PHOTO CREDIT: KIRBY LEE-USA TODAY SPORTS
The Patrick Maroon trade is one of Peter Chiarelli’s best trades. It’s a unanimous win for Edmonton: they gave up very little (Martin Gernat and a fourth round pick), got Anaheim to retain salary, and received a player who’s played in their top-six for $1.5 million a year.
Maroon has 56 points in 97 games since coming over to the Oilers, including 35 goals, which is in range of both Jordan Eberle (60 points in 100 games) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (47 points in 91 games), but at a much lower price than their $6 million cap hits. Maroon’s played with one of the league’s best, if not the best, players in Connor McDavid, a luxury RNH hasn’t shared. Eberle did, and his stats didn’t skyrocket as many expected.
Being able to complement stars like McDavid is a valuable skill, paying him free agent money lessens that. Especially with how tight Edmonton’s cap is.
The Oilers already have $60 million committed to 13 players for 2018-19, with Ryan Strome, Matt Benning, and Darnell Nurse needing new contracts. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is often seen as the next cap casualty, so it’s hard to see Edmonton signing a 30-year-old winger to a contract at just a couple million less.
Instead, Edmonton should look for the next Maroon. McDavid is going to produce regardless who flanks him, as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have done. The Oilers need the next forward who can put up 25+ goals beside Connor McDavid on a bargain contract.
I looked for forwards from the past two years who scored similarly to Maroon during his time with Anaheim (0.39 points per game), who had success in the American Hockey League like Pat Maroon did, and were around a similar age (24-28).
Maroon played very little his last year with the Ducks so I searched for possible under-utilized forwards who were either a positive possession player or slight negative, and then filtered it to players who could be available. Players who may make too much, but could be useful with retained salary, were also considered.
Josh Leivo has 15 points in his last 25 NHL games, although those games were played over the past two seasons. Leivo hasn’t played much NHL hockey, but he’s young enough, scored well in the minors and in short stints with Toronto, and is a right-handed shot that would be a blessing for a team full of lefties in Edmonton. The Leafs have a glut of winger, although Leivo probably won’t see waivers, he seems like an ideal candidate to break out on a new team rather than play sporadically thorough another year.
Leivo isn’t as proven as Maroon was, but the Leafs wouldn’t have to worry about him coming back to bite them either in division or conference. Leivo could be a cheap option to play with anyone of Edmonton’s skilled centers.
Chiarelli already acquired Brett Connolly once before during his last season as Boston Bruins general manager. Chiarelli paid two second-round picks for Connolly, and he was eventually left without a qualifying offer and became an unrestricted free agent.
Connolly signed with Washington and scored 15 goals while averaging 10:14 minutes a game. He’s another big forward like Maroon, who has a history of scoring in the AHL and might be under-utilized in his current role. It’s unclear whether Washington will give him more ice time this season, but Marcus Johansson was traded to New Jersey for salary reasons so there could be room for Connolly in the Capitals’ top nine.
The Capitals also signed Alex Chiasson, who averaged 13:23 a game in Calgary last season, to a professional tryout agreement. Connolly could be attractive as a right handed shot who could score more in a bigger role in Edmonton, and maybe a Chiasson signing makes it more available.
Daniel Carr hasn’t scored like Maroon did in Anaheim, he only has 18 points through 56 NHL games, but he was a good scorer in the AHL and might hit the waiver wire in Montreal this season.
The cost could simply be a roster spot and a bet that Carr’s AHL success can translate into NHL scoring. Carr is on a cheap contract for the next two seasons and may be in tough to make the Canadiens roster with Jonathan Drouin, Ales Hemsky, and Peter Holland as new additions. Carr might be worth a waiver claim and some extended time with skilled players.
Alex Chiasson is a few years removed from being a major piece the Jason Spezza trade. He’s not the player Ottawa was hoping for, but he’s still a useful top nine player.
Chiasson was traded to Calgary after a couple seasons with Ottawa and scored 12 goals and 24 points in 82 games before not being qualified. The Capitals signed him to a professional try-out, but things don’t always work out as we saw with Kris Versteeg and the Oilers last year.
Chiasson is a big winger who could provide proven scoring in Edmonton’s top nine, something Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev might not do.
It’s tough to see the Oilers fitting in a new contract for Maroon. Patrick Eaves was a player with modest scoring totals until last year and he got three years at $3.15 million per year after being traded to Anaheim. Maroon is younger and less injury prone than Eaves, but had a similar scoring surge later in his career. McDavid’s monster extension kicks in that season too, so the Oilers will need to make every dollar count.