The Edmonton Oilers have very few roster players that could become restricted free agents this summer. Sam Gagner is already engaged in contract talks and aside from an abundance of prospects, there are only two other players of note that are currently on the brink of becoming RFA’s. Defenseman Theo Peckham is one while forward Magnus Paajarvi is the other.
It is in Paajarvi that a curious case is found. Is he better served as a trade chip for the Oilers or is he still a valuable asset that should be considered as a key piece to the future success of the hockey club? Let’s explore the latter first.
Paajarvi made his Oiler debut back in the 2010 season where he played in 80 games and registered an impressive 15 goals and 34 points as a rookie. The future looked bright for the Oilers with the former first round draft pick (10th overall).
But the last two seasons haven’t been as productive for the 22-year old. In 2011-12 he split the season between the Oilers and the AHL. In 41 games with the big club he scored just 2 goals and recorded 8 points while accumulating a modest minus-7. Questions arose wondering what had happened to the once blossoming prospect or was this just a typical sophomore slump.
This past season Paajarvi spent most of the year in Edmonton, playing in 42 games while recording 16 points, 9 of which were goals to go with a respectable minus-1. He did see more powerplay time along with some penalty killing duties and it was there that you could see his game start to develop. A big frame, Paajarvi was starting to use his size to his advantage on some nights showing why the Oilers drafted him so high.
He would exude confidence on some nights proving that he deserves to be a regular with the Oilers. Only to fail to show up the next night leaving you scratching your head as to why you’re seeing the inconsistent play.
It’s easy to forget that he’s still just a young adult at just 22-years of age and that he was playing in the NHL when he was just 19. Was he rushed by the Oilers back in 2010? Maybe not, given how well he performed in his rookie year, but its been that particular game that has eluded him since.
There has been chatter surrounding last year’s trade deadline that the Oilers may try and move Paajarvi but nothing ever materialized. Now with contract negotiations set to take place between now and sometime in the summer, the Oilers are once again forced to decide what to do with the young Swede.
A sign and trade could be in the cards if the Oilers management deem that Paajarvi doesn’t fit into their plans moving forward. It’s difficult to say that he fits on the top two lines, but depending what happens with Ales Hemsky and who the Oilers target in free-agency, there could be a slim chance of Paajarvi playing on the second line.
Pairing Paajarvi along with the team’s first round draft pick (7th overall) could be another possibility should the Oilers look to move up in the draft. Even that might be enough to get into the top five picks.
In the end, it’s a no-brainer. This is still a kid that has more developing ahead of him and it is in the Oilers best interest to hang on to him which I’m certain they will. Re-sign him to a 3-year deal somewhere between $3.6 – 4 million and invest in him so he knows that he’s part of the plan that surges on in Edmonton. Trading him now and giving up on him would be a disappointing move by the Oilers so let’s hope they keep Paajarvi around for a little while longer so we can watch him mature as a fine young hockey player.
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