Oilers trade Sam Gagner for Teddy Purcell, Lightning trade Gagner to Coyotes – is Edmonton ready for Leon Draisaitl?

Rory Boylen
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

After a couple years of trade rumors, Sam Gagner is finally on his way out of Edmonton. Coming in to the Oilers is another offensive winger in Teddy Purcell.

In terms of scoring, Edmonton gets the more productive and more healthy player over the past few seasons. And Gagner’s days as Edmonton’s second line center were all but over after another season without improvement and with his no-trade clause about to kick in. But the acquisition of a top-six winger is curious. The move creates a convenient roster hole for center Leon Draisaitl, who the team picked third overall in Friday’s draft. Not that they would make a trade like this to create an automatic opening on the second line for an 18-year-old (at least, we don’t think so), but without many other acquirable centers available, the opportunity will be hanging there for the German. Read more

Live from the draft: Not much surprise in the top five

Ekblad-draft

The evening began with uncertainty and Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon even had some fun by revealing that his team would be selecting a player from the Ontario League – but pausing before actually saying the name Aaron Ekblad.

“I was freaking out a bit,” Ekblad admitted.

But with five picks in the books, the most likely top five players were all claimed: Maybe the 2014 draft class was more straight forward than we thought.

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The Maple Leafs must move heaven and earth to land a top center in the draft

Dion Phaneuf Jake Gardiner

There are many things the Maple Leafs have done of late that’s rankled their fan base. Retaining the services of head coach Randy Carlyle tops the list, but after Toronto’s stunning late-season collapse, the general sentiment surrounding the franchise is still one of uncertainty and frustration.

There’s one way the Leafs can change that in the next few days: trade up in the NHL entry draft and select a center to serve as a franchise cornerstone.

That’s easier said than done. Given the fact there’s no consensus on the No. 1 pick, there could be more teams than ever jostling to move up in the draft. The owners of that pick, the Florida Panthers, have made it abundantly clear they’re willing to trade it in return for players who can help them win immediately. The Edmonton Oilers have the third overall selection and they too are under all sorts of pressure to produce in the standings sooner than later. So the opportunity is there. Now it’s about what kind of offer it would take to push the Leafs up from their current No. 8 slot and into a place where they can acquire the type of dynamic prospect they’ve been lacking for most of the past five decades.

Some have linked captain Dion Phaneuf to any move up in the draft the Leafs might make – and he would improve the blueline of the Panthers and Oilers – but his seven-year, $49 million contract extension means Toronto would have to take back an onerous deal. To avoid that scenario, I’d be fine with dealing any other blueliner not named Morgan Rielly, in combination with a young NHL-caliber forward or two and/or a draft pick of note, to acquire a better pick. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Where will Ryan Kesler be traded?

Ryan-Kesler-VAN

With the Vancouver Canucks having hired a new GM (Jim Benning) and coach (Willie Desjardins), the focus returns to center Ryan Kesler, who remains the target of recent trade speculation.

Earlier this month it was reported Kesler informed Benning he still prefers a trade. There’s been some recent confusion, however, over where the 29-year-old prefers to be dealt. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are Kesler’s only preferences, prompting The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek to note the difficulty that would create for the Canucks to move him.

The Blackhawks have limited cap space ($4.6 million) for 2014-15 and restricted free agents (Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin and Antti Raanta) to re-sign. They’ll have to either do a dollar-for-dollar swap with the Canucks or convince them to pick up part of Kesler’s salary to squeeze him under their cap. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but Sharp has a modified no-trade clause, meaning he’ll have to agree to the deal. Read more

The Edmonton Oilers should keep the No. 3 pick – and take Leon Draisaitl

Rory Boylen
Leon-Draisaitl-2

Truth: The Edmonton Oilers are a hurting unit on defense. Allowing 32.9 shots per game, only four other NHL teams had more porous defenders than the Oilers in 2013-14. Andrew Ference is signed for another three years, but he’s no lead man. Youngsters Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin are the only other two blueliners under contract at the moment, with RFAs Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry likely to sign and stick around.

Myth: The Oilers absolutely need a defenseman at this year’s draft to complement their vast collection of young and talented forwards. Read more

Why the Edmonton Oilers should trade down at the draft

Matt Larkin
Oilers draft

Another year, another high draft pick for lowly Edmonton. Before Craig MacTavish and company race to the podium, some benevolent GM around the league, I beg you, save this poor team from itself. Trade up and take the Oilers’ No. 3 overall selection. Assuming Aaron Ekblad goes to the Florida Panthers, the best path to improvement for Edmonton is to acquire an established asset for its first pick, move down several slots and use a lower-first round pick on defenseman Haydn Fleury.

I’m a broken record talking about the law of diminishing returns with Edmonton and skilled forwards at the draft. The Oilers’ first selections each year since 2007:

2007 (6): Sam Gagner
2008 (22): Jordan Eberle
2009 (10): Magnus Paajarvi
2010 (1): Taylor Hall
2011 (1): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2012 (1): Nail Yakupov
2013 (7): Darnell Nurse

Last’s year’s selection of Nurse – which I loved – ended Edmonton’s six-year run of applying a “best available” approach and taking a slick forward. Unless you count Taylor Hall as the exception of that group, it’s six consecutive selections of a smallish, defensively deficient, offensively gifted forward. The more clones you have of one player type, the less impactful each one becomes.

Is it any surprise, then, we’ve seen Edmonton morph into the perennially promising team that never delivers? It’s the same song and dance. Sexy video game team, tantalizing offense, no physicality, porous defense, suspect goaltending, nowhere close to the playoffs.

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Defense-desperate Oilers land rights to Nikita Nikitin as hunt for blueliners heats up

Nikita Nikitin (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers on Friday tried to get a head start on what promises to be a desperate, league-wide off-season search for capable blueliners by acquiring a negotiating rights window with Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin.

There was no immediate word on what Oilers GM Craig MacTavish surrendered to land the rights to Nikitin, but given that the 28-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent in a couple of weeks, it won’t be much. Nikitin has size (6-foot-4, 223 pounds), but the Russian isn’t a physical threat and was a third-pairing d-man for Columbus last year, averaging just 17:06 of ice time and posting two goals and 15 points in 66 games. In 2011-12, his first year with the Jackets after being dealt from St. Louis, he amassed more than twice that amount of offense (seven goals and 32 points in 54 games), but if he does sign with Edmonton, Oilers fans shouldn’t expect a return to those totals.

Nikitin earned $2.5 million in 2013-14 and in a weak free agent market, he’ll get some type of raise. MacTavish clearly wants to avoid the inevitable inflation of a player’s worth that occurs when free agency kicks off; that’s not to say he’ll have to give Nikitin $4 million a season, but he will have to offer him enough to forego free agency. Read more