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?