WILL OILERS MAKE A DEAL?

The trade deadline is 1 p.m. Edmonton time, and many are wondering if the Oilers will make a move?

I get the sense the Oilers are a year away from being a player at the deadline, but that’s not to say they won’t make a minor tweak.

Even though Eric Belanger is currently on the IR, the Oilers are confident he’ll be playing before the playoffs, and if a team is interested they will trade him. The return would be a late round pick, but at this point the Oilers won’t hesitate to deal him. I don’t see him being a part of the future in Edmonton. They will try to find an upgrade for Belanger.

If a deal can be made the Oilers would move one of Mark Fistric or Theo Peckham. They are both 3rd pairing, physical D-men and the Oilers would need two injuries for both of them to play. Again the return would be a mid-round pick.

It is rare to see a hockey trade, proven player for proven player, made at the deadline, especially involving a team that has playoff aspirations, so I doubt we see a deal similar to Tom Gilbert/Nick Schultz. I firmly believe the Oilers will make some moves in the summer, to improve their backend and skilled-size in their top-nine, but I doubt that happens today.

I’m sure we will see a lot of debate over whether the Oilers should trade Ryan Whitney.

One argument is that he won’t return next year, so get something for him. Don’t let him walk for nothing.

The other side of the debate will argue that moving your 8th leading scorer in the midst of a four-game winning streak, and while you are only one point out of the playoffs wouldn’t be prudent.

Basically it comes down to what the organization feels is more important. Allowing your young core to play meaningful games down the stretch, or adding another 2nd round pick. I’d lean towards the former.

The issue for the Oilers is that if they move Whitney, the guys left to replace him aren’t nearly as good offensively or moving the puck. Mike Babcock had a quote that makes me believe the Oilers will not move Whitney, mainly because the players know who is better. 

They want you to know what’s going on at the game. They want you to have the right people on the ice in the right situations, and they know before you do. Players get the information first, the coach gets it second.  

Whitney likely won’t return next season, but management doesn’t want the young kids to think management sabotaged their chances at the playoffs by moving Whitney and replacing him with Fistric or Peckham.

I’ve also heard they would add a veteran D-man or forward as long as the price isn’t too high, essentially a low-end prospect of mid-round pick. I don’t expect a significant move, but it is the deadline, so you never know.

REMAINING SCHEDULE

Jonathan Willis outlined the Oilers remaining schedule in detail here, and on Monday I broke down the remaining schedule of Detroit, St.Louis, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Columbus and the Oilers here.

As we both pointed out the Oilers remaining schedule isn’t easy, especially the final week when the Oilers play five games in seven days vs. the top-four teams in the west: Ducks, Ducks, Blackhawks, Wild and Canucks. I believe the Oilers need to be in a situation where they can go 2-3 or 3-2 in those five games and still make the playoffs. If they do that, they will have a decent shot of making the playoffs.

So that means they need to go 6-2 or 5-3 in their next 8 games. A tall task for sure, but that is their reality.

The good news for the Oilers is that the Blues have a tough schedule as well. The Blues play 14 games in the final 24 days of the season, including 3 vs. the Blackhawks. The Blues do get a break when they play a stretch of  five games against non-playoff teams. At home vs. the Coyotes (Apr 18th), Stars (Apr 19th), @ Colorado on the 21st, then vs. Avs on 23rd and the Flames on the 25th.

If the Oilers make the playoffs they will have to earn it, and starting tonight we will see how they handle the pressure of playing meaningful games. It should be exciting.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR