The Contrarian – Will He or Won’t He

by Demetri Fragopoulos on May 22, 2016

There are conflicting arguments as to whether the Oilers will trade the fourth overall pick.

Two Edmonton Journal writers, Jonathan Willis and David Staples, take on the task of trying to get into Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli’s head and predict what he will do with the fourth overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

It started with Staples indicating that the Oilers will keep the pick, and here are his reasons why.

It is very likely that the first three picks will be forwards Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi (as per TSN’s Craig Button), leaving them a nice set of players to choose from. These players are approximately the same, so the argument for a trade is that they should trade down, pick up something extra, and still get a comparable player.

Staples provides a table that lists players in their draft years, going as far back as Sidney Crosby, ranked by their points per game played (PPG). I am assuming that this list is only of North American playing prospects because I do not see Matthews, Laine or Puljujarvi or any other past European player on the list. The player he targets is eighth, Matthew Tkachuk.

Tkachuk has a PPG that is slightly better than current Oiler Taylor Hall, slightly worse than former Oiler Sam Gagner, and much better than Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Oh, and you will see that his PPG is also better than some other players like Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos and Nathan MacKinnon, just to list a few.

Tkachuk would add an element that has been missing: A big, tough, assertive, skilled forward that can get the job done in front of the net. It does not hurt that he has hockey bloodlines either.

Staples makes an interesting point about keeping the pick to draft a player who will be ineligible to be lost or protected for the potential expansion draft. If a trade happens, then that player most likely would have to be protected.

The final argument made is that talk is cheap. Even though we will hear a lot of rumors and speculation about deals that will provide Edmonton with a skilled defenseman, it is likely not to happen, at least not involving this pick.

The counter argument belonging to Willis starts off actually supporting Staples, being that trades involving draft picks within the top-10 do not happen often. By his calculation it happens about 10 percent of the time, but he believes that these Oilers are going to be such a rare case.

Looking at his second true supporting argument, he says that they do not need to add another top-10 drafted player because they already have enough of those guys. They have six right now and getting yet another one is just going to collect dust on the mantle, right?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have five on their roster (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Marc-Andre Fleury and Derrick Pouliot). Tampa Bay also has five players (Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin, Braydon Coburn and Slater Koekkoek).

Four top-10 drafted players are on the St. Louis Blues (Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Scottie Upshall, and Magnus Paajarvi), while the San Jose Sharks only have three (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture).

I can see why the Oilers would not want to add another. It would not be fair to the rest of the league if they hogged all these guys.

Willis’ third and fourth points are almost the same, which is basically to trade down to acquire a skilled defenseman that can play immediately or draft a young defenseman with a lower pick. I do not deny that these are possibilities that they should be exploring, especially trading for a skilled defenseman in order to help their roster now. However, moving just the fourth overall pick I do not think gets them there. More would have to be involved.

His main point, which I have left last to mention, comes from the mouth of Chiarelli. “I’ve made it known that we’ll look to trade down if the right deal is there in the context of just a pure trade down or a trade down with kind of giving up the value in the draft numbers, in the draft ranking in getting a draft pick and an NHL player,” and, “executing these things is often hard but there’s some real stuff that could come across our desk in the next few weeks, so looking at a lot of stuff.”

What he should have added is that Chiarelli was involved in the Phil Kessel trade (one of the 10 percent that moved top-10 draft picks). At that time, he was giving up the NHL-ready player for future draft picks. This time he will be wanting the NHL player and who knows yet what he will be giving up for it.

Did Staples not already mention as one of his points that talk is cheap?

There was a lot of talk regarding Dougie Hamilton (a top-10 drafted player) going to Edmonton last year, and look how that turned out.

You cannot blame Chiarelli for his attempt to open the lines of communication in order to get what he feels is the best deal available for his club. If you do not communicate, you will not know what is possible. Trading or keeping the fourth overall pick does not matter. Getting the defenseman at a reasonable price does.

The problem is that everyone knows that he needs one, and all his posturing aside, that is the weakness in his position. It is what is going to make the price larger than it would normally be.

If Chiarelli comes out of the draft and free agency without one of quality, then he will be in a bigger mess unless he feels that other teams will have to dump players before the start of the regular season.

That is right. He has been there and done that before too.

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