The Edmonton Oilers have placed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on injured reserve, recalling Iiro Pakarinen to fill his roster spot. Nugent-Hopkins was injured in Saturday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but was expected to return following the Oilers bye week. Edmonton won’t be back in action until Saturday evening, but have at least brought Pakarinen up to practice with the team in case Nugent-Hopkins is unable to play.
Pakarinen, 26, has played 18 games for the Oilers this season but has been held to just a single point. The Finnish forward was re-signed to a one-year $750K contract last spring, and was expected to take a regular role in Edmonton’s bottom six. That hasn’t exactly materialized, as he’s spent just as much time in the minor leagues as the NHL, scoring 13 points in 18 games for the Bakersfield Condors.
The Oilers will start the unofficial second half of their season against the Vancouver Canucks this weekend, and find themselves still 10 points out of a wildcard spot with several teams ahead of them. Sitting 13th in the Western Conference, their season hasn’t gone anything like what was expected of them after Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot led them to a seventh game of the second round a year ago.
With their third-leading scorer in Nugent-Hopkins now banged up, and just 16 games left before the February 26th trade deadline, the Oilers will have to make a quick decision on whether to sell off several of their assets or try and climb their way out of the gutter with a strong second half. It’s not out of the question that they could make up some ground in the Pacific Division, but pending unrestricted free agents like Patrick Maroon, Mark Letestu and Mike Cammalleri might all be more useful to the franchise going forward as trade bait.