Friday, June 17, 2016

The Oilers choices with No. 4 (hello Buffalo) and Girgensons rumors gone wild

Reprinted with permission from

If the Edmonton Oilers are looking to trade back in the draft to land one of the top-three defensemen in the league moving down to the eighth slot, where the Buffalo Sabres happen to be, is about as good a spot as any dependent upon how they view the top d-prospects.

Chances are that one of Olli Joulevi, Mikhail Sergachev or Jakob Chychrun will be there at No. 8. If all three are gone by then, one of Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Dubois--the two best forwards outside the top-three, and two forwards they would probably have drafted at No. 4 anyway--will be there for the taking

But if they think they'll be getting kings ransom in a trade-down scenario, they might want to strongly consider a pilgrimage to Mount Maple Leaf where hallucinogenic trade proposals are part of the morning ritual. It begins with a blue and white robed Leaf Nation turned towards the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Cistercian Monks overdub pounds chants of hummmmmm...Shanahan, Babcock, Lou; hummmmmm...Shanahan, Babcock, Lou; hummmmmm...Shanahan, Babcock, Lou throughout the city.

It's not that the fourth overall isn't valuable because it is, especially if a team is interested in landing a powerforward with big upside like Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Dubois (the Sabres would surely be interested.) Word on the street is that the Oilers would be content picking one of those at No. 4 and adding to the long list of forwards they've drafted in the first round dating back a couple of decades. If they want to start balancing out organizational depth with a focus upon defense, however, it can start at the draft with a trade-down.

Matt Larkin of The Hockey News has three scenarios for the Oilers and the 4th overall pick:  They stay, and probably pick a forward; use it as trade-bait to land a vet forward; or trade down to within the top-10 area.

Of those, the most likely will be they stay and pick one of Tkachuk or Dubois then look to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle for, hopefully, a veteran top-pairing defenseman. (hummmmmm Shanahan, Babcock, Lou). Top-pairing defensemen are hard to come by, even moreso than a top-six center of which RNH is considered even though he had an average at best season last year as McDavid took over the top center role.

In looking at teams below them, the Vancouver Canucks will be happy to take one of Tkachuk or Dubois or whom they consider the top d-man, barring a Marek Zagrapan-moment by GM Jim Benning. The Calgary Flames, like the 'Nucks will gladly take whatever's left over as most draftniks see picks 4-8 as being relatively equal in that all are high quality players with a flaw to them.

The Arizona Coyotes pick seventh in the draft and they're looking at defense. It's highly probable that one of Joulevi or Sergachev will be there and they'll snatch one of them up in a heartbeat.

Then there's the Buffalo Sabres.

GM Tim Murray is in a good spot as he'll land a prospect at a position of need. The Sabres prospect pool is low on left-handed d-men and wingers so sitting at No. 8 will yield one of those type players. But we might also want to take into consideration that Murray isn't afraid to make a play for a player he wants and he might want Tkachuk or Dubois, or even Joulevi for that matter so moving up while trading away assets doesn't faze him at all.

In saying that, I highly doubt he overpays to move up. Murray is still getting heat for the Robin Lehner trade where he gave up the 21st overall pick and he also moved a chunk of the future in picks and upper-level prospects to land Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian, none of whom will be leaving the organization any time soon. The prospect pool took a pretty good hit, but because he got back young-vets, the Sabres have time to bolster the pool.

Simply put, the Sabres don't need to move up, but if the Oilers are interested, perhaps a deal could be made.  I don't think Murray would have any qualms about moving the 8th-overall pick, defenseman Mark Pysyk, a native of Sherwood Park, Alberta and a 3rd-rounder or lower-end prospect to move up four spots.

That's about it. Yeah, it doesn't look like much, but I think it's a solid offer, especially if they believe they can land the defenseman they want at No. 8.


Speaking of *hummmmm, Shanahan, Babcock, Lou* Sabreland was in an uproar over a tweet concerning center Zemgus Girgensons.

The Latvian Locomotive looked more like a kiddie park choo-choo than a locomotive this past season, and he's taken a lot of grief for it in blog-world. Only he and head-coach Dan Bylsma know what really went wrong this season but word is he' not getting Bylsma's new system and worse (although unfounded) he's been accused of purposely not playing within the new system.

Girgensons thrived under former Ted Nolan's system where X's and O's were part of a breakfast cereal and hard work beget positive results. He had 15 goals and 15 assists in 61 games before being felled by an injury. This past season under Bylsma he had seven goals and 11 assists in 71 games.

The claws were out all season as he struggled and fans want him out (even though he's only 22 and a former first rounder in a pretty solid draft-class.) What's worse is that he's a restricted free agent and the rumor mill had him and his agent starting negotiations at $4M. Oh, and to douse the hatred-fire, it was also rumored that his agent is throwing out that Girgensons was an All-Star two years ago even though the player pretty much disowned that status and directed his countrymen not to stuff the ballot box again.

Buffalo's new whipping boy now has more barbs to deal with as word from some European rumor guy and self-proclaimed "insider" has Girgensons looking at the KHL as an alternative should negotiations on a new contract falter.

The end result is this tweet from Aivis Kalnins, which, not surprisingly was jumped on by Jon Vogl of the Buffalo News. "Dinamo Riga has started moving pieces. Been told that Girgensons is considering a deal in #KHL."

As we dig deeper into the construct of this rumor the connections make for a plausible rumor. First off, Riga is Latvia's capital, where Girgensons is from, and their team is Dinamo of the KHL. Which makes for an obvious connection (kinda like Pysyk and Edmonton or Steven Stamkos and Toronto, right Oil and Leaf fans?) And the team is making room, although one of those spots has been taken by former Sabre Ville Lieno, who packed up his electric guitars and headed home after a compliance buyout.

Dinamo had previously acquired Girgensons rights from CSKA, Moscow so there's a nice tie in and to really bring it all together, Nolan is being considered for Dinamo's coaching vacancy.

It's a nice, tidy little package that makes for a blossoming rumor that will surely encite strong emotions, especially from those who'd probably rather see Leino back in Buffalo than have Girgensons re-signed.

I don't get the Girgensons hate, but I get how this "considering the KHL" stuff began. And by the way, in a tweet a mere hours later by this Kalnins states, "Dynamo Moscow has failed to hand in financial guarantees for next season, and still haven't paid their players."

In between those two Kalnins' tweets came this one from the Buffalo News' Jon Vogl, "Zemgus Girgensons is in Buffalo working out. Ran into him at Sunglass Hut on Sunday. KHL is good RFA bargaining chip."

From top to bottom that's a lot of rumors to get through. *hummmmm, Shanahan, Babcock, Lou*

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