Far too often, the Edmonton Oilers have traded a player at their lowest value or traded for a player coming off of an unsustainable run. The Oilers, for whatever reason, have had a hard time grasping the peaks and valleys of value in the NHL. Perhaps there is a chance to change that narrative right now.
The Oilers are in need of another forward, potentially even two. The club needs another left winger for their top-six, and needs a third line center. Dominik Kahun and Kyle Turris were brought in over the off-season to fill those roles, but both have come up short to this point.
Meanwhile, in Boston, there is frustration growing among fans and the Bruins organization. Winger Jake DeBrusk is struggling again after a quiet playoffs, and is now drawing the ire of reporters for things like a ‘lack of effort in the defensive zone’. Oilers fans have seen this story before. These are the narratives that start to leak out right before a trade.
The Bruins need help on defense, the Oilers are overloaded with defenders right now and need a forward. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, these teams did business frequently. Could this old trade route be reignited?
Struggle City: Population – DeBrusk
Jake DeBrusk instantly became a fan favorite in Boston when he arrived in 2017-18. He scored 16 goals and finished his rookie season with 43 points in 70 games. He earned the trust of Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, and eventually settled into a top-six role on the wing with David Krejci.
DeBrusk tacked on eight points (6 g, 2 a) in 12 playoff games that spring. In 2018-19, DeBrusk blew up. He scored a career-high 27 goals and finished with 42 points in 68 games. Once again, DeBrusk was solid in the playoffs, scoring eleven points (4 g, 7 a) in 24 games as the Bruins advanced to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Last season, in 65 games, DeBrusk scored 35 points (19 g, 16 a) before the regular season was paused and eventually cancelled due to COVID-19. DeBrusk was almost certainly going to finish the season with 20 goals for the second straight year and 40 points for the third straight year. That’s a valuable player.
So, what’s happened? DeBrusk’s run into some really bad luck. He has just one goal in 15 games this season, and just one goal at five-on-five in his last 32 games played. He’s shooting just 3.1% this season, down from the 11.8% he shot last year. DeBrusk is a career 12.8% shooter and is certainly better than his totals this year imply.
He’s experiencing bad luck, and is being driven out of Boston by some unsustainably low shooting percentages. He’s a great buy-low candidate for that reason alone.
What’s Happening Away From The Puck?:
The good thing for DeBrusk is that good things are still happening for him when he is out on the ice. The puck is moving in the right direction, which is a sign that his game hasn’t completely died out.
DeBrusk is sporting a 53.6% Corsi For (.9 rel) and a 55.1% Fenwick For (2.3 rel). His line is tilting the ice in favor of the Bruins, and they are positive in these areas relative to the rest of Boston’s unspectacular forward group. While the Bruins have an outstanding top line, their bottom-six certainly leaves production to be desired.
What Would DeBrusk Cost?:
Don Sweeney rarely loses trades. While DeBrusk has struggled, it’s unclear if the Bruins have soured to the point where DeBrusk’s price is so diluted that the Oilers could get him for a minimal cost.
The Bruins need help on the left side of their defense, but I’m not sure there is a terrific fit there. Most teams would be interested in Caleb Jones, but the Bruins already have young options there. Boston wants veteran help. The Oilers aren’t moving Darnell Nurse, but would the Bruins be interested in Kris Russell?
He’d certainly fit their style of play and he’s a veteran leader, but the value doesn’t match up.
The Bruins have been looking for a power forward, evident by their trade for Nick Ritchie at last season’s trade deadline. Zack Kassian is a classic Bruin, but his contract makes him nearly untradeable. While I think he’d be an outstanding fit in Boston, it’s tough to see the Bruins taking on that kind of contract.
In terms of futures, the Oilers are extremely limited due to the failed trade for Andreas Athanasiou last February. The club doesn’t have a second round pick as a result, and must give Calgary their third round pick for the James Neal trade in the summer of 2019. The Bruins also aren’t looking for futures.
Could something around Russell and DeBrusk work, with Edmonton adding to their side? Unless the Bruins have really soured on DeBrusk, it’s highly doubtful.
Would the Oilers be willing to move Jones and another asset for DeBrusk? Would that be enough for the Bruins?
Ken Holland, at the very least, should be on the phone.