Okay, first off I’d like to say that I do not like this trade from the perspective of the Oilers. I was pretty angry when this trade was first announced. I’m not an Oilers fan, but as someone who appreciates elite athletes when they come around, I’d like to see Connor McDavid have some team success. I feel especially saddened because Taylor Hall was one of Connor’s closest friends in Edmonton. In fact, the two lived together during the season and Connor, when asked about the trade said that Taylor “took me under his wing”. I also feel sorry for Adam Larsson because he will now forever be linked to Taylor Hall, which he is not. Remember people, Adam Larsson did not make this trade. Do not place your high expectations on the shoulders of Larsson, or you’ll end up with your next Justin Schultz. Last, but not least I feel sorry for Taylor Hall, because he has put up with so much in Edmonton over his 6 years and when things start to look up (?) he has to uproot his life and move across the continent.
Now once again, I do not think the Oilers won this trade, but I’m choosing to look on the bright side. The Oilers did acquire a solid defenseman. No, he’s not the elusive number one centre you’d expect to acquire when trading the third best left winger in the NHL, but he is solid. Some of the players whom he bears an 80% or higher similarity include Chris Tanev, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Dan Hamhuis and TJ Brodie. Those are players known for their heavy defensive impact. No, none of them will wow you with their offensive ability, but their good at keeping the puck out of their own net, something that the Oilers have trouble doing.
Larsson step into Edmonton and instantly becomes their 3rd or 4th best defensemen, depending on how you feel about Brandon Davidson. If you play him on the top pairing with number one defensemen, Oscar Klefbom (who is also Swedish), that allows you to play Andrej Sekera on the second pairing, a role which he is better suited to. Also, the Oilers are still rumoured to be in on the Jason Demers sweepstakes, who is probably the best defensemen left on the open market. Demers is probably a very good number 3 defensemen, but could easily slot into that top pairing. Klefbom and Demers would be a good match together and I would not have a problem with this top pairing. Larsson and Sekera on the second pairing would be a very good shutdown tandem. This also allows you to play Brandon Davidson on the third pairing, a role where he thrived last season with either Griffin Reinhart, Darnell Nurse or some other UFA signing. All this is barring a heavily rumoured trade which might bring in Tyson Barrie who is another top pairing defensemen.
If all of these additions can boost the Oilers Corsi percentage by just 1-2%, they are likely a playoff team. That’s right, they aren’t far from the Playoffs. This season they finished above the Atlantic division winning Panthers in possession stats. If it weren’t for injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and Connor McDavid for a large portion of the season, the Oilers likely are near a wildcard spot. If that’s the case, do they end up trading Hall? I doubt it. At the end of the day though, they still have Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi all under 24 years old. Leon Draisaitl benefited tremendously from playing with Taylor Hall to the point of producing a little over double what he produced without him. This isn’t to say Draisaitl can’t be effective without Hall, but it does make me hesitant to expect another season like the one we just saw out of him. You could always try shifting Leon to McDavid’s wing to try and create some magic, or leave him as your third line centre for the time being and live with the fact that he’s going to regress a little. The kids only 20, don’t worry he’ll be alright.
This is also the first time in ages that the Oilers have number 1 goalie (Cam Talbot), number 1 defensemen (Oscar Klefbom) and a number 1 centre (Connor McDavid). Talbot isn’t likely to steal you a bunch of games, but he’s more or less an average starter making below average money. Oscar Klefbom is very very good. The problem is he can’t seem to stay healthy. If we can see a whole season out of him, I’m very optimistic he’ll impress. He’s already great when he does play. Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl are a pretty darn good group down the middle. If the Penguins have taught us anything it’s that it’s very hard to combat three scoring lines.
So yes, the Oilers did lose the Larsson trade. They got swindled and frankly the trades GM Chiarelli has made as GM have mostly been complete garbage and he should be fired, but this team is heading upwards, and they will compete for a playoff spot if they can add 1 or 2 more top 4 defensemen.