Opinion

Why RNH Is The Next Big Oilers Trade

Ever since Peter Chiarelli became the GM of the Edmonton Oilers, in the summer of 2015, his tenure has been chalked full of big trades. With these big trades came big criticism as well. Hell, we are still hearing about the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson deal a year later…but that should be expected. It’s been a long-time since the Oilers fanbase had a General Manager bold enough to turn the team around through game-changing trades. Rightfully so, Chia has been hit with alot of criticism with these transactions. No trade should go without seeing the immediate ramifications and, even though I tend to align myself with Chiarelli, people have the right to question his ability to trade premier players.

In my honest opinion, it has worked thus far. We haven’t seen the doom and gloom that so many had predicted after Hall left town, as the team improved significantly last year, and I don’t believe the Oilers will regress with the subtraction of Jordan Eberle. With that being said, I do believe both of those trades could have had a heavier return…but I am definitely not going to, once again, open up that hellish argument to the good Oilers fan-base. This was just a good way to introduce the topic at hand, which is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Yup, my bold prediction is that the 2011 1st overall pick will be the next Edmonton Oiler to switch sweaters next summer.

WHY DO YOU HATE THE NUGE!?

Well, that sad excuse of a playoff beard is a good place to start…

In all seriousness, I don’t hate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Actually, it really is the opposite, I adore the game that he plays. When it comes to playing a sound defensive game and being responsible in all 3 areas of the ice, no one does it better on the Oilers than #93. He has had some problems concerning his offensive production but he does have the tools to put up big numbers. All it takes to realize that is to watch some footage of him during the 2014/15 season, where he was arguably the team’s best player. His release and ability to take over offensive situations at times is something that should not be overlooked in his game.

With all that being said, I do believe that Nugent’s days with the Oilers organization are numbered. It comes down to a variety of reasons that I will go into more detail about, including the salary-cap and immediate direction of the team. Before I do that, let it be known that I am not a “Nuge Hater”.

Onwards we go…

Salary Cap:

Ah yes, that complicated thing with all the numbers and such.

I don’t consider myself to be all that fluent with all the rules and regulations that come with the salary cap but, I do understand the problems that Nuge could cause for the Oilers. Earning an AAV of 6-million dollars for the next 4-years, it will become hard for the team to work around that cap-hit with some interesting contracts coming up, especially if he is relegated to playing third line minutes.

Connor McDavid is going to be making 12.5mil after next year and Draisaitl is going to end up in with 7+ this coming season. Those two are the set to become the team’s top 2 centers for the next decade and the team is showing that with the money they are prepared to shell out. Combine those numbers with Lucic’s mammoth contract and expiring contracts like Strome, Caggiula, Benning, Slepyshev, and Nurse, you may have a slight cap crunch on your hands.

Nugent is still a very young player and, while I might agree that Chiarelli screwed the pooch on the Lucic contract, getting his salary off the books to free up room for those players and acquire a cheaper talent in return might be worthwhile. Some might say that this is no different than the Eberle trade, which is seen as a salary dump, but I would disagree. While the Eberle trade did involve the dumping of his salary, he was obviously not in sync with the team’s current philosophy. A soft and ineffective game is what drew #14 out of favour with Oiler management and, eventually, lead to his trade to New York. This wouldn’t be the case for RNH, who would garner more in return.

Roster Without Nuge:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a great hockey player and he is a big player on the Edmonton Oilers. Because of this perfectly valid belief people think that trading Nuge would cripple the forward depth of the team, and I couldn’t disagree more.

The Oilers have two very young and talented superstars operating in the top 2 center positions. Connor McDavid is the face of the league at 20-years-old and Leon Draisaitl netted 70pts in his second full season in the NHL. These are the players that will stabilize and lead our top 2 lines. This will eventually force Nugent-Hopkins to play as the team’s third line center. There has been plenty of speculation that he could play on the wing but, if that doesn’t work out as planned, there aren’t a lot of options for him on the roster. You don’t want him playing third line minutes because you’re paying him way too much for that role and his skillset is ideal for a top 6 forward.

If you subtract Nuge from the team’s center depth list you will get something that looks like this:

L1: McDavid

L2: Draisaitl

L3: Caggiula

L4: Letestu

I wouldn’t consider this as crippling. Caggiula is a perfectly serviceable 3rd line center and has shown good spurts of offense late last season. If he continues to improve during this coming season then that might make it a little easier for Chiarelli to put some trust into Caggiula as the team’s third line center moving forward. The problem with the roster isn’t center-ice, it’s the wings, which leads me into the next point I want to make.

Potential Return:

As I have made clear throughout this article, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the future of the top 6 for the Oilers. They are the building blocks of the franchise at the moment and this is why Ryan Nugent-Hopkins seems to be on his way out in the not-s0-distant future. Oddly enough, as I say that, it isn’t a knock on how valuable RNH is.

At the young age of 24, the potential that Nuge holds is still high. He has had a few dominant seasons in this league already and has shown an ability to play against tough competition night in and night out. The potential return for a player of his caliber should be a good amount. This is where things get a little murky however.

I don’t think it is crazy to say that RNH is a more valuable player than Eberle at this point. The return for Chiarelli should be more than a young forward with some unseen potential. However, should he demand more than what PC traded Taylor Hall for? It becomes difficult determine the quality of return for a guy like Nuge, especially considering Chiarelli’s track record with the club. Nugent-Hopkins is a center, which is a more sought after position than LW, so could the team trade him for some much needed help on the wing?

The center depth looks to be in stable condition without the presence of #93 and he has the value to bring back a legitimate top 6 winger to Edmonton. I won’t even begin to speculate who that winger could be…I’ll leave that to you, the reader.

Conclusion:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been an Oiler for 6 seasons already and, in that time, he has proven to be a very talented two-way forward. However, I do believe that his run with the Edmonton Oilers is about to come to an end.

The emergence of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will force him to play in a role that he is both overpaid and better to play in. The positives that come with shedding his salary and acquiring a top 6 winger are very enticing and I think that will push Chiarelli to make the move next summer.

 

Thanks For Reading!

You can follow me on Twitter @CrazyOilersFan

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