Nikolai Khabibulin’s start tonight signals the annual "whos coming and who’s going?" showcase period leading up to the trade deadline. Although this year’s deadline is April 3, chances are we’ll see a few March deals as teams try to address need early to stay in the race.
We don’t know if the Oilers will be buyers or sellers, but we can identify possible areas to address and some players who might be headed out of town.
AREAS OF NEED
- Defense: Coach Krueger has 4 defensemen he plays 15+ minutes a night at even strength (The Schultz duo, Smid, Petry) and three of them play 3.5+ minutes a night on the PK (Nick Schultz, Smid, Petry) while the other (Justin Schultz) averages 4.5 minutes on the powerplay. The Oilers have Ryan Whitney (5th in EV icetime per game, 2nd in PP time) and Mark Fistric (7th in EV icetime per game, 4th in PK) rounding out the top 6 and Corey Potter (6th in EV icetime and 5th in PK icetime). Need: Edmonton doesn’t have that top pairing "stud" to put out there during big game moments, and that’s going to cost them precious points. The club may decide to add a defenseman with a "wider range of skills" who can play 15+ minutes at evens and contribute to the PP and PK. Names: The top 30 names in terms of even strength time on ice offers us interesting deadline possibilities (Mark Streit, Jay Bouwmeester).
- Big skill winger: Coach Krueger has tried Nail Yakupov, Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi on the Gagner-Hemsky line but nothing so far has been working at a premium. There are a few interesting names on the free agent list, and one of them (Dustin Penner) has proven chemistry with 89-83. I think all of Hartikainen, Paajarvi and Yakupov are going to make it as NHL wingers (really going out on a limb on the Russian, I know) but Krueger and company might find they’d like a short term option for the stretch run this spring.
THE OUT DOOR
- Ryan Whitney: With the puck on his stick and a winger flying ahead, Ryan Whitney is music. His headman passes are pure gold, and a team like Boston could use that skill on their powerplay. Whitney (0-3-3 on the powerplay) has some defensive issues, but a deep team like the Bruins has all kinds of depth at the position. Their need for his specific skills might mean there’s a deal available.
- Nikolai Khabibulin: A team needing veteran goaltending at the deadline might find the veteran Russian to their liking. Khabibulin appears healthy and has certainly been effective.
- Theo Peckham: Big, strong youngster who might be pushed out by the Fistric deal, NHL teams are always looking for defensemen at the deadline.
- Ryan Jones: Veteran winger hasn’t yet played a game, but if you count the wingers it’s easy to see Jones is the one with the expiring contract. If he’s healthy and can perform at previous levels, Edmonton may look at offloading him at the deadline in favor of the younger wingers who are currently performing for the club.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
There are a couple of things we could see this deadline:
- Edmonton adding players, including a top 4 defenseman who can take the pressure off the talented but young cluster that continues to learn at the NHL level.
- Offloading men like Khabibulin and Jones, who have played in Edmonton during a difficult time in the team’s history.
Either way, this deadline will not be about trading men central to the team’s success. Those days are gone for a long, long time.