It wasn’t expected to be a long-term issue, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will now be out for five to six weeks according to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug (and Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, who tweeted about three seconds later), who passes along news from Todd McLellan. Nugent-Hopkins has cracked ribs, and will need more than a month to recover.
If news of Kevin Shattenkirk’s knee surgery may push a potential playoff-bound New York Rangers team away from buying at the deadline, you can bet Nugent-Hopkins’ news solidifies the Edmonton Oilers’ position as a seller. Though the Oilers are currently enjoying a two-game win streak including toppling the mighty Vegas Golden Knights, the team remains ten points out of a playoff spot with several teams in between.
Even with the struggles of the team, Nugent-Hopkins is having one of the best individual seasons of his career. With 31 points through 46 games, the 24-year old was on pace to put up another 50+ point season and crack 20 goals for the second time of his career. He’s been easily better in the faceoff circle than ever before in his career, and has often looked like one of the best players on the ice for the Oilers.
The team does have expiring assets like Patrick Maroon, Mark Letestu and Mike Cammalleri, but has also been rumored in the past to be considering a move of Nugent-Hopkins himself. It seems unlikely that would come to pass before the deadline now that he’s injured, though it would have been surprising anyway. Instead, those expiring assets or others could be on the move out of Edmonton as the team tries to figure out how to fix what went wrong this season. With one of the best players in the world about to earn his league-leading salary, fixing the fringes of the roster won’t be easy.