Oilers could have already targeted one player to replace RNH!

As talks are going from bad to worse, Plan B takes shape.

HockeyFeed

Here we go again… After a disappointing playoff run that saw them ousted in a sweep in the first round, team management is now struggling on another front: when it comes to re-signing top forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. 

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has reported more than once that talks between RNH and Oilers’ management have been difficult, even using the word ‘mangled’ to describe the discussion. On Tuesday,  Friedman did not have better news or more details on what’s happening between the free agent and the Oilers. However, his one sentence in his latest 31 Thoughts column on Sportsnet says a lot: 

“Edmonton and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are grinding to find common ground.”

Earlier in April, Frank Seravalli had also pointed out that both parties had hit a wall after making the forward an unflattering offer. 

A lot more pundits are on board with the idea that Edmonton might not be able to re-sign to top forward. After all, GM Ken Holland will need to be careful with his wallet. RNH isn’t the only asset in the final year of his contract… Defenseman Adam Larsson was in the final year of a six-year, $25 million contract and can also become a UFA this July. The Oilers have just under $25 million in salary cap space next season with Kailer Yamamoto as their only major pending restricted free agent in need of a new contract : they could make it work with RNH. 

However, they could follow Steve Simmons’ advice - now, we know, the guy doesn’t always have the best ideas, however, he did suggest that the Oilers focused on another player to remplace Nugent-Hopkins. He believes Holland should go after Phillip Danault of the Montreal Canadiens, who is still without a contract for next season. 

“If I’m Ken Holland in Edmonton, I’m saying goodbye to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and spending some of his free-agent money on Phillip Danault. Can you imagine a team with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Danault as its centres? Or McDavid and Draisaitl together and Danault centring the second line … “

Danault has quickly earned a reputation as one of the hardest centerman to play against in the entire league and has excelled when it comes to shutting down top stars on opposing teams. Even Colorado Avalanche star forward Nathan MacKinnon sung his praises this season when he suggested that Danault should be a serious contender for the Selke.

“Danault. Such a good centerman, it’s hard to get space on him,” admitted MacKinnon. “I don’t know if he’s in Selke talks but he should be, hopefully he wins one. Good vs everyone not just me.”

The Habs will do their best to re-sign Danault, but who knows? He might be willing to leave his beloved hometown and get a chance to play with the best player in the game? You have to imagine he’d consider it. 

And maybe Holland is considering giving him a call to take over RNH’s spot down the middle.