As sorry as the Flames were this year, they laid some real beatdowns on their longtime rivals in both Vancouver and Edmonton. However, the hated foes get the last (technically first) laugh at the 2016 draft, “earning” the opportunity to draft ahead of the Flames at #4 and #5.
When the Oilers step up at #4, there’s going to be a lot of collateral damage for the Flames. Based on what the Oilers and Canucks want, it could certainly prevent what the Flames choose on draft day. Over the next few days, we’re going to try and decode almost all of the plausible moves for the Canadian Pacific rivals, and how they impact the Flames’ decision at #6.
1. Use the pick…
1a. … on a defenceman.
WIthout the first overall pick, the Oilers can’t have the clear cut, next best thing to screw up. Instead, at #4, they can (theoretically) improve some of their weaker points instead of simply taking the generational talent. With a very weak defensive corps in regards to both the NHL level and the prospect depth chart, and the best spot to nab the best defenceman in the draft, the Oilers could look to take a defenceman.
The main debate is between Jakob Chychrun and Olli Juolevi, with Mikhail Sergachev receiving small consideration as a third option. There are two problems here. The first is that the consensus says that regardless of which defenceman they pick, it will be a reach. Not the most efficient use of the fourth overall pick. The second issue is that despite the fact that all three are likely to be good defencemen, the onus is on the Oilers to get this exactly right. If they happen to choose wrong, like they did with Darnell Nurse (for now), the franchise is set back a few more years. At this point, they cannot afford to whiff on the draft again.
With their team still young and cheap, the Oilers are going to want to turn a corner very soon. A defenceman’s development trajectory usually takes two to three years longer than a forward’s. If they use the pick, they want a player who can make an immediate impact. That won’t be a defenceman from this draft.
1b … on a forward.
Should the Oilers keep the pick, this is the most likely option. With Nail Yakupov likely on the move and whispers of Taylor Hall joining him, the Oilers will have to replace their young forwards with an even younger face. Their centre depth (McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl) is solid already, so they’re likely looking for a winger. With the first pick of the second tier of forwards, the Oilers will likely go with Pierre-Luc Dubois, but don’t count out the possibility of Matthew Tkachuk.
Dubois is probably the #1 on the Oilers’ draft list (barring any surprises from Winnipeg or Columbus) due to his production. However, they may feel that he may not be as effective a winger as Tkachuk and may hand the jersey to the London Knight. Despite his reputation as a passenger on an elite OHL line, the Oilers have a few really good players that he can group up with. Stepping into the right situation, Tkachuk’s flaws can be easily overlooked.
There remains the reality that drafting a forward will most likely not solve the Oilers’ problems. As it has been in previous years, applying a fresh bandaid has not stopped the bleeding. If Hall, Yak, the Nuge, and/or McDavid have not turned things around, how will one more forward help?
How does this impact the Flames?
As we’ll explore in more depth tomorrow, whoever Edmonton (or a surprise team) picks will impact Vancouver’s pick heavily, which in turn impacts Calgary’s pick. Also without a clear cut choice, the Canucks are willing to let the Oilers decide for them. Whatever the Canucks decide has a drastic impact on what the Flames will likely do. Stay tuned for tomorrow.
2. Trade the pick
The dangerous thing about the Oilers (besides their entire existence) is the fact that they may just be a few pieces away from a realistic shot at that the playoffs. Should they play their cards right in the off-season, they could have something besides an absolute mess to show for themselves.
As previously mentioned, the Oilers will probably not turn the corner if they actually use the #4 pick. It truly holds more value to the team when it’s not actually in their hands. What the Oilers need are NHL players; more specifically, NHL defencemen (right-handed, preferably). If they want to improve now, they’re going to swap fourth overall for said defenceman and then some.
A name that has constantly been connected to the Oilers is Travis Hamonic. The Islanders blueliner is almost certainly being traded after requesting a move back to Western Canada earlier this season, and the Oilers seem willing to pay the price. Hamonic has a very favourable contract, going for the same term as T.J. Brodie, but at about $800,000 less. He’s been a solid producer for the Isles, and could anchor the inept Oilers defence.
The problem is more so the price and whether or not NYI actually wants to deal. Hamonic plus the Islanders’ first for #4 seems too imbalanced in favour of the Isles, but anything more from NYI would probably be too much. The Islanders are already a very good team; they don’t need fourth overall. If the Oilers want more than Hamonic and the Isles’ first, Garth Snow will be perfectly fine holding out. The Oilers keep their pick.
So can Calgary get in on it?
It’s unlikely. The right handed NHL defenders the Flames would certainly be willing to part with are Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland. Neither of them are close to Hamonic in age, talent, or contract value. It is pretty much impossible.
If you’re holding out for that little bit of hope, there are two things that work to the Flames’ advantage. In any deal involving #4, the Oilers probably want a first round pick back as well. The Flames have #6, while the Isles could have a pick in the late teens/early-to-mid twenties. With speculation from Elliotte Friedman about the Oilers’ interest in Wideman (no. 22), perhaps they take him plus a few other pieces to let the Flames move up two spots.
For the Oilers, the difference between #4 and #6 is not very meaningful. Perhaps they could still get Tkachuk at #6 (Nylander also isn’t a bad consolation prize), if not, Chychrun would be a more acceptable pick at that number. They would get an NHL defender, something extra, and a good prospect. The Flames would get their preferred choice (screwing over Vancouver in the process), likely Dubois, while jettisoning some burdensome pieces. It’s a win-win.
Though it’s still extremely unlikely. Wideman has a no-movement clause, a crappy contract, and a dwindling prime. Peter Chiarelli is certainly more competent than Oilers regimes previous, and he is probably well aware that the Dennis Wideman he traded for nearly 10 years ago isn’t the same Dennis Wideman today.
Most Likely Outcome:
The Oilers will keep the pick and select Dubois. I think we’ll hear a lot of noise leading up to the draft, but none of it will pan out. Unlike picks #1-3, there’s not a lot worth sacrificing for many teams to get the #4 pick from the Oilers.