With the Edmonton Oilers wallowing in their customary spot at the bottom of the NHL standings, the calls for Peter Chiarelli to trade one of his “inherited” core pieces have been growing. While the odd crazed fan has suggested the club move Taylor Hall in what could arguably be one of the dumbest moves any team could make, the vast majority of this fan base has been targeting Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov as the players most likely to leave town.
However, we are now starting to hear similar whispers surrounding Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. While the emergence of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid has some believing Chiarelli would be wise to look at the possibility of moving the struggling 22-year old, the thought of the Oilers even considering said option seems rather absurd. Let’s not forget that we are talking about a franchise who up until the summer of 2014, had exactly zero depth down the middle of the rink.
Pavel Datsyuk wasn’t a PPG player until he was 24. Nugent-Hopkins is close to that at 22, #Oilers should trade him… ?
— NateInVegas (@NateInVegas) November 27, 2015
While the additions of Draisaitl and McDavid allowed Edmonton to address the issue in one calendar year, moving a player of Nugent-Hopkins’ skill-set would be a massive misstep. In the mind’s of some, having three quality centres may seem like luxury this club can ill afford but upon further examination, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one can easily make the argument keeping the aforementioned trio in place is exactly what this organization needs in order to help finally right the ship.
RNH Is Not the Chip You Play
There is no question that this team needs to improve in goal and along the blue line, however creating another hole in an area that is just as important, makes no sense whatsoever. To be fair, you would be hard-pressed to find a team in recent memory who carried centres as talented as Draisaitl, McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins but by keeping all three, the Oilers would be putting themselves in a rather enviable position.
By using one of the three on the wing in a top-six role, it would give the roster a look no other team in the league would have. In essence, Chiarelli would be giving his head coach something he had grown accustomed to during his time with the San Jose Sharks. Something tells me if you were to ask Todd McLellan if having the likes of Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton in the same lineup was a problem, the answer you would get would be a resounding no.
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From a coaching standpoint, it gives you the best of both worlds and an option almost no other team will have at their disposal. Having the capability of moving key personnel within in your lineup is, depending on matchups, a luxury worth having. Also, let’s not lose sight of just how good these three kids could be. As great a player as Thornton has been throughout his brilliant career, the chances of McDavid being that much better are very good. Advantage Edmonton.
While it may be a little soon to make such a prediction but is it so far-fetched to expect Draisaitl and RNH to put together career totals that end up being comparable to those of Marleau and Pavelski? In my opinion, it would not. Meaning the Oilers could potentially have four players, including Hall, that could carry this team up front for years to come and yet there are some who believe trading away No. 93 is the answer? Sorry, but it makes no sense.
The Best Is Still To Come From No. 93
Perhaps the biggest head-scratcher in all of this is the fact no one seems to take into account how young Nugent-Hopkins still is. While this may be his fifth year in the NHL, we are talking about a 22-year old kid who has been forced into growing up far quicker than he should have but nonetheless turned himself into a pretty solid two-way centre. This organization failed the so-called “previous core” by not insulating them with quality veterans but there is nothing that can be done about it now.
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With that said, can you imagine what this team would look like if you were to remove the first overall pick of the 2011 Entry Draft from the equation? Who takes on all those “heavy-minutes”? Does anyone really want McDavid or Draisaitl having that placed onto their plates? Well, if they trade Nugent-Hopkins away, they will have little choice but to do exactly that. So again, can someone please explain to me how such move is supposed to improve this club?
Outside of securing some kind of ridiculous return, which isn’t going to happen, the Edmonton Oilers are a far better team with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on their roster than off it. Who knows, in a few years time that could be up for debate but in the here and now, it is not even a discussion worth having. While he may not every turn out to be the point-producer this franchise hoped they were getting in the summer of 2011, chances are the Burnaby native is still going to have one heck of an NHL career.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.