With another injury, the Oilers blue line is a hot mess (again). Jim Benning may be weak on trades, but if there is at least one General Manager he can best, it’s Peter Chiarelli.
Opportunities like this don’t come often. The most common refrain from me this summer is that the Canucks can’t bring back the same defence as last year. Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks can make all the promises they want, but until I see Olli Juolevi in the lineup, I will remain skeptical.
That’s why the news out of Edmonton is interesting. Andrej Sekera tore his Achilles tendon and is out indefinitely. The Oilers don’t have a great defence as is and will miss the offence from Sekera. So, how could the Canucks help? More importantly, how can Benning take advantage of the situation?
Well, let’s look at a couple things. Normally, I would look to push for a Chris Tanev trade. Unfortunately, I will need to accept that that ship has sailed. Tanev will walk at the end of his contract, but if he’s the difference between Quinn Hughes being a good defenceman and an elite one, I guess it’s not for nothing.
Besides, Sekera is left-handed. The Canucks have too many left-handed defenders. Is defence an area of strength for us? No, but if we can clear out roster clutter and swindle the Oilers, I call that a pair of wins. Edler is not on the table. If he is going to waive his no-trade clause, it won’t be for Edmonton. That leaves us choosing between Michael Del Zotto, Derrick Pouliot and Ben Hutton.
I’m going to rule out Hutton. Even though I think he’s better than what last season showed, I don’t think Peter Chiarelli is willing to take a risk on him. They got burned by Griffin Reinhart and he was at least a former first round pick (hockey men care about that a lot).
The ideal option
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Personally, I would be pushing to move Michael Del Zotto out the door. Benning can sell his offensive ability, holding down defensive minutes on the second or third pairing and his commitment to fitness.
Managers like Benning and Chiarelli value leadership, so I’m sure they can strike common ground on that front. I don’t expect the return to be substantial, which may cause Benning to decline a trade offer. If it was me, I would be happy with a third round pick, but I’m sure the Canucks would want more.
The second option, Derricik Pouliot may be more appealing to Peter Chiarelli. Pouliot is younger, was drafted higher in the first round (which matters for some reason) and is slightly cheaper than Del Zotto. His underlying numbers also line up well with Sekera.
Additionally, if Pouliot doesn’t work out, they can healthy scratch him or put on waivers if need be. Todd McLellan likely won’t sit someone like Del Zotto, but Pouliot would be a different story. This lowers the acquisition cost for the Oilers. Instead of a second or third round pick, it would be closer to a later round pick. Again, I doubt Benning would accept a paltry return. But this is the Oilers. It wouldn’t be the first time they overpaid for defencemen via trade.
Why the Oilers make this deal
The Oilers may be a bad team like the Canucks, but they are in a different situation. Edmonton has the best player in the NHL and his mega-contract just kicked in. Peter Chiarelli wasted the entry level years of Connor McDavid and will have little cap flexibility thanks to some terrible contracts near the bottom of the lineup.
The pressure is on for the Oilers to compete. They want to prove that the 2017 playoffs were not a fluke. In Vancouver, management likely understands that the team is bad on some level and they don’t have the expectations of the league’s best pressing down on them. Chiarelli needs to make something happen, because the fans are growing restless. It’s not just the last few years under current management either. This is something that has festered since 2008.
Pressure can work to Jim Benning’s advantage. He could dangle Del Zotto or Pouliot in front of his former boss and start a conversation. Chiarelli may be willing to pay whatever Benning is asking. As I always mention during potential trades, Benning must be pro-active.
He doesn’t have to chase draft picks. Benning could target prospects. Although, I would be very careful in the pursuit of reclamation projects. I don’t think Jim Benning is a good negotiator, but there are a few managers in this league that can fall victim to someone like him.
Pierre Dorion is not the only one. I would throw Peter Chiarelli in the mix. The old connection in Boston certainly helps and Benning can be honest in how he’s offering help. Accomplishing this will require assertiveness. Canucks fans want to see the return of Tuesday Jim and this could be a golden opportunity.