There are three times per year when player movement is at its highest: the trade deadline, the entry draft and the beginning of free agency. Each period of time is equivalent to a holiday as hockey fans from all over the world are consumed with news reports, rumors and excitement.
One such holiday is upon us as the NHL draft will begin this upcoming week in Sunrise, Florida. Analysts and fans alike have spent countless hours creating and studying mock drafts while NHL executives are busy creating the real deal in their war rooms.
In the salary cap era, it’s not just about what players are best to draft; it’s also about what players may need to be moved to improve the team, whether for salary or talent purposes. While fans are guarded in relation to what is published, the reports are intriguing nonetheless. One such report that has recently surfaced is out of St. Louis.
ESPN reports the #STLBlues are open to moving David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund if it's the right deal
— Hockey Tracker (@Hockey_tracker) June 19, 2015
While each of the three listed players could make a difference, there is one in particular that Flyers management should inquire about – T.J. Oshie.
North Dakota Connection
When the Philadelphia Flyers hired University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol to be the 19th head coach in team history on May 18th, they did so with the notion that a change was necessary. They didn’t just want a change from what they had; they wanted a change from the usual suspects that were out there.
General Manager Ron Hextall decided to think outside of the box and aim for a coach that could infuse his winning ways (over 270 wins in 11 seasons at North Dakota) with his knack for advancing and elevating talent to the next level. That’s not to say that a coach with NHL coaching experience couldn’t do the same.
It is merely a testament to Hakstol’s ability to play to the strengths of his players in order to prepare them for the highest level of competitive hockey.
One of the players that Hakstol groomed was Oshie, who played for him from 2005 to 2008. Oshie excelled during his time in North Dakota as he tallied 59 goals and 83 assists for 142 points in 129 games.
Having been drafted 24th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2005, Oshie knew that he would need to work hard under Hakstol’s fast-paced, no nonsense system. The hard work has seemed to pay off as the 28-year-old Mount Vernon native has skated in over 400 NHL games with the Blues, scoring 110 times to go along with 200 assists.
Oshie also has become a hockey hero in the United States after his epic shootout showdown with Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in last year’s Olympic Games in Sochi.
Aside from his own father, Oshie has always attributed his time at North Dakota to helping prepare him for the rigors of the National Hockey League. As far as he is concerned, the hiring of Hakstol at the professional level is long overdue. Oshie had this to say about the hiring according to Dan Rosen of NHL.com:
With how many coaching changes there have been in the last couple of years, and I was actually surprised he hadn’t been hired yet. In my mind I figured it was his decision, and I know how much he loved North Dakota. It’s not going to take long for the players to respect what he brings to the table and to want to play for him.
Flyers Could Use the Offense
Hextall has made it known that he wants to upgrade his offense in advance of the 2015-16 season. Specifically, he would like a scoring winger that can play along side of a guy like Wayne Simmonds and create more even-strength goals. With that in mind, what would it take to obtain the top-six forward?
For starters, Oshie’s salary is manageable as he is due $4.5 million per season. Although somewhat strapped by the salary cap, this could be easily washed with a salary (or two) that would be going back to St. Louis. The Blues could use immediate help on the blueline so a player like Luke Schenn ($3.6 million) or Nicklas Grossmann ($3.5 million) could be offered along with a prospect/pick and even another NHL body such as Matt Read ($3.625 million).
Regardless of the exact players being offered, St. Louis would and should request quite a ransom for the fan favorite who is still in the prime of his career. Adding a guy like Oshie would immediately make the offense and special teams better and it would give Hakstol and Co. some additional options up front.
We’ve Seen This Before in Philadelphia
The story sounds the same to Philadelphia fans: A collegiate coach is sought after and hired to make his pro coaching debut in Philadelphia. The Flyers gridiron brethren did the same as the Eagles hired Chip Kelly away from Oregon a few seasons ago. Kelly has a preference for his former players and the team has given him carte blanche to bring in talent as he sees fit. Hakstol does not have the same executive power with the Flyers, but he does have the ear of Hextall and could help persuade him to attempt to add guys that fit his style of play.
It may be an unlikely scenario based on the trade demands of the Blues, but there is no doubt that a player like Oshie could help jump start a Flyers offensive group that struggled mightily at times this past season. He knows what Hakstol expects from his players and knows the effort required and knowledge behind his system. In a rather weak unrestricted free agent class, Oshie would represent one of the better options via the trade route.
Look on the bright side – If the the club is able to acquire Oshie, they will automatically be favored to win more shootouts if nothing else.
What do yo think it would take to get Oshie in Philadelphia? Would it be worth it? Let me know in the comments and/or on twitter @healedbyhockey.