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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Oilers afford to trade a prospect?

The Oilers are at a bit of a crossroads right now. Despite their recent losing streak, they’re in a fight for a playoff spot. Over the past few weeks, many members of the Edmonton media have been throwing out names that the team could look at acquiring in a trade. What doesn’t get talked about as much, is what the Oilers can afford to give up from their collection of future assets for the immediate help they need.

Some will say that the Oilers can’t afford to give up anything. Developing young talent has been a problem for over a decade and the team can’t go trading away the few pieces they have for a quick fix on the NHL team. I don’t agree with that line of thinking.

For the first time in what seems like forever, I actually think they have a decent crop of future NHLers in the AHL and junior and some, not all of them, could be sacrificed. Let me explain.

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THE UNTOUCHABLE

Sep 17, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) skates against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t throw around the term “untouchable” very often because apart from Connor McDavid, everyone has a price and anyone can be moved for the right return. That being said, I don’t see a realistic scenario where the Oilers should even consider moving Evan Bouchard.

He came into camp and won an NHL job as an 18-year-old. He’s a talented puck mover, who can quarterback a power play and hold his own at even strength. He was their 5th best defenseman when he was in the lineup this season.

I have no doubt that he will be a full-time NHLer at this time next season. It’s incredibly hard to find top four, right shot, puck-moving defenseman and it looks like the Oilers have one. They cannot afford to move him.

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IT WOULD TAKE A LOT

I’m not advocating for a trade of any of these players because I believe there’s a really good chance they will all have solid NHL careers but I don’t have them on the same level as Evan Bouchard, so I wanted to put them in their own category.

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Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Ethan Bear, and Tyler Benson are all fantastic prospects with bright futures, even if the organization is a little down on one of those names at the moment. These aren’t guys that I would include in a deal for Matz Zuccarello or any another rental player.

I would advise against moving any of these names because if the Oilers want to become sustainable winners, they need to have a steady flow of young talent coming to the NHL, but if there is a perfect fit out there, I would think long and hard about moving one of the above.

To consider moving one of these, the return would have to involve a young (under 25), cost-controlled asset who is already a proven NHLer. I don’t think that asset realistically available right now but if the Oilers could get a young scoring winger who is on a decent deal and the cost is Jesse Puljujarvi and a draft pick, they need to really think about doing that deal. It would benefit them now and potentially in the future.

FROM AN AREA OF STRENGTH

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The Oilers left-side appears pretty set at the NHL level with Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. Those guys aren’t going anywhere and they’ve proven that they’re already competent NHL players.

In the AHL, they currently have Caleb Jones (4th round, 2015) and William Lagesson (4th round, 2014). There’s also Dmitri Samorukov (3rd round, 2017) who’s currently within the OHL with Guelph. All of these guys play the left side. That’s an area of strength for the organization.

The Oilers currently have a plethora of young, bottom-six talent at the NHL level with the likes of Drake Caggiula, Jujhar Khaira, Ty Rattie, and Cooper Marody (I know three of those names don’t really qualify as prospects, but they’re young NHLers). In the AHL they have Cameron Hebig, who’s producing at over a point-per-game to start his pro career. In junior, they have Ostap Safin, who’s over a point-per-game thus far in his 19-year-old season with Halifax (QMJHL). That’s a lot of names, most of which likely only have bottom-six potential.

Six names who I believe all have similar (not identical) upsides. They won’t bring back a lot, but there might be an organization out there who is high on one of those names and would see more value in them than I do.

Those are two areas of organizational strength that I’ve identified. I’m not saying the Oilers should get rid of all of those names, but if they dealt off one from each list, they could survive.

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I’m also fully aware that most of those names don’t have a lot of value, but they could be the piece of a package that gets a deal done.

WHAT’S THE SMART PLAY

I don’t think the Oilers are at a point where they need to pull the trigger on a ‘panic move’ that involves Yamamoto, Puljujarvi, Bear, or Benson. But they need to be in ‘win now mode and I believe they should be going after a top-six winger, even if it’s a rental.

They don’t need a world beater, just someone who can contribute in their top-six and score goals. If the cost of acquisition is a second or third round pick and a prospect from an area of strength, then they should absolutely pull the trigger

I know there will be those thinking that no team in the NHL is going to trade a quality NHL forward for “scraps”. To that, I would argue that a prospect like Caleb Jones would have value to a rebuilding NHL team. As would a second or third round draft pick.

Last year, Thomas Vanek was acquired for Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte. Patrick Maroon was acquired for a 3rd round pick and a college prospect (J.D. Dudek). The New Jersey Devils got Michael Grabner for a 2nd rounder and a low-level prospect.

Now that the first trade of the season has been completed (Pearson for Hagelin), we might see more to follow. I think it would be wise for Peter Chiarelli to get aggressive and try to find a reliable scoring winger sooner rather than later.

If the right deal is there, the Oilers should not hesitate to move a piece from their future to give this years squad a better chance of making it to the postseason.


    • jesse says yep

      Im ok with a rental if it allows JP, Yamo, Benson etc a chance to play in the AHL for the year. We will hopefully have a good 6-8 years with each of them so Id be willing to pay a price to give them that space while also bringing in some top 6 punch for this year.

  • Spydyr

    For the love of all things orange. Draft ,develop and build from within the organization. Quick fixes seldom work, the team is already up against the cap and Chia does not win many trades.

    Wait until you are ready to compete for the Cup then make some trades for now.

    • jesse says yep

      Ifvthe cap hit dolisappears at the end of this season who cares? Might as well use the Reggie slush fund earlier and give the team a chance to gain momentum throughout the season. Rather than picking someone up at the deadline and hope they fit in quickly. Plus we will hopefully get Reggie back as the late season add by February, with not too much left on his contract for the year.

  • ed from edmonton

    I’m glad you wrote this piece as its a discussion worth having. I have found people on this site, and Oiler followers in general, over value young players, especially young players that are still in Jr of AHL. They are like the shiny present wrapped under the tree, you just know it going to be great. But sometimes it isn’t. I agree with you that the Oil have the most amount if prospects that appear to have some chance of playing in the NHL ever. You could have mentioned guys like Mcleod, Maksimov and Stafin as well.

  • OriginalPouzar

    The answer is no because of the salary cap. The Oilers currently have about $900K in cap space but that is because they are running with a 22 man roster. If they ran with a normal 23 man roster and called up a player they would be right up against the cap or potentially even eating in to the LTIR cushion provided by Sekera.

    Now, technically, they currently have a near $5.5M ability to go over the cap via the LTIR cushion, however, we all know that Sekera is almost assuredly going to be activated this season. He is already skating and this was a tear, not a rupture, and the general timeline does indeed have him back this season. We can all argue/discuss how effective he might but, however, that is neither here nor there because, once activiated, the LTIR cushion goes away immediately.

    There is no cap space to trade picks/prospects for players with cap.

    In any acquisition, near equal cap needs to be disposed of (or will need to be disposed of upon Sekera’s return). Sure we can go over a bit in the interim because a small move can be made easily to reduce a bit of cap but we can’t go millions in to the LTIR cushion or the team will be forced in to a massive disposition when Sekera is activated.

    • ed from edmonton

      So my question about Sekera is should he be activated? Last he tried to play but really could not compete at the NHL level. If its the same story this year, i.e. his injury is healed but he can’t compete at the NHL level where do things stand? Best case would be for the old Sekera to come be back, then trading a Dman would be the obvious move.

      However when trading a prospect for a player cap implications have to be considered for sure. But sending back some unwanted salary or salary retention are possibilities. Of course the price of the asset traded awy would then go up.

      • OriginalPouzar

        There is no choice – if he’s deemed ready to play, the organization MUST activate him. I’m sure this has been stretched over the years, however, recall the NHL has put investigations in to LTIR placements recently and is cracking down on this. Further, I think its clear that Sekera wants to get back to playing so he’s not just going to sit back and let the team delay his activation if he’s healthy.

    • puckle-head

      Yeah, I agree. It’s always fun to speculate about trades, but the author should probably mention that any trade the Oilers make would either have to be to acquire someone on an ELC, or would have to involve the other team taking on some of our salary. Maybe you could get Russell to waive his NMC early, and entice another team to take on his salary by bribing them with a low draft pick, but then you’re looking at a draft pick + Russell + a prospect for immediate help. It’d be hard to construct a trade like that that’d make sense for both sides. Maybe there’s a move out there that gets the job done, but I can’t see it.

    • jesse says yep

      Can we assume that there should be 2.5-3m in cap space to put into a new player given that :
      A) that the Oil should be able to save money on potential bonuses with yamo and Jp being in Bakersfield
      B) sekera wont be back until at minimum the 40-50 game mark.

    • crabman

      correct me if I’m wrong but the team gets to use a percentage of Sekera’s cap hit dependant on the percentage of the games he misses? They can’t add a $5.5M player if they expect Sekera to return at some point during the season but that doesn’t mean they can’t add anyone. There is already an additional $1.2M available to the team and Sekera isn’t close to returning. The team should have a good idea what the timeframe of his return looks like and can plan according. Not impossible to add a player.

  • lee

    You look at a player like Point at Tampa, what was he a 4th round pick. Now he is considered un-touchable by Tampa. There are players like that all over the league. You don’t build a team by trading away your prospects.
    The NYR did that for years, then last year they decided to draft and develop.
    In one year they are a better team than they were just by playing the kids.

    Trading away prospects is a mugs game, if a team has a real diamond n the rough, they are keeping him.

    We need to get away from this, ” the grass is always greener, ” it’s not.
    No team is build from just 1st round picks, you are going to need a great pick in the 4th round or so to offset the huge money the star players are demanding. All Hebig has done is score even in the AHL giving a player like that away for a quick fix is foolish.

  • A-Mc

    With lucic not being a top 6 guy anymore, I agree we need a top 6 scorer. I’m not usually a fan of trading youngsters but I think we need to. A rental will do;
    . the team needs to have a decent year; I think another stinker will damage moral/perception too much.

  • Big Nuggets

    Don’t like the idea of trading Calwb Jones, leftorium be damned. He is going to be a gem. I would rather trade Puljujarvi to be honest. Personally I would think about swapping Benning or Strome in a trade. Benning and Puljujarvi for a quality RD, or Strome and a pick for a legit 3rd line center.

    The possible expansion draft coming up needs to be considered too. Prospects will be needed to fill the hole that gets created in the expansion.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      The Leftorium closed up shop.

      They now actually have enough guys coming through the pipeline who shoot right that they can afford to hold onto good left shots who might make an impact at the NHL.

    • Spydyr

      Players like Benning, Strome, Lucic, Caggiula,Kassian and Rieder are the kind of players that should be traded. The thing is the return would be underwhelming.

      The Oilers have many holes to fill:

      -Starting goalie.
      -At least one if not two defenceman one being top four.
      -Two top six wingers.

      It would be almost impossible to fix all the holes in the rooster and that is disgusting after a decades long rebuild including many high draft picks.

      The Katz era continues.

      • Natejax97

        Cheer up bud!! We are 9-8-1 not 1-8-9.

        Every team except Winnipeg Nashville and Tampa has big holes. Look at Montreal…10.5 tied up into a struggling goaltender and another 7 or 8 in a Dman that has trouble staying healthy. But they are posting a winning record.

        Enjoy this ride. It will be a season of ups and downs. Just enjoy the ups more because that’s what we got.

        • Spydyr

          It had been decades of incompetence bud, It has hard to cheer up when the team has been mismanaged from the owner on down. The team has McDavid a generational talent and they still cannot provide a half descent supporting cast for him. The Oilers have the Midas touch in reverse.

          • AJ88

            A question for you, do you consider teams like Vancouver, San Jose, Columbus, Florida, Winnipeg, etc.,teams that have never won a cup to be totally incompetent?

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Awesome question AJ… kind of puts it in perspective.
            Many other iconic teams have had massive droughts. Like Chicago, Boston, NYR, the Islanders, not to even mention the Leafs amongst many more.
            I’m not sure what’s happening. I think we just rile each other up into a negative frenzy and feed off of it. Some even thrive off that negativity & are sustained by it, in an “I told you so” sort of way…
            Spydyr, there is a lot to be said for a teams management putting together a team to meet its fans expectations. I actually think that we should start embracing the positives & expect success. Maybe stop going to games if we can see that the team (at all levels) isn’t trying to succeed.
            Maybe the management & players will listen and start to produce success.
            Right now, they seem to think they are giving us what we want & expect.
            Most companies do just that, why do more when they don’t have to.

      • AJ88

        It is not very often I agree with your comments but….it is almost comical how writers/readers think the Oilers can pull off trades that are one sided towards the Oilers. How many teams in the NHL would trade away a “2nd or 3rd” for a top 6 scoring winger? Answer, all 31 teams. Tyler, it will take a very good prospect (Bear, Pulj, Yam) and a second/third pick to get a top 6 scoring winger at this time of the season. What do you think LA would give up for a top six scoring winger, that is what the Oilers are competing with.

      • jesse says yep

        I would trim your list for this seaon down to 1 good scoring winger and a dman if that is possible.
        Goalies are voodoo and the mext guy may be worse. The koskinen/talbot battle will be good for the Oil. With any lick it will push one of them to get thier game to another level. They both have the talent for it.

  • samakehurst16

    The way I see it, Edmonton isn’t a cup contender this year. We’re missing a just one or two pieces of the puzzle but we’re close. Now, or option is to wait for the prospects to develop into those missing pieces, 1-3 years down the road. or, we go out and grab a the guys we need now. Pistol Pete hasn’t shown that he can win a big splash trade. But he seems to be okay with the smaller trades. Year 4 of the chia era and we have gone from no defencemen/plethora of scoring forwards, to having a couple shut down D and having no consistent secondary scoring. Chias has missmanaged this team and the only reason we aren’t worse than the Taylor Hall years is McDavid. Do what ever it takes. We need a winning team now.

    • The future never comes

      Or if Nurse doesnt keep progressing and then gets greedy in two years contract talks. Have Jones keep bubbling under for two years to take his spot if it got volatile between the two parties. Jones looked great in preseason and is producing nicely in the AHL currently.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        If you already perceive Nurse to be that type of player, then trade him now.
        I’ve heard over the last two years some disturbing accusations about Nurse. Problems in the room with team-mates, only motivated when it suits him, not to mention his holding out for his latest contract (although that would be OK, without everything else). If there is anything at all that makes you have doubts about what Nurse will bring, cut the cord now. He will give us that winger or player that we believe will take us to the next level. Please don’t get me wrong, I like Nurse, cause I think he’ll be great. I just know we’d have to give up something to get what we want. Nurse would be my fall guy.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Well, because I believe that Nurse has more value now, just because of the unknown… If he is great in “two years” why would we trade him? If he’s a problem in two years, what would he be worth? All I’m saying, is if you perceive an issue, get the best return possible. I, personally want him to succeed as an Oiler, but on the other hand, I think if you want the best return for a player, it might be Nurse that would be moved? Kassian or players like that, won’t get you much more than you give up?

        • Johnnymaced

          No way they trade nurse. Benning is already playing in the top 4. Nurse (for better or worse) is wayyy too important to trade for a winger. Our defense is already dicey. Removing nurse would totally destroy it.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Yeah Nurse hasn’t been very good this year, I dont know what the issue is, but he just seems at times like he is second guessing his decisions with the puck, I thought maybe because he miss camp, but I am wondering if he is possible hiding or nursing a n injury, Klefbom played with his shoulder issue and a lot of people had no idea

  • Natejax97

    I would love a second line winger or centerman (Nuge could play wing)…a grabner type but probably a rental because we wouldn’t be able to afford to take on a big cap hit next year. Then we could just leave draisaitl and McDavid together and have a strong second line. Line 3 and line 4 have been sawing off…

    Defense is hard to peg this year…one game ok, next is not and so on…maybe just some more Yawney time and if a puck mover on an expiring contract comes up at the deadline and we are in a position to buy…let it rip.

    I think we may see some trade action pretty quick if the oilers slip the next 2 weeks against Pacific division teams. People’s jobs are on the line and they won’t go out quietly.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Is Upshall healthy? he had bad luck in training camp. What’s going on with Nash? Could probably get him cheap?
      Chaisson has been a pleasant surprize I think. Why not check out some other cheap options? Just don’t suggest Gagne…

    • jesse says yep

      Winger for Nuge might be cheaper. He is more then capable to play 2c. That would be a great 1-2 punch down the middle and allow TMac to let Connor and Drai light the NHL on fire for a saeason.

  • Festus

    The oiler management are crazy they have one good year with 29,97,19 together 93,14,27 made the playoffs, in the summer trade some players take 29 off the first line no playoffs

    • Johnnymaced

      The oilers can’t keep them together during the playoffs. Teams are too deep. The beginning of the season was like playoff hockey with the team we were playing. Now we have a normal (easier) schedule and we can load them up again. But when the playoffs come (and we make it) they will be split again.

  • Quoteright

    I would keep the powder dry. We need to develop all on the list to get value for them. Also, if the Oilers are ever going to rid themselves of any bad contracts, prospects and picks will be needed. The next trade needs to have a player dumped with sweateners.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        I don’t disagree. But say what you want about Lucic.
        If he goes, you’ll sure miss him in the playoffs…
        See how Vancouver misses Dorsett, the Bruins have to rely on Marchand to take Lucic’s spot now, even their media was saying how they would potentially like him back. How he would have got them deeper in the post season last year. So, Lucic does have a place. I think the coaches just need to use him better, but that’s just me?

  • Rama Lama

    Yes you present a logical way of looking at prospects………I agree that trading any one of them might be short sighted.

    The bigger problem is we have a GM that has been fleeced on almost every trade that he has ever made. If we had a GM that could extract value in trades no one would be worried who got traded……..or should I say very few people would be worried.

    Our current GM has proven that trading is a fools game!

  • Mantooth

    It’s nice to think about upgrading the current roster for prospects but the fact remains that, until we move out a big contract like Lucic or Draisatl, this article has no legs.

  • Beer

    Why trade anybody before firing the head coach, and goalie coach? It’s the middle of November and you wanna trade young guy’s when you don’t even know if your going to make the playoffs. brrrr.

    • jesse says yep

      so its TMac’s fault that looch, rieder, khaira, klefbom have yet to score a goal? Or that there are only 5 players to score more then 2? This is on Chia or the players themselves.

      • Quoteright

        It is Tmacs fault that generally, most are underperforming and all are in the blender.
        I think chemistry comes with consistency which is rarely a commodity that pertains to the Oilers

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I would think it would have to be someone from the bottom six in a trade, I wouldnt delve into trading a prospect. If they were trading someone with the same salary or slightly less coming in the door that is going out, that may work, but I dont see a rental working for the Oil, we’d have to give something up in a deal, and right now I dont see what the Oilers have they would like to part with pick wise.

    Cap issues, are going to have us handcuffed, yes we have the cap space from Sekera, but I dont see the Oilers digging into that kitty right now, if they wanted to do that they would have already when they knew Sekera would be out long term

  • jesse says yep

    I say move sooner rather than later to pick up some scoring at a reasonable price. IMO players picked up earlier in the season have a better chance of making a difference with thier new club than a player brought in at the deadline.
    The salary may be higher now but that should be reflected in the value of the returns they can expect back for a UFA.

  • What the Puck

    I have been saying this for weeks. Do what it takes chia. Kessel. Hayes. Nylander. Stone. Mantha. Imagine any of These guys with mcd. Would change the entire dynamic of this team. We need that winger and we need it now.

    • IRONman

      Flush Lucic 6 million. Strome 3 million. Sekera 5.5 million and spend it wisely. Sekera was a good player just got hurt. Lucic is not a 50 pt guy anymore. Fact. Strome was a gamble. Scoring is scoring. 15 million gets you 2 top 6 forwards.

      • cityofchampions

        How exactly you gonna do that. Nobody is picking up those contracts even on waivers. They can be traded, but you gotta keep salary, give up prospects/picks or take another bad contract in return. The costs savings thus end up minimal. As someone above said, you can’t just suggest trades that benefit your team, you have to look at it from the other side too. Why would any team want Lucic, Strome or the perpetually hurt Sekara at their contracts? This isn’t the NFL, where you can flush contacts if players aren’t performing. NHL contracts are guaranteed. You have to find someone to take them, and as I said no one is taking any of these players at their contract price even for free (on waivers).

  • Oil9744

    If your only trading JP and Yamo for a proven NHLer who’s under 26 then your going for Nylander or Mark Stone. There is always price on someone’s head for a trade unless your a player like Mcdavid or Crosby, Bouchard is not an untouchable at al. I wouldn’t trade him either BUT just for example St.Louis is doing brutal right now, what if they wanted to make a big trade and were willing to move Parayko or Pietrangelo? Cause I would move Bouchard if one of those guys were coming back, just saying.

    • Oil9744

      Probably not gonna happen now that they just traded Pearson. I’m thinking Simmonds from Philly or maybe Zuccarello or Krieder from Rangers but both teams are battling for playoff spots so I don’t see them moving players like that. Oilers REALLY need help on the wings now though! No JP, No Yamo, No Rieder

  • CMG30

    The Oilers have spent a decade in darkness because of this very thing: rushing prospects then dumping them for cents on the dollar. The kinds of moves to fortify the roster needed to happen 3+ years ago. Instead we got star players dumped for minimal return. Chirelli needs to be shown the door.

  • toprightcorner

    The Oilers are not in a position to trade a prospect this early in the season. I don’t think they should make a move just to improve their chances at making the playoffs this year, instead, they need to work on putting themselves in a position to be able to add in the offseason or next season.

    Nobody knows what JP or Yamamoto will be in the NHL, but with some time in the AHL we will have a better idea by the end of the year. Adding someone who ends up duplicating what they will do next year is a waste of an asset.

    The place I would trade an asset or two would be to make some cap room. If you could trade a Hebig, 2020 2nd, Lagesson with Lucic to a team with cap space for a moderate prospect in return, that frees up cap space to add a $4 mill winger and some money left over.

  • Johnnymaced

    Makes sense. Well until you get to the last paragraph. To kick a dead horse, I have zero confidence in chiarellis ability to make that move without giving away the farm.

    • IRONman

      Wake up. Cap hell. Stuck with Lucic and Sekera. Strome will be out next year. They team has lots of positive players. 97,93,29 25 and 75 going for next core. Nuge will resign, he is a helluva good guy that players his heart out.

  • Battman

    I think what a lot of people are missing here is that our prospect quality and depth have improved dramatically that we have some options if the correct deal Is there. Best plan, which we are now starting to see what Chiarellis plan has been, is to let the prospects develop and fill the holes we have. Potentially next year, you could see bear and Bouchard pushing into the nhl top 4. If not next year, most likely in two years. A top four or Klefbom/Bouchard
    Nurse/ bear
    Sounds pretty fantastic to
    Me. Oddly enough, seems to be around the time that big nmc contracts on defense are ending.

    Seems like a bit of planning there to me.

  • Vanoil

    Wow, pretty bullish on Benson. Not sure he has “proven” anything other than being over-hyped out of Bantam into the WHL. Is the current equivalent to a Tyler Pitlick, who never earned his stripes till his third year pro. Caleb Jones as a second year pro, is a more sure bet to a Jeff Petry type of player in the NHL, with a solid career, sooner rather than later. And no mention of Keegan Lowe? Didn’t McL baptize him at the end of training camp as the next best d-man in the Bake, specifically referring to him by name? I am guessing the Club has its own listing of valuation regarding the assets, but its interesting nonetheless to see different view points.