(photo via edmonton journal)
Reports are indicating that Darnell Nurse has been moving without a walking boot for a few weeks now and has begun skating on his own.
Having Nurse at 100% and in the line-up will essentially work as a deadline deal for the Oilers. He was having a strong season, although I still saw a lot of flaws in his game. Regardless, it was clear he was one of Edmonton’s top six.
Right now the Oilers have been running their pairing fairly consistently:
pairs and average time on ice/games played
Oscar Klefbom (21:42) (52gp)
|Adam Larsson (20:10) (51gp)|
Andrej Sekera (21:59) (50gp)
|Kris Russell (21:37) (45gp)|
|Brandon Davidson (14:32)(18gp)||
Matt Benning (16:47) (39gp)
|Eric Gryba (16:21) (25gp)||
Darnell Nurse (17:40) (25gp)
The top six right now is pretty solid and it’s worked for the most part. Sekera, Larsson, and Klefbom are going to be here for the remainder of the season, and years to come, so I take them out of the equation.
Now obviously, there is no guarantee that all eight defensemen will be healthy at the same time, so this piece is fairly hypothetical, but assuming that there is a point where all 8 NHL caliber defenders are healthy, here are the team’s options:
This one paragraph could open a massive can of worms within the comment section, but here it goes.
The Oilers could deal Kris Russell at the trade deadline, in exchange for a draft pick of a young forward, and I don’t think it would be the end of the world.
Russell came out of the gate this year guns blazing and a large majority of the fan base fell in love with him. While I do see a very good physical defender who has good speed and blocks a ton of shots, I also see a player who has close to no ability in the offensive zone and who makes a good amount of positional errors, that usually get covered up by his speed or by Cam Talbot.
He has had trouble getting his legs going since returning from injury, which is a shame considering how well he played last season. You want to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he goes back to the near top-4 defender, who appeared capable of running a power play that we saw last season. At the same time, the Oilers are now in a playoff push and should be gearing towards the thinking of winning right now, which could leave Davidson on the outside looking in.
If Peter Chiarelli decides that Davidson is the odd man out what are his options? Well, he could waive him and hope he doesn’t get claimed, which would be an absolutely terrible idea.
Another issue is that Davidson may be lost in the upcoming expansion draft, so Chiarelli could also try to trade the 25-year-old and get a young forward that could be protected this June. Maybe a Davidson for Lazar deal could interest both teams? Also, if you trade Davidson it, you need to get substantial value in return, because you’re now going to have to lose someone else to the expansion draft. So while it may be “Davidson for young forward” in the long run it really looks like “Davidson AND player lost to Vegas for a young forward” if you follow my line of thought there.
I would prefer to see Davison stay with the Oilers, I’ve been a huge fan of his game/story since day 1, so I wouldn’t take any of these routes.
Benning could go down to the farm once he’s healthy again, which will be soon (or so I’ve heard). This move means you aren’t losing anyone and would allow the 22-year-old to get some experience in the AHL. Would allow him to play in different scenarios and round out his game
However, he’s been one of Edmonton’s best defenders and if you’re in a playoff push, you don’t send a key member of your line-up to the minors. He’s led the team’s defense in GF/60 (2.77) and has the 4th best GA/60 (1.88). The gap between those numbers is very good for any d-man, never mind a rookie.
Moving Benning to Bakersfield is possible, but it’s not the route I would go.
I like the idea of putting Gryba on waivers because I’m fairly certain he would clear, and I also believe he’s their worst defender. They wouldn’t miss Gryba, but putting him in the minors would mean having to always have one of Davidson/Benning/Nurse healthy scratched, again assuming they don’t have more injuries.
I don’t think Gryba gets claimed, and he could be recalled at any time. I like this option, even though I’m not a fan of having young players sit in the press box too often.
This has similar options to sending down Eric Gryba. It’s a shame that you’ll have two d-men up in the press box every night, but I honestly feel like this may be the way to go. The first reason is that there is no guarantee you’ll have everyone healthy at one point, in fact,
I’d say there won’t be a point where everyone will be 100%. This allows you to give a game off to an Andrej Sekera or Kris Russell if they need it down the stretch.
This also means you can keep Matt Benning in the NHL, where he probably belongs and don’t risk losing Brandon Davidson on waivers. You also don’t run the risk of not getting maximum return for someone like Davidson or Russell if you decide to go the trade route.
I think the best route for the Oil is to keep all hands on deck, even if it means an Anton Lander needs to be sent down to keep the roster under 23.