Could the Oilers and the Habs Help Each Other?

One team is in the West, desperate to make the playoffs according to their owner. The other one is in the East, jousting for a playoffs’ position. The first one has just fired their General Manager and they find themselves with their hands tied, strapped to the salary cap. The other has nine million and can afford to pay. But neither is deep enough at any position to sacrifice top talent to make things happen, and neither team is willing to move their young quality assets and high draft picks to improve this year. Dilemma…

As we touched about in a recent article, the Edmonton Oilers are in a bind and have been for quite some time and that, in spite of having two of the best young players in the entire NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The have finally fired GM Peter Chiarelli and team owner, billionaire Daryl Katz was recently quoted saying that missing the playoffs was not an option. At the All-Star break, his team is only three points out of a playoffs’ spot but they have five or six teams to leapfrog in order to make it happen.

Peter Chiarelli was fired by the Oilers

Marc Bergevin and his Montreal Canadiens are in a much better position. The Habs have surprised most people by overtaking the Boston Bruins and trailing the mighty Toronto Maple Leafs by a single point, amid having played a couple more games than their rivals. And they have done so without quality defensemen on the left side, and certainly none worthy of top minutes playing alongside Shea Weber. Sophomore Victor Mete, who even was sent down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket earlier this season, is Weber’s current partner and he’s doing okay. Imagine if they found someone for that role and if they could improve on their league worst powerplay…

Like the Oilers, the direction is clear when asked about the team’s goals as Bergevin recently addressed the topic.

“I’m always going to be listening to options, but the goal is to build for the future. Just to give up assets for the short-term, I’m not going to do it. It would have to be very appealing. If there are young players available, assets have to go. I get that. But, I don’t think I’ll be in the rental business.”
“Based on what I saw in Vancouver [at the WJC], the future of the Canadiens is very bright. I’m not going to start mortgaging the future. I know what’s coming with the World Juniors, who they’re going to be asking for, and I’m not moving these kids. It’s going to be a short conversation, I think… If we drafted these kids, it’s because we believe they have some potential. That came to the forefront in Vancouver with our prospects that really stepped up their games.”
~ Marc Bergevin (January 7, 2019)

An Oilers / Canadiens trade?

First and foremost, forget Darnell Nurse. He’s not going anywhere. If I’m the Oilers, I also try to avoid trading Oscar Klefbom and I am reluctant giving up so soon on top prospect Jesse Puljujärvi. His value is too low right now, the Oilers don’t have much to lose by giving him time to find his game. So who’s left in Edmonton? First, a trade must help them. Their number one goal right now is clearing some cap space. The have a few contracts that they might or would consider unloading in order to prepare for more moves.

PLAYERCONTRACTEXPIRYGPPTS
Milan Lucic$6M – NMC2022-235012
Kris Russell$4M – NMC2020-21409
Ryan Spooner$3.1M2019-20415
Brandon Manning$2.25M2019-20354
Zack Kassian$1.95M2019-20479
TOTAL:$17.3M21339

Everybody knows that they would like to unload Milan Lucic but it would take a whole bag of sugar to sweeten the pot enough to make it happen with anyone and I certainly don’t think that the Habs are a good match. Ryan Spooner is a project with some upside, Brandon Manning is a dime a dozen and Zack Kassian… well, been there, done that.

Kris Russell is an interesting candidate however. No, he’s not a “sexy choice” and no, he’s not a permanent solution. When I made the suggestion on Twitter, some were adamant against him but I have a feeling that few of those people have watched him play enough to make a valid judgment. You see, my girlfriend is an Oilers’ fan (we won’t hold that against her) and I got to watch them often this season. Here’s my take on Russell TODAY…

Kris Russell

Kris Russell is a mobile, puck-moving and shot blocking veteran defenseman. He plays with confidence with the puck and he also owns enough offensive acumen to play on the power play and moves the puck with aplomb. He has great wheels. A lack of size (5-10, 170 lbs) can occasionally hinder his ability to defend bigger forwards but he usually positions himself well and has a good stick. He is no all-star (nor is he getting paid like one) so he will be prone to mental lapses from time to time. He is currently fourth in the entire NHL in blocked shots with 107 and that, with 10 fewer games played than most of his competitors.

What I do know however is that at this point in time, Russell is an improvement over Mike Reilly, Jordie Benn, David Schlemko, Karl Alzner, Xavier Ouellet and arguably Mete too. While he’s not the sexy choice, a Canadiens’ defense with Russell is superior (and deeper) than it is today without him. Period. So at the right price, he would help the Habs. He is 31 years old, so he will be 33 at the end of his contract. By that time, Alexander Romanov will be ready to step in on the Canadiens’ blue line. The cap? The Canadiens don’t have any major contracts to renew during Russell’s term. It’s a none-issue.

The deal: I think that something along the lines of Charles Hudon would get it done, give or take on one side or the other. The question: are the Canadiens a better team with Russell or Hudon? Asking the question is answering it.

Granted, there are other options. But what I’m offering here is one that seems to be a good stop-gap at a very low cost. Go Habs Go!

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Edmonton’s Crude Oil Reality

As a huge legal and moral battle is going on between the province of British Columbia and Alberta over the construction of a pipeline, the Edmonton Oilers seem to be pedaling in oil sands, and they appear to be closer to a spill catastrophe than on their way to up their production… and unlike the pipeline dilemma, not even Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Government can buy them a solution. Much like Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Peter Chiarelli‘s popularity is rapidly fading away and by the end of May, we could very well see some new blood in both positions, trying to fix the mess left behind by their counterparts.

But how can a franchise with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as their cornerstones be in such a mess year in, year out? It’s a combination of things, really, but the main one appears to be poor scouting, drafting and/or player development. I mean, it’s not like the Oilers didn’t get their chances to turn things around over recent years!

Connor McDavid

Since 2007, the Oilers have drafted 88 players. 15 of those players were drafted in the first round alone and to make matters worse, only twice have them picked further than 20th overall, when they selected 22nd in 2008 and 2017)!

In those 12 years, they had 10 Top-10 overall selections. Six (6) of those picks were in the Top-5 including four (4) first overall picks! No other team in the NHL has come anywhere close to having so many quality picks in that time span.

YEARNAMEOVERALL
2007Sam Gagner6th
Alex Plante15th
Riley Nash21st
2008Jordan Eberle22nd
2009Magnus Paajarvi10th
2010Taylor Hall1st
2011Ryan Nugent-Hopkins1st
Oscar Klefbom19th
2012Nail Yakupov1st
2013Darnell Nurse7th
2014Leon Draisaitl3rd
2015Connor McDavid1st
2016Jesse Puljujarvi4th
2017Kailer Yamamoto22nd
2018Evan Bouchard10th

But there is more than the poor choices in their first round picks. When a team finishes so low in the standings, it also means that they often get to select early in each round there after. But ff the 73 other picks from rounds 2-7, only eight (8) have played 100 NHL games or more.

  • *Anton Lander (215)
  • Brandon Davidson (161)
  • *Martin Marincin (185)
  • *Tyler Pitlick (177)
  • Tobias Rieder (342)
  • Erik Gustafsson (118)
  • Jujhar Khaira (133)
  • Anton Slepyshev (102)

*Second round picks

Peter Chiarelli has completed several trades but force is to admit that very few had a positive impact on the Oilers.

YEARINOUT
2015Griffin ReinhartMartin Marincin
Cam TalbotBrad Ross
Eric GrybaTravis Ewanyk
Lauri KorpikoskiBoyd Gordon
Anders NilssonLiam Coughlin
Zack KassianBen Scrivens
2016Niklas LundstromPhilip Larsen
Patrick MaroonJustin Schultz
Adam LarssonTeddy Purcell
Zach PochiroAnders Nilsson
Martin Gernat
Taylor Hall
Nail Yakupov
2017Henrik SamuelssonMitchell Moroz
David DesharnaisBrandon Davidson
Justin FontaineTaylor Beck
Ryan StromeJordan Eberle
Michael CammalleriJussi Jokinen
Greg Chase
2018Al MontoyaBrandon Davidson
Pontus AbergMark Letestu
J.D. DudekPatrick Maroon
Cooper MarodyJakub Jerabek
Nolan VeseyRyan Strome
Ryan Spooner
Chris Wideman

In addition to the trades he’s made, Chiarelli has had several free agents’ signing. Some have been pleasant surprises, most have been disappointments.

YEARPLAYERCONTRACT
2015Andrej Sekera6 year $33M
Mark Letestu3 year $5.4M
Anders Nilsson1 year $1M
Justin Schultz1 year $3.9M
Tyler Pitlick1 year $761K
Brandon Davidson1 year $585K
2016Milan Lucic7 year $42M
Jonas Gustavsson1 year $800K
Kris Russell1 year $3.1M
Eric Gryba1 year $950K
2017Ryan Stanton2 year $1.4M
Ty Rattie1 year $700K
Brad Malone2 year $1.3M
Jussi Jokinen1 year $1.1M
2018Tobia Reider2 year $2.3M
Kyle Brodziak2 year 2.3M
Ryan Strome2 year $6.2M
Jason Garrison1 year $650K
Alex Chiasson1 year $650K

Now remember folks… this team has McDavid and Draisaitl as a draw and unlike the Pittsburgh Penguins with Sidney Crosby, the Oilers have yet to draw key free agents to Edmonton. They are still questionable in net, they still have some gaping holes on defense, and their secondary scoring is pretty much inexistant. How is that even possible?

Peter Chiarelli might be running out of time and options in Edmonton.

Peter Chiarelli lost his job as the Boston Bruins’ General Manager mostly because he painted himself in a corner, tying his own hands, by mis-managing the team’s salary cap. In three years, he seems to have done the same with the Oilers.

According to Capfriendly, Edmonton is the NHL’s team with the fourth highest cap only behind the Detroit Red Wings, the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks. Worse, they have no help in sight as they have $68.5M committed to 13 players in 2019-2020. Their only pending UFA’s are Alex Petrovic ($1.9M), Kevin Gravel ($700K), Alex Chiasson ($650K), as well as their two goaltenders, Cam Talbot ($4.2M) and Mikko Koskinen ($2.5M). Chiasson has 17 goals for the Oilers in 34 games so far, so he will require a substantial raise if Edmonton wants to retain his services. Gotta feel for those Oilers’ fans who are suffering through tough seasons year after year, only to see their team mismanaged to the point of wasting some key prime years of McDavid and Draisaitl.

HABS COMPARISON

Since Habs’ fans like to compare, let’s have a look at the draft history since 2007. The Canadiens have drafted 84 players in that time span. 12 of those were first round picks and only three (3) were Top-10, two (2) of which were Top-5 and none were first overall.

YEARNAMEOVERALL
2007Ryan McDonagh12th
Max Pacioretty22nd
2008No 1st round pick
2009Louis Leblanc18th
2010Jarred Tinordi22nd
2011Nathan Beaulieu17th
2012Alex Galchenyuk3rd
2013Michael McCarron25th
2014Nikita Scherbak26th
2015Noah Juulsen26th
2016Mikhail Sergachev9th
2017Ryan Poehling25th
2018Jesperi Kotkaniemi3rd

You will notice that Six (6) of those 12 first round picks were selected 22nd overall or later. Now off the 72 remaining picks from rounds 2-7, the Canadiens have drafted seven (7) players with more than 100 NHL games, with Victor Mete closing in on that mark with his 82 games.

  • Yannick Weber (431)
  • P.K. Subban (607)
  • Brendan Gallagher (450)
  • Charles Hudon (102)
  • Sven Andrighetto (177)
  • Artturi Lehkonen (183)
  • Jacob De la Rose (152)

Further, if you look into both teams’ pipelines, the Canadiens are well ahead of the Oilers with blue chip quality depth prospects. The future is bring in Montreal red… but there’s a lot of work to do before fans in Edmonton can wear their Oilers’ orange with pride. Go Habs Go!