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?


  • 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.

  • Ever the Optimist

    Well first of all we need to acknowledge what the plan might be for Chia. I believe it will be making us a better team for years to come rather than a push for this year. That said he can still give the oilers a push this year by targeting rfa’s rather than rentals.

    I would work on moving the dead weight contracts first. Fayne, Ference, Nikitin and Scrivens can all be moved for what ever we can get for then so long as fayne and ference don’t need more than a million in salary retention for 16/17.

    For Defence I would target Gudas from Tampa and Gudbranson from Florida as both are rhd with size and hard point shots. I would also only target one forward at that time from the blue jackets … boone jenner …. size and skill to compliment in the top 6.

    To make these 3 trades possible we will need to give up some talent that we all love. My suggestions are Nuge, Eberle and Schultz as needed. Also as a caveat if Nuge gets moved then possible UFA Backes would be a huge target in the off season as a vet center will be a must to bring in at that point.

  • A-Mc

    Time to trade Nuge.

    Nugent-Hopkins + 3rd for Ryan Johansen

    Johansen has the edge in size (6’3 to 5’10), points (71 to 56), goals (33 to 24).

    If you’re thinking playoffs, it shouldn’t just be one playoff run. Johansen /Drai /McDavid could compete the next few years and go up against anyone.

    • Danglishish

      So your solution to the Oilers biggest weakness, which is clearly on the back end, is to trade one center for a slightly better center?

      Are you new to this?

      • A-Mc

        I agree that if they made only one move, adding to the defence would be the move. But who said there was only one move to make?

        Adding a Johansen would help in a Kings series, which I would guess would be the first round match-up. It also frees up cap space to make another move or two (like for a defenceman), and adds space to sign a free agent defenceman this summer.

  • bazmagoo

    At the deadline, trade Schultz to the Islanders for their 2nd round pick 2016.

    At the draft, trade Yakupov and our 1st round pick (probably around #10) for Hamonic.

    Buyout Andrew Ference.

    In free agency, sign Brian Campbell to a 2 year 16 million dollar contract.

    Defence fixed, for two years anyways ha.

    I’m prepared for lots of trashes!

      • bazmagoo

        It’s Katz’s money, who cares? He would give us a good buffer to let Klefbom, Nurse, Reinhart, Davidson and other prospects to develop. I think we’d have to overpay per year because he’ll probably be looking for a 3 year deal in the off season. We can’t afford anything more than 2 years because of McDavid. I’d do it!

        I know it’s a crazy idea, but this is also an internet blog where crazy ideas should be the norm.

        • O.C.

          It is not Katz’s money. He is running the team at a profit.

          The money comes from the fans in the form of ticket prices, concessions, jerseys, TV revenue and tax payer subsidized arena.

          If the oilers do stupid things like sign players that cant play such as Ference, Scrivens, Nik, etc the price of things go up, tickets, and most important, beer

        • Bonvie

          I hate this when people say “overpay” like this is something intelligent to say. Wake up, in a cap world you cannot overpay anyone, bad contracts anchor teams down like nothing else, and handcuff them from making moves or trades. Bamagoo GM philosophy got us Ference, Nikitin, and Fayne, all free agents who we “overpayed” one just came back from the minors and is untradeable, one is currently in the minors and untradeable, and the other should be banished to the minors but his terrible no trade contract prevents us from doing anything so he eats popcorn every night the oilers play, and travels with the team like he is a part of it.

  • tileguy

    What is wrong with Teddy he cant seem to hold on to his stick or make pass?
    Uneducated guess but Im guessing nuge could be traded.
    I don’t want them too but Im thinking it will happen.

  • A-Mc

    The OIlers team-building strategy shouldn’t change because they are in the hunt for the playoffs. They need to trade one of their core players for a legitimate top-pairing dman. The need for a dman didn’t change with their six-game winning streak and it won’t change if they make the playoffs. Unfortunately, that means either Eberle or RNH have to go. These two are well respected players with tremendous value. It doesn’t matter if they are both on a little hot streak here, or they are running cold in the next couple weeks. That’s simply the price you have to pay to get a quality dman. Teams can get paralyzed if they simply focus on the asset they are losing. You have to consider the asset you are getting in return. Having said that, it would really suck to lose RNH. He’s only 22 and has so much upside.

    • fran huckzky

      I’m afraid a top two dman is worth a lot more than a top 4 or 5 forward. Eberle or RNH will get you a 3,4 dman and we already have enuff of them. Unless you are prepared to part with a Hall or RNH plus Klef you won’t get atop 2 dman. I say,sit tight and players will want to come here next summer.

      edit Sorry ,I meant Eberle not Hall. Taylor might get you want you need but I wouldn’t do it.

    • btrain

      Do people really think that RNH or Eberle are valuable enough to pull away a legitimate top pairing defensemen? Especially when none of these D men are being actively shopped around. Not taking anything away from RNH and Ebs, but the rarest talent in the NHL is a legitimate top pairing D man, especially one with a right hand shot. You would be lucky to get one of these guys for both Eberle and RNH, while retaining portions of each of their contracts. Most of the best D men in the game are with their original teams or developed with their current team (i.e. they were not top talent when they were dealt). To name a few (Karlsson, Suban, Ekman-Larsson, Weber, Giordano, Keith, Seabrook, Shattenkurk, Pietroangelo, Daughty, McDonagh). We should be excited that Klefbom and Nurse have a real shot at being added to this list and not get ahead of ourselves by gambling on the talent that an Ebs or RNH could realistically get like a Seth Jones. Toronto tried this with Dion and look how that worked out for them! And also realizing that currently, Ebs and RNH are most valuable as Edmonton Oilers not as trade bait!

      • The Future Never Comes

        I think it’s a myth top line D talent doesn’t come along. Yandle, Byfuglin, Boychuck, and Leddy are just some recent examples. Also up this summer are Yannick Weber and Hamhuise. So ya, it happens.

        As for Ebs and Nuge, they are valuable, but to the right team I would say. I look at a team like Nasville, and think it would at least be worth a call to see what it would take to get a Josi. I doubt they trade Jones as his value right now given he’s only about to com off his ELC is off the charts. You can’t get that type of value back.

        I would also imagine Burns could be had out of SanJose for the right price. It would be a big price, but the team is losing right now, and maybe help down the middle is what they need, especially looking down the road and seeing the writing on the wall.

        Or maybe they value a finisher like Ebs.

        In my book, getting a top pair right shot D is always harder than getting a top line RW, so if San Jose was willing to part with Burns, and Eberle was the starting point, I’d have to explore that.

  • Danglishish

    This morning I saw a tweet from an Oilers fan (can’t remember the @ name)but he made a short case for a PK Subban trade to Edm for both Ebs and Klefbom.

    I would consider that as interesting. You? Yes a thumbs up.

  • The only issue with selling is you do have to replace these guys.

    For instance, Purcell might have value, but if he’s willing to sign for some term (2+ years) at a similar salary, can you replace him for cheaper?

    I kind of doubt it. And if you need to spend more to replace these guys, it hurts your ability to address the D.

      • A-Mc

        If we know the chemistry is there, i might favor the resign-at-significantly-less tactic for purcell.

        We need more consistency with this team so if the Oilers could re-sign him for 3m-ish, then i’d be in favor of that. Any and All assets we let go should be used either directly or indirectly to acquire a higher end Defenseman.

        Personally, i’d keep the entire forward corps the same and just work at getting that defenseman if at all possible. Hell even another solid #3 guy could be good enough to get us to playoffs. Its not ideal but it could work for now until the right deal comes our way.

      • The approach you suggest is sound to me.

        Kind of like what Calgary did with Glencross last year – they were in the hunt but with Gio on the shelf and questions around playing over their heads it was tough to make any major acquisitions or move someone like Backlund or Hudler. They were fine with Glencross on the shelf due to injury, he had market value and wanted to move on… worked for everyone (except Washington I suppose). Easily a scenario I can see play out with Purcell or Nikitin.

        Bringing back Purcell at a discount is reasonable, but we can likely fill his spot internally (Slep?). Overcrowding in our top 9 is already becoming an issue, so keeping Purcell at the same dollars for 2 years makes zero sense.

        Sell high on Purcell if the market exists to do so, otherwise stand pat.

  • 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.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    If a deal can be made for Hamonic, make the deal. Does not matter if in season or off season.

    If Byfuglien is a UFA target and can be had for a rental price, make the deal and make the pitch with less competition.

  • btrain

    Let’s say the points around the leagues stay the same as they are now. I say go for it, and do the following:

    1. For God sake keep Purcell. He’s one of the very few people around the club with NHlL playoff experience.

    2. Throw money at a rental player like buff–even offer up a significant piece for him (Schulz or Yak).

    3: if Hamonic can be had, pull the trigger, but don’t offer up hall, Connor, Nuge, Pou, Ebbs, Klef, Drai, or Nurse to get him. Would New York take Yak and Davidson?

    4: resign Purcell cheap while you can. He’s going to get more expensive if his plac continues.

    5: offer up the following pieces (any combination) for another bottom line Center and a PK guy that have some upside (STO,, would have been great). Pieces are Schulz, Yak, Fayne, reinhart, Lander, Klink, Ference, Yakimov, Slepyshev,

    6: The future will have only one of Ebs or Yak. Chose carefully, but This doesn’t have to be a deadline decision.

    If we can acquire a D or even two, we could be on a run that could get us into the playoffs THIS Year. There’s some UFA pieces floating out there that can be acquired. I say go for it! Chia can gamble as this is a year of grace anyways.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I can’t see the logic in getting rental players. Best case scenario is we pull a Calgary from last year (that was painful to type) and sneak into the playoffs, beat another Pacific team, then get crushed by a real contender in the 2nd round. One or two rentals doesn’t change that.

    I can definitely see Chiarelli making a trade for next year if it’s out there – something like sending Schultz or Eberle out for a player under contract who better fits his ultimate vision of the team. I think that trade was always on his mind, and would be made if the Oilers were in 3rd place or 7th in the Pacific.

    Since hockey trades never seem to happen in season anymore, it makes the most sense to stand pat and clear out some of the deadwood for picks. Teddy will finish the season an Oiler.

  • 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.

  • 1979

    Hey Jonathan,

    The following line-up for next year is a little pie in the sky, but I wonder your thoughts on it. Is it possible under the cap? Is there somebody cheaper and younger to fill the spot I have marked for Lucic? Is it realistic in any way for the Oilers to put together? Would you put this line-up together if possible?

    Hall – Drai – Purcell
    Pouliot – McDavid – Yakupov
    Lucic – Nuge – Eberle
    Khaira – Lander – Hendricks
    Korpikoski Gazdic

    Klefbom – Big Buff
    Nurse – Hamonic
    Davidson – Gryba

    Sekera would be traded for Hamonic. A sweetner of a pick or prospect would be thrown in due to the extra money going NYI way.

    Schultz and Nikitin are traded at the deadline this year. If we are sure Buff will sign with us to something that works capwise and contract wise, he is also traded for at the deadline.

    Korpikoski and Fayne are not trade candidates due to contracts and also not buyout options, so they stay.

    Gazdic stays because I don’t see him being let go.

    This line-up has toughness everywhere and allows us to keep all our so called “Soft skill”. It also gives us the unicorn of three scoring lines.

    The biggest problem I foresee is the possibility of signing Buff and Lucic to decent deals. Maybe massive overpay on 4 year deals.

    I think Oilers Nation, Tmac and Chia would all be ecstatic with this lineup! I think it also puts us in the playoffs for the foreseeable future.

    So, what are your thoughts?