The good and the bad of the Oilers trading Ryan McLeod to the Sabres

The Ryan McLeod experiment has comes to an end with the Edmonton Oilers, as he heads to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a top prospect.
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars - Game One
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars - Game One / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

As reported by Sportnet's Elliotte Friedman, Ryan McLeod is no longer a member of the Edmonton Oilers, after being traded to the Buffalo Sabres along with Tyler Tullio. In exchange the Oilers received the 2022 ninth overall draft pick Matt Savoie, which has drawn some criticism (to put it lightly) from the Sabres faithful.

McLeod is a polarizing player among analysts and fans. He has been both heavily criticized and lauded by fans in Edmonton since he became a regular in the lineup. The analytics community loves him, and his fancy stats do suggest that he's a productive player; the quick example chart from Evolving Hockey above highlights this fact.

Having said that, while much of the criticism of McLeod's game greatly exaggerated his flaws, there were some that were legitimate when referencing the eye test. He has exceptional tools such as his speed and shooting ability, and yet when he used his speed to get into a great shooting position he would more frequently opt to search for a passing lane, ending up in a lost chance.

Another example was when, instead of using his speed to take a direct line to the net and surpassing defenders in the process in search of chaos and rebounds in front of the net, McLeod would delay, allowing for said defenders to get in structure and mark up his fellow attackers. As much as I am a huge fan of the player, this did cause some frustration amongst fans which I think was warranted.

McLeod is also very reluctant to play the body when forechecking. This is not to say I think he or any player for that matter should be out there every shift in search of delivering punishing body checks. However, in a contact sport when you have elite speed as McLeod does, that could translate into removing people from pucks using the body with remarkable results. To watch him consistently back away from doing it, was frustrating as an evaluator.

Furthermore, with McLeod's possession metrics being so good as they are, it stands to reason that if he does add that element to his game (which he still could, he is only 24), they could be even better.

This does add a wrinkle into the penalty killing unit, as McLeod was a massive factor this past season on what was the best unit in the league, so we shall see who assumes that role in his absence. Overall however, I believe this to be a very good trade for Edmonton, although I am personally sad to see the player go and wish him the best of luck in his new endeavours.

What does this mean now? And what did the Oilers acquire in Savoie? He is a highly touted offensive prospect, who instantly becomes Edmonton's best.

"Heavy crossover use and constant motion propel his high-pace, constantly attacking approach, making his every puck touch an opportunity to create a scoring chance. Then Savoie stacks a brilliant first touch, handling skill, an in-stride wrister, and one- and two-touch passing ability on top of that skating and pace combo to ensure many of those chances aren't for naught."-Elite Prospects 2022 NHL Draft Guide

Next. The impact of delaying extension talks with Evan Bouchard. The impact of delaying extension talks with Evan Bouchard. dark

It also has some interesting cap implications for a team that has some work to do still in becoming compliant. My sense is that the Oilers are still going to put Evander Kane on LTIR, which would alleviate them of the entire $5.125 million owed to him next season. This would allow them to make an upgrade on the right side of the blue-line which is, in my honest opinion once again, their biggest, and perhaps at this point only need.

It does feel as though Jeff Jackson isn't done, and so friends, there should still be more to come.

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