Edmonton Oilers fans learned a really bad news today when the team announced that forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be missing the next five or six weeks with an upper-body injury. Head coach Todd McLellan provided more details on the nature of this injury, stating that "Nuge" has a bruised sternum and cracked ribs. He got injured on January 13th against the Vegas Golden Knights, when the Oilers forward got hit by defenseman Brayden McNabb.
This new unfortunate development comes at a really bad time for the Oilers, and not only because they are still struggling to turn things around after a difficult first half of the season. As Sportsnet Mark Spector wrote in his last piece, Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli might be forced to rethink his whole trade deadline strategy, or to report a possible blockbuster deal to later in June. Nugent-Hopkins was involved in a lot of trade rumors this season, as Chiarelli will certainly try to move some pieces around if they're not able to turn their season around. The only problem is that if Nugent Hopkins comes back after the exact time the team announced he'll miss, this would mean that he will be back in action at the Trade Deadline on February 26th.
That doesn't mean Chiarelli will not be able to trade him, if he decides so, as other teams interested in acquiring his services will keep themselves updated as much as they can on his health. But this will complicate things a little for the Oilers, and maybe that a deal involving Nuge, if it happens, might only come on Draft day, when GMs are usually more active when they want to change their teams.
Nugent-Hopkins was having a career season before he got injured last week. The 24-year old forward, drafted first overall by the Oilers in 2011, has scored 16 goals and 15 assists for a total of 31 points in 46 games played so far this season. At this pace, he would have tied his best offensive season since he started playing in the NHL, when he registered 56 points in 76 games back in 2014-2015.
In 441 games played in the NHL, the Burnaby, BC native scored 111 goals and 185 assists for a total of 296 points. He added four points in 13 playoff games last spring.
The Oilers are currently sixth in the Pacific division with a record of 20-23-3. They will be playing their next game tomorrow against the Vancouver Canucks.