With trade season fully underway in the NHL following the completion of Wednesday’s expansion draft, the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders struck a deal. According to TSN.ca’s Darren Dreger, the Oilers have dealt center Jordan Eberle to New York in exchange for right winger Ryan Strome. It’s a rare one-for-one veteran trade.
On the surface, it’s not a great deal for Edmonton.
Eberle, 27, has been one of the NHL’s most consistent goal scorers since entering the league in 2010-11, after getting drafted 22nd overall in 2008. He’s scored at a 20-goal pace in every season he’s played and even in an off-year, Eberle still managed to finish third on Edmonton in total scoring with 20 goals, 31 assists, and 51 points.
So why would Edmonton deal him? To clear money off the cap.
Eberle is owed $6 million over the next two seasons. With defenseman Kris Russell and Eric Gryba hitting unrestricted free agency, plus a sleuth of restricted free agents, including Connor McDavid, after next season, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli looked to offload Eberle’s talents while bringing in a possible replacement.
Strome, 23, was the fifth selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After setting a career-high in points at 50 back in 2014-15, Strome has slumped to 58 points total in the last two years combined. So at his height, Strome didn’t produce at the same rate as Eberle did in an off-year last season.
But Strome is younger, cheaper and plays a premium position. The Oilers clear $3.5 million by choosing Strome over Eberle, although the centerman is due for restricted free agency when the upcoming season is over. Although, the fit is odd for Edmonton. The Oilers are flush with centers with Connor McDavid and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins down the middle. Unless a deal is made, Strome will likely be a middle-to-bottom six center. Eberle was a bonafide first-liner — and at worst, a top-six winger. Plus, that’s without mentioning the Oilers using one of their best assets to not acquire a defenseman, one of their biggest needs at the moment.
For the Isles, Eberle is going to look damn fine across from superstar John Tavares on the top line. The two have chemistry, as they’ve played together for Team Canada back in the World Juniors in 2009 and in the World Championships in 2011. Eberle is a good bet to return to his 30-goal prowess of his early career.
It’s the second straight season Chiarelli has traded a part of his core to fix a lesser, arguably non-essential need. In doing so, he’s getting penny’s on the dollar and making his team worse. Unless another trade is in the works, or a big free agent signing is coming, this is a headscratcher. Meanwhile, the Islanders should be happy they were gifted Eberle, as it increases their playoff chances significantly.