The Oilers Need an Elite Defenceman…But at What Price?

What would you do for a Shea We-bar? (This joke sounded better in my head.) Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-US PRESSWIRE

Before I get to my post, I know there’s absolutely no need for me to be using “elite” as a qualifier for that sentence. The Oilers need defence period; preferably the healthy, NHL-ready kind. The lack of depth was already apparent at the start of the year, and the injuries have overstated the point with all the subtlety of a stick in the eye. This might be the shallowest the Oilers have ever been at the blueline, and that’s saying a lot about a franchise that used to employ Cory Cross and Scott Ferguson as regulars.

That being said, the Oilers do in fact, need that bonafide #1 guy. (Hello Captain Obvious.) With no disrespect to Tom Gilbert or Ladislav Smid, who have both shown great strides this year, they’re not and will likely never be #1 material, but both should be a part of the defensive core going forward, barring their play regressing.

Having defensive depth is the first (and biggest) step for the Oilers to climb out of the bottom of the standings and play games past the first few weeks of April, the elite defender will big a big step in ensuring they can be competitive in the those games. So why go after the elite defender first?

1) Because depth can be obtained in free agency or some of our prospects can step in, and while I wouldn’t bet on Marincin, Musil, Klefbom, or Gernat to be ready by next year, someone could surprise us.
2) Edmonton isn’t a hotspot for elite free agents, few bottom five teams ever are. Also, FA defence are absurdly overpaid (James Wisniewski). Which leaves trading or the draft…which brings me to my next point.
3) Few defensemen drafted in the first round are NHL ready, and even fewer make a huge impact like a Doughty or Myers. And there’s no guarantee they develop as planned (see Thomas Hickey or Colten Teubert)
4) Which leaves trading, and the Oilers have a couple of forwards not named Hall, Eberle, or Nugent-Hopkins (who Tambellini should consider untouchable) that teams might be interested in, namely Gagner and Hemsky. Hemsky being a UFA at the end of the year, aka an asset that needs to be traded before we lose it for nothing. As much as it pains me to say, I’m a huge Hemsky fan but I don’t think he re-signs.

That said, elite defencemen aren’t cheap, so how much are the Oilers willing to give up? How much should they give up to land someone like a Shea Weber? Which leads to this tweet by Dustin Nielson of the Team1260 which inspired this blog post.

“Should the Oilers put in an Offer sheet on Shea Weber this off-season. It will cost four first round picks, would you do it?”

My initial reaction was hell no. Then after some thought and discussion, still no.

Four first round picks are a lot to give up for one player. You’re making a four year gap in top level prospect development and hoping that Stu MacGregor can work some serious magic in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. It might be a price a fringe cup contender that has a core it can keep together for two to three years would and could pay in order to push for a cup, but should a bottom five team do it?  If the move doesn’t work, say it only makes the Oilers a fringe playoff team, we’re going to end up like the late 90′s Oilers, and then eventually end up in the basement again with nothing to show for it and a barer prospect cupboard.

And if you don’t particularly agree with that (it is just speculation after all), here’s another reason not to do it. Why give up four firsts when you have an asset you need to move? Take Hemsky, package him up with a first, one of our better defensive prospects, and either a depth player or 2nd rounder, and see if some team bites. A more agreeable price tag, and once that doesn’t put prospect depth into harm’s way.

What say you? What should the Oilers give up to get that #1 blueliner?

Topics: Ales Hemsky, Defence, Ladislav Smid, Shea Weber, Tom Gilbert

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  • OilOnWhyte

    Gilbert might not carry name recognition with him like Shea Weber, but if Gilbert is in Detroit or Chicago, he’s a bonafide star.

    With the price of poker going up so fast these days, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this guy grab a contract in the seventy million, seven year range. I’d love to have him, but it’d take a wad o’ cash and some of the kids.

    • OilOnWhyte

      And by “this guy”, I mean “Weber”.

      • ibleedoil

        @OilOnWhyte Well I don’t think anyone would suggest Gilbert would be offered 70 over 7. He’d be top pairing in several places, but I don’t think Chicago is one of them (though by no means is it a shame to be 3rd behind Keith/Seabrook.) Though I agree, Weber is going to become the top paid D-man in the league, which is why I’d look at Suter, who doesn’t seem to have the name recognition as Weber, I think he could be had for less money.

        Of course, that is if David Poile is willing to trade either, he’s made it clear he wants to re-sign all three. I’m not convinced the Preds ownership is willing to become a cap team though, and they’ll need to be if they want all three plus be able to get some to score some goals.

        • ibleedoil

          *someone

  • Realoilfan

    Personally, i wouldnt give up the 4 first rounders either when weber becomes a UFA next year. You could argue that the Oilers wait and try to get him when it costs nothing. When i heard nielson talking about the offer sheet this morning, i was not interested in giving up that much future. However, when i realized that we will still retain this years first round pick (which is likely to be a high one) and thinking about the time it will take to develop a player of Weber’s calibre, i thought this would actually be a good idea. The one issue i have with the all of it is how will a deal for Weber affect our ability to sign all of our young talent when the time comes?

    • ibleedoil

      @Realoilfan Look at the teams rich with talent though. Boston, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, etc. It’s possible to have a solid roster with multiple stars and still be able to manage the cap effectively. (Though I’m not confident in Tambo’s ability to be a cap wizard.)

      Plus, surprisingly, the Oilers are not in terrible shape with the cap, even considering that Horcoff contract.

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