Believe it or not, we’re on the edge of September, and instead of hockey warming up, we must first wind down the delayed 2019-20 season. The Pittsburgh Penguins trade splash for Kasperi Kapanen last week was the first, and according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, it upset the playoff teams in part because they didn’t get to bid on the Penguins 15th overall selection.
The next Penguins trade will likely involve goalie Matt Murray, though this time, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford may wait for more teams to be freed from the bubble.
This is the second in our series, in which we look at potential suitors for Murray and what the Penguins can reasonably expect in return. Our first chapter examined the Calgary Flames. Read it here.
We’ll stay in Alberta for chapter 2 as the Edmonton Oilers desperately need help in net and have an abundance of talent. However, in that talent surplus also rests salary cap problems and sacrifice. Perhaps more than any other team, Rutherford may find a bargain in Edmonton to complete the Penguins trade.
A little refresher, too. PHN has examined goalie trades since the last lockout (2013). The market fluctuated but was ultimately consistent, and PHN can project something close to a high-round draft choice and possibly a competent prospect.
Pittsburgh Penguins Trade Potential: Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton’s surplus and great need allow the Penguins to get a better deal. The Penguins could, perhaps, snag a top-four blueliner.
On Saturday, David Staples of the Edmonton Journal reported on the NHL trade rumors that Edmonton could move one, or even two of their top-four defensemen. That list includes Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear, Darnell Nurse, and Oscar Klefbom.
Boy howdy, if the Penguins could land Nurse, but no chance, kids. Edmonton screwed up, royally, when former GM Peter Chiarelli delt future Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall for Larsson. Current GM Ken Holland and Edmonton will not allow another epic headscratcher.
But we’ll take Nurse off the list unless Rutherford comes to the table with a much better Penguins trade offer than Murray, alone. Bear has also endeared himself to Edmonton as an affordable, reliable option. Bear’s limited ceiling limits his value. Staples believes Holland will keep him around, too.
Off the Table
Edmonton also has a couple of coming defenseman prospects, by whom they’re excited. Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg could be in the NHL this season. If Penguins trade talks come to be, Rutherford will certainly ask, and Holland will likely decline.
We’ll also remove Jesse Puljujarvi from consideration, too. After speaking with both sides, Sportsnet Edmonton writer extraordinaire Mark Spector believes Puljujarvi will be in an Edmonton sweater for 2020-21. It’s hard to fathom Holland working so hard to sign the top-five pick then trade him.
Edmonton has fought to get this fish in the boat, and they’re not going to cut the line until they know what they have.
Another thing to note, Edmonton does not have many picks in the coming 2020 NHL Draft. They have picks in Rounds 1, 5, 6, 7. So, an early pick is off the table.
1. Adam Larsson, 27, RHD
The Penguins need a righty on the blue line, and Larsson is a steady eddy, shutdown defenseman who doesn’t score much. Larsson had six points (1g, 5a) in 49 games this season. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder can log big minutes and has one season left on a $4.1 million cap hit.
Edmonton still has a problem snagging free agents, which could limit Edmonton’s options to address their net and helps the Penguins. Playing in the NHL’s northernmost city and one of the league’s smallest cities is not for everyone. A couple of involved parties groused to the PHN family upon Edmonton’s selection as a bubble city. It’s still not a favored destination.
Murray for Larsson doesn’t seem to work for Edmonton unless they value Murray as a top-flight No. 1 goalie who can solve their problems. Given Murray’s performance over the past 24 months, there is some doubt where Murray lies on the goalie pecking order.
A rightie would solve the Penguins’ need for a third RHD. A stay-home RHD would also allow them to insert a mobile, offensive d-man such as P-O Joseph or Juuso Riikola on the left. And, it would give Penguins coaches a legitimate shutdown option in the third period, when they have a lead. That would save some wear-and-tear on Kris Letang.
We won’t entirely rule out the potential for a package deal here, but Murray’s potential salary bump above $5 million and perhaps to $6 million further complicates matters. Larsson makes $4.1 million for one more season before he becomes a UFA.
2. Second-tier Prospects: Tyler Benson (LW), Cooper Marody (C), Ryan McLeod (C)
Edmonton has a few prospects who didn’t have great seasons in AHL. Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, and Ryan McLeod of the clan McLeod (Highlander reference) are the targets here.
The forwards jumped into the professional waters but haven’t yet stuck in the NHL. All three failed to make the NHL out of training camp and slipped in the AHL this season, too.
McLeod, 20, is a center with exceptional speed. I mean, he is f-a-s-t. He’s also a playmaker who doesn’t shoot enough and has to get stronger to be a third-line center. McLeod scored only 23 points (5g, 18a) in 56 AHL games this season. Worse, he had only 66 shots in 58 games.
Edmonton selected McLeod 40th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Marody, 23, made his NHL debut in February. He played six games in fourth-line duty and has not yet registered his first NHL point. The 6-foot-0 center turned pro after a junior career and three seasons of college hockey at Michigan. He popped 64 points (19g, 45a) in 58 games for the Bakersfield Condors as a first-year pro in 2018-19, but slumped to only 17 points (5g, 12a) in 30 games this season.
Our industry sources who are more familiar with Marody told PHN he too is a playmaking center. He doesn’t possess McLeod’s blazing speed, but he has a more polished game. Marody understands good positioning and how to play without the puck.
Benson is an interesting player. He doesn’t have great skates or great size (6-foot, 190 pounds), but he has a great feel for the game and a good shot. Maybe a Jake Guentzel-lite? He, too, made his NHL debut this season and scored one assist in seven games.
Benson, 22, splashed with a big rookie year with Bakersfield in 2018-19. After maxing out his junior eligibility with Vancouver of the WHL, Benson exploded into the Edmonton system with 66 points (15g, 51a) in 68 games.
Benson also sagged to just 36 points (9g, 27a) in 47 games this season. The 2016 second-round pick doesn’t appear to be the centerpiece type of prospect, but Benson could be the addition to replace a draft pick and complete a deal. Unfortunately, Benson is a LW and the Penguins are all-full on the left-wing.
Without Puljujarvi on the table, and without many picks, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in a similar situation as the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, Penguins trade rumors may sprout over old flames, such as resurrecting James Neal and his $5.75 million annual contract, or winger Andreas Athanasiou, who finished the season at an astonishing minus-46.
Seriously, minus-46. How does a player on a good team get THERE? (Note: He was only a minus-one in nine games with Edmonton).
But Edmonton and the Penguins trade needs don’t appear to be the best match unless Edmonton is willing to put an NHL defenseman on the table, or the Penguins scouts see immediate 3C potential in McLeod or Marody.