Analyst Eating His Words Over Oilers’ Big Trade Deadline Decision


One NHL analyst was very critical of the Edmonton Oilers’ deadline deal to acquire Mattias Ekholm instead of Jakob Chychrun, and that was Craig Button. He noted several reasons why general manager Ken Holland’s decision to go out and get the big shutdown defenceman over the 25-year-old was wrong, but as time passes, it looks like Holland made the right decision.

Button said that Chychrun is better in every way, calling him dependable. Though he noted that dependability wasn’t based on health, it’s tough to be dependable when you’re always injured. Chychrun has suffered five-plus injuries that have kept him out for stretches over the past couple of seasons, and it doesn’t help anyone to have a player of his calibre in and out of the lineup. It not only wears down his body, but the team must take into account his cap hit and have depth reinforcements at the ready.

Chychrun was described by Button as a really good defenceman who can play in so many different situations. I don’t disagree with that, but so can Ekholm, and he’s better in his own end, which means the Oilers would no longer have to address the need for a defensively-minded defender. We’ve seen him on the penalty kill, second power-play unit, and at key moments. The Oilers made the deal to acquire Ekholm a couple of days before the trade deadline, so Button had time to add to his statement after he saw the newly acquired defenceman play very well in his debut.

Mattias Ekholm Edmonton Oilers
Mattias Ekholm, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Days after, he noted that Ekholm was a solid addition, but Holland wasn’t willing to meet the price to acquire Chychrun. Is that the case, or was Ekholm his first choice, considering what he brings, and he can stay healthy? The Oilers paid more for Ekholm than the Ottawa Senators did for Chychrun at a higher cap hit, which should be an indication of Holland’s plan.

Ekholm vs. Chychrun Since the Trade

Ekholm has suited up for 19 games for the Oilers, and not only has he been among the elite defenders league-wide, but he has also added three goals and 12 points. He is an insane plus-25 in those 19 games and has added points at even strength, on the power play and penalty kill.

Ekholm’s addition may have cost the team Tyson Barrie and is a higher cap hit than Chychrun, but his veteran presence, experience, and reliability are what Chychrun wouldn’t have brought to the Oilers. They didn’t need another offensively-minded defenceman – they traded away one they had. What they needed and got in Ekholm was a strong defensive presence who could help Evan Bouchard grow.

When Duncan Keith was a part of the team last season, we saw Bouchard play the best hockey of his career to that point. The Oilers weren’t able to replicate that in a partner until Ekholm arrived. Now Bouchard is playing great, which arguably wouldn’t have happened if Edmonton had acquired Chychrun instead, given that they bring different things to the table.

Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers
Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Not only has Ekholm been a huge help to Bouchard, but he has also taken the pressure off Darnell Nurse, allowing him to elevate his play. The Oilers are 16-2-1 with Ekholm and have him under contract for three more years.

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As for the Senators, they have played 20 games since Chychrun arrived. He played the first 12 games but has missed the last eight. This seems about right as his injury history was concerning. In 12 games played, the team went 5-6-1, essentially dropping out of the playoff race. In his absence from the lineup, Ottawa has a 3-3-2 record. This isn’t a big difference and the team has averaged 3.38 goals per game (GF/GP) and allowed 4.12 goals against per game (GA/GP) without Chychrun compared to 3.25 GF/GP and 3.75 GA/GP with him.

I would argue that Chychrun was more impactful on the Coyotes than he has been for the Senators. He has two goals and five points while contributing just one point on the power play. Sure, he’s on a cheaper deal than Ekholm, but I would gladly accept an extra $1.4 million AAV for an extra year for an impactful player who can play every game. Chychrun has missed an average of 21 games per season since entering the league, and as the injuries pile up, it will be tougher for him to stay healthy. Chychrun is minus-1 with the Senators, while Ekholm was plus-6 in their previous game against the San Jose Sharks on April 8.

Regardless of whether Button thinks that the Oilers were unwilling to pay the price to acquire Chychrun, they paid for a better defensive player who has had a more positive impact on his new team. Holland did exactly what the Oilers needed, and they are the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs. At a certain point, you have to look at production and not potential and what a problem Chychrun might have been for them.

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