a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

07/06/11 48.0 Trade Value: Tom Gilbert

There has been a little idle chatter that Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert could be shipped out of town. This article in The Columbus Dispatch - which came out before the Draft and the Jeff Carter trade - mentions Gilbert being one of a number of defensemen that are possibly available, and there have been some other rumblings about him being shopped. Apparently no move is imminent and nothing is likely to come of it, but what is Tom Gilbert's value on the trade market right now?

In order to find out, we need to see what the trade of a comparable player fetched; preferably as recently as yesterday. And what's this? Carolina trades Joe Corvo to Boston for a fourth round pick on July 5th? Splendid!

Joe Corvo
 Joe Corvo amounts to an NHL veteran now, having played 568 games in the league since the 2002-03 season. In that time, he's amassed a total of 79-179-258, or 0.45 points per game. He's 34 years old and he is entering the final year of a two year contract with a cap hit of $2.25 million.

In comparison, Tom Gilbert has played 337 games and collected 30-111-141, or 0.42 points per game. Gilbert is 6 years younger than Corvo at 28, but his contract is much richer - 3 years left at a $4 million cap hit.

Part of the attractiveness of a player like Corvo to a team like Boston is that his contract only has one more year left on it for a relatively small amount of money. Gilbert, on the other hand, carries that $4 million hit like a boat anchor, and any team that wants to trade for him is stuck with it for another 3 seasons. Worse, Gilbert will be paid $5 million in actual dollars next year, but his salary does drop to $3.5 and $3 million after that.

The difference in average offensive production between Gilbert and Corvo is basically negligible, even though Corvo has more average points and a larger sample size to show that he can sustain it.

Corvo finished as a minus-14 last year, and he's been a minus player in each of the last three seasons. Tom Gilbert's only year as a plus player was in 2008-09, when he was plus-6. However, he was playing for the Oilers his whole career, after all. He too was a minus-14 last year. Over their two careers, Corvo is a plus-25 and Gilbert is a minus-25, but recent history has been quite similar between the two:

Corvo: +4 (2007-08), -1 (2008-09), -10 (2009-10), -14 (2010-11)
Gilbert: -6 (2007-08), +6 (2008-09), -10 (2009-10), -14 (2010-11)

Joe Corvo fetched the Hurricanes a fourth round pick in next year's draft, and it seems likely that the value for a player like Tom Gilbert has now been set. What Gilbert makes up in age, he loses in contract term and cap hit. Otherwise the two players are quite similar statistically so what each could fetch in a trade is probably quite close.

The only way that the Oilers part with Gilbert for a fourth round pick is if they somehow acquire a player that they think can be an upgrade over the Minnesota native; or if they suddenly believe one of the youngsters on the farm can play full time and they want to shed salary. The Hurricanes signed Tomas Kaberle who is a medium-term player for them, and who is an upgrade over Corvo. The possibility of the Oilers finding a medium-to-long-term upgrade over Gilbert can be classified as unlikely at this point, so there's every chance that he will not be traded.

That is, unless Gilbert is part of a trade package that must include a defenseman because the Oilers are getting a better one in return. If the Oilers make a trade to upgrade the defense, don't be surprised if Tom Gilbert goes the other way; both to make the money work out and because Gilbert's skills are so overlapped on this team. In that case, his value is actually better than a mere fourth rounder because he can step into a team's lineup right away. However, the crux of any trade involving Gilbert will probably not be him, but whatever piece the Oilers give up in order to upgrade their blueline.


All told, the value of a player like Gilbert or Corvo is not especially high, despite the lack of defensemen that are available right now. The Oilers know that their blueline isn't good enough, but they aren't likely to part with any of Whitney, Peckham, Petry, Smid, Barker or Sutton. That makes Gilbert the odd man out if a trade is to involve an established NHL defenseman swap, so he's the most likely piece to get shuffled out the door. Still, if the deal doesn't upgrade the backend significantly, expect the Oilers to stand pat.

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