What’s a trade you’d like to see where both players need a change of scenery?
Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer: At the end of the Buffalo Sabres‘ season, Ryan O’Reilly professed his sadness and frustration with yet another disappointing season in what could only be described as an “I lost my smile” lament. So a change in scenery would help both the team and the player. So how about this: Jack Eichel‘s teammate becomes Connor McDavid‘s teammate.
I’d flip O’Reilly and Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Nuge is coming off his best offensive season, with 48 points in 62 games, and I love his game. But O’Reilly is a little better offensively (0.79 points per game in the last three seasons vs. 0.63 for Nugent-Hopkins), and even though Nugent-Hopkins can play the wing, I like O’Reilly’s versatility better, both positionally and situationally.
The age gap isn’t that significant: O’Reilly is 27, Nugent-Hopkins is 25. The contracts are interesting: O’Reilly makes $7.5 million, but it’s through 2023; Nugent-Hopkins makes $6 million through 2021. I like the Nuge as an option to play with Casey Mittelstadt, unless he’s slotted with Eichel. I like O’Reilly as a fit with the Oilers. One problem, of course: In theory, there’s zero chance the Nuge gets moved for anyone that’s not a defenseman. But Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is not one to validate these theories, typically.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Under Tom Dundon, it seems almost every Carolina Hurricanes player is ripe be moved — as long as the price is right. A player generating a ton of interest around the league is Jeff Skinner, a three-time 30-plus goal scorer who, at age 26, still has upside. The only problem for the Canes? Skinner enters free agency next summer. As Carolina embarks on a total reboot, the new management might not want to pay up.
Meanwhile, Milan Lucic‘s days in Edmonton are numbered. Once one of the premiere power forwards in the game, the 30-year-old’s production dipped significantly last season (from 23 goals to 10 goals, though to be fair, mainly Oilers struggled) and his $6 million cap hit through 2022-23 is becoming burdensome. The Canes may need help reaching the cap floor, so Lucic’s contract isn’t a problem. Lucic can provide leadership to a young group, and add some name value to an owner looking to sell tickets.
To make this more palatable for the Hurricanes, Edmonton would need to send over a draft pick as well (they have each of their first- and second-round picks for the next three seasons, and an extra third-rounder in 2019). Dundon should view draft picks as the ultimate currency. The Oilers should welcome Skinner — offensively gifted, though defense was never a strength — as a middle-six winger to provide scoring depth. I see this as a win-win.
Chris Peters, hockey prospects analyst: Sticking with the Hurricanes theme, Carolina needs a goalie, and recently crowned Stanley Cup champion Philipp Grubauer wants to be a starter. It sounds like the Caps are going to see what they can do to make that happen. Washington is also at risk of losing right-handed shooting defenseman John Carlson to unrestricted free agency.
They could potentially replace Carlson with Justin Faulk, who still has two years remaining on his current contract at an extremely reasonable $4.83 million cap hit. For the Canes to move one of their captains — even if they’re getting their starting goalie — there might have to be a sweetener in there, but this could be a hockey deal that helps both parties. The Caps should know pretty soon just how feasible re-signing Carlson is going to be. That would obviously be their preference, but even if Faulk isn’t an even trade-off as a replacement, he’s not nearly the dropoff they’d endure trying to fill that spot with youth. Faulk is two years younger than Carlson, and has never had a forward group as deep and talented as Washington’s to boost his respectable offensive numbers.
There could be a workable deal that helps both teams accomplish what they’re trying to do as they move on from quite disparate positions within the league.
Ben Arledge, Insider NHL editor: How about a pair of top-five picks who are currently restricted free agents and have struggled a bit more than previously expected? Ryan Strome came over to the Oilers last season and tallied just 34 points over 82 games, but he’s only a few years removed from a trio of 30-goal seasons in the OHL. Pop the forward into the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ lineup on that second line with Alexander Wennberg, and you might have a bit of a revival from him.
Going the other way? Ryan Murray is still 24 years old, and Edmonton could use another defenseman (as is tradition). Columbus has plenty of depth at the position, leaving Murray as part of the third pairing, but he would certainly bolster the Oilers’ group on the back end, particularly on the penalty kill. The teams would obviously have to sign the respective players, but it’s certainly a move worth considering.