Edmonton Oilers: Breaking down the potential trading of Adam Larsson

Here’s what the Edmonton Oilers need to do if they end up trading Adam Larsson

A lot of Edmonton Oiler fans seem to have a huge hate-on for Adam Larsson.  Frankly, I can’t figure it out.  Now granted, with the Oilers defence corps better now than it was when he first got here, his role and ice time have diminished, but at this point, there isn’t anyone better to replace him with at the price point of his contract.

When healthy, Larsson is one of the better stay-at-home d-men in the league.  That’s what makes him such a good partner for Oscar Klefbom – Klefbom moves the puck, and Larsson cleans up any defensive miscues.  They have great chemistry and they have since Larsson arrived here in 2017.

But just because his role is diminished doesn’t mean he’s chopped liver as a player and we can just discard him like a used tampon. Many people have advocated for trading Larsson in comments sections, but very few people can answer a simple question:  Who do you replace him with?  No one can seem to answer that question.

In his price point are exactly 4 d-men – Brian Dumoulin of Pittsburgh, who struggled with injuries even worse than Larsson did last season as he played exactly 28 games, plus he’s a left defender so he can’t just replace Larsson, a righty.

There’s Josh Manson of Anaheim, who only had 3 more points than Larsson last year (which for Manson was 9, for the record), and finished at -10 last year, the 2nd year in a row his +/- has dipped.  Not better.  Then you have Damon Severson of New Jersey, who had better boxcars than Larsson but finished at -20 last year, which is not good.

In fact, Severson has never finished on the good side of +/- EVER in his career – and he’ll be going into season 7 of his NHL career and Jersey has him signed for 3 more seasons.  That’s a guy who’s just as likely to cause a goal as he is to score one, thanks but pass.

Then you’ve got Jonas Brodin, a name many in the NHL should be familiar with as he’s been an elite d-man in the NHL for a long time, and kudos to Minnesota for signing him to that team-friendly deal.  The catch is his contract has been extended after this upcoming season and his cap hit is going up to $6 million, so he’ll have priced himself out of Larsson’s contract range after next season.

Go slightly down or up and the options follow the same pattern.  I’m not going to go through every player on that list – you can easily look this up on CapFriendly.  If we’re being honest with each other the best strategy is to keep Larsson around until Evan Bouchard is ready to move into the top 4 – and maybe even a little bit after.

Is Larsson a perfect player?  Not at all.  He’s only had 2 seasons in his career where he’s played a full season, so injuries are nothing new for him.  Injury-prone is not good.  Also, you can see that in the modern NHL the stay-at-home defenceman is in the infancy of being phased out.  It won’t be phased out as quickly as the enforcer was, but it will be phased out eventually.

Nonetheless, despite all his issues, Larsson is still a quality player.  He finished with an average ice time of 19:50 a game last season, which was 7th on the team, and best amongst the players who didn’t crack the 20 minutes a game mark.  He also plays 1:37 on the PK per night, and although I can’t find a website that shows the PK units of every team, it’s reasonable to assume he plays on the 2nd PK unit, and part of the reason the Oilers had the #2 PK in the league last year.

He’s also cracked or come close to the 20 point mark in 5 out of 9 years in the league, so he’s a decent producer of secondary offence.  He was 5th on the team in hits last season with 112 – and remember that’s with time lost due to injury.  He was also 5th on the team in blocked shots with 82 last season, so he does that as well.

So, he does play a role on this team.  Just because Larsson isn’t a big name doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable.  Nonetheless, let’s look at a reasonable trade the Oilers could make if they want to try to improve on Larsson’s roster spot, because if that’s what people are asking for let’s take a look at it.

To New York Rangers:  

Oilers 2021 1st round draft pick

RD Adam Larsson

To Edmonton Oilers:  

RD Tony Deangelo

This is the most realistic trade I could come up with for Larsson.  I’m not going to bother dangling him for a forward because you still have to replace him with someone else on D if you do that – and what’s the point of doing 2 transactions if you can do it in 1?  Evan Bouchard isn’t ready until he proves it, so that’s not happening next season.

For those of you not familiar with Tony Deangelo, he’s a guy who is valuable to the Rangers despite the fact that he plays the right side on their 3rd pairing.  How do I know this?  Simple – they just re-signed him for $4.8 million per season for 2 seasons.  Hence why you’re going to have to send the Rangers our 1st round pick next year, because you have to give them some incentive to part with the player – and he would be the best player in the deal.  Even then, 1 1st round pick might not even be enough.  We might need to send them additional picks, 1st round or otherwise.

And remember – we’d be surrendering our 1st round pick in a draft where we’d be without our 2nd round pick (gone to Detroit in the Andreas Athanasiou trade), our 3rd round pick (gone to the Flames in the James Neal trade), or our 5th round pick (gone to Ottawa in the Tyler Ennis trade).

We’d be playing him on the 2nd pairing to replace Larsson, which is going to be a huge risk as he has played the softer competition of the 3rd pairing his entire career.  We’d have no idea whether or not he could play in the top 4.

Are you starting to see the risk in this trade now?  Yeah, me too.  Now that being said, Deangelo the last 2 seasons has put up 4-26-30 in 61 games 2 seasons ago with a solid +6, followed up last season with 15-38-53 and +12 in 68 games.

However, he’s stuck behind Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba on the Rangers, who are not going anywhere.  So again, we have no idea if he can play top 4 minutes and competition or not.  For the record, Deangelo did finish at 19:17 per game last season, so he played a comparable amount of minutes to Larsson, but again on the 3rd pairing.  Matt Benning couldn’t handle top 4 minutes when we tried him in the top 4, and we’d have given up a quality veteran and a 1st round pick if Deangelo doesn’t work out.

Not to mention we’d have to take on $633,334 of cap space in the deal, which would be almost everything we have left.  We’d have just a shade under $100K of cap space left.

That’s a lot of risk.

Now consider the more prudent alternative

The better course of action here is to watch Evan Bouchard’s development like a hawk, and once he’s ready to handle top 4 minutes and competition, THEN you trade Adam Larsson.  Also, because his replacement would already be on the roster, now it opens up trade possibilities for him, maybe we can even get a high draft pick back for him to help replenish the ones we traded away depending on who you trade him for.

Only in this scenario could you trade him for a forward if you want.

Also, think of the inexperience if our right D depth chart was Bear-Deangelo-Bouchard (this would be after this season when Barrie has already gone for a bigger paycheck elsewhere).  That’s an awfully inexperienced right side.  Granted, the left side has the experience to compensate – Klefbom-Nurse-Russell.  Still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that hypothetical right side.

Unless Bouchard absolutely blows open the doors next season, the better plan is to re-up Larsson at a cheaper rate – say $3 million a season for 2 seasons – then sign him for even less afterward or bring in an outside hire on the 3rd pairing.

A right side of Larsson-Bear-Bouchard looks much better to me.  Not to mention it’s a lot cheaper.  Bouchard will be on his ELC, so he’ll be much cheaper than Deangelo would be, and we’d get to keep our 1st rounder for next year.  Even a right side of Bouchard-Bear-veteran outside hire would be better for me.

If the cap wasn’t flat and we weren’t pressing up against it then maybe Deangelo would be a luxury we’d be able to afford.  But the reality of it is there would be too much risk attached, too much to trade away for, and too much cap space involved to feel good about it.  That’s the best trade I can come up with for Larsson.  What do you think?