Jordan Eberle deserves long term security with Oilers

Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

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The Edmonton Oilers have had more than their fair share of whipping boys over the last few seasons.

Some were, to an extent, deserving.

Ben Scrivens put the Oilers in a position to lose (although certainly not alone), Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky were never quite as advertised and Justin Schultz found himself as one of the league’s biggest reclamation projects by the time he finally left Northern Alberta.

Others, though, haven’t been quite so worthy of the fan ire they attract.

Taylor Hall, lambasted for poor character and one too many toe drags, was given monikers like ‘lazy’ and ‘selfish’ and ‘hard to win with’. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was ‘soft’,

Then, there is Jordan Eberle.

Perhaps no player has been given quite the criticism that Eberle has faced since arriving on the scene.

Drafted 22nd overall by the Oilers in 2008, Eberle has spent his entire pro career with the Pacific Division club.

The only time he’s spent in the AHL has been during his final two spring campaigns in the WHL, following the end of his seasons with the Regina Pats, and the lockout-cancelled portion of the 2012–13 campaign.

The Oilers themselves, during his time with the club, have been nothing short of abysmal. Despite being 26 years old — and joining the Oilers when he was just 20–2016–17 has been Eberle’s first foray into the postseason.

Despite playing on mostly bad clubs, he’s been one of the Oilers’ most consistent performers.

Eberle’s rookie season saw him put up good, if not exactly Calder Trophy-worthy, stats. He was good for 18 goals and 43 points, skating out in 69 games.

Despite that, the then-20-year-old led the club in scoring that year, even when mostly everyone else had at least 13 games in hand. Only three other players that year finished above 40 points, period, and one of them was 18-year-old Taylor Hall.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Since then, Eberle has put up at least 20 goals in every full NHL season and finished with 50 or more points in every complete season but his 2015–16 campaign, boasting 34 goals in his 2011–12 year and racking up 60 or more points three times.

Despite never seeing the playoffs before this season, Eberle is currently third in scoring all-time among his draft class. Only Steven Stamkos and Erik Karlsson have put up more points, and only Stamkos has more goals.

Ederle is a one-time Lady Byng finalist, although he’s received votes on four separate seasons.

Oh, and despite logging almost three fewer minutes per game this season than he has in years past, the winger set a career high in recorded shots on goal and shot attempts overall.

Despite all this, there’s a small but loud portion of the Oilers fan base that thinks Eberle’s biggest value to the team could be joining a rival.

Because make no mistake, he would be the first target for Las Vegas in an expansion draft. No other club is even hearing rumors or fan demands for a player of Eberle’s caliber to be exposed come late June.

The argument, in theory, is that Eberle costs too much for a middle winger. He’s putting up just under 17 minutes a game in the Connor McDavid era, yet making $6 million per season for each of the next two years.

McDavid is going to need some money, Leon Draisaitl is going to need some money and the team still wants to tweak the defensive corps. For his cost as a winger, Eberle is the one some want to see go.

Even if he isn’t exposed to Vegas, there’s another crowd looking to move his considerably-sized contract via trade. If there isn’t quite as much ire as the expansion-fodder campaign, there’s certainly a good number of voices who would love to see a cheaper return for the Oilers mainstay.

All things considered, he’s not making below market value at all.

In addition to being a perennial 20-plus goal scorer, the veteran winger is one of Edmonton’s most effective two-way players.

The eye test has shown plenty of anecdotal blown coverage for Eberle, but it’s easy to pick out something wrong with a player that does almost everything right. When you actually look at his numbers, the Regina native is one of Edmonton’s most defensively sound skaters year after year.

From a shot rate perspective, Eberle has been a net positive difference for Edmonton over his entire career. His lowest Corsi For percentage in any given season was his 2013–14 campaign when he was just 1.7 percent better than the rest of the club. Every other year, he’s been at least three percentage points better than the Oilers roster on average, sitting on a career 50.1 Corsi For percentage at even strength on a team that almost never made the playoffs.

Based on estimates, Eberle averages .29 goals created per game. McDavid is the only Oilers forward who does better than that; even Draisaitl, considered an integral piece of Edmonton’s puzzle, sits at a similar .27 goals created per game over his three seasons.

Overall, here’s a glance at where his numbers fall. He’s not perfect, but he’s certainly one of the league’s most effective players.

Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine that the Oilers themselves don’t know what Eberle does for the franchise.

After trading away Hall in a direct swap for Adam Larsson, Eberle was the longest-tenured remaining piece from the team’s long, dark years of struggle. He’s the piece that the team has kept around long past the departure of Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, Ilya Bryzgalov, Hemsky, Gagner, Scrivens and countless others. He’s outlasted both Mark Arcobello and the center he was traded for, and he’s managed to watch Andrew Ference arrive, serve as captain and then hit the long-term injury list.

There are fans out there looking for a trade. Instead, this is the time for Eberle to be getting his reward.

After over half a decade of watching his team make lottery picks, the veteran is finally getting to see the rewards of sticking around. He’s getting to see the rewards of being a net-positive shot generator, a scoring leader and a minute eater.

The Oilers could dump salary this summer. Nugent-Hopkins isn’t immune, particularly coming off a sub-standard season.

Eberle, though, should be just about untouchable at this point.