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Would You Trade McDavid & Oilers’ Top 4 for Matthews and His?

Who has the better top four on offense: the Edmonton Oilers led by McDavid or the Toronto Maple Leafs led by Auston Matthews?

There’s an interesting debate going on when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Sportsnet posted a tweet bragging about the 14-game point streak of the Maple Leafs’ top four and followed up by asking if there was a better top four in the NHL when it comes to forwards, suggesting that Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander were the best in the league. The Oilers’ official Twitter account was quick to chime in.

The graphic posted showed off just how dominant Toronto’s core group of forwards has been. But, the Oilers responded, “McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman & Nugent-Hopkins have 31 more points this season.” That was before the Oilers lit up the Nashville Predators and those four contributed for another 14 points in just that one game. It’s almost as if the debate pissed them off.

The subject of cost and salary cap hit then came up, with Twitter users and media members pointing out that the Oilers’ top four is accomplishing what they are at a far less expensive dollar figure per season than the Maple Leafs’ top four.

In Edmonton, those top guys account for $31.625 million of the team’s overall salaries this season. In Toronto, the top four make a combined $40.5 million. Where things get really interesting for the Oilers and Leafs is when you look and see that the Oilers have their guys locked into deals, whereas the Maple Leafs do not. The first player in Edmonton to potentially shake loose will be Draisaitl, whose contract comes due in two more seasons after this one. McDavid follows one season after that and Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman are both locked in until after the 2027-28 season.

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Conversely, the Maple Leafs will need to start making decisions on players this summer. Matthews is up for a new deal at the end of the 2023-24 season, Nylander’s deal expires at the same time and Marner comes due the same summer as Draisaitl. The only player locked in is Tavares, and that’s not necessarily a good thing considering he makes $11 million per season.

What About the Costs of Inflation?

For both teams, the costs for these players is going to rise. When Matthews gets his new deal, expect that he’ll be worth around $15 million per season. Draisaitl might be in the same ballpark, if not a little less. McDavid could be an $18 million player by the time his contract needs renewing and the salary cap has gone up, but much of that will depend on the mentality of the player and where the team is at when these contracts need signing.

McDavid vs Matthews Oilers Maple Leafs

If the Oilers are competing for the Stanley Cup, it’s much more likely each takes a bit of a discount to keep a winner together. If not, the Oilers could be forced to pay maximum value. At the same time, Matthews might choose to throw a bone to Toronto, but it will take getting out of the first round of the playoffs this season before anyone believes he’s willing to commit for less than full value.

Which Team Has The Best Two-Way Players?

Points are great and both teams are being pushed forward by their top four, but what about defense? They say defense wins championships and to really evaluate which top four is better, that should be considered.

Perhaps the best two-way player in the group is Hyman. He’s an incredibly-gifted offensive driver, but also plays in all situations, kills penalties, and can be relied upon defensively. Nugent-Hopkins is a threat there too, with Draisaitl and penalty killing machine and McDavid taking reps there too now. In Toronto, only Marner plays any time on the kill. He averages 2:30 per game shorthanded. Everyone else comes in at less than 0:17 per game.

Seems Fairly Lopsided in the Oilers’ Favor

The Maple Leafs are the hotter team right now, but this debate doesn’t actually seem all that close. Yes, having either top-four is an embarrassment of riches, but the Oilers win hands down here. They have the more productive group, they get them at a cheaper cost, and the edge in the all-around game debate goes to Edmonton too.

This isn’t to say the Leafs don’t have a better all-around team. But, when it comes to the top four, Edmonton’s got this one in the bag.

Next: Latest Trade Talk and Rumors Surrounding the Vancouver Canucks



  1. Dj

    December 15, 2022 at 10:45 am

    What a Homer. Hyman is not anywhere close to Marner or Matthews as a 2 way player. And Hyman is the only player on the oilers top 4 who plays on the right side of the puck. The oilers have the better offensive 4 but not even close on all around play. Enjoy the power play, as it’s the only reason the oil win games.

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