The Edmonton Oilers and GM Peter Chiarelli remain "in on" New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, but the tone of recent reports suggest that the Winnipeg Jets remain the clear frontrunner to land the budding blueliner. Chiarelli though, remains undaunted. Whether by land or by sea, in the form of Travis Hamonic or some other NHL defenseman, the Oilers GM is determined to find an upgrade or three to his beleaguered defensive corps. According to a Monday report from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, via Chris Nichols, Chiarelli has been "working the phones" since taking over the top personnel spot for the perennially moribund Oilers, his focus on improving the Edmonton blueline.
It's not a surprising report or, really, a new development.
The Oilers, even with the recent return to health of Justin Schultz, are sorely lacking in NHL talent on the backend. Oscar Klefbom is the only established player who could potentially find himself in the conversation for the league's elite defenders someday. Darnell Nurse has the skills to become an elite player, but he's just 17 games into his professional career.
In short, it makes sense that Chiarelli sees the need for an upgrade. The only problem is, it won't come cheap. Reports, including some recent speculation from Friedman, suggested that the Islanders have started Hamonic negotiations with Nurse.
Chiarelli and Co. have, unsurprisingly, balked at such a request.
But this is the NHL world we live in - trades are said to be difficult to enact at this point, and it's not hard to see why. Some NHL executives don't expect the cap to go up much next season - maybe $1 million or so - and personnel men around the league remain as stingy and obstinate as ever.
Friedman: GM told me over the weekend he doesn't know any teams planning on expecting more than a $1M bump up in salary cap next year.
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) November 30, 2015
Some have suggested a trade to improve the backend will require saying goodbye to a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. And while Nugent-Hopkins has not yet proven that he can carry the full-time load as a strong two-way NHL center, he's still a talented player who remains a vital piece of the Edmonton forward corps. What good would weakening one area of the roster to improve another, do anyway?
It's a delicate balancing act for Chiarelli and if he's finally going to get the Oilers out of the NHL basement, he's going to have to earn his, no doubt hefty, paycheck over the next few seasons.