Edmonton Oilers: Hall Trade Will Pay Off With Larsson

Nov 17, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson (5) during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 17, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson (5) during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

A firestorm ravaged through the city of Edmonton as a result of Edmonton oilers star forward Taylor Hall being dealt to the offensively challenged New Jersey Devils in exchange for right-handed defender Adam Larsson.

Many fans are enraged by the trade, and that’s understandable to an extent. To the naked eye one can easily identify the lopsided value in the deal. Plain and simple, Jersey got an established, premier top left winger, while the Oilers got a promising, young, non-established rearguard.

It was a trade that most fans worried would happen. Like trading certainty for uncertainty essentially. The Devils clearly won the transaction, or at least they did in the spur of that moment.

Adam Larsson went fourth-overall in 2011. He was projected to go first overall, but experienced the surprising draft-day drop, slipping out of the top three and into the hands of the Devils.

I have to admit that back in 2011, before I became a huge fan of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his terrific two-way game, I personally hoped to see Edmonton selecting Larsson first overall instead.

The 23-year-old Swede has very attractive attributes. He has good NHL size, coming in at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds. I haven’t heard anybody mention the fact that he has a booming shot from the point, which will come to great use on the power play. Larsson is good positionally and is terrific with transitions.

Not to mention, He is an excellent penalty killer. As bold GM Peter Chiarelli stated in his press conference Wednesday, “He’s not the fasted skater in the world,” but is smooth and quick enough to get the puck up the ice.

Larsson is very mobile and is very aggressive with his big, thick frame. In fact I’ve heard people say there is a bit of nastiness in Larsson’s game as evident by his 77 penalty minutes last season.

People are critical of his underwhelming offensive production, but like Chiarelli said in the presser, “Offence is not his fortay”. But keep in mind, he wasn’t exactly utilized in much of an offensive role in Jersey and didn’t see a whole lot of time on the power play. Not to mention the fact that he was matched up against teams’ best players.

He has good skillm so we could see his offensive numbers increase with more time in offensive situations in Edmonton, particularly on the power play. The Oilers truly are getting an outstanding player to anchor their defence corps. I think they’re getting a solid pillar for their top 4.

Larsson has had endured a bumpy, turbulent development process so far in his young career, but has finally started coming into his own in the last year and a half. Paired with versatile captain Andy Greene on the first pairing last season, the duo logged over 22 minutes on a nightly basis playing against the league’s toughest competition. Larsson held his own quite well, and showed he is more than capable of handling the workload.

He was very effective physically and defensively. In fact, there were a few games where he logged over 25 minutes. That’s what Edmonton needs right? A workhorse capable of eating up major minutes.

Larsson was deployed as a top-pairing defenseman in New Jersey and was, without a doubt, the Devils’ number-one option on the backend. For two straight seasons, he has been a plus player. On a cheap six-year, $25 million deal (with a hit of around $4 million a season), Larsson comes at a bargain price financially and will be friendly to the Oilers’ cap situation moving forward.

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Larsson is also very underrated, which allows Taylor Hall’s well-established game to overshadow the dynamics of Larsson’s skills. The truth is its easy for a player to fall under the radar in a smaller hockey market like New Jersey and since they play in the Eastern Conference, the Oilers don’t see them much.

In all fairness, people haven’t been able to see much of Larsson and give a fair, concrete assessment of his talents. I’ve seen him play and I know the Oilers are getting a real stud.

As everybody knows, in order to get value, you have to give up value in return. That’s no secret and its far from rocket science. In today’s NHL, teams tend to covet defence over offence and place tremendous value on defending. One thing that fans must understand is that Chiarelli knows the type of player he’s getting. He had to pay a premium price to get Larsson and he more than did his fair share of homework on the player.

I agree that Edmonton should have at least got a first-rounder as part of the deal as well. There should have been one or two more pieces going to Edmonton for sure but I don’t doubt for a second the quality of player the Oilers got in Larsson.

Think about it: do you really believe Chiarelli wanted the one-for-one deal? Do you really think he would undervalue Hall so easily like that? Well the truth is he had no choice in the matter. Devils General Manager Ray Shero is the one who put the massive price tag on his top defender. That was his asking price. Taylor Hall.

There is no doubt in my mind that Chiarelli pushed hard to get more coming his way in the deal, but in reality, Shero simply would not budge. He knew the value of Larsson and his importance to the organization so he successfully held his ground on the asking price. This alludes to the concept I mentioned earlier in which teams value defenceman more in today’s NHL. With Larsson’s draft pedigree and steady progress he experienced last season as a top pairing defenceman, that makes him incredibly valuable.

Chiarelli missed the boat to acquire a top defender at the draft so the urgency to get someone for the backend was at an alarming all time high. Something had to be done sooner rather than later. I think some panic might have set in.

Chiarelli went with his gut and although he tried, he knew he wasn’t going to convince Shero to give him more for his top left winger. So he simply agreed to a deal he felt was the best option and was necessary to make. I can’t blame Chiarelli for that. He went out and did exactly what he said he’d do, which is more than what Craig Mactavish can say.

It’s sad to see Hall go, but this trade clearly signals a change in direction for the franchise. Larsson is a play driver and a difference maker. But I’ve said it all along, the Oilers can win without Taylor Hall. They have their go-to man in Connor McDavid, so it doesn’t really matter as long as he’s firmly intact as the number-one guy at the helm of the ship. The Oilers can, and likely will, get by without Hall. It’s a huge loss to their offence, but Chiarelli is already lining up potential replacements. They are still very deep at forward.

So rather than wallow in regret and snarky loathing towards Chiarelli and the Oilers organization, fans should look at the positive in knowing that the defence deficiencies in Edmonton are being addressed accordingly and will continue to be as the days press forward.

With rumours of Jason Demers coming to Edmonton, there is more than enough reason to expect a fully upgraded blue line come October when the season starts. A top-four consisting of Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera and Demers doesn’t sound so bad at all. Mark my words, Chiarelli is likely not even close to finished yet.

Fans need to give Larsson a break, cause now his success will forever be tied to the Hall trade so the pressure will be quite seismic for the 23 year old. Cut him some slack and instead of getting on his case if he struggles, let him develop and learn so he can progress into the top defenceman he is already well on his way to becoming. Let his transition to Edmonton go smoothly. It is unreasonable to right everything off and deem this trade as a destined failure right off the bat.

Don’t forget that there is a reason why New Jersey locked Larsson up on a long term deal last year. Shero himself has boasted about the right-handed Swede’s ceiling of potential and the steady progress he’s making to become an extraordinary player. Suffice to say, Larsson was held in high regard by his former GM.

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A silver lining can be made in all of this. It needs to be understood that the Oilers traded for an emerging, young top defensemen, not a raw top prospect just breaking into the NHL. Thats a huge difference. Larsson is a player ready for prime time with already 274 games of experience under his belt. Trust me, the Oilers have found their guy, but they aren’t done yet. Don’t be so quick to panic.