Goaltending has been the central theme for trade speculation around the Oilers this season after their netminders got off to particularly rough starts. However, things have settled down nicely since then with Stuart Skinner’s play improving considerably since their early-season coaching change and Calvin Pickard faring quite nicely in the backup role.
It appears that their performances have taken off some of the pressure of seeking another netminder. Instead, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported in the latest TSN Insider Trading segment that GM Ken Holland has turned his focus toward adding a top-six forward. More specifically, the goal would be to find someone better suited to play alongside Leon Draisaitl on the second line.
Speculatively, they may be looking to replace Warren Foegele on that trio. The 27-year-old is well on his way toward having a career year offensively (he’s just four points away from matching his previous career high) but he’s a player who has spent most of his career in the bottom six. Getting him back in that role would certainly deepen Edmonton’s lineup.
LeBrun mentioned a handful of players as possible targets, several of which will be dependent on how their current teams fare in their playoff push in the coming weeks. The Oilers are quite familiar with Jordan Eberle; LeBrun suggests that the idea of bringing him back to Edmonton has grown in the front office recently. Ottawa’s Vladimir Tarasenko (who has full trade protection) and Detroit’s Daniel Sprong and David Perron were also floated as possible targets if those respective teams sell by next month’s deadline. All four players are on expiring contracts and with Edmonton’s long-term cap situation, it would make sense for them to be focusing on rental players if they do try to make a key addition up front.
However, cap space is somewhat limited for the Oilers at the moment. Even with their current 21-man roster, Edmonton projects to have a little over $2.3MM in cap space at the trade deadline, per CapFriendly. An injury or two would eat most of that flexibility up. Sprong is the only one out of that group whose salary would fit into their existing space, even if there was the maximum 50% retention on the other three.
Accordingly, Edmonton may need to send out a roster player to help fit in any top-six acquisition on its salary cap. Foegele, on an expiring deal himself, could very well be an option as could one of Brett Kulak or Cody Ceci, defensemen who are signed beyond this season (two more years for Kulak, one for Ceci); moving one of them would also open up a spot for Philip Broberg to return to the big club.
For a team with the top-end firepower that the Oilers have, they’re not even in the top ten in NHL scoring, sitting 12th in that regard heading into Thursday’s action. Meanwhile, only two teams have allowed fewer goals than Edmonton has. Accordingly, if they believe the structural and goaltending improvements are sustainable, looking to add some more offense may very well be the right approach for Holland to take over the next few weeks.