Dreger: Habs and Oilers Discussing Edmundson

According to Darren Dreger, the Edmonton Oilers have circled back and are in discussions with the Montreal Canadiens in regards to veteran defenseman Joel Edmundson.

The 29 year-old has been out of the line-up since January 26th with what is believe to be a back injury. Healthy, Edmundson would be a great addition to an Oilers’ team in need of grit and toughness. A former Stanley Cup winner, the shutdown defenseman was instrumental in the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup run in the summer of 2021. He was referred to, by then head coach Dominique Ducharme, as one of the four Clydesdales, along with Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry.

The Edmundson Debate

By Bob Trask – Joel Edmundson was supposed to be that stabilizing influence on a young Canadiens’ blueline. He was supposed to be that big, strong, dependable presence who helped create an environment in which the young defense could develop without the pressure of top-4 matchups. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Edmundson has already missed significant time and when he was playing, his performance was less than stellar. Kent Hughes has said the Edmundson is an important part of the team, a stabilizing influence and a mentor that he would like to keep around but it is hard to see how he fits into the current roster.

Depth chart

Mike Matheson is a smooth skating defenseman who brings experience to the lineup. Kaiden Guhle is also an excellent skater who might not have Matheson’s ability to contribute offensively… yet. But he brings a more physical element to the game. It’s hard to see Edmundson replacing either of these players. Next on the list is Arber Xhekaj. If he recovers fully from his “upper body injury” he brings a level of intimidation to the roster that Edmundson doesn’t and he is more skilled offensively. We’re already at three defensemen who should be ahead of Edmundson on the depth chart and I haven’t mentioned Jordan Harris yet. Harris has done everything asked of him and more. He also has the skating ability that the Hughes blueprint seems to favour.

The young defensemen on the squad have been shuffled around the lineup and asked to play out of position so that Edmundson can remain on the left side. In other words, they have been given the more difficult assignment while Edmundson has not been asked to adapt. The results for Edmundson have not been great.


Joel Edmundson

We can also go back and look at how the NHL now calls cross checking penalties. If you watch video clips from two, three and four years ago you would consistently see some defensemen punishing the back of opposing forwards with their sticks. Edmundson was one of those defensemen and since the league has clamped down on cross checking, his effectiveness has been reduced.

At one point Canadiens’ fans (and probably management, too) looked at the Edmundson situation through rose coloured glasses. Many looked at what Ben Chiarot brought in the trade with the Florida Panthers. That was the baseline from which everyone was operating and a lot of people were drooling in anticipation of what could happen at this year’s deadline. But Chiarot was on an expiring contract and he was healthy; Edmundson has neither of those. Throw in the fact that the salary cap situation is very tight for many playoff bound teams and the potential for a high return evaporates.

What now?

The question then becomes what course of action should be taken. Should the Canadiens try to move Edmundson before the deadline even if the return is small? Should they try to move him over the summer, again with a small return coming back? Should they offer to retain salary in any trade negotiations or should they include another player/prospect much like they did in the Jeff Petry trade? Or should they bring him back for another season in the hopes that he can stay healthy and become that mentor for the young squad with a goal of trading him at the deadline next year.

My preference would be to move him sooner rather than later, accepting the fact that the return might be minimal. I favour this strategy because it removes roadblocks for the young defenseman in the organization who have already earned their spot on the team and who have the potential to improve.

What could a trade look like? Since many playoff teams are already near their salary cap limit, any trade might have to have an equivalent contract coming back. On the surface that might not seem to make much senses. Why would the Canadiens’ trade twelve eggs for a dozen eggs? The answer lies in the remaining term of the two contracts. Edmundson has one year remaining after this one and it the Canadiens could trade him for a player on on expiring contract, a lot of contract space would open up over the summer.

A player who fits that profile is Jesse Puljujarvi. There are probably others and Hughes could even be asked to sweeten the pot in any trade discussion. But a trade cannot be evaluated solely on the players involved. It has to be examined in the context of how it impacts other decisions going forward.

Last year Kent Hughes wanted to participate in the free agent market but was prevented from doing so because of the Canadiens’ cap situation. Removing Edmundon’s contract would free up room for him to maneuver this summer. The trade could then be evaluated on the basis of Edmundson for a player on an expiring contract AND a shot at a free agent who could fill a need at another position on the roster.

Joel Edmundson has stated that he would like to stay in Montreal and Kent Hughes has stated that he would like to keep him around. The truth is that both parties may be better served if Kent Hughes could find a new home for Joel Edmundson.

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