Though rumored for some time, Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that he has had discussions with teams about moving the tenth-overall pick in the upcoming draft. Nothing is imminent, but with the team missing the playoffs last season despite being in a win-now mode, it seems obvious that they would be willing to discuss acquiring some immediate help for future assets. Chiarelli also claimed that his team would select the “best player available” should they keep the pick, instead of targeting a certain position of need.
This all confirms what we’ve heard out of Edmonton for the last few weeks, as many have speculated that they’d be willing to move the pick. That draft position rarely gives you a player who can step into the lineup right away, something that the Oilers desperately need as they look to cash in on some of Connor McDavid’s prime years. Though the captain is only 21, he’ll already be the most expensive player in the league next season and is doing enough to expect the team to be real Stanley Cup contenders. The team needs more help up front and several bounce back seasons from key defensemen, or else they may waste another 100-point season from the two-time Ted Lindsay Award winner.
It’s not clear exactly what Edmonton would be after in a trade for their first-round pick. Though obviously scoring is a necessity, many have speculated on the need to add another right-handed puck-moving defenseman to the mix. Teams aren’t quick to give up those players though, as they remain some of the hardest to find in the entire league. Up front it depends on whether Chiarelli sees Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl as wingers or centers going forward, as both have played—and found tremendous success—alongside McDavid at times over the last two years.
The pick might be of interest to several teams looking to add youth to their group. There have been rumors of the Montreal Canadiens looking to trade down, but don’t really have the defensive assets that would interest Edmonton after moving Mikhail Sergachev last summer. A team like the Buffalo Sabres are involved in nearly every discussion about first-round picks, but most of the speculation around them centers on Ryan O’Reilly. Chiarelli said last season that it may not be wise to use a huge chunk of your assets on centers—at that point speaking about McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins—making O’Reilly perhaps a bad candidate for trade.
Regardless of who is a perfect fit, you can bet almost every team would have interest in finding out how expensive the pick would be in terms of assets. Even teams closer to contention might find themselves in a position to trade up, especially if they have some burgeoning young players ready to take over at the NHL level.
There is also the question of Milan Lucic and the reports that the Oilers are trying to get out from under his hefty contract, but not as a pure cap dump. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Chiarelli seemed to indicate today that Lucic would be back for Edmonton next season with a new level of motivation, but nothing is certain at this point in the summer. That could easily be the Oilers’ GM trying to pump up an asset that he’s looking to trade, or perhaps he truly believes that Lucic can return to the 50-point winger that he has been for much of his career.
Either way, there are changes coming in Edmonton before the 2018-19 season begins. Whether it is enough to get them back into the playoffs is still yet to be seen, but Chiarelli is obviously doing everything he can to try and get back to contention.