When the Edmonton Oilers hired Craig MacTavish as GM, he spoke about making bold moves to bring this young team back towards the playoffs. Since then, few, if any, would describe the GM’s trades and signings as bold – and the team has stayed securely within the draft lottery.
The wheels have fallen off another season that started with promise and potential and the team has begun shedding. Wednesday MacTavish made the inevitable decision to trade pending UFA goalie Devan Dubnyk, who the team wasn’t going to re-sign. In return, the Oilers picked up bottom-six forward Matt Hendricks, who will have a cap hit of $1.85 million for this season…and three more.
MacTavish then turned around and dealt a third round pick to Los Angeles for Ben Scrivens, a former backup in Toronto who caught fire with the Kings this season. He is familiar with Oilers coach Dallas Eakins from their time together with the AHL’s Marlies and will undoubtedly be given the lion’s share of the workload the rest of the way.
Here are some takeaways from the Edmonton-Nashville deal:
The Predators pick up a credible stop gap for Pekka Rinne
Nashville added Dubnyk as a safety net and stop gap while regular No. 1 Pekka Rinne rehabs from a hip infection. Nashville is eight points out of a Western wild card spot, which puts them right on the precipice of falling out of contention. The team has allowed 49 goals against in its past 15 games (going 4-8-3) and had an opportunity to add a player who might be able to find himself in a different city, behind a better defense and keep the team afloat. Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton have been good stories, but the Preds need to try something to get back in the hunt and Dubnyk is a cheap, credible option. Nashville finds players like Hendricks growing on trees behind Bridgestone Arena.
Devan Dubnyk’s NHL starter designation has just been revoked
At 27, Dubnyk will be a UFA at season’s end and will almost surely try his hand in the free agent market instead of locking in to play behind Rinne for less money than he’s getting now. Not that he’ll get more money or an undisputed starting job anywhere else this summer. Dubnyk’s save percentage crashed to .894 in Edmonton this year and though that’s bound to improve on a much more defensively polished Nashville team, it’s hard to believe that rebound would inspire an NHL team to invest anything significant in him. Dubnyk is back to Square 1.
The Oilers improve a shoddy penalty kill*
Matt Hendricks isn’t the most exciting name to get back, but once you accept the fact Dubnyk is an overpaid backup right now, acquiring a solid penalty killer from Nashville is an acceptable return, though not an ideal one. Edmonton’s PK is ranked 21st in the league right now with a 79.6 percent kill rate and was in dire need of improvement. Hendricks won’t suddenly make them the best unit in the league, but he’s an upgrade over every other forward currently being used with the exception of Boyd Gordon. So, the Oilers got rid of an asset they didn’t need or want anymore and improved an area that desperately needs a kick in the butt with a player who will be there for a while. But is this the absolute best return MacTavish could have gotten for a goalie on an expiring contract? It’s difficult to get value when you trade a goalie these days, but there are lots of playoff bubble teams out there.
Nashville shed the commitment to Hendricks
As previously stated, players like Hendricks come easy to Nashville so shedding the four-year commitment to a bottom-six forward is a huge plus. Preds GM David Poile also, reportedly, got the Oilers to retain half of Dubnyk’s salary, so the budget squad doesn’t even have to assume the full cost of their rental. When Dubnyk leaves in the summer, the Preds will have the money they saved to use elsewhere. It’s not a lot of cash saved against the cap, but every little bit counts as the Preds try and get back to where they were a few short years ago.
Edmonton adds to its small group of “character” players
Hendricks’ value to the Oilers isn’t about point production and goes a little deeper than improving the penalty kill. He is another “character” addition to a young, perhaps overconfident core of scorers that just isn’t improving quickly enough and not getting the job done. It’s difficult to sweep a losing culture out of a dressing room, but players like Hendricks and 2013 UFA signees Gordon and Andrew Ference are the types of guys who can help the process along. Ultimately, the success of this team still depends on the Taylor Halls, Jordan Eberles and Nail Yakupovs of the group, though. Hendricks’ $1.85 million cap hit may seem high for a player with such a limited skill set today, but the cap will keep climbing for the duration of his contract and make that a non-issue. The term is the ugliest part of Hendricks’ deal, but even that’s manageable for a useful player.
The Predators win this trade
Nashville doesn’t have to take on the full cap commitment to a rental stop gap goalie and freed their limited payroll from a too-long commitment to a replaceable player. Edmonton got a player who will help in an area that needs it, but you can say that about a lot of areas on the Edmonton roster. Nashville did great, considering what they gave up, while Edmonton did fine, but acquired nothing special for their one-time No. 1.