WWYDW: Trade Deadline Strategy


It’s a little early to talk about the trade deadline this season, but not ridiculously so. The NHL’s holiday trade freeze kicks in on December 19 and lifts on December 28; historically teams become more active on the trade front once the holidays are passed.

This year there’s a two-month window between the lifting of the freeze and the actual deadline, and Edmonton’s in a very interesting situation because of the weird state of the Western Conference.


12.15.15 Pacific standings

Two weeks ago, I was pretty forcefully arguing that Edmonton’s season was all but over and the playoffs were a pipe dream. I still think it’s unlikely that the Oilers make the postseason, but I was wrong to be so dismissive. I didn’t see Edmonton’s six-game winning streak coming, and at least as importantly I didn’t properly appreciate what a disaster the Pacific is (San Jose was on a tear at the time and I was still banking on a resurgent Ducks team). I was wrong.

Here’s one way to look at the current situation:

  • Gap between dead last in the West and second in the Pacific: Four points
  • Gap between second in the Pacific and the final wild card slot: Five points

At this point of the year, the team slated to start the playoffs on home ice is closer to the bottom of the conference than it is to catching the No. 5 team in the Central division.

Apparently the mountain does occasionally come to Mohammed.

Edmonton’s Position


As I’ve said, my personal view is that the playoffs are unlikely for Edmonton. However, the Oilers are going to get a big boost from returning players—particularly the line of Benoit Pouliot, Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov—and if the goaltending holds up it’s possible that the club not only makes the playoffs but has home ice advantage in the first round.

This puts general manager Peter Chiarelli in a position where he could pursue a number of different trade strategies over the next two months.

Buy now. Anything can happen in the playoffs. If, for example, the Oilers were to add pending free agent Dustin Byfuglien to the fold at the trade deadline (Winnipeg is currently tied with Edmonton but six points out of the postseason because Central division) it’s fun to imagine the possibilities—perhaps Oscar Klefbom and Byfuglien on the top pair, Brandon Davidson and Andrej Sekera rounding out the top-four and a third pairing of Darnell Nurse and Justin Schultz.

After all the losing, it’s tempting to gun it for the postseason, particularly if the player brought in as a rental would be auditioning for a permanent job in Edmonton. The downside here is that the Oilers are still flawed and likely to have trouble advancing through the playoffs, and of course that rentals tend to have inflated value at the deadline.

Stand pat, more or less. Steve Tambellini was in a similar spot in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and this is what he opted to do. The Oilers held on to their pending free agents, notably defenceman Ryan Whitney, and sent a fourth-round pick to Florida to bring in Jerrod Smithson. Edmonton crumbled down the stretch, the Oilers missed out on the playoffs, and Tambellini’s strategy left the team slightly poorer in terms of draft picks but had no other long-term implications.

Straddling the fence has its advantages here. If Chiarelli takes this path, it allows him to show confidence in the team he has and doesn’t weaken them for a potential playoff run. At the same time, he safeguards the club’s draft picks and prospects, keeping an eye on the long-term. The downside is that Edmonton then wouldn’t get assets for its own pending free agents, and at the same time wouldn’t be bolstering its roster for the postseason.

Sell. This is the usual play for the Oilers at the deadline, though this year’s candidates aren’t likely to bring home a pile of assets. Teddy Purcell is the obvious trade candidate this year, particularly given how effective he has been with Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl. Eric Gryba will have value, Nikita Nikitin might fetch a mid-round pick, and of course I like the idea of treating Justin Schultz like a pending UFA, too.

The upside here is that Edmonton could presumably add some draft picks now which would have more value in the summer, thereby improving their stock of ammunition as they get set for next year. Gryba, for example, seems like a good bet to be worth more in-season than the fourth-round pick that the Oilers gave up for him at the draft. The trouble is that if Edmonton comes up just short of the postseason it’s going to look awfully silly to have shipped away a bunch of the supporting cast for low-end returns.

Decisions, Decisions

Peter Chiarelli2

In my view, if the current dynamics in the Pacific hold, and Edmonton is in the playoff race but also clearly behind the entirety of the Central division, the course to take is a little of Option No. 2 and a little of Option No. 3.

In other words: Stand pat unless a) the return is really significant or b) the player can be moved without any real loss of effectiveness.

As was the case with Whitney way back when, the Oilers have a number of defencemen they could move without really taking a step back. Griffin Reinhart and Mark Fayne are currently in the minors; your mileage may vary but I don’t see a massive gap between that duo and the current NHL trio of Gryba, Schultz and Nikitin. There’s always at least some interest in defensive depth, and Edmonton has a bunch of plausible third-pair types on the roster and in the AHL.

If the Oilers fall out of the picture, it becomes easier to sell; if they start separating themselves from the pack in the Pacific and challenging a team like the Kings it becomes easier to buy.

As always with What Would You Do Wednesday, we leave the final word to our readers. What strategy should Chiarelli pursue between now and the deadline?


  • usetobewise

    Clear out the peripheral assets like Purcell, Schultz, Nikitin, Fayne etc.

    This year was never intended to be a play off year. Load the cupboard for maximum flexibility this upcoming off-season and use all means at your disposal (Free agent signings, offer sheets, trades etc.) to balance this roster.

    Even now you can see how the players have matured and how they are beginning to play a better brand of hockey under McLellan. With improvements, next year they should be scary opponents.

    • TKB2677

      I would argue that you don’t move Purcell. Im not saying absolutely do not move him but he has had a valid resurgence of late and the truth is that big bodies that can pass and handle the puck are harder to find than you think.

      Do I feel he is currently overpaid? Yes

      Would I re-sign him for 2/3 years at around 2.8 mil per? Absolutely

      Now, if he demands a dollar value contract equal to what he is making now, then no.


        100% agree.

        I don’t know what the protocol is for midseason contracts for pending UFAs. But they should definitely enter contract talks with his agent before the deadline. If they can get a 2 year deal at reasonable dollars I’d say take it. He really is very skilled and can play with skill guys, doing a stellar support job right now. And if he gets passed on the depth chart by Yak in the future his cap and is lower you don’t get upset if he only scores 30-40 pts. on the 3rd line. Negotiating point should be “you are near the end of your career, do you want to be part of this team when they make a good run or not? yes, okay sign here at the reduced price” because really, offence is what it is about and if he’s scoring then we can ignore the fact that he doesn’t use his size much.

        I wouldn’t go 3 years though. You want his expiring the year McDavid needs a new one in case you are in a cap crunch.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Totally agree with the exception of Schultz. I am not convinced he won’t be with the team long term, including our run to the cup in 17/18 and cup win in 18/19. The other three, adding in Gryba and Lander, I believe are expendable for draft picks and one top D (adding in draft picks to land). The rest of it is maturation as a team. I think the pieces are there now but they are young and relatively inexperienced.

  • btrain

    Obviously the biggest issue that everyone talks about is the D. The Oilers need a legitimate top pairing defensemen that can play big tough minutes. It is quite easy to point out the issue but I don’t think the answer is through trade this season, as the cost will be too high and there is just not enough candidates to pursue. Big Buff and Seth Jones are the only plausible options as the Oilers are only going to get Hamonic for Nurse or Klefbom. I don’t think anyone is prepared to give up either of these guys. Big Buff would be great but most likely extremely costly and not sure if he is the answer to carry the load of most defensively responsible. Seth Jones has been playing under the shadow of Weber and Rinne and is very much in the midst of his development, and currently not obviously any better than Kelfbom or Nurse. So the idea of trading for a top pair guy is cute, but we need to be realistic with what is available and the associated cost. Be patient and let’s give Nurse, Klefbom, and even Davidson a season to show us what we already have!

    • bradleypi

      Couldn’t agree more. Just upgrade gryba and that’s the makings of a real nice defence. There’s no number 1 guy out there and if there is it would be too costly. Geez hamonic would be a nice fit.

      • O.C.

        I don’t get what your seeing when talking about Gryba, we need more D like him, give him a regular partner and once your in the playoffs you absolutely need this type of player.

        • bradleypi

          But if you could add 1 more rugged top 4 dman to the line up, who would you sit out? Imo it’s gryba. He would be an excellent 7th dman that could spell guys off when size is needed or injuries occur. He’s my choice to come out before any of the 5 other guys.

  • Danglishish

    For the love of McDavid, DO NOT make any moves with the rationale that we could make the playoffs this year and go on a run, IF said move costs us anything at all going into next year. Anything.

    This year was never going to be the year for us. It is all about building the foundation and getting the system in place for next year. We’re overachieving, and that’s likely due to the fact that TMac is an amazing coach, so amazing that even without McDavid we are doing better than expected. I’m happy about that. But with the right move(s) focused on next season and beyond, we could be legitimate contenders in our first year in the new barn. Let’s not risk that in order to see 4 extra games of hockey this year. Please.

  • petroleumpundit

    I would sell; Purcell, Nikitin, Schultz, and even Scrivens if possible.

    If I’m Chiarelli I wouldn’t re-sign any of these guys so anything I could get for these players I’m considering parting ways with.

    The summer of 2016 is where Chiarelli can make his big splash.

    Maybe push for Hamonic if the trade makes sense.

    Chiarelli also will have a lot of cap space to work with to make a free agent push or take on a big salary who can contribute with our D Corps.

  • usetobewise

    Get rid of any dead wood and prepare for next season.
    Yes they may make the playoffs because of the terrible division they are in.
    Let’s be real though, when everything gets much tighter and the refs let a lot more cheap shots go, the Oilers will struggle.
    So I’m not a fan of giving up,the farm so we get a couple of home games in the playoffs.
    The d is still amongst the worst in the league, until we get a number one d man who doesn’t get hurt much, the team is still a middling team.
    Big Buff is an aging player who takes a lot of penalties , and you don’t think that Winnipeg doesn’t want a do over with their trade to Buffalo. The d man they gave the farm away for is now playing on the 3rd line.

  • Makaveli

    I can honestly say this is why they pay Charelli the big bucks to figure out these problems because I wouldn’t know where to start.

    Perhaps I would move out a couple of veteran guys with expiring contracts to try and re-coup the draft picks we gave away for griffin and Talbot. the guys on the farm like JJ and Iro, seem to be able to fill in nicely.

    Minor tweaks for now… Leave your big moves for the summer time.

  • A-Mc

    No trade talk until we see this in action:

    Hall – Draisaitl – Purcell

    Pouliot – McDavid – Yakupov

    Lander – Nuge – Eberle

    Hendricks – Letestu – Korpikoski/Pakarinen

    • bazmagoo

      I think Lander still has a role to play for sure, and would love to see him play with Nuge and Eberle. He’s a tight checker, good at faceoffs, and seems to stir the pot a little bit. At 0.988 or whatever he’s at, that seems like good value. Ebs and Nuge need to evolve physically or they are done on the Oilers, Chia style. Sorry boys, it’s time to get off the junk food.

  • 24% body fat

    Eberle Schultz and 2nd for Strome and Hamonic. Cheaper and big upgrade on D. Strome can play center or RW. Gives up a bit of offence to solidify D. Frees up cap room for future big contracts. Makes our PP way better without having Schultz as an option

    Purcell for what ever pick you can get. Same with Nikitin, Ference, Scrivens (if you can, probably not).

    Lander for a RH d prospect

    Next year sign Buff for 4 x 6M (probably not enough unless connor takes the contract to him) Try to sign Ladd to same contract. Sign Frans Nielsen

    Hall Drai Strome

    Ladd McDavid Yak

    Poo Nuge Nielsen (hard minutes possession)

    Korp, Letestu, Hendricks

    Nurse Sekera

    Buff Klef

    Davidson Hamonic

    I see 7 centers in that line up. Thats depth,

    Trash if you think this is awesome, Props if you think this plan is Epic

    • Oilers-Entourage

      I give you an A on imangination but to think that teams would give up value and their future away is just plain dumb. You remind me of an article anput 2 weeks ago ( first star worst star) when some dumb Leafs Fan wrote that we should trade them Nurse, McDavid and Klefbom for nothing. Your a good fan but McTavish GM mindset.

      • 24% body fat

        sorry which part is not reasonable?

        I said that signing the two guys was not likely. I stated that getting anything for our ufa’s was likely not to happen, i did not state that flipping lander for a RH d prospect needed to be an A or even B value prospect.

        A schultz eberle and 2nd has been mentioned before as a return for strome and hamonic, this is not far fetched.

  • socaldave

    If we are in the hunt, I would value playoff experience for our key players (who basically all have none) over mid-round picks for our fringe players. There are always exceptions but I wouldn’t be looking at guys like Gryba and Purcell and worrying about losing them for nothing if I felt like they were among the Oilers best roster options by the trade deadline.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I disagree with the idea of not doing everything you can to make the playoffs because you don’t think you’d be able to make a run. Who cares if you get swept in the first round?

    Whatever happened to pride in this organization? If they miss the playoffs this year, they’ll tie the league record and forever be known as the team with the longest playoff drought in the history of the league. Make the playoffs and you can avoid that embarrassing title.

    I would hope they do everything they can not to be recognized as one of the worst teams in history. Simply for pride. Not to mention the experience of some of these guys actually get a taste of post season play

    End rant

    • Danglishish

      So, to be clear, you’d prefer to make roster changes this year in order to make it to the playoffs and likely get eliminated in the first round, EVEN IF doing so sacrifices your very real potential for being a dominant team for the next 5 years?… because pride?

      I can only say that I am very, very happy that you’re not the GM.

      I’ll take a huge improvement this year, no playoffs, and roster changes that make us a cup contender for the next 5 years… because common sense.

      • fran huckzky

        You’re jumping to conclusions lil guy. What I’m saying is i don’t want to trade off pending ufa’s for mid round picks. If we’re close, ya, I’d want to try to add for a push. I’m not talking about trading high end assets for a rental player, but I’d be willing to give up a second and 4th for a guy like Montreal did for petry last year.

        no idea why your rambling on about sacrificing the potential to be dominate… Bla bla bla….

        How much value would you put on Hall, Ebs, Nuge, McDavid, Drai, Nurse, Klef getting some playoff experience? Cuz I’d put a lot of value in that

        If we’re close, ya I’d do everything I could to try to make it to the show. That doesn’t mean trading McDavid for Hamonic… Calm down fella

  • Jay (not J)

    I don’t know, I’m a little paralysed by the roller coaster this team’s on this season. Willis’ article about looking past this year made a tonne of sense when he wrote it, but obviously things are in motion. Ultimately I think that the team is still best served by working towards next year and beyond instead of putting too many eggs in this year’s basket. The way that things are going the Oilers might end up a playoff team by virtue of adding an entire second line in January and very little resistance around the division. Unless the deal lands in Chiarelli’s lap (perhaps Snow comes back and says ‘I NEED to get this Hamonic thing resolved’)I would channel the steel that Alex Anthopolis showed at MLB’s 2014 deadline and sit pat. The league’s GMs are used to the Oilers trading from a position of desperation. Killing that image is going to be important for Chiarelli to be able to really improve this team in the offseason and the offseasons that follow.

  • socaldave

    Jonathan Wrote

    “Steve Tambellini was in a similar spot in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and this is what he opted to do. The Oilers held on to their pending free agents, notably defenceman Ryan Whitney, and sent a fourth-round pick to Florida to bring in Jerrod Smithson. Edmonton crumbled down the stretch”.

    The Oiler players (inside info as well reported in the press) at that time couldn’t believe that Tambo did nothing to improve the team and make a run for the playoffs. This hurt morale and the team tanked.

    If the Oilers are within striking distance Chai should trade for help now and get into the playoffs.

    This will do wonders for the morale of the team for next year and the group will gain playoff experience. Make them better from the start next year

    • Playoffs should be priority next year and a goal for this year. If the Oilers can get close, then I would NOT get a rental player (ufa) unless there is a signing option – go for players with some term or rfa. They need to get a few more key players and some of the big names out there are looking for unrealistic term like Big Buf. I wouldn’t want him at 35 tying up that much cap space.

    • bradleypi

      But what if they don’t get in the playoffs? What then? Unless the oilers are actually in a playoff spot, I don’t think they are buyers. I’d be selling free agents. Especially older ones. I’d see if there’s any takers on gryba and klinkhammer. I thought last summer was the ideal time to make moves to improve thd team. Guess it’ll have to be next summer as I also don’t see any playoffs for the oil this year..

  • Danglishish

    As much as i want the Oilers to go on a playoff run this year, i have always been in favor of this being the final year of “storming” and they would start to show tangible improvement and start “norming”. This likely means a spot just out of the playoffs come April.

    I don’t want the oilers to be a one and done playoff team, even though i would love to see them in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. I want them to be consistently in the playoffs year after year for the next decade and beyond. In order to support that though, they need to use the next 9 months to offload the dead weight and position themselves from a cap and assets perspective up for next season and beyond. This means selling off UFAs, buying out ference etc. We can always try to resign purcell for a cheap 1-2 year deal in the offseason (like the leafs with winnick), while hopefully getting a 2nd rd pick for our troubles.

    The more of those types of picks we can accumulate the more flexibility chia will have at the draft to make moves either up the draft board or for players that can help now (similar to NYI with the leddy/boychuk deals or calgary with the hamilton deal).

    • Ready to Win

      The truth is that teams stacked with players who have never seen the playoffs are more often than not one and done.

      I don’t think the Oilers should mortgage their future to make the playoffs this year, but don’t discount the value a little playoff experience might have towards the future.

      • Mike Krushelnyski

        I know we don’t have a Pronger (yet…25) or a Peca (yet…93) But in 2006 none of those kids had playoff experience either. If we can sneak in and play the flames or yotes whose to say we can’t win a round. Don’t sell the farm, but I think playoff experience for Hall, Draisaitl, McDAVID, and the core would be invaluable down the road.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    If I’m Chiarelli, I’m not standing pat but I’m not really buying either( circa Lowe 06). I’d be getting in on the Buff sweepstakes early to see what the Jets want for him. Maybe a Musil, a 2016 2nd and if Buff resigns with the Oilers I’d give them a 2017 1st. I don’t offer more than a 5 year term and Buff wants more, then all is lost is a couple mid grade prospect that may not get to the NHL other than for a cup of coffee.

    If I’m Chairelli, I’m doing my best to show the team, I want to win now and get into the playoffs. Even if it’s 4 and out, at least they finally, after 6 years into the rebuild and coming up 10 years out of the playoffs as an organization.

    I hope the Oilers are close to the playoffs, and PC can upgrade the back end enough to get into the playoffs.

    It’s been 10yrs, I want playoffs.

    • Jay (not J)

      Lowe was a superstar in ’06. How do you get the guys you’re in a race for the last playoff spot with to deal you the goalie that will ensure you win the race? Forgetting about Samsonov and Spacek entirely, the ’06 trade deadline was Lowe’s best day in a suit. I don’t think that these guys are as close as the team that he was tinkering with at the time was, but if Chiarelli can get himself the same sort of return on what he feels he has to offer up then he should jump with both feet.

  • socaldave

    If there’s any chance at all the Oilers can make the playoffs, they’ve got to do something to solidify that opportunity. Remember the first year in the NHL the Oilers barely made it in, then got smacked in the face and bounced in three straight by Philly? You can google all the quotes from Gretzky et al that it was an invaluable experience for them.

    If the Oilers can squeak in, PC needs to (WIHTIN REASON!) do what he can to help them make it; the experience garnered in even a four game sweep will make all the difference in the world next season, when they’ll be expected to get in and do something once there.