Possible Solutions for the Defence

Possible Solutions for the Defence

Oilers

Possible Solutions for the Defence

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In my previous post, I looked into league-wide cap hits for defencemen. I did this so that we could have a reference point on what it actually costs for a defence corps, not just what we think it should. Further to that, I was once told that there are three ways to acquire players. These three ways each have a premium to pay:

  1. Draft and Develop – The premium on this is time and assessment as well as development ability.
  2. Trade – For the player you want, you pay a premium to acquire him.
  3. Free Agency – You pay a premium to “beat the market.”

The way I look at it, you pay a premium each and every way you acquire a player. It really boils down to what you feel the most comfortable with and what is appropriate for the team. I am not saying all the premiums are equal. I’m just saying there is a cost and a value to acquiring players.

I do really like acquiring a player like Drake Caggiula. There is really no negative to these “more mature” players. They typically don’t need as long of development time; they didn’t cost you a draft pick; and you don’t have to pay a premium in terms of money. However these signings aren’t common or haven’t been, and we also need to remember what they are likely to bring. When I look at a player like Caggiula, I personally expect a slightly less skilled Matt Read, which to me looks to be an 8-12 depth forward after some AHL time.

I have seen many fixes out there that say we need two top 3 defenceman. If we add two top 3 defenceman, we have to eliminate someone in our current defence core. The obvious player to offload is Fayne, but if we have to retain money in that deal, that doesn’t help us any.

We need to look at something different from what I currently see mentioned around Oiler land a lot. We should be adding one top pairing paid-player and one bottom pairing-paid players. Below are a few possible additions.

 

Damon Severson

I previously wrote on Damon Severson here, and I often mention him on Twitter as well.

Yes, I know Oiler fans desperately want those proven top 4 defenceman, but I don’t think we can afford it. I know someone will blast me and say, “Forget the cap! Let’s get competitive!” Perhaps I am foolish, but I can see improvement in the team during the last portion of the year without two of their three best defencemen out of the lineup.

Now back to Severson. Severson possesses good size. He is also good at many areas of the game without being excellent at one. Severson is also the leader in Relative Corsi among the Devils’ regular defensive core the last two seasons. This summer might be one of our last opportunities to acquire him. Typically teams hang on a little tighter when they sign a player coming off their ELC.

The chart below is 5-on-5 time for the 2014-16 New Jersey Devils. During that time, the Devils had the fourth lowest Corsi in the NHL (46.7%), but Severson still shines. Look at his with-or-without (WOWY) stats!

5×5 Time On Ice Corsi With Corsi Without Gain
Greene 547:31:00 49.7 45 4.7
Moore 543:23:00 47.8 46.7 1.1
Merrill 437:02:00 52.3 43.8 8.5
Schlemko 139:18:00 47.8 49.3 -1.5
Helgeson 100:17:00 46.1 41.9 4.2
Gelinas 93:18:00 50 49.3 0.7
Fraser 53:55:00 39.6 41.4 -1.8

Advanced Stats are courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com

Only 2 defenders were worse with Severson over the last 2 years, and it was with low amount of minutes. The remaining defenders are all better with Severson than without him according to this metric–very impressive for a young defenceman who has only played 123 NHL games. He isn’t just good at the shot metric discipline; he can also move the puck effectively at even strength. On New Jersey he has recorded the second highest points per sixty (.69/60), which would put him 2nd on the Oilers to Oscar Klefbom at that discipline. Severson also leads in Fenwick For relative to his teammates. This is a high quality, young right-shot defender. I would be very happy if he was one of the two defenders the Oilers acquired.

I should also take this time to once again mention how good Adam Larsson is. He is a stud defenceman, and if there was anyway we could acquire him, I would jump on it. I am sure that he is going to add offence this year, and he is already one of the best defensive defencemen in the league.

 

Tyson Barrie

Another option would be to target Tyson Barrie. There has been much written about Barrie by myself, Woodguy, David Staples, and many more. There has also been a lot of smoke that he is available on the trade market, and his salary cost is likely to be around $5.5 million per year range with term. I don’t think I need to dig deeper into Barrie. He would be an excellent addition to the team–a player who can play second pairing minutes at even strength and play major minutes on the powerplay.

Justin Faulk

I also really like Justin Faulk in Carolina. He actually fits in cap-wise extremely well, and that could be very beneficial long-term. However if the cost is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, I would be very wary of that. I have watched too many of our young stars slug it out against tougher competition and get buried, and then we blame scouting. The Oilers’ problem has been sending too many young players into battle armed with a knife, while the opponent carries a gun. If we are to trade RNH, we have to add a veteran center who can play the toughs and come out decent.

 

Jason Demers

How about the option of Jason Demers? The chart below is from the outstanding Carolyn Wilke. Demers also has done well every year. I would guess he comes in under $5 million though, as a second pairing guy.

Woodguy once again did outstanding work breaking down Demers. Would Demers move the Oilers forward? Yes. Would it be cost prohibitive in a year or two? Yes. The other main item with Demers is that although he is good at 5-on-5, he isn’t already a strong powerplay defenceman. If we added Demers, we would likely have to add an unproven powerplay contributor, and the Edmonton market tends to cannibalize its powerplay defenceman unless they are proven contributors. In the NHL, you also typically pay for points. I really see Demers as a fall back option. If we fail to add a Barrie or a Faulk-level defenceman around the draft, the Oilers will likely be bidding on Demers.

 

Sami Vatanen

How about Vatanen? Once again I looked into Vatanen here, and Woodguy has looked into him as well. Vatanen is a good defenceman on a good team but he has warts. Can the Oilers handle acquiring a powerplay defenceman who has these kinds of warts? Can we afford to have this kind of defenceman at 5 by 5 in the hope that he will revitalize our powerplay? There are many questions surrounding Vatanen that don’t have an answer.

One option could be acquiring him without trading our #4 pick or a player the level of Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle and then signing him to a bridge contract. This would keep his salary in line and allow the Oilers to grow with him. Although this is a smart move in my opinion, I am not sure it is likely to happen as teams typically agree to terms on deals quickly with newly acquired players. I wouldn’t consider Vatanen near the top of my list to acquire. It’s a deal I would be a little nervous about playing out. Oilers fans aren’t overly kind to non-physical, puck-moving defenceman. Hampus Lindholm is a better Defenceman, if we are gonna target Anaheim he should be the main guy. Josh Manson also looks very good early in his career. I think Vatanen is a Defenceman worth acquiring but once again wouldn’t be high on my list.

 

Action Plan

Patrick Plan

Here is what I would do after parsing my way through the options.

  • Acquire Damon Severson for Yakupov plus something (perhaps Anton Slepyshev and Dillon Simpson or a draft pick). Acquiring Mark Pysyk who has very good underlying numbers and is a right shot is also a good option along the Severson line.
  • Beat down Colorado’s door for Barrie but walk away if they demand Nugent-Hopkins. A cap conscious team like the Avalanche should have interest in a trade down/up for the #4 overall pick and possibly other assets.
  • Barring the acquisition of Barrie, have conversations with Anaheim. The #4 isn’t an option here, but a trade down with them is. RNH is off the table. We have enough wingers who should be of interest to Anaheim, like Pouliot and others. We could also use the Offer Sheet Tool, it isn’t used often by GM’s but Anaheim might be susceptible to this as they are a budget team. Offer sheeting Lindholm would be a very smart move.

If the Oilers do moves along this line, they take care of their short-term needs as well as their long-term cap needs. If they acquire two defenceman above $5 million this summer, they are going to be in tight to the cap ceiling in short order. (And that is without a shrinking cap). So here is my defence:

Klefbom $4.2 M Barrie $5.50 M
Sekera $5.5 M Fayne $3.63 M
Davidson $1.43 M Severson $600 K
Nurse $863,000

 

The cap structure is also fantastic both short and long term.

Assets out: 4th overall, Yakupov, Yakimov, Pouliot, Reinhart, Simpson.

Assets in: 10th overall, Barrie, Severson.

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