Trades, the Edmonton Oilers, and Magnus Paajarvi

Jonathan Willis
July 09 2012 05:05PM

Paajarvi looks skyward after breaking a long goal-scoring slump

Except for days where the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs are making deals, or Pittsburgh is giving away Markus Naslund for Alex Stojanov, teams generally need to give up quality to land quality in return. With news that the Oilers are still looking to land a top-four defenseman, might Magnus Paajarvi be a piece the team considers moving? Should they be considering it?

Bob Stauffer, quoted in Robin Brownlee’s article today makes it clear that the Oilers are looking to the trade front to address their blue line. Given Stauffer’s enviable track record on these things, that’s as close to a sure thing as it gets.

Why do I bring up Paajarvi’s name? Mostly because the young winger is at an interesting place in his Oilers career.

A year ago, Paajarvi was a 20-year old 10th overall pick coming off a 15-goal/34-point season in Edmonton. He wasn’t quite at the same level as fellow rookies Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, but even so he was in the same range. This year, however, Hall and Eberle both improved their totals (in Eberle’s case, greatly) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a fantastic rookie season. Paajarvi scored two goals in half a season and saw significant time in the AHL, where his offensive totals were okay but not spectacular.

That makes Paajarvi less integral to the rebuild, and a candidate to be moved in the right deal. (He’s not the only player in that boat – Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky are other forwards with value who may not be considered significant parts of the rebuild.)

In the right deal, I think it makes sense to consider trading Paajarvi – but the right deal needs to involve a player coming back who fits both short- and long-term goals. In other words, it makes little sense to trade Paajarvi for a defenseman who is only likely to be an Oiler for one or two years.

The reason I say that is because while I share concerns about Paajarvi’s offensive game, I do think he has long-term upside as a top-nine forward on a good team. His offense is not as bad as he showed this year – among other things, his shooting percentage dropped to 2.9%, just over half as good as the NHL’s worst shooter since the lockout, Bruins’ tough guy Shawn Thornton. More than that, Paajarvi fared well by scoring chance/shot metrics and is one of the few young forwards in my memory who could stand to pay a little less attention to the defensive end of the rink and a little more to scoring.

Certainly Paajarvi’s physical gifts are not in question. Despite his reluctance to use his incredible speed and power forward’s frame (6’2”, 204lbs) to crash the net, he’s an excellent athlete. Even if his offense doesn’t come along, he looks a lot to me like a guy who could be a well-above average third-line winger. That has value.

What it doesn’t do is make him untouchable if the right deal comes along. Ideally, from an Oilers’ perspective hanging on to Paajarvi is the thing to do – they can wait and see if how he performs in 2012-13. But if he’s the piece that brings back a good defenseman with a long-term Oilers future, he’s movable.

This week by Jonathan Willis

Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.