Last week we took a downright depressing dive into a few of the contracts that could hold the Oilers hostage as they try to reconfigure the roster heading into the off-season. This week’s piece is slightly less bleak, I promise.
As the trade deadline looms just weeks away, the team holds a few valuable chips in its hand which have the potential to help jump start things for Chiarelli and Co. as management tries to lay the foundation for what is sure to be a busy offseason in Edmonton, starting with the upcoming trade deadline and followed by the draft and July 1 free agency.
Fortunately, today’s NHL makes it easier than ever before to re-tool with a few simple moves rather than blowing everything up, especially when a key talent like, say, Connor McDavid is locked up for the long term.
Here are the pieces Edmonton could (and should) seriously consider moving before the deadline:
Contract Situation – $1.5-million cap hit, pending UFA.
Potential Return – Maroon, a big, left-handed winger coming off a 27-goal season, will easily be one of the most coveted potential acquisitions as the deadline approaches. The Oilers picked him up at the 2016 deadline for a fourth-round pick and minor-league blueliner (now in Europe) Martin Gernat, and can expect a much bigger return than that now that Maroon has proven his worth in Edmonton. After coming off a career season and displaying an ability to play effectively alongside an elite skater and playmaker like Connor McDavid, the Oilers could likely pull in a second-round pick, a young but roster-ready NHLer or prospect.
Case For Trading – Teams like Boston and Pittsburgh are in need of a top-six winger who can play alongside talented centres, and Maroon could slot in perfectly in one of those Eastern cities, along with several other contending clubs. The 29-year-old is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and there’s a possibility the winger could re-sign with the Oilers even after being flipped at the deadline. If the team can bring in a solid return from a contending team and feels it has a chance to re-sign Maroon in the summer, it shouldn’t think twice about flipping him before February 26.
Case For Keeping – Unless you can replace Maroon’s 20-plus goals and find someone else who Connor McDavid loves playing with, the team has to proceed with caution when deciding what to do with Maroon. To move him for a younger player with the hopes of re-signing him this summer is a risky endeavour, as the chance of Maroon returning to Edmonton on a deal this offseason diminishes greatly once another club has a chance to negotiate with him during the midst of a playoff run.
Contract Situation – $4.17-million cap hit, signed through 2023.
Potential Return – Calm, smooth-skating, positive possession blueliners who can anchor a powerplay are always at a premium come deadline time, and Klefbom (aside from POSSIBLY Erik Karlsson) would likely bring the biggest return of any defenceman available over the next month. Being under team control for several more seasons and boasting a reasonable cap hit, Klefbom could bring in a couple good young forwards or blueliners, a roster-ready NHLer and first-round draft pick, or some combination of prospects and picks.
Case For Trading – There are only a couple reasons to consider flipping the 24-year-old: Return and space. Of all the players not named McDavid or Nugent-Hopkins on this Oilers roster right now, Klefbom has the potential to bring in by far the best return. If the chance to fill various needs while replenishing the organization’s prospect pipeline arises, Chiarelli will have to seriously consider parting ways with the club’s 2011 first-round pick. A move would also clear space, both on the roster and the ledger, for Darnell Nurse’s potential emergence as a top-pair, left-handed No. 1 option on the back end.
Case For Keeping – He’s got a great contract, huge offensive upside, and is boasting solid possession numbers on a poor defensive squad. These guys are very tough to find and, all things considered, a potential deal here smells of one that could see the Oilers getting a sub-par return for one if their most valuable assets… again.
Connor McDavid – Just kidding.
Mark Letestu – The pending UFA centre, who is a career 52-percent face-off guy, could be a solid pickup for any contender looking to add depth down the middle. The 32-year-old likely won’t bring much to Edmonton in return, though.
Mike Cammalleri – He’s a diminished version of his former self as he approaches age 36, but Cammalleri still has talent on the offensive side of the puck and could be invigorated by being depth piece on a team poised to make a Cup run. Again, there isn’t much return to be had here, however.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – RNH would bring a ton of return and open a second line centre spot for Leon Draisaitl (the 8.5-million dollar man). Plus, honestly, it would be fun as hell to see how Chiarelli handles this one. I don’t think RNH should be traded but this is the Edmonton Oilers we’re talking about so you never know what will happen.
Being a seller is no fun, but the potential to drastically alter a team’s outcome from season-to-season with just a couple of tweaks should bring at least a glimmer of hope to everyone suffering through this atrocity of a season.