Trade Rumors Swirling around the Oilers – Which are Likely?

I suppose it’s inevitable that when a team hires a new GM that a lot of trade rumors starting churning.

After all, when a new GM is hired it’s for a reason – his predecessor didn’t do the job and now he has to clean up the mess.  History has shown us that when a new GM is hired, he will start making a variety of moves to put his particular stamp on the team – and the previous GM’s hires – as players and otherwise – are likely on their way out the door, with the exception of those who transcend executive moves.

That’s exactly what’s happening with the Oilers right now.  Ken Holland hasn’t made any moves yet – at least as far as the on-ice product is concerned – but it’s inevitable he will.

Let’s look at a few of the rumors swirling around the Oilers right now.

1.  Milan Lucic to Vancouver for Loui Eriksson

This is one rumor that might actually have some legs – a problem child for another, it happens more frequently than you might think in the NHL.

Also, Lucic poured a little gas on the fire when he stated that he still has a desire to play in his hometown of Vancouver, despite a dicey relationship with them in the last decade as a member of the opposition, specifically his time in Boston:  

The rumor has it that Canucks’ GM Jim Benning wants a protector for his new young studs in Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson.  Apparently Jim Benning is still stuck in the mid-90s in the mindset of building his hockey team and that could be something the Oilers could take advantage of.

Meanwhile, from the Oilers’ end, our new head coach Dave Tippett was the head coach in Dallas when Eriksson was just beginning his career, and so the rumor goes that Tippett can help Eriksson get his goal scoring touch back again.

Both players’ careers have detoured to the edge of a cliff – and if it weren’t for their contracts they’d probably be off the cliff right now.  After all, Lucic, long known as the best power forward in the NHL for many years, is now a big and slow guy who has seen the game pass him by.  His goal scoring has dried up as well – he had 1 good season with the Oilers as he scored 23 goals and 50 points 3 seasons ago, but since then has put up 10 goals and 34 points 2 seasons ago and 6 goals and 20 points last season.  Ouch: 

Eriksson, meanwhile, has been a huge disappointment with the Canucks his entire career there.  After his last season in Boston where he finished with 30 goals and 63 points, in 3 seasons in Vancouver he finished with goal scoring totals of 11, 10, and 11, and point totals of 24, 23, and 29 respectively.

Although both players have identical cap hits of $6 million, the advantage for the Oilers is 1)  Eriksson’s contract expires a year earlier than Lucic’s, so that’s a slight step in the right direction, and also 2)  Eriksson only has a NTC in his contract as opposed to the NMC Lucic has in his, so if necessary the Oilers can simply stash Eriksson in the minors or loan him to Europe – something they can’t do with Lucic without his permission, and how do you think that conversation would go?  Plus, if the rules for the Seattle expansion draft are the same as Vegas they can leave him exposed, something you can’t do with a NMC player.

Vancouver, on the other hand, gets younger with the trade (Lucic enters next season as 31 while Eriksson will be 34), they get their protector and Vancouver is a place Lucic would actually waive his NMC to go to, something you can’t say for other NHL destinations.

The one part of this rumor that isn’t plausible is the Canucks are asking for a sweetener.  If the Oilers give them anything more than 4th round pick as a sweetener they’re crazy.  The Canucks have been seeking Lucic for 3 seasons now and they have a heavy desire to get him, so why give up something valuable in return, especially when the return is another struggling player?

Does this rumour have legs?  IMO yes – and the Oilers should take advantage of it immediately.  It gives them a bit better cap situation and sets them up better for the Seattle expansion draft.  Plus, if nothing else, Eriksson will make a better bottom 6 player than Lucic would for the Oilers at this point in time.  Benning has a weird logic to his player evaluation – after all, this is the same guy who traded the Oilers a 5th round pick one year for the rights to Philip Larsen – a guy who played barely 25% of the season for them and then went right back to Europe afterwards.  It’ll be nice for the Oilers to burn another team in trade for once rather than being burned by other teams (Griffin Reinhart, anyone?).

2.  Oilers have interest in Nikita Zaitsev

The Leafs went and picked up Zaitsev from the KHL in 2016-17, and although he had 1 good season as a Leaf with 36 points as a rookie, he fell off a cliff after that with seasons of 13 and 14 points since – and since he’s played 141 games in those 2 seasons, we can’t chalk that up to injury.  Zaitsev has 5 more seasons with a modified NTC left at a cap hit of $4.5 million.  If he produced more offense, that would be a solid contract, but it’s terrible for a guy who can’t even crack the 20 point mark as a puck moving d-man.

Does this rumour have legs?  IMO no – and it comes down to simply there isn’t a trade between the 2 teams that would work.  Some have suggested Kris Russell going the other way to TO, but I just can’t see how that benefits the Oilers as it would be a lateral move at best – not to mention there’s huge risk we lose the chemistry with Darnell Nurse as well as Russell’s ability to shot block – he’s one of the best in the league, if you look at the numbers – #1 in the league in the 2 seasons prior to last and #3 last season:  That has value and something you’d have to think twice about sending out.  Also, both players have a NTC so that trade could be vetoed by either player on the surface of it.  Matt Benning is the other possibility, but the Leafs would have to retain an awful lot of Zaitsev’s cap hit for that to work – $2.5 million minimum – and I can’t see that happening.

Also, Benning’s exit from the organization looks like it will coincide with him needing to exit to make room for all the prospects bubbling under that are going to need roster spots.  Why take on a guy with a long term contract and put that transition in jeopardy?  It doesn’t make sense to me.  Some have said Nurse himself due to the fact he’s likely in for a big raise after this upcoming season when his contract expires, but let’s be honest Nurse has survived the axe from 1 GM switch already, so I tend to think the organization values him too much to trade him for a struggling player with a pseudo-bad contract from the East.  Holland is too smart to make that move.  Also, Benning’s exit from the organization looks like it will coincide with him needing to exit to make room for all the prospects bubbling under that are going to need roster spots.  Why take on a guy with a long term contract and put that transition in jeopardy?  It doesn’t make sense to me.

3.  Oilers have interest in Connor Brown

Now this would be a compelling move.  Brown is in the last year of a contract paying him $2.1 million, and can play both wings.  Those are 2 huge checkmarks in Brown’s favor if a trade with the Oilers is eminent.

He does come with warts, though – at 25 years old Brown is struggling to score again after cracking the 20 goal mark 3 seasons ago and then scoring 14 and 8 goals in the next 2 seasons.

Could fortunes change, though, if the Oilers put Brown on either wing of Connor McDavid or Nuge?

I could see Brown getting an extended stay at LW in the Oilers top 6 where they could certainly use the help – after all cheap scoring help on the wings is their #1 need right now, which on paper at least Brown would provide.

I could see the Oilers sending Sam Gagner to the Leafs and retaining 500K of his cap hit for next season to help make it happen.  IMO this is a trade that would work out for both teams – [expletive] why not give them a minor sweetener like a 5th round pick this year to make it happen?  I like the looks of that trade.

Does this rumor have legs?  I hope so.  Brown is exactly the type of player the Oilers need – cheap wing scoring help and after all Tobias Reider didn’t exactly set the bar high for him.  IMO this is a trade that could work out for both teams – the Leafs get out from under a player that could probably use a fresh start in exchange for a negligible amount of additional cap space and a player with more experience that would be a solid addition to their bottom 6 which really is where Brown would’ve ended up anyway.

4.  Oilers have interest in Corey Perry

The internet makes me laugh sometimes.  This one is so far out of whack it’s incredibly stupid on the face of it.  Let’s take a look:  1)  Perry carries an $8.625 million cap hit for the next 2 seasons.  The Oilers would have to send Anaheim Milan Lucic and Brandon Manning to make that happen, a trade that I highly doubt the Ducks would pull the trigger on.

2)  Perry’s performance has declined for 4 straight seasons.  Goal totals have gone down from 34 to 19 to 17 to 6, while his point totals have gone down from 62 to 53 to 49 to 10.  Usually on the good side of the ledger of +/-, last year Perry had a career year worst of -16 in that regard.  If anyone can tell me how those numbers are better than any other option in the bottom 6 RW, I’d like to hear it.  Sure doesn’t seem like he brings anything to the table other than sucking to me.

3)  Perry is 34, and it’s obvious he’s started declining which means he’s not getting better anytime soon – the risk of getting worse is much higher, which is scary.

4)  Perry has a full NMC, which means he gets to pick where he goes.  Would he agree to come to a team that finished a point below his current team in the standings?  Not likely.

5)  Why would the Ducks trade with a division rival unless the trade was really one-sided in their favor?  They wouldn’t.

Does this rumor have legs?  I hope not.  Or to put it another way, [expletive] no.  Perry’s role with the Oilers is best spent doing exactly what he’s doing now:  being a boat anchor contract on a division rival.  That is how he should best spend the remaining 2 years of his contract:  draining the Anaheim Ducks of cap space.

All cap hits courtesy of CapFriendly.

 

 

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