The Edmonton Oilers kick off an eastern road trip tonight in Buffalo when they visit the Sabres. An interesting thing has happened in Buffalo in year one of the Ralph Krueger era. A few players have publicly requested trades from the organization. Among them is pending RFA forward Evan Rodrigues.
In his fourth professional season, Rodrigues claims that he does not see a future in Buffalo. He’s played in just 24 games thus far and is averaging a paltry 10:42 per game in time on ice.
Rodrigues isn’t an impact forward by any means. In fact, at best, he’s a depth offensive piece for a team. His career-high is just nine goals and 29 points, both of which he accumulated last season. He’s also been a positive player just once in his career, +2 in 2015-16 when he played just two games.
Why Rodrigues Could Be A Fit:
Rodrigues makes $2,000,000 and will be a restricted free agent in July. So, any team acquiring him could simply walk away after the season should it not work. There’s very little risk involved in bringing him on.
He’s also been a solid possession player throughout his career. Up until this season, Rodrigues was also positive relative to his teammates in Corsi. This year, he has a Corsi Rel of -1.3% at five-on-five, but his Corsi For of 50.3% is actually pretty good. It would be one of the better marks on the Oilers this season.
Another positive? Rodrigues is a right-shot forward, and the Oilers simply do not have enough of those. He has the ability to play both center and the wing as well, making him a versatile option.
In terms of his skills, Rodrigues has enough speed to keep up, enough skill to survive and is a solid defensive forward. He’s not great at one thing, but has a number of solid skills.
In Buffalo, Rodrigues has had an inconsistent role under Krueger. That explains his request for a move. At five-on-five, however, he’s actually gotten looks with solid teammates.
His most common linemate at five-on-five? Conor Sheary. Next? Jeff Skinner. He’s played 136:34 with Sheary this season and 91:55 with Skinner. After that, it is a cast of depth players like Casey Mittelstadt, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Asplund.
A deeper dive shows that Sheary and Skinner has been propping Rodrigues’ Corsi up this season. When with Sheary, Rodrigues is winning the possession battle (55.82%), Ditto with Skinner (55.15%). Without them? It’s still roughly break-even without Skinner (49.79%), but it isn’t pretty without the former Penguin Sheary (46.55%).
Sheary, meanwhile, has a Corsi For of 51.04% without Rodrigues. We know who is pushing the river when Rodrigues is on the ice. It isn’t him.
All numbers via Natural Stat Trick.
What Could A Trade Look Like?:
If the Oilers had any interest in Rodrigues, money would need to be going out the other way. Although the Oilers could afford Rodrigues, it would essentially eat all their cap space heading into deadline season.
Alex Chiasson and Sam Gagner are likely on their last legs as Oilers. Chiasson simply isn’t providing offense and has been a healthy scratch this season. Gagner, meanwhile, has made some key defensive mistakes that have resulted in goals against. That was the kiss of death for Markus Granlund. It will catch up to Gagner if he doesn’t correct it.
Would you deal Chiasson straight across for Rodrigues? I would, if for no other reason than getting the second year of Chiasson’s contract off the books.
Would the Oilers make that kind of deal? How about Buffalo? Something to ponder as these two get set to battle tonight in New York.