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Trade Proposal: Let’s get a hyphenated center

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You knew this was coming.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Edmonton Oilers
He’ll look better in Union Blue.
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Proposal week was technically last week...but the new kids are getting a chance to join in the fun.

The Columbus Blue Jackets come into the 2019-2020 season with plenty of questions on offense. Roster turnover leaves real holes in the Top 6. What does the team have to patch the holes? Only a lot of hope that potential ability turns into real scoring from the young players presumably stepping into the new roles. Hope that Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois continue to step up while Alexandre Texier (Martel!) and Emil Bemstrom can show off a precocious touch.

The problem, aside from no actual track record with half of these guys, is that they are finishers. Who is going to get them the puck? Artemi Panarin’s goal scoring can be partially replaced by Gustav Nyquist and others. There isn’t anyone on the roster that can replace his playmaking ability. The vision to make the right pass at the right time. Do we count on Wennberg to rebound?

So it is time to make a trade that should have happened already.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Edmonton Oilers
To get good, you have to give good
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

EDM gets: RW Cam Atkinson

CBJ gets: C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Let’s get the dollars out of the way. Atkinson ($5.875M) and RNH ($6.0M) have similar AAVs. Cam’s deal is much longer, of course, as it runs through 2025. RNH will be up for a new deal in just two seasons – which, yes, does sound familiar.

Why would the CBJ do this?

The youth coming up is on the wings and the center pipeline is unproven. Those young players may just end up on the wings, too. PLD is the home-grown center and reinforcements aren’t on the horizon. The team needs a playmaker in the middle who can help others create more than it needs one singular goal scorer.

RNH had interestingly similar stats compared to Cam. Last season, Cam had 41 goals and 28 assists. RNH had 28 goals and 41 assists. They had similar shooting percentages (13.8% v 13.5%) which were above their career high (both at 11.8%). RNH was more effective on the power play (8-18-26 vs 8-6-14) – as was the Edmonton PP overall compared to Columbus.

Cam had the benefit of playing with Panarin, while RNH could only longingly look at Connor McDavid from the bench. There isn’t a big concern that RNH’s stats are inflated by his teammates. RNH’s CF% of 45.8% wasn’t great, but Edmonton as a whole was sub-50%. That tends to happen with bad teams. It’s not difficult to see sustained or improved play from RNH in Columbus and he’s only 26.

For the Jackets, this allows Wennberg to stay on the 3rd line (or become a trade asset) and allows Boone Jenner to return to the wing (or not).

Why would Edmonton do this?

This isn’t the kind of fleecing that hockey fans are used to laughing about when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers. It is quite possible that Edmonton could have a Pittsburgh-esque 1-2 combo at center if Leon Draisatl wasn’t on McDavid’s wing. The problem is that the Oilers don’t have a winger for McDavid and Draisatl has filled that role. Last season, McDavid had 116 points and Draisatl had 105. Next up? RNH at 69 and Darnell Nurse, a defenseman, at 41. The Oilers’ problem is a complete lack of offensive balance.

Atkinson alleviates that problem for them. Cam is a finisher who has improved every year. Last season, he diversified the ways he could score – he was no longer just an Ovie-spot wannabe or a breakaway wiz. His goals came from more areas of the ice and he was adept at handling the nifty passes Panarin tossed his way. 29 of his 41 goals were even-strength. That’s only going to get better with McDavid. Edmonton will get a true goal-scoring winger to complement McDavid and will be able to improve their second line by building around Draisatl – who is younger, has a longer contract, and may be a better center than RNH.

Should Edmonton be focusing on their defense? Maybe – but they don’t have good pieces to make a trade for a defenseman this year without wrecking their already thin, top-heavy offense. This trade allows them to start fixing their balance issues. Cam’s longer deal means they don’t have to worry about re-upping RNH in 2 seasons. Peter Chiarelli Ken Holland can focus on secondary scoring, defenders, and moving Milan Lucic.

Cam is a Columbus guy!

Yes, he is. And he has an NTC. I don’t think he’d waive it for any specific team. However, the man is as competitive as any – and there is no player in the league that could elevate Cam’s game higher than #97. In this reality, Cam waives the NTC for the opportunity to fly past 70 goals in a season. You can’t build a super team in the NHL, but you can certainly create super lines. It is six Edmonton winters at most, but Columbus will be waiting for him when he retires with open arms and a scouting role.

The appeal to RNH

For RNH, it is a chance to be the #1 center. He certainly isn’t getting that in Edmonton. He will have better wingers in Columbus, though. SURELY, he’d sign a new deal in 2 seasons.

Any other tweaks?

I thought about having Edmonton toss a pick Columbus’ way in return for one of the defensive prospects. It would clear the glut for the CBJ and help fill another need for Edmonton – but that can be debated in the comments. Even without additional players, a pick may be necessary to go Edmonton’s way since centers do have more value, generally. That’s for Chiarelli Holland to counter with, though. I’ll keep this a 1 for 1.

What’s your deal, el?! We know you’re a Cam hater!

It’s really nothing against Cam. RNH fills a greater need for the Jackets and to get good, you have to give good. I see this as a trade that creates opportunity for all parties involved. Plus it opens up a spot for Jagr!

Poll

Do you like this Cam for RNH trade?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Love it
    (80 votes)
  • 60%
    Hate it
    (291 votes)
  • 22%
    PD gon’ kill you
    (108 votes)
479 votes total Vote Now