For the New York Islanders, there are still a lot of unaswered questions heading into the final stretch of the season. John Tavares needs a man on his wing and Kyle Okposo may be on his way out, as he’s an unrestricted free agent in July. Travis Hamonic wants to be moved closer to his Manitoba home.
In Edmonton, the Oilers feature an abundance of young, top six wingers, but have a defensive core that is shaky at best. It’s not surprisng then, that a Jordan Eberle for Travis Hamonic swap has been featured heavily in rumors.
Elliotte Friedman elaborated:
Said Friedman: “I do believe we are getting closer to the day that Edmonton makes a move with one of its young forwards. I would say on the ranking of it probably (Jordan) Eberle one, (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins two for a young player, for a defenceman. I think that everybody is looking at Hamonic and saying, ‘Is there going to be a match there?’ I have no doubt that that is what the Oilers are considering. I have no doubt they’re going to try to get it done.”
Hamonic would without a doubt be a logical fit for the Oilers, but there is a question of whether or not the Oilers have the pieces to get a deal with the Islanders done. If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was in play, there’s little doubt that he’d be wearing a slightly different blue and orange jersey.
However Chiarelli has stated that Nugent-Hopkins isn’t on the trade block, which leaves Jordan Eberle as the prime trade candidate. Eberle, who has had success playing on John Tavares’ wing in the World Juniors, is a 0.78 point per game player over 393 games. 25-years-old, the forward is under contract for three more years at a $6 million cap hit per year.
Acquiring Eberle would likely spell the end for Okposo’s time in New York.
While Eberle would certainly help the eighth ranked offense in the NHL become even more potent, losing Hamonic would be a major blow to the 11th ranked defense in the league.
Hamonic plays 23:42 an evening for New York, the most minutes of any player on the team. Moving the team’s most relied upon defenseman, who is signed to a team-friendly $3.8 million over the next four seasons, would be a massive blunder unless the return is too good to pass up. Jordan Eberle is a valuable NHL forward, who could be one of the best wingers in the game alongside Tavares, but he doesn’t match the value of Travis Hamonic.
This doesn’t mean the rumor holds zero weight, but for a fair trade, it’d need to be tinkered with.
The Oilers don’t have any defenseman other than the off-limits Oscar Klefbom that would really interest the Islanders, but Justin Schultz could certainly use a change of scenery. Friedman spoke about the inevitability of a Schultz trade as well:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re getting near to the end of his time with the Edmonton Oilers,” Friedman said. “I mean the writing is very much on the wall. I think it is time. I think both the organization and the player need a fresh start. It’s just not really changing there at all. I could see the Oilers not wanting to commit for whatever the salary is going to be for this year. I think there is a decent chance that a trade with him could happen.”
Schultz has not played up to expectations in Edmonton, but could be a prime change of scenery candidate. Should Schultz become the player he was projected to be when he was a highly coveted free agent out of the University of Wisconsin, whichever team he is on would hold the rights to a young, right-handed defenseman. Much like Travis Hamonic is.
For the Islanders to trade Travis Hamonic to the Edmonton Oilers, Justin Schultz would need to come back with Jordan Eberle. The deal would not likely look as simple as that, but New York would need a right-handed defenseman with potential in addition to a proven forward in order to move Hamonic.
Taking a look at Hamonic’s career numbers in comparison to Schultz’, Hamonic certainly represents a safer, more proven defensive option, but Schultz does hold some upside.
Tables courtesy of hockey-reference.com
Whether or not the Islanders trade Hamonic at all depends on how much the team feels compelled to accommodate the defenseman’s trade request, weighed against the offers the team receives. It’s hard to imagine any postseason contender trading away their top defenseman during the stretch run, but if Garth Snow receives an offer he cannot refuse, he would likely pull the trigger to do what is best for the Islanders organization and Travis Hamonic.
It would be wise for the Edmonton Oilers to force the Islanders’ hand by offering up both Schultz and Eberle in a bigger deal, as Eberle alone will not get the job done.