If the Edmonton Oilers come back from Florida this summer with a bunch of shiny new prospects and nothing else, general manager Craig MacTavish will have failed in a significant way. The Oilers have a surplus of picks, enough cap space to take on salary, and a host of opponents facing a cap crunch. More importantly, they have a desperate need for NHL talent.
It still won’t be easy to make such a deal.
There are quite obvious holes that we have that we’ll be looking to try and move pieces, whether it’s that first pick in the second round in a very strong draft. The value level of draft choices continues to go up as you get to the draft, so we know that we have to use some of those picks to try and improve our team in the long-term and in the short-term so we’ll be trying to do that. At least this year we have enough picks that it’s a good strategy. Last year going into the draft we had a first and then I traded the second, I traded the third, so we were sitting there. We’re sitting at the draft table in the same position [in the draft order] but we’re in a whole lot better situation in my mind.
MacTavish has made it clear that he’s going to go to the draft and try to improve the team in the here-and-now, not in five years’ time. Here’s what he has to work with in terms of picks:
- Edmonton’s 2015 first-round pick (as of today 2nd overall)
- Pittsburgh’s 2015 first-round pick (as of today 23rd overall)
- Edmonton’s 2015 second-round pick (as of today 32nd overall)
- Montreal’s 2015 second-round pick (as of today 61st overall)
- Ottawa’s 2015 third-round pick (as of today 72nd overall)
- St. Louis’ 2015 third-round pick (as of today 85th overall)
Edmonton’s 2015 fourth-round pick (as of today 93rd overall)
- A conditional 2015 pick from Montreal between the third and fifth round
- Edmonton’s 2015 fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.
- Edmonton’s 2016 picks in all seven rounds.
- Dallas’ 2016 seventh-round pick
Fyi: Edmonton Oilers received St. Louis’s 3rd round pick in 2015 for Edm’s 4th in 2015 as a condition in the David Perron trade made…
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) February 16, 2015
Picks Alone Probably Won’t Do It
If we look at non-deadline trades involving draft picks, we get a feel for what the cost is to acquire NHL players. It’s expensive.
Occasionally, a team will get lucky, landing a legitimate piece for not much based on another team’s cap crunch. Tampa Bay was able to pick up No. 4 defenceman Jason Garrison from Vancouver in exchange for just a second-round pick in 2014; given that Garrison would be the best defenceman on the Oilers’ roster that’s the kind of deal one would imagine the Oilers would have been all over if they hadn’t previously spent their 2014 second-rounder on David Perron.
Generally, though, the prices are more expensive and involve more than draft picks.
A second-round pick doesn’t always land a player of Garrison’s calibre. San Jose had to cough one up for the rights to Tyler Kennedy, whose value fluctuates but who we can reasonably peg as a third-line winger. Vancouver sent the pick it got from Garrison to Los Angeles in exchange for prospect Linden Vey, who ranks ninth on the team in ice-time.
For better players, the cost goes up. Consider the case of Ryan Kesler, a legitimate No. 2 pivot and the kind of guy the Oilers almost certainly would love to get their hands on. In exchange for the services of Kesler (and a 2015 third-round pick), Anaheim sent two young roster players (Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa) to Vancouver, along with first- and third-round picks. Ottawa paid a similar price for winger Bobby Ryan, sending young NHL’er Jakob Silfverberg, top prospect Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick to the Ducks in that trade. Then-probable No. 1 goalie Cory Schneider was acquired by the Devils at the cost of a ninth overall pick.
Let’s assume, for a moment, that one of those better players becomes available to the Oilers, someone in the range of a Kesler or a Ryan. Edmonton has a first-round pick to trade – either Pittsburgh’s late selection this year or the Oilers’ own choice in 2016. Which players fill the role of Bonino/Sbisa or Silfverberg/Noesen? Edmonton has young players and top prospects it can’t afford to trade – players like Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl – but it’s short on good second-tier prospects and quality young roster players.
If Craig MacTavish goes to market with a package that includes the Penguins’ 2015 first, Martin Marincin and Anton Lander, is that enough to land a quality player? What if he swaps in Bogdan Yakimov for Lander?
It’s likely going to be a difficult summer.
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