Despite dropping two straight games, the Edmonton Oilers are in a very nice spot. A combination of their strong start to the season and a rather weak Pacific Division has put them in a position where the playoffs are a very realistic goal.
Given the team’s current situation, some are already starting to think ahead to the trade deadline and wonder if the Oilers could actually be buyers when the time comes, or maybe earlier.
As trade talk begins to swirl around Oilersnation, there is a section of the media/fanbase who point to the Oilers forward depth and say that Peter Chiarelli doesn’t need to bring in any more bodies because the Oilers are already having a tough time getting everybody into the lineup.
I don’t agree with that line of thinking. Do the Oilers have lots of depth? Sure they do, but I don’t think you could say that they wouldn’t benefit from the addition of a legitimate top-six winger. The depth they have largely belongs in their bottom six.
Drake Caggiula is playing some good hockey alongside Connor McDavid right now, but he isn’t a full time top-six winger. Alex Chiasson has six goals this season, but he’s done it with a 46.2% shooting percentage. It’s obvious that number won’t hold up.
Ty Rattie is healthy and could probably take his spot back on the top line, but I would still like to see Chiarelli go out and get an established right winger. The Oilers have put themselves in a spot where it’s realistic to expect them to make the playoffs and once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen, so why not go all in?
Traditionally, impact trades don’t happen this early in the season. Last year, we saw the Senators, Avalanche, and Predators link up for a big 3-way deal on November 17th that involved Matt Duchene going to Ottawa, Kyle Turris going to Nashville, and a package of prospects/picks going to Colorado.
That isn’t the norm. Usually, we have to wait a little longer to see an ‘impact’ trade in the NHL.
In 2016/17, the first big trade didn’t come until the new year. Same thing in 2015/16 when we didn’t see a notable trade until January 6th when the Blue Jackets and Predators swapped Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones. On that same day, the Flyers send Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the LA Kings for Jordan Weal and a 3rd round pick.
In 2014/15, Dallas acquired Jason Demers and a draft pick from the San Jose Sharks for Brendan Dillon on November 21st.
So while November deals do happen, they’re rare, but I can see why competing teams would push to get deals done earlier. If the Oilers were going to pay for a pending UFA like Mats Zuccarello, then it makes sense that they would want to get it done earlier in the year to get more of a bang for their buck.
That brings me to my next point, is there a fit out there for the Oilers? I won’t spend a lot of time on this because the trade market hasn’t fully developed itself yet so this is just me speculating, but here are some names I found interesting.
MATS ZUCCARELLO (pending UFA @ $4.5m) – He’s just shy of a point per game pace so far this year, so the price may be high, but I think he would be a perfect fit on the right side. He can score goals and can still skate pretty well. The Rangers would probably have to retain here as well. He shoots left, which wouldn’t help the left/right balance on their top powerplay, so he isn’t a perfect fit, but there’s no denying he can play with skill.
GUSTAV NYQUIST (pending UFA @ $4.75m) – He’s scored 20 goals three times in his career, but only has one in 14 games this year. Right now he’s playing LW in Detroit, but he can play both sides. Like Zuccarello, he shoots left, which wouldn’t help the Oilers powerplay, but I think he could bring them some value at even strength.
WAYNE SIMMONDS (pending UFA @ $3.97m) – Oilers fans have been thrown this name around a lot over the past five years, but this might be the only time I think acquiring him is even slightly realistic. He’s #15 on Frank Seravalli’s ‘Trade Bait Board’ at TSN and the sense is Philly might move him if he can’t get a new deal done. As of right now, the Flyers are battling for a playoff spot, so I can’t see them moving Simmonds until the deadline, if they do at all. Worth a mention though.
RICHARD PANIK (pending UFA @ $2.8m) – He only has four points this year with the Coyotes, but he’s only a year removed from a 20 goal campaign with the Hawks. He isn’t the sexiest name out there, and isn’t really an ‘all in’ move, but he’s a right winger with skill. If Arizona falls out of the race, he might be a cheap rental.
That list of names will only grow as the season continues on and teams keep falling out of playoff contention, but it’s an interesting start. If they wanted to make a move early in the year and jump the market, Zuccarello and Nyquist are probably the only two of the four names that would work.
The added benefit of finding a trade partner sooner rather than later is that it would allow the organization to comfortably send both of Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto to the minors, where they could properly develop. That should be factored into the decision.
The next area to look at is what type of assets could the Oilers realistically give up? That depends on your idea of ‘all in’. They still need to be cognizant of the future, which is why I wouldn’t give up Yamamoto, Puljujarvi, or Ethan Bear. Every other prospect could probably be had for the right offer.
As far as picks go, I would be fine if the Oilers dangled their second round pick as trade bait. They also have two selections in the third round (acquired the Islanders pick in the Davidson deal) and those could both hold value, especially if the Islanders cool off.
There’s also the first round pick. I’ll start by saying that I would be VERY hesitant to move that pick, but if the Oilers could bring back a young top six right winger who has more than a year left on his deal, I would strongly consider moving that pick.
The fit would have to be absolutely perfect and I’m not sure if that type of player is out there on the trade market right now.
The Oilers are in a good spot right now, despite the two consecutive losses, and while I think this team as it sits right now is good enough to make the playoffs in a weak Pacific division and possibly win a round, an added offensive weapon could go a long way.
They can’t go and sell the farm, but I believe Peter Chiarelli needs to go out and improve this team, even if it means betting some of the future.