The Edmonton Oilers came into today just two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. That proximity is not because of their own success though, as almost every team vying for the wild card spots in the west have struggled to find any sort of consistency of late. In face, the Dallas Stars have gone 5-4-1 in their last ten and yet have still pulled ahead of the plummeting Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division. The struggles of the rest of the conference may be a blessing for the Oilers, who are still well within striking distance if they can figure out how to get the most out of their current roster, or make an addition to change up the on-ice dynamic.
It seems as though the front office has focused in on the latter of those two options, as Ryan Rishaug of TSN reports that the team has put on a “full-court press to find help at forward.” Rishaug goes so far as to say that the Oilers may be willing to part with their first-round pick, a goaltender and a young developing forward, though no specific players are mentioned.
With exactly six weeks left before the trade deadline, the league has been deemed a buyers’ market given the amount of teams that know they’re not ready to compete this season. That’s not the case for the Oilers, who can’t afford to waste another prime year of Connor McDavid on a playoff-less team. There’s unimaginable pressure on GM Peter Chiarelli to make this club a winner given McDavid’s talent, but so far the young forward has seen just 13 playoff games in his short career.
Part of that is because of the lack of secondary scoring in Edmonton, something that has plagued the team since McDavid came into the league (and even before that). The Oilers have three players with 40 or more points, but their fourth-highest scoring forward is Alex Chiasson with just 22. Chiasson’s 17 goals make him one of only four forwards with more than four, not counting the seven Drake Caggiula scored before being traded out of town.
Interestingly, one of the players with four goals is Jesse Puljujarvi. That name will immediately come to mind for anyone who reads “young developing forward” in Rishaug’s tweet, though there is nothing to indicate that is the player he is referring to. Puljujarvi has just seven points this season and 35 total in a 127-game NHL career, clearly not the production the team was hoping for when they picked him fourth overall in 2016.
If the Oilers are actually committed to improving through trade, there are certain to be a number of names available as the trade deadline approaches. Even if Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone don’t hit the open market, there have already been reports that teams like the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers are willing to listen on nearly any of their veterans, while other teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers will have to quickly decide what to do with some expiring assets.