Oilers’ Offseason Targets: Justin Faulk

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Carolina Hurricanes

Some rumors never seem to go away. Carolina’s Justin Faulk has been a main target for the Edmonton Oilers dating back to the summer of 2016, when the club first set out to truly improve their defensive situation. Faulk rumors persisted throughout the entire 2016-17 season, and continue to pop up to this day.

After a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Final, the Canes will enter this off-season looking for more scoring up front. The Oilers, meanwhile, will enter this off-season with mostly the same problems they entered the 2016 off-season with. Will they attempt to secure Faulk after all these years? Is he still a fit?

Why Is He Out There?:

The Hurricanes are in an interesting spot. They are a budget team that is hunting for offensive help this summer. On top of that, they need to re-sign star forward Sebastian Aho, veteran leader Justin Williams, both of their goaltenders in Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek, and players such as Michael Ferland and Brock McGinn.

There’s a lot of work to do in Carolina, and if the Hurricanes want to add someone like Phil Kessel, Matt Duchene, or even Artemi Panarin, they’ll need to shed salary. Doing that means subtracting from the organization’s biggest area of strength, the defense.

As good as Faulk has been for Carolina throughout the years, he’s been passed by younger and more effective players like Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton.

What Does He Do Well?:

It’s worth noting that Faulk is not a complete player. He has a very defined set of strengths and weaknesses. His strengths are perfect for the modern NHL, but his weaknesses will drive Oiler fans insane. I’m not sure this fanbase can handle a defender like Faulk. After all, not many liked Justin Schultz, Tom Poti or Tom Gilbert.

Among his strengths, Faulk is an excellent puck mover and a key cog in Carolina’s transition game. His ability to move the puck up ice via a strong first pass or by transporting it is second to none in Carolina. He’s a powerplay weapon for the Canes, and has consistently produced offense at both five-on-five and on the man advantage.

His possession numbers, although a net negative on an insanely strong Carolina team, are actually pretty good. As per hockey-reference, Faulk posted a 53.6% Corsi For and a 53.6% Fenwick For this past season. Very respectable numbers that would be the best amongst blueliners in Northern Alberta.

As for his negatives? Faulk is lacking when it comes to physicality, can’t help you on the penalty kill and does have coverage issues at five-on-five. In my viewings of him, I’ve noticed Faulk easily gives up the middle of the ice and is prone to surrendering high-danger scoring chances against. He’d get chewed up in Edmonton for that, regardless of his strong offensive game.

Here’s a look at his scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.

Has tremendous skating ability, a wealth of offensive acumen and good shot. Is plenty confident with the puck on his blade. Plays a smart, mature game, tending to the small details. Is a major asset on the power play. Must continue to work on his defensive-zone coverage, as well as his decision-making ability, since he logs huge minutes. Is sturdy and strong, but lacks ideal National Hockey League size at 6-0, 215 pounds.

Long Range Potential:

Excellent offensive defenseman with a little upside.

Where Will He Play / Where Should He Play?:

I think Faulk is best suited to a second-pairing role at five-on-five with a consistent powerplay role. In fact, on most teams, I believe Faulk ends up on the top powerplay unit. Edmonton would be included in that group of teams.

With the Oilers, he’d slide right into the role described above. He’d be paired with Darnell Nurse on the second group at even strength, and would see time on the top powerplay ahead of Oscar Klefbom.

What Will He Cost?:

Faulk has just one more season remaining on a contract that pays him $4,833,333 per season. Carolina needs offense, so if Edmonton is going to trade for him the conversation has to start there. Obviously, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl aren’t going anywhere. That leaves the options limited.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a longtime Hurricanes’ target, makes sense from their perspective in this deal. I would not pull the trigger if I were the Oilers. RNH is far more valuable to Edmonton than Faulk would be.

A package of future assets might appeal to the Canes. Perhaps a salary off-set, say Kris Russell, and a younger player like Tyler Benson or Cooper Marody would appeal to a budget team like the Canes. I’m also not sure I make that deal from Edmonton’s perspective.

Closing Argument:

I like Justin Faulk and feel that he can be a very valuable player when filling a certain role. That said, the Oilers have Evan Bouchard coming up the pipeline to fill the exact role they’d be paying a premium to fill here. Sometimes, being patient is the better approach.

The asking price is likely to be too high for the Oilers when it comes to Faulk. Although acquiring him would help the 2019-20 edition of the team, he’s not a great long-term fit and acquiring him would just hurt another area of the club.

I don’t see the fit between Edmonton and Carolina at this point in time.

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