also picked up, considering the defender is back in the lineup and contributing. He is the dynamic top-four defenceman the team needs right now. A trade was suggested by Rob Brown on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer. He said that the Oilers should trade Philip Broberg/Evan Bouchard, and Jesse Puljujarvi in a package deal for a defenceman if that defenceman brings nastiness and physicality. “The Oilers are desperate for that (nastiness) and they need it,” said Brown.

Related: Oilers Don’t Need to Trade for Tough Bottom-6 Player

A similar trade was also discussed by Craig Button on The Jason Gregor Show, who said, “a healthy Jakob Chychrun is exactly what Edmonton needs.” We could expect Puljujarvi, Broberg, and/or Bouchard, and pick(s)/prospect(s) in a deal to acquire Chychrun. But before any decision is made, the Oilers must be sure they are getting maximum value. If Chychrun can’t stay healthy, is the trade worth it? Button mentioned the need to figure out why he gets injured all the time. It could be from playing too much on the rebuilding Coyotes, or another factor.

But the Oilers apparently don’t have any interest in Chychrun. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman brought up Klingberg as another defenceman of the same calibre and playing style, who could fit the need they are looking for, and he is an unrestricted free agent after the season. However, Edmonton won’t be able to retain him unless they move Tyson Barrie and the cap jumps significantly.

Which Defenceman Should the Oilers Trade Away?

The choice between highly-touted defenceman to trade comes down to either Broberg or Bouchard. If the Coyotes want one or the other, who do the Oilers part with? There is no getting around trading one of them, as the Coyotes have set their price and will want a good future piece in return for Chychrun.

Broberg is one year younger but isn’t as far along in his development as Bouchard, who finally broke into the NHL in a full-time role last season. Bouchard scored 12 goals and 43 points last season, while Broberg should have a similar impact this season if they had the same career trajectory. This season Broberg may now be at the level Bouchard was at in 2020-21, putting him two years behind. Broberg didn’t make the team out of training camp and just played his first game of the season against the Rangers on Saturday. He wouldn’t have played a game last season if it weren’t for the injury overload mid-season. The difference between the two, other than playing style, is that Broberg has suffered more injuries already and missed time.

Though Bouchard showed more promise through his first 24 career games, scoring four goals and eight points, Broberg hasn’t been useless offensively. He has one goal and three points in 24 career NHL games. Both have made mistakes, but that has to be expected from young defencemen, and it will take time before either of them reach their full potential.

Philip Broberg Edmonton Oilers
Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

To acquire Chychrun, the Oilers will have to give up Broberg. They need to win now, and since Bouchard is further along in his development and contributing a lot more in the NHL, he gives them a better chance. With a bit of luck on his side, Bouchard led the comeback with two goals against the Rangers. Despite the criticism towards Bouchard this season for lack of scoring, he has the second-worst luck (PDO) on the Oilers, and his shot analytics among d-men are middle of the pack on the team and in the league.

Broberg shoots left and is primarily a left-side defenceman. Chychrun is the same. Acquiring him and moving on from Broberg would take a ton of pressure off Darnell Nurse and Brett Kulak on the left side. Nurse logs some of the most important and tough minutes among defencemen in the NHL, while Kulak is probably playing a little higher in the lineup than the team would like. Kulak was very effective on the third pairing with Barrie last season but has been playing higher than that in 2022-23. Playing together on the third line would definitely elevate the overall play of the defence like last season and get the Oilers back to the elite team they were when Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson took over in 2021-22.

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Chychrun has averaged over 23 minutes a night since his return, so he would allow Nurse to play a little less and not always have the toughest matchups. Having Chychrun on the Oilers’ blue line would be like having a healthy Oscar Klefbom back, but with more grit and offence.

Trading Puljujarvi at This Time Would Be Necessary but Risky

Though the Oilers have been on the fence about Puljujarvi for a while now, he’s still an Oiler. His offensive production dropped off after his injury in the middle of last season, and he hasn’t been able to recover, regardless of the line he has played on. While Evander Kane and Kailer Yamamoto are injured, Puljujarvi has been playing in the top six and still hasn’t produced, with one goal and five points in 21 games despite every effort to get on the board (from “OILERS NOTES: McDavid’s leadership gaining speed; Puljujarvi grinding hard,” Edmonton Sun, Nov. 22, 2022).

What the Oilers don’t need right now is another supporting forward out of the lineup. Kane is on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) for a few more months, while Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod just landed on IR. The team now has five forwards on the roster who have played seven games or less this season: Mattias Janmark, Klim Kostin, Brad Malone, Tyler Benson, and Josh Hamblin. Though it’s a stretch for Janmark to be playing in the top six, he’s the only one among them who has seen time there this season. Removing Puljujarvi as an option would make things difficult.

Jesse Puljujarvi Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Having Puljujarvi in the top six hasn’t helped the team, but it also hasn’t hurt them. He has the experience and some chemistry with Draisaitl and McDavid. Additionally, he has proven in the past that he can produce. He is also a great forechecker and a strong two-way player. Including him in the trade would hurt the forward group for a couple of months, but the defence should benefit, right away. Puljujarvi’s cap hit of $3 million needs to be cleared to execute a trade while depth players like Holloway and Warren Foegele have stepped up to play bigger minutes already. It’s a risky but necessary move.

Risk Involved in Trading for a Big-Name Defender

The risk that comes with Chychrun is that he tends to get injured, and the Oilers would first have to understand why the Coyotes’ defender gets injured so much. For a trade to be worth it, management would need 65-plus games a season from him and all of the playoffs.

As for Klingberg, he was included in this conversation because he is a target for the Oilers if they want to acquire help from a rental instead. This way, it won’t cost as much to bring in defensive help. Considering he’s a rental, they wouldn’t have to give up Bouchard or Broberg to acquire him. Puljujarvi may still be in play, but by the time the trade deadline approaches, the team will be healthier upfront and might not need him. The risky decision involving acquiring rentals is most of the time it doesn’t pan out. Take the Florida Panthers’ last season as an example. They used multiple first-round picks to acquire a couple of rentals and were swept in the second round. If the Oilers offer a first-round pick and more for Klingberg and don’t have playoff success, then they will be left with nothing at the end of the season.

There is risk involved in every trade, but if the Oilers can pull off a trade involving Broberg, Puljujarvi, and more for Chychrun, I think it will work out, and they will be a better team for it.