By Andrew Muirhead
Peter Chiarelli’s Edmonton Oilers are in desperate need of some blue line support, someone who can be a go-to shutdown defender for years to come during this rebuild. It’ll most likely take one of the Oilers’ young superstars, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle to land said top blueliner. Taylor Hall, who is most likely to be Edmonton’s next captain, will not be going anywhere. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl certainly aren’t going anywhere as they will be Edmonton’s future down the center. Due to Eberle’s poor performance since returning from injury, Nugent-Hopkins is the player most likely to be moved. The former first overall pick will likely be on the move at or around the NHL Draft on June 24th. Let’s look at some possible destinations:
The Predators are definitely in need of some top-six scoring, knowing that second line center Mike Fisher is 36-years-old and will most likely not be in the league much longer. Nashville made an exchange during the 2015-16 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, trading away Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen who they knew would be that first line center they’d been searching for, but they could be searching for more. Nashville obviously would not be willing to part ways with Shea Weber or Roman Josi, leaving a couple young-guns named Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. These two defensemen of the 2009 draft class had strong seasons with the Preds, Ekholm recording 35 points in 82 games with a plus 14 rating and Ellis with 32 points in 79 games with a plus 13 rating. Although neither have much top-four experience, Edmonton will definitely show some interest during this year’s draft. This exchange could definitely address some needs for both teams, and not leave either in cap trouble for years to come.
The Wild have a handful of very slightly above average guys down the middle and could use the no-doubt 1st or 2nd line center in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Minnesota finished in the bottom half of the league for goals per game so they could definitely use a boost, and seeing as the 33 year old captain Mikko Koivu is only going to get older, this kind of acquisition becomes even more important for the future. The Wild have a surplus of young defensemen in their system, but most notably, Matt Dumba (RFA) and Jared Spurgeon. Dumba really proved himself this year as a top defenseman for the Wild who have now made the playoffs four straight years. I think Dumba’s rights will be of higher interest for Edmonton as he is 5 years younger than Spurgeon and has much more room to grow into an NHL superstar. The only issue with this deal is that the Wild will most likely have to free up some cap room for RNH’s $6M cap hit. Definitely possible that Coyle’s contract for $3.2M over the next 4 years would be moved to free up some room so the Wild can re-sign some players. Although this exchange would benefit both organizations, I think Edmonton would be on the winning side of this deal as they would address a very big issue while throwing a guy into the mix that could possibly turn into an absolute beast for the Oilers in years to come.
The Sens are another team with a couple of slightly above average centers who have had to step up into the number 1 and 2 center roles. Obviously, Nugent-Hopkins can be there to take up that top spot or maybe even the second. Nugent-Hopkins and Kyle Turris would make an excellent one-two-punch down the center. The Senators would probably have to give up 22-year-old defenseman, Cody Ceci in order to acquire their much needed 1st/2nd line center. Ceci posted a career best 10 goals and 26 points in 75 games as well as a plus 9 rating. He can be a solid defender in his own zone as well as some production on the offensive side for the Oilers. This will be a solid deal for both teams, although Ottawa will be taking in RNH’s hefty contract of $6M for the next 5 years, they will still be left with about $11.5M to resign players.