I joined Min Dhariwal, who is filling in as the host this week, on the CBC Edmonton News to talk Oilers and the upcoming trade deadline. We discussed the list of needs for the Oilers, including depth scoring and backup goaltending, and maybe waiting until the summer to make a bigger move. Clip is here (CBC Edmonton) and starts around the 20:35 mark.
Shortly after the segment aired, the Oilers made a trade sending out defenceman Brandon Davidson to Montreal for depth centerman David Desharnais. While I do understand the Oilers need for another centerman with the coaching staff reluctant to move Draisaitl off of McDavid’s wing, I don’t understand the rationale behind the cost.
While it’s true that the Oilers have an excess of left shooting defencemen in the system and were at risk of losing Davidson to the expansion draft in June, the point of trading him so they don’t lose him for nothing was to acquire a forward worth protecting, or a prospect that would be exempt from the draft, or picks that they could use in future drafts. The goal should have been to replace Davidson with an asset that would benefit them in the future. Instead they acquired Desharnais, who fills a need the Oilers have identified, but whose contract expires at the end of the year. So really they gave away an asset in the fear of potentially losing, only to acquire an asset they’re going to lose for sure.
I should clarify that I have no issues with Desharnais as an experienced, depth forward. Considering his age and declining production numbers, my expectations are rather low at this point. I know he had played in Montreal’s top six years ago, but he’s a depth player at this point who has been healthy scratched this season. He’s not any sort of shut-down type or defensize zone face-off specialist. He has success playing with top line players like Pacioretty in the past, but he’s more of a depth forward now that could do better in a new situation. A recent article on Desharnais worth checking out is over at Habs Eyes on the Prize. There’s also an excellent recap on the trade from the Habs perspective, as the team freed up some much needed cap space. It’s also quite possible that Davidson is protected by the Habs from the expansion draft, as Petry and Weber are the only two locks and Markov likely to retire..
Moving Davidson was expected, as the Oilers are likely protecting seven forwards, three defenceman and one goalie from the expansion draft. Had they chose the second option and protected eight skaters and one goalie, they could’ve protected Davidson, (which I made a case for last month) but then that would have left Maroon unprotected, and, in my opinion, good trade bait.
- Forwards (7): RNH, Eberle, Draisaitl, Lucic, Maroon, TBD, TBD
- Defencemen (3): Sekera, Klefbom, Larsson
- Goalie (1): Talbot
- Excluded from the expansion draft: McDavid, Nurse, Benning, Caggiula, Slepyshev and Puljujaarvi.
- Unprotected: Davidson, Pouliot, Letestu, Lander, Kassian, Khaira, Fayne, Reinhart, etc.
With Maroon protected, that leaves Davidson on the outs, but it also frees up two more spaces for forwards. You can make a case to protect Letestu or Kassian or Khaira, but all three are pretty replaceable. Really those two forward spaces are open for an asset to bring in using a piece that you’re moving out anyways. That’s what makes the most sense to me in terms of proper asset management.
Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers are going to protect two of Letestu, Kassian or Khaira for the expansion draft in June and will likely lose Reinhart, Fayne or Pouliot to Vegas. In the end, the Oilers will have lost two players because of the expansion draft.
In Davidson, the Oilers lose a good young defenceman on a team-friendly deal, who would’ve been under team control for another few years. He played very well for the team last season, but struggled coming off of an injury this season. His 2015/16 numbers were very good, as the team and individual players, including his defensive partners, did better in terms of shot-suppression and shot-share with him on the ice than without him. He was primarily in a depth role last season, playing a lot with Gryba, but he gradually saw his ice time increase. What I also found was that the team as a whole saw it’s Corsi For% improve over time with him in the lineup and getting more ice time, but that number took a dive when he got hurt late in the season (links below). He’s by no means any sort of number one defenceman, but he stabilized the back-end with solid play and could hold his own against the best competition when needed.
- Brandon Davidson’s Impact on the Oilers Possession Numbers – The Copper & Blue (2016, April 20)
- Evaluating the Oilers Using WoodMoney – The Copper & Blue (2016, August 4)
- The Gryba-Davidson Partnership – The Copper & Blue (2016, September 22)
- Thoughts on the Expansion Draft – The SuperFan (2017, January 24)
One last thing: the Oilers filled their center need at the deadline, when they really should’ve addressed this in the summer when acquisition costs are reasonable and less volatile. I wrote about the issue back in June 2016, recognizing that Draisaitl could potentially split his shifts between center and wing, and made a case at the time for Riley Nash, a rather low event, right handed forward that could be had for cheap. Instead the Oilers went with what they had, shuffled the lines a few times early on and even forced Caggiula, a rookie winger straight out of college, to play center. Fast forward to today, and Caggiula is last on the team in points per 60 and could potentially see time in the AHL. And the team just moved out a good young defenceman to address their needs at center in February. Good teams tend to address their depth issues prior to the season, and it’s disappointing that the Oilers didn’t evaluate their roster well enough when players could be had for a lower cost.