With secondary scoring still a question mark for the Edmonton Oilers, Restricted Free Agent William Nylander would fit nicely in the teams top 6.
15 games into the 2018-19 NHL season, the Edmonton Oilers have steadied the ship after a rocky start. Wins against perennial Stanley Cup contenders have given fans optimism of a playoff run late into June. An area that needs improvement is the teams secondary scoring.
Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent- Hopkins, and Leon Draisaitl have done what is expected of them up to this point, but the rest of the forwards haven’t. Defenceman Oscar Klefbom is currently fourth in team scoring with 8 points in 15 games. Tobias Rieder is fourth in scoring amongst the forwards with just 7 points in 15 games, zero goals.
The best teams in the NHL get scoring from four lines, and the Oilers aren’t getting that right now. Milan Lucic and Kailer Yamamoto have spent significant time in the top 6 this season and only have a combined 6 points to show for it. The Oilers have a couple options to try and fix this.
They can hope that Yamamoto starts becoming more productive offensively or that Jesse Puljujarvi takes a giant step forward and becomes the player he is expected to be, or they look outside the organization for help. There is a back to back 60 point winger sitting at home waiting for a new contract.
William Nylander is a highly skilled player still scratching the surface of his full potential. Listening to analysts in the know of the NHL world made it seem like the Toronto Maple Leafs would have no problem getting a deal done with Nylander’s camp. The fact that the December 1st deadline for Nylander to sign, or he is ineligible to play this season is fast approaching with nothing imminent on the contract front makes a trade more likely than ever.
Peter Chiarelli should be blowing up Kyle Dubas’ phone right now.
New look top 6
Before getting into what it would cost the Oilers to acquire Nylander, let us look at how it would impact the top 6. Ty Rattie was given the first crack to play on the top line with McDavid and RNH but has only played in 7 games this season. Adding Nylander to the top line would immediately give the Oilers one of the best lines in hockey.
Nylander brings speed and elite playmaking ability. Nylander is one of the best in the game in offensive zone entries. His speed backs defenders up, creating space for his linemates. Nylander and McDavid together would be lethal.
If Todd McLellan decides to go in another direction with his lines, Nylander would do wonders for Draisaitl on the second line. Draisaitl is in dire need of a highly skilled winger to play with. He has had to carry the corpse of Lucic and the inexperienced Yamamoto for most of the season. He needs help.
Nylander would also give the Oilers a right-hand shot on the first PP unit that is a threat to shoot. He would drastically change the teams forward look. The question is at what price.
The tricky part about the Leafs and Oilers being trade partners is that both teams are in win-now mode. That makes trading players currently on the NHL roster hard to do. The Leafs would likely be asking for help on the backend, which points to Klefbom and Larsson. The Oilers can’t afford to give up mainstays on their already thin blue line, so what else can they offer?
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With Nylander coming in, presumably under a long-term contract, that could make other players expendable. Would the Leafs want to take a flyer on underperforming Puljujarvi? Puljujarvi has the upside that could entice the Leafs. The Oilers would obviously have to sweeten the pot a bit, but if these two teams are to get a deal done, it seems more likely it would be an exchange of forwards rather than the Oilers trading defenceman from their NHL roster.
There is no way the Oilers include Evan Bouchard in a potential Nylander deal. Bouchard will be a stud on the Oilers blueline for the next decade plus, so that is a non-starter. The question is whether the Oilers would put RNH on the table in a trade. Nuge has two more years remaining after this one at a reasonable $6 million per year and has been on the trade block before, so this isn’t a far-fetched idea. A piece like RNH might be the only way the Leafs take a deal not involving a defenseman.
The biggest question is what number is Nylander’s camp looking for. The rumors of his contract ask have been all over the place, from $6.5 to $8.5 million per year. The Oilers can’t afford anything starting with an 8, but a long-term deal at $7,000,000 per year would work.
David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins is one of the best forwards in the NHL, and he makes $6.666 per year, and Nylander isn’t on that level yet. Nylander’s agent Lewis Gross needs to come to his senses and agree to contract that will make his client rich but is also fair value for the team.
Nylander would have to agree to a contract before being dealt and the closer the deadline gets the more willing he may be to settle at a lower number. The bridge in Toronto may be burned, with a change of scenery what Nylander wants the most. The Oilers could step in with a fair deal, and get Nylander signed long-term in the $6.5 million per year range.
The Edmonton Oilers have been up and down this season. A poor showing early quickly turned to some impressive wins over elite teams. Now, the Oilers have fallen off again of late, with the lack of secondary scoring being a major issue.
Outside of, McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH, the Oilers haven’t received much production from the rest of the forwards. This has to change. Depth scoring is what separates the pretenders from the contenders and right now the Oilers look like pretenders.
Acquiring the ultra-talented Nylander will have a ripple effect through the lineup. It would push Ty Rattie down the lineup, which would add more scoring potential to the bottom six. McDavid is going to carry this team most nights, but he needs help. Adding William Nylander to McDavid’s line will give the Oilers one of the best lines in hockey, or one of the best second lines with Draisaitl.
This potential trade won’t be easy to make because both teams are in win now more, not to mention Nylander still needs a contract, but the reward would be huge for the Oilers. It’s time for the Oilers to make a major splash.
Stats courtesy of, hockeydb.com
Contract details courtesy of, CapFriendly.com