How to transform the Edmonton Oilers defence in 3 (Not So Easy) Steps

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When it comes to shutting down opposing attackers in the defensive slot, the Oilers don’t have a better d-man than Russell. But he’ll be 33 this coming season. His offensive game is severely lacking. His puck-moving is below average. And his cap hit will be $4 million, though any team acquiring him will have to pay just $1.5 million in real dollars.

With all this in mind, he has more value to another team than he does to the Oilers, who must make room for Caleb Jones on the left side. A team looking for a strong veteran defensive d-man who can lead on the PK, and a team not looking to spend to the cap but to save on player salaries, will see value in Russell. He isn’t worth his $4.0 million cap hit but is well worth $1.5 million per in today’s game.

Russell can veto a trade to his pick of half of the teams in the NHL, due to his Limited No Movement Clause, but I suspect the Oilers will be able to find a buyer, especially if Russell is willing to move.

Jones is ready to shine in the NHL. He’s a strong skater and passer. He can really wheel and deal. He needs a roster spot, and if Russell doesn’t decide to move on, it’s likely Jones will supplant him in the line-up in any case.

Russell’s cap hit is painful for a seventh d-man, and he may not want to sit, so it could well be that both Russell and the Oilers will agree that finding a new home for him is best for all concerned.

Step Three: Larsson out, Barrie in

I haven’t been in favour of moving out Adam Larsson, not unless the Oilers have a good bet to play better than him on the right side in the Top 4. I don’t see that player on the existing roster. It’s also the case that in the last few months of the regular season, Larsson was a defensive beast. I’m a big fan of his d-zone repertoire of hitting, hacking, blocking and bashing.

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