It’s the middle of January and the Edmonton Oilers are
well-positioned to capture a playoff spot and perhaps even challenge for the
division title in the Pacific. This opens up choices and possibilities to
general manager Peter Chiarelli as the trade deadline nears—he could buy, sell
or choose some sort of middle path.
In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we
ask our readers what they would do.
That’s the playoff picture right now, though Vancouver is
clearly the one of these things in a game of “one of these things is not like
the others.” I like San Jose and Minnesota as the division winners, with Los
Angeles as the dark horse, but I don’t see a team in the conference that the
Oilers couldn’t potentially get past in a seven-game series.
That leaves open the question of whether to buy or to sell.
Taking a quick glance at NHL Numbers, Edmonton
has three pending free agents of any significance:
LW Matt Hendricks.
The 35-year-old might have value to a playoff team in a fourth line role given
his ability to win faceoffs and kill penalties, and he’s also well-regarded as
a character player. Potential internal replacements include Jujhar Khaira and
RD Eric Gryba. He’s
big, tough and quite capable in the defensive zone, elements which always seem
to have value come playoff time. The Oilers are bursting at the seams with
NHL-ready defencemen stuck in the minors, with Mark Fayne, Griffin Reinhart,
Jordan Oesterle and Dillon Simpson all likely candidates.
RD Kris Russell.
Russell has played on his off-side all season and would certainly have value at
the trade deadline. Replacing him internally might prove tricky, particularly
given Brandon Davidson’s difficult season. Were he to be shipped out, the most
likely player to be promoted would be rookie standout Matt Benning.
The Oilers also have the option of moving a non-rental
player. I don’t know if there’s a likely candidate on the roster for that
treatment; if there were I’d probably identify Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot
and just maybe Oscar Klefbom if there’s a real desire to both re-sign Russell
and upgrade the right side of the defence corps.
Specific players are too numerous to mention, though St.
Louis defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk deserves particular attention due to his
recent appearance in the rumour mill (Zach Laing has
more on that). Rather than keying in on individuals, I’ll lay out some
broad strokes here:
offensive forward. The power play’s early difficulties are behind it, but
there’s still a need for the Oilers at right wing, and a right-shooting forward
would give the club’s coaching staff some options. Left-shooting Leon Draisaitl
has taken over the top RW position, but a newcomer would give Edmonton the
ability to shift Draisaitl back to centre at times, and also provide some
needed depth behind Jordan Eberle.
A third-line centre.
With Draisaitl at right wing, the third-line pivot position has been handed to
Drake Caggiula, with indifferent results. He’s on pace for 23 points over 82
games, and that’s including a bunch of time on the power play. The third line
as a whole is a positional weak area, generally featuring one good left wing
(currently Milan Lucic) and indifferent partners. A new centre could help
change the look of the whole unit. Mark Letestu, who has a massive special
teams role, should probably stay on the effective “fourth” line.
defenceman, preferably a right shot. Edmonton’s defence corps is a workable
mix of puckmovers and defensive types, but there’s still room for improvement
here. Russell tends to be up and down, Larsson is purely a defensive specialist
and even Klefbom has shown some inconsistency this year. Bringing in someone
who can play on the top power play and make the back end a little more lethal
with the puck would surely be beneficial, and if it was someone who could slot
in long-term so much the better. Hence all the Shattenkirk talk.
As for paying for those players, that’s more difficult.
Edmonton has no second-round pick this year, though it should have two
additional depth selections and a full run of picks in 2018. The prospect pool
isn’t very deep, though there will be a need to cull
the defensive group before next season, with Oesterle and Simpson logical trade
That brings us back to our original question: Should the
Oilers buy, sell or pursue some kind of middle course? Let us know in the comments.