With the trade deadline now just weeks away, we’re going to start taking a closer look at each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs?
For the first time in years, the Edmonton Oilers are legitimate buyers at the trade deadline. NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot have lead the way thus far, and have the Oilers comfortably in second place in the Pacific Division. Despite the fact that the Oilers are a top-ten team in the NHL, GM Peter Chiarelli is on record as saying he isn’t “heavily interested” in the rental market, but did say the team deserves some tinkering because they’re “in the conversation.”
32-19-8, 2nd in the Pacific Division
Deadline Cap Space
Current cap space: $17.811MM
Deadline cap space: $21.375MM
48/50 contracts, via CapFriendly
2017: EDM 1st, STL 3rd*, EDM 3rd, EDM 4th, VAN 5th**, EDM 5th, EDM 6th, EDM 7th
2018: EDM 1st, EDM 2nd, EDM 3rd, EDM 4th, EDM 5th, EDM 6th, EDM 7th
A carryover from the now defunct compensation rule, the Oilers will need to surrender their 2nd round pick to Boston for hiring Chiarelli as GM back in April of 2015.
* The Oilers will receive either St. Louis’ third in 2017 or their second in 2018 in exchange for Nail Yakupov. The conditional pick becomes the second if Yakupov scores 15 goals this season; because Yakupov has just three goals so far this season, it’s likely to be a third.
**The Oilers will receive either a fourth or fifth round pick from Vancouver for defenseman Philip Larsen. It’s not known what the performance conditions are, but with Larsen sitting at one goal and six points in just 20 games, it’s safe to assume he won’t hit the required production thresholds.
While the Oilers don’t have many forward prospects, they’re fully-stocked with blue-liners. When healthy, the Oilers have 10 or 11 legitimate NHL options. They could move one of Brandon Davidson or Kris Russell for help up front. Davidson is a likely candidate to be claimed in the expansion draft and is the Oilers most notable trade chip. with the emergence of Matt Benning, there’s an outside chance that pending-UFA Russell could be traded once the Oilers get Darnell Nurse back.
The Oilers don’t have much in the forward prospect cupboard, with just Jesse Puljujärvi and Tyler Benson showing promise as legitimate NHL scoring forwards. On the back-end, Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones are dominant in the WHL, and Markus Niemeläinen is a bright spot on a bad Saginaw Spirit team in the OHL. Over in Russia, potential seventh-round steal Ziyat Paigin has played well above his draft slot.
While some teams could be willing to move first-round picks in a somewhat-weaker draft class, the Oilers are without a second round pick and therefore won’t be likely to deal their first. Despite their successful season, they’re still a building team and will look to stock up on forwards. Don’t expect the Oilers to deal prospects or high picks for rentals; if a notable asset is moved then the return will likely be a long-term solution.
Player To Watch
1) Right-handed scorer – The Oilers’ biggest need is a right-handed top-nine forward who can shoot the puck. Center Leon Draisaitl has had success playing on the right side with McDavid, but both men produce at the same level when separated. That gives Chiarelli the option of acquiring either a center or right-winger. A center would allow Draisaitl to play on the wing, while a right-winger would allow McLellan to keep his two leading scorers on separate lines. Some players who could be of interest include Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Eaves, Thomas Vanek, Brian Boyle, and Tyler Johnson. The initial asking price for lefty centers Hanzal and Boyle is out of Chiarelli’s stated price range, while the others are simply players who fit the Oilers’ needs and are on the market.
2) Backup goaltender — The signing of Jonas Gustavsson has not worked out for Chiarelli. The veteran backup is buried in the AHL after a horrific start to the year, and prospect Laurent Brossoit is currently serving as backup to the busiest starter in the NHL in Talbot. As of this writing, Brossoit is playing for Edmonton as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on the first night of a back-t0-back. If Brossoit can show his worth, then perhaps Chiarelli holds off on spending an asset on a backup. However, an injury to Talbot would be catastrophic to the Oilers. Two players of interest could be Jaroslav Halak and Michal Neuvirth; both men have struggled in the NHL this season, but have histories as solid options in the NHL and could be had for cheap. Halak is dominating in the AHL, but makes $4.5MM this season and next. If the Islanders are willing to take back Benoit Pouliot or Mark Fayne to make the salaries work, then Halak could be an option. Neuvirth has struggled in a tandem with Steve Mason, and could be acquired as a rental for a low cost, perhaps one of the Oilers’ third rounders.