The Edmonton Oilers were at the centre of many different trade and roster change chatter this season. And while the Oilers have had an extremely embarrassing season and one in which they have drastically regressed from the previous season in which they looked like a legitimate playoff contender, the focus has been on making sure it will not happen again next season.
Earlier this week, Sportsnet senior write Mike Spector said that the Oilers' main trade bait, forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was now auditing for the Ottawa Senators. The potential deal would be something like this: move RNH to Ottawa in return for winger Mike Hoffman, who has found himself on the trade block since the start of the season, but did not end up moving by the trade deadline.
On Friday morning, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch denied that rumor by pouring cold water all over it.
However, one thing is certain: the need for a scoring winger in Edmonton is there. No doubt. Oilers captain and superstar Connor McDavid needs a winger that shoots. Hoffman has averaged 222 shots per season and 27 goals a year for the past three seasons.
And there is where the Oilers management should come in and make a pitch to a member of the Oilers: Leon Draisaitl. As NHL insider Elliotte Friedman explains on his latest 31 Thoughts podcast on Sportsnet, the Oilers need to accomplish what the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to do for the last few years. And then, they could consider moving RNH. You need to separate your two best players:
"If they can get McDavid and Draisaitl comfortable playing apart, you probably don't have the luxury of keeping Nugent-Hopkins' cap number, but if you really want to play them together, you probably need Nugent-Hopkins," said Friedman.
"I think that they have to convince those guys to play apart. I really do. You look at Pittsburgh - why do they win Stanley Cups? Because they have Sidney Crosby on one line, Evgeni Malkin on another, Phil Kessel on the third line with Derick Brassard - you can't handle them."
"I think for that reason McDavid and Draisaitl will have to play apart, and I think for that reason Nugent-Hopkins might just not be a luxury you can afford in a cap."
Back in December, the Oilers experienced with splitting up McDavid and Draisaitl - an idea that Oilers insider and beat writer David Staples applauded:
"On their own lines, both players are forced to give all they have, being the primary puck carrier on the attack and the primary help defender for the defencemen in the Oilers zone. On their own lines, McDavid and Draisaitl bring a far more balanced attack, a double threat, a one-two punch. When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is also going well that gives the Oilers a lethal combo, one, two, three right to the kisser, and the opponent is knocked out," he wrote in the Edmonton Journal.
The experiment did not last long enough... Now, everyone hopes to see it again next season, as the Oilers could return and be a scary Cup contender with loaded lines like the defending champions.