Archive for 2016-06-26

The Taylor Hall trade and two alternative scenarios


On Wednesday, the Edmonton Oilers felt a tsunami-sized backlash when it came out they had traded arguably their best player over the last five seasons in Taylor Hall. To boot, it was a one-for-one, lopsided trade for what could be an up-and-coming, but unproven first-pairing shut-down defenseman in Adam Larsson. Frankly, it was ugly.

The backlash stemmed mostly from the optics of the trade. It wasn't because Adam Larsson can't be a top-pairing defender or won't be exactly what the Oilers need and have needed for years, instead it was because of what they had to give up to fill that need. Some fans were prepared for Taylor Hall to be moved, and while Adam Larsson could be a key building block on defense, it's just not a foregone conclusion yet, the assertion relying heavily on hope, while Taylor Hall is and was a proven commodity. Had the trade been for Nail Yakupov, Benoit Pouliot, or even Jordan Eberle, the pill might have been a bit easier to swallow.


A day later, the news has had a chance to settle and while the hatred for management amongst Oiler fans still exist, the focus has shifted to what the Oilers do next. Where do they go from here? What's coming up? It seems to be a consensus that the Edmonton Oilers are not finished doing, whatever it is they're doing. Most seem to think it starts but doesn't end with the signing of Milan Lucic.


So too, those well connected, such as Elliot Friedman have suggested that P.K. Subban, who was traded some ten minutes later to Nashville for the elite, but potentially declining defenceman Shea Weber, was, in fact; available to Edmonton if the Oilers had met the asking price. That asking price being Leon Draisaitl, the fourth-overall pick in the 2016 draft (which ended up being Jesse Puljujarvi), Oscar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse and something else.


The Oilers weren't willing to meet that asking price, instead going the direction of Larsson. It could wind up that in keeping all the pieces Edmonton did, that they'll have a much deeper team and Larsson could turn out to be a fair trade if all the right dots are connected, but what if the trade happened involving Subban, or for that matter, another option we don't have confirmation on, but was rumored to be available? How different would this team look?


As it stands now, Edmonton seems to be on it's way to icing something like below:


Milan Lucic / Connor McDavid / Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot / Leon Draisaitl / Jesse Puljujarvi
Patrick Maroon / Ryan Nugent-Hopkins / Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks / Mark Letestu / Zack Kassian
Lander/Pakarinen

Oscar Klefbom / Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera / Darnell Nurse
Brandon Davidson / Mark Fayne

Cam Talbot

?

Admittedly, this is a more balanced team from the goaltender out than before the Taylor Hall trade and it's clear what Chiarelli is trying to accomplish. Size, mixed with skill, while being a better team defensively. It's a team I actually think could do well in a tough western conference. They also have depth at many positions in the event of injury.


The team however still has some glaring issues. Notably, they have a lesser first-line winger in Lucic who is going to cost more than Taylor Hall did and likely decline over the term of his contract. They have a talented, but young and mostly, unproven group of right wingers, They still lack a true second-pair right-handed defenseman and power play point-man and they need a back-up goalie.


On July 1, Edmonton can easily address their goaltending and may be able to get another right-handed blueliner - maybe not second pair material, but more experienced than the prospects they have now filling major roles on this roster (while he's a one-trick pony, someone like James Wisniewski could be their power play shot on the first unit and come relatively inexpensively after being bought out by Carolina earlier on Thursday).


But, what if the Oilers did in fact trade for Subban?


Taylor Hall/ Connor McDavid / Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot / Ryan Nugent Hopkins/ Nail Yakupov
Patrick Maroon / ? / Zack Kassian
Matt Hendricks / Mark Letestu / ?
Lander/Pakarinen

Oscar Klefbom / P.K Subban

Andrej Sekera / Mark Fayne
Brandon Davidson /

Cam Talbot

?

Let's say the something else required to make that deal happen was a 1st rounder in 2017 or a Nail Yakupov. Do you throw that piece in to get the deal done? Many wouldn't, but some might when you consider how it helps your team today. You immediately solve your need for a top-pair defensive unit for years to come.


Doing so doesn't come without problems. The Oilers would be one of the strongest teams in the NHL at LW, but have two needs at RW, a need at third-line center and another right d-man who could slot in either your second or third pair.


But, is this a better team?


My opinion, yes; but only if...


If the team stays relatively healthy and addresses a couple smaller issues in free agency, they'll be a better team. But if injuries strike this team as they often do, the Oilers in this scenario lack the depth to contend, especially at centre,which right now is a strength for the Oilers.


Should Eberle or Yakupov get hurt, this team becomes extremely weak on the right side with no real replacements.  This is especially true should they not address the position in free-agency. Yakupov by many has been all but written off, meaning legitimate right-wingers fall to only Jordan Eberle.


You also can't ignore the fact that you're giving up two significant potential players in Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse. Could Nurse become a Subban? Those in favor of the Subban deal will say no. Others say maybe, but most didn't want to move big, skilled and potential all-star Leon Draisaitl along with what could be a high first-round pick.


Opposition to this trade may also argue that Subban,who comes with a $9 million cap hit could cripple your team when it comes time to pay Connor McDavid who will likely command $10 million on his next contract. Three six-million dollar players, one ten-million and a nine-million defenseman is nearly half of the potential cap at the time McDavid requires his extension, all tied up in five players.


It's manageable, but it's also expensive. Chiarelli instead chose to give himself options in terms of cap space, which is a strategy some will and won't agree with.


Is there a third option? Could the Oilers have improved their team by doing nothing?


The only thing that stopped fans from almost rioting the streets of Edmonton if the Oilers stood pat, was what they eventually did do, which was to trade Taylor Hall. What if Edmonton instead looked for small changes to improve their team?


Taylor Hall/ Connor McDavid / Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot / Leon Draisaitl / Jesse Puljujarvi
Patrick Maroon / Ryan Nugent Hopkins / Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks / Mark Letestu / Zack Kassian
Lander/Pakarinen

Oscar Klefbom /?

Andrej Sekera / Mark Fayne
Brandon Davidson / ?

Cam Talbot

?

Edmonton in this scenario needs two right-handed defensemen in a bad way. One could have been Jason Demers, but that would have required a massive over-payment for defenseman proven not to be a number one option. The other option meant small fixes, much the way Edmonton tried last season with Reinhart and Gryba.


Clearly, the Oilers couldn't manage to keep the puck out of their own net with the defensive group they had. Another year that way would have been a disaster.


I don't like the optics of the Taylor Hall trade either, but I like both the Larsson and Subban rosters better than I liked our current outlook.


But who really cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut - until the next time I feel like spilling my guts.