Everyone can agree that the Oilers have holes in their lineup, and those holes need to be fixed if they want to compete next season. The organization also doesn’t very much, if any, cap space to use on free agents.
Those two facts give them two options if they want to fill the holes in their lineup. They either need to be patient with young players and hope they eventually develop or they need to make trades for players that can fill those holes now.
Some would say that the smarter move would be to hold onto their young, valuable assets and try to find cheap short-term solutions. I believe that’s the best way to go, and I’m sure most of you reading this would agree with me.
Just one problem: none of our jobs are on the line this offseason.
Whether you like it or not, Peter Chiarelli doesn’t have the option of being patient. If this team falters next year, he likely won’t have a job anymore. So Chiarelli is tasked with trying to keep his job by improving this team via the trade market, which makes almost every Oilers fan very anxious, and understandably so.
To get value, you need to give value, and the Oilers do have some young pieces that would certainly interest other teams.
How could I write about the Oilers and possible trades without mentioning the Nuge?
His name has been thrown around in trade rumours since the organization drafted Connor McDavid, and that won’t change this summer.
Keeping Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton gives this team incredible depth down the middle, and would allow Todd McLellan to be very flexible with his lines. Add on that he’s grown into a stellar two-way forward, still has room to grow offensively and can play tough minutes against the oppositions best. Anyone who’s been watching this team knows how good Nugent-Hopkins can be.
He’s very valuable to this team, but he’d be very valuable in a trade and would likely fetch you a strong right-handed powerplay defenseman or a top line shooting winger, both of which are big needs. His $6 million cap-hit would come off the books as well, which would give them some financial flexibility.
There is some logic behind a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins deal, but it would still hurt the overall depth of their forward group. Frankly, the Oilers are better with him on the team than without him.
When Klefbom is at his best, he’s a high-end offensive defenseman who can produce adequately with the man advantage. This year, Klefbom has been far from his best and at times has barely looked like an NHL defender.
If Chia dangles the Swedish blueliner in a trade, he probably won’t get full value given the players injury history and play this season. Still, the Oilers have Andrej Sekera and Darnell Nurse on the left side, so it’s not like that area of their lineup is weak by any means.
There may be a team who values what Klefbom brings when he’s healthy. I could see there being a ton of interest in this player, as is often reported. The reason I struggle with the idea of moving #77 is not just because he’s a good player but also because of his contract. At just over $4.1 million for the next five years, he has a chance to be a real value contract for a team that will need value contracts.
He holds value, he’s coming off a bad season and they have some depth on the left-side, for those reasons I could see Chiarelli dangling him on the trade market.
A Young Winger
This is where things get rather interesting. If the Oilers want to improve immediately next year, which Chiarelli will clearly want to do, then their best bet would be trade young players with value for proven players who can contribute at a high-level next season.
It’s clear this team needs to get more skill on their wings, and while the likes of Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto could one day be those pieces, they would also be very valuable trade chips.
As I mentioned off the top, I personally wouldn’t move either of them, but my job isn’t on the line. If Peter Chiarelli wants to get better ASAP, then trading off good young players to get good experienced players might be something he needs to look at. It hasn’t worked for him in the past, but he isn’t gun shy when it comes to dealing young talent.
The problem with this avenue is that they don’t have very much cap flexibility, so if they’re going to trade a player on their ELC for a player who’s already on their second or third contract, they would need to find a way to shed salary in another move.
FIRST ROUND PICKS
The line of thinking here is similar to the last note. If they want to get better quickly, then they’re best to trade off future assets for current players.
Their first, and even second, round picks this year will have tremendous value to other teams, specifically the Ottawa Senators who have dealt off a lot of their own picks.
If they don’t want to completely deplete their system, they could look at trading down a few spots in exchange for a roster player. That way, they’d still be improving their current team, while not subtracting too much value from their prospect pool.
If they’re really confident in their ability to bounce back in the standings next year, they could even look into trading their 2019 first-round pick, or one of their three third rounders. That pick could be very valuable to rebuilding teams like the Rangers or Senators.
It’s probably the safest bet, but as I mentioned a few times already, they don’t have the cap space necessary to add more than one contract, if that.
The team is backed into a real corner, and if they want to make it back into the playoff picture next season, they’ll likely need to rely on the trade market.
The Oilers don’t have very many trade chips, it’s clear that the ones they do have, hold some serious value, which will make for a very interesting summer.