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Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett

An early look at the trade deadline market

After an underwhelming start, the Oilers have pulled up their boots and have gone 9-2-2 since the hiring of Ken Hitchcock. The streak has undoubtedly saved the Oilers season, but nothing is certain. The roster, while currently looking like a playoff team, still has holes and issues that need to be addressed. Given the way things are headed, you have to assume the Oilers will be buying come trade deadline time.

What do the Oilers need?

There are two points of strength on the Oilers: down the middle and in net.

Mikko Koskinen has been an absolute rock and Cam Talbot has started to look better in December. The duo is the best the Oilers have had between the pipes in a very long time. If one falters, the other is a reasonable bet to pick up the slack.

The Oilers are also fairly deep down the middle. Right now, they have one of their top three centres, Leon Draisaitl, playing on the top line as a winger with Connor McDavid. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is developing into a very good two-way second centre right behind them. After dealing away Ryan Strome, the team could possibly use another bottom-six centre, but I wouldn’t say the need is pressing.

Then there are two areas which could use an upgrade: the blueline and the wings.

At full strength, Edmonton has a good-not-great blueline. Injuries to Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell have resulted in players having to take on more minutes than you’d like which magnifies the need to upgrade the blueline. Ideally, when healthy, you have Klefbom and Adam Larsson as your top pairing, Kris Russell anchoring the third pairing, and Matt Benning and Kevin Gravel as your six and seventh defenceman rotating in depending on the opponent. Darnell Nurse is a second-pairing guy lacking an ideal partner. It’s difficult to bank on the injured Andrej Sekera coming back and being that guy.

Then, finally, there are the wings. Outside of their big three centres in McDavid, RNH, and Driasaitl, only Alex Chiasson is consistently producing offence. The team has yet to find good wingers who can help either Draisaitl or RNH drive a dominant second line. The team has fair depth, with competent NHL players rotating in and out of the lineup to fill a bottom-six that can thrive playing a tight-checking game, but one more good scoring winger to place on the second line would be huge for the Oilers as they look to take pressure off their top line.

Apr 7, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) attempts on shot on goal in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s available?

Two-and-a-half months into the season, we can start to see the playoff picture forming. There are some teams who were obviously always going to be sellers come deadline time but there are also some surprises in that mix. Probably the biggest surprise is the St. Louis Blues, a roster loaded with strong talent currently sitting in the league’s bottom five.

Jeremy Rutherford, a Blues reporter for the Athletic, suggests that rival executives believe no players on the Blues are off limit. That would mean guys like Colton Parayko, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko could be had for the right price. The Kings and Blackhawks have quickly fallen off the grid in the Western Conference. Both teams are in salary cap hell and you have to assume they’ll be open up for business too.

The Eastern Conference is a little more enigmatic. The Flyers and Devils, two teams who are tied for last in the conference, are only six points out of a playoff spot right now. Teams like the Senators, Islanders, Rangers, and Red Wings, who everyone expected would be having throw-away seasons, are right in the mix. Then there are teams like the Hurricanes and Panthers who are struggling despite having playoff aspirations this season. The month of January will decide the fate of most of these teams come deadline time.

Names we’ll possibly see flying around as rentals would be Kevin Hayes from the Rangers, Gustav Nyquist from the Red Wings, Matt Duchene and Mark Stone from the Sens, Michael Ferland from the Hurricanes, and Wayne Simmonds from the Flyers. Some names with longer terms attached to them would be the aforementioned Parayko, Schenn, and others from the Blues, Jake Muzzin and Jeff Carter from the Kings, and Justin Faulk from the Hurricanes.

What does it all mean?

There’s no doubt making the playoffs is important for the Oilers. The team had a terribly disappointing 2017-18 season after their run to the second round in 2016-17. The difficulty, of course, is judging what the team’s window is and whether or not Peter Chiarelli should (or can be trusted to) sell the farm in order to make a run this spring.

Looking long-term, the Oilers have their core of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Klefbom locked up for the foreseeable future. RNH and Larsson each have two years left on their contracts before they can hit unrestricted free agency. With McDavid in the mix, the window is always going to be open, but you have to assume the Oilers would like to take a stab at winning before RNH and Larsson’s deals expire in a few years.

The needs on the team are a top-four defender and a top-six winger. Obviously, I’d rather the Oilers acquire a long-term asset given the fact they don’t have a window that’s slamming shut after this season. That said, the salary cap is also a thing, and adding a guy on a multi-year deal would mean another player with a fixed salary cap commitment is on the way out.

Edmonton already has about $68 million committed to their roster next season. The salary cap could reportedly rise to $83 million next year, which would give the Oilers $15 million to work with. They have to sign two goalies and deal with RFA contracts for Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula, and Tobias Reider. Parayko, who costs $5,500,000 annually, could fit in there, but money would also have to be going back the other way. We’ve seen three-way trades in the past in which one team takes on a contract to make the money work for the other teams in exchange for a draft pick.

There are a lot of different avenues the Oilers can take here. I expect them to be active at the deadline as making the playoffs is huge for the organization this year. I imagine Chiarelli will be looking at longer-term assets like Parayko from selling teams, but he’ll have to get creative in order to make it fit with the team’s current salary cap structure. If it doesn’t work out, there are plenty of good rental options out there to upgrade Edmonton’s two major areas of need.

  • Spydyr

    Teams normally run with one goalie in the playoffs. If Koskinen keeps playing like he has you have to trade Talbot for help on the point or the wing. Talbot is a UFA and if Talbot’s play improves or a team losses their starter knew the deadline he may bring a tidy return.

    • El Cid

      The Devil you know. Talbot is a fine backup but he has farted out all the farts that any fart machine can fart, send him away even the players don’t want to play for him he stinks!

    • oildawg99

      You really have an unhealthy obsession for crapping on Talbot. I 100% agree that Koskinen has taken the net, he is straight up better. However, Cam is a solid back up right now. We also do not want to overplay Koskinen. Question: we trade Talbot who is your next whipping boy? Question 2: who do suggest plays back up to Kosk?

    • toprightcorner

      So if teams only go with 1 goalie in the playoffs? With that thought process, the only way the Oilers could trade Talbot at the deadline is if a contender had a goalie injury? The chances of that happening at the trade deadline are slim to none.

      Its a good thing that isn’t the case as WSH and PIT each used 2 goalies during the last 3 Cup wins. A team needs a solid backup in the playoffs in case their starter struggles or gets injured. Any Oilers fan would tell you that based on the 2006 Cup loss.

      • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

        Holtby had all 16 wins for the Caps last year, and Murray had 15 of the 16 wins in 2016, so I don’t the 2 goalie parallel really works there. I agree that keeping Cam for the time being is smart, especially since he seems to get better as the year goes on, but if he keeps playing well and someone wants to pay a decent price for him at the deadline, I think PC has to pull the trigger. If things stay like this, Koskinen is 100% going to be signed in the offseason and then Talbot will leave for nothing. Why not try to get something in return while you can?

        • Chopwoodcarrywater

          The problem is that Kosk is going to completely burn out if we don’t replace Talbot with a suitable backup. Montoya has put up worse numbers in the AHL then Talbot does here and i’ll have to pass on seeing Skinner or Wells in an Oilers regular season game. If we start Koskinen nonstop from the trade deadline all the way up to the playoffs he’ll burn out before we can even get swept.

          • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

            Fair point, but there are 21 games left after the trade deadline. I don’t think it’s absurd to start Koskinen 6, play Montoya, Koskinen 6, Montoya, etc… so that we only need the backup 2 or 3 times after the break and Koskinen doesn’t have a crazy workload. Also, we could potentially trade for a backup with a later round pick

  • Friesenhan

    Parayko is brought up often in Oilers trade talk. If it could be done within cap limitations, and without Nuge going the other way, our blue line would be infinitely better (when everyone is healthy).
    I’d hate to see Puljujarvi go, but having Yamamoto makes him expendable, and it takes value to get value. Pulju and Benning, throw in a pick or prospect, for Parayko? Would that do it?

    • Spydyr

      Parayko would be nice but the price may be to dear. Don’t forget Bouchard should be here for the next decade starting in the fall and who knows if something weird happens and London gets knocked out early he may be here for this years playoffs if the Oilers make it to the dance.

        • Die Hard Oiler Fan

          Agree that we’re seeing more “shrimps” making it to the NHL. That said, just because you have a talented shrimp does mean he turns into another Johnny.
          It’s early, however so far Yamo has yet to show much offense in the AHL (one empty net goal). To those who think he is the Oilers answer for a scoring RW for later this year, I think you are way too optimistic. Also, Yamo doesn’t really fit in terms of Hitch’s style. Hitch likes heavy hockey – players that can skate, get in fast on the fore-check, and win battles along the boards. Chiasson is not the most talented forward the Oil have to play with Conner and Leon, but his skill-set compliments them well. Nuge is a smart, talented player, who lacks a bit of size. While early days still, the size and speed that Khaira and Puljujarvi provide seems like a nice compliment. Khaira is showing some scoring touch since being moved to this line, and JP’s game is progressing under Hitch. I’m heavily in the camp that feels J.P.’s development has been mismanaged to date, but that this is in the process of changing under Hitch. Offense for this player (and this line) will come. When it does we Oiler fans are going to be a happy bunch.
          Let’s give Yamo some time in the AHL to develop. As Oiler fans we are used to our first round pick being a top 5 or so (if not #1) overall. Yamo was #22…that’s a big difference, and as such we should expect more development time, and also a higher possibility that Yamo may not be an impact player at the NHL level. Let’s see how he does over the remainder of this year in the AHL.

    • What the Puck

      It would be a dire mistake to trade pulju at this point. Allen isn’t getting the job done. Dangle Talbot. Bring in Montoya. Go forward not backwards.

      • rivid

        I disagree, l may be in the minority but Pulij is not a NHL player at this point and truelly may never be. Has his game improved since Hitch? marginally. If there is a deal for parayko and it starts with Pulij l am all in. Wingers are easier to replace, good dman are hard to come by and the Oilers have some promising kids waiting in the wings.

        • Armchair genius

          I vote we trade you to the fLames! If wingers are so easy to come by, where are all of ours? I see JP playing better every game. On day he’ll be the second line driver. You heard it here first

      • Homer

        Montoya was brutal last year, if this team is really thinking of making a push having two goalies has merits. Neither is really a proven starter but both are capable of winning games

  • Beer

    I agree with most everything your saying, except your core needs to be unbreakable. The playoffs are a war, and Klef as much as I like his play, he is breakable.

    • Spydyr

      In all fairness taking a clapper off of the bottom hand while it is gripping the stick would break anyone’s fingers. The last injury was a just a fluke, a bad break. Pun intended

        • Spydyr

          The thing is defenceman get hurt. Most miss some time every season. It is a tough gig. Klefbom has had more than some but it just may be luck of the draw.

          I would trade Klefbom if it was the right deal he is not part of my core but there better be a equal quality defenceman coming back. The team just not have the defensive depth for that not to happen.

  • KootenayDan

    I don’t want the team to trade any young players until you know what you have for sure. Prefer to trade draft picks for a rental for now probably for the Defense , I think our depth forwards are coming along like JP and JJ or even Cagguila. Trading Talbot is not an option, if we make the playoffs we have to have a competent backup. Just my two bits.

  • The future never comes

    Drake’s not an RFA this off-season, I knew that going off of the top of my head. I think I may be qualified to be a writer around here it seems.

  • Gravis82

    Oilers need to trade no one. Oilers need to build from the draft and be smart. Oilers should have done this 5 – 15 years ago. Oilers need to fire Chiarelli.

  • Oiler Al

    Pining for Parayko…..2012 draft from “hell”[Yakapov], where Parayko,a kid in Edmontons backyard, goes to the Blues in 3 rd rd[86th], could have been had for free.Oilers were pining for Morzo[2nd rd.] who has yet to play anNHL game and never will. Truba,Dumba, Riley, etc etc were all there when the Oilers took that shiny marble from Russia first overall… chasing for defense ever since.That fraft was a cluster/funk if ever.

  • Oil9744

    Sekera (5.5 mill) Parayko (5.5 mill)
    1st Round Pick
    Yamamoto

    I think St.Louis would think about this trade cause Bouwmeester is 35, UFA after this season, and is gonna be in need of top 4 dman who’s a lefty. The cap space works for both teams as well. I’m guessing it would take a package like that to get Parayko with out giving Nuge.

      • Oil9744

        Would I trade a 1st round pick for Parayko? Yes no question. Parayko would easily be our top dman here, he’s already putting up points, put on the top PP unit with Mcdavid, Drai, Nuge feeding him blasts from the point and he would be amongst the top Dman in the NHL every season I think here.

        • Spydyr

          Trading next years first and Yamamoto essentially another first round pick for 3.5 years of Parayko a player that has to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft is your idea of asset management?

          That to me looks like trading the future for the now. Something that has directly led to decades of darkness.

          • Oil9744

            ??..Well Obviously you would protect Parayko in the expansion draft! There isn’t one team in the NHL who wouldn’t do that! So I don’t get where you see that’s bad asset managment, that’s not related to the decade of darkness at all your really reaching there I’d say haa.

          • Spydyr

            So you would protect one year of Parayko in the expansion draft OK, that leaves another player unprotected. Keeping the first keeps that other player protected.

        • The Whispererer

          You’re suggesting trading two 1st round picks…KY + 2019 1st. Considering all the RD talent we have emerging in the system ( Bouchard, Persson, Berglund, Jones, Benning ), i would prefer to offer Bear instead of the 2019 1st; St. Louis might prefer that anyway. If they perceive Bear as a possible replacement for Parayko in the next couple of years we might even get a forward prospect or a pick from them.

          • Oil9744

            It’s not two 1st round picks at all, just because Yamo was drafted in the 1st round doesn’t mean it’s two 1st round picks going to St.Louis in the trade, it’s a good young prospect, ONE 1st round pick, and a middle pairing dman.

  • Bills Bills

    I’m not huge on the idea of moving Talbot but……. What about a straight 1 for 1 with the Flyers for Simmonds? Both UFAs and I think we would fit him under the cap with Talbot going the other way.

      • Bills Bills

        Why? Because they have zero goaltending, almost no chance of making the playoffs and Simmonds is a UFA that is likely to walk off a losing team in the summer?

        • Spydyr

          Talbot is also a UFA that is likely to walk off a losing team in the summer.

          There is two ways to look at this:

          1) If they Flyers where interested in trading Simmonds and shopped his through the league do you honestly think Talbot would be the best return they could get?

          2) Would you trade a top six winger that is tough to play against, has size, skill and scores for a back-up goalie on the downside of his career?

          The answer to both is no unless maybe your name is Chiarelli.

  • toprightcorner

    If the Oilers are looking for a trade, it should only be for a player with an expiring contract. The don’t have the trade assets or the cap space to add a decent player with any term. Add a $4 mill player at the deadline only costs you about $1 mill in cap hit. That is manageable and you could probably do it without trading a 1st rounder, a 2nd and a prospect or a 3rd and a roster player.

    • Aquavid

      Bouwmeester is a dependable, if not unspectacular player that skates well and is familiar with Hitch. He’s not playing well in St. Louis at the moment and surely must be available. Talbot going the other way would probably need to happen. It’s a stop gap measure that might benefit both teams without sacrificing futures.

  • toprightcorner

    People need to get off the Parayko train, that is not a feasible trade. Oilers don’t have the assets, unless they want to trade Nuge. STL is not starting a rebuild so prospect and picks are less of an interest to them. Look would the Flames had to give up t get Hamonic……….Parayko would cost twice as much. The only possibility without trading Nuge is trading Larsson, 1st and JP. I don’t think STL would even do that and I think that is a big price to pay.

  • Corbs

    I’d love Parayko but I don’t see any way we can give enough to get him. I think we end up picking up Maroon at the deadline or a bit before. He’s having a terrible year but the cost would be minimal and he’s a big body for the playoffs.

    Also, Yamomoto has close to no trade value…stop talking about him like he’s some can’t miss kid. He will likely never be a full time nhl player. Same as Ethan Bear

  • Copper

    Nurse and Talbot for Parayko. In a few weeks oilers would have:
    Klefbom – Larsson
    Sekera – Parayko
    Russell – Benning
    And a couple million to add a forward

    • Armchair genius

      Maybe sekera and Talbot but not nurse. I’d maybe sweeten with a 2nd. Why are we all so quick to give away our players for trade deadline players. Not that paraynko is even available. Plus I don’t know if he’d be that big of an upgrade imo

  • Armchair genius

    Caleb Jones all be it in sheltered minutes looked pretty good last night. Let’s just chill and see what the next ten games bring before we start making blockbuster trades.

    • The team is playing well, lots of arrows heading up, Caleb played well last game. Making a move for high paid top four defence or top six winger is tricky. Look at Eric Stall, in New York he was ether unhappy or didn’t fit the style they played. Goes to Minnesota scores 40. Nash cost Boston a first rounder last year and was disappointing. Let’s see if a prospect can take the next step.

  • Anton CP

    Chia is ok with making small trades, I wouldn’t want Chia to do any major trades. If he is just doing depth move then that is ok but to have Chia bring in any major names that I don’t want to imagine what the team has to give up for it.

  • Ted

    Colton and Connor played REALLY well together at the World Cup on the under 23 North American team. Chia make the call apparently your on a roll according to some. Don’t blow this chance to make us great again!

  • ed from edmonton

    Maybe a year too early but with the Devils in last place maybe Hall could be shaken loose. He might fit in behind Drai as a 2nd line LW. Of course the Devils will need to retain significant salary.

  • Jerri Kurli

    For those saying we should trade Talbot, you seem to have forgot the 2006 playoffs. We most likely would have been the Stanley Cup Champs that year if we had a quality back up. Of course you run your top goalie every night in the playoffs but you better have some insurance in case the worst happens. Your not getting a top four D or Top 6 winger for Talbot, so your best bet is to go into the playoffs with some real goalie depth. Something we have never really had.

  • CMG30

    Hitch has these guys rolling. Fingers crossed it lasts the rest of the season! That being said, Chiarelli still needs to be let go. We’re riddled with holes and our cap situation makes it extremely difficult to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves.

  • crackerjack14

    PHI is in need of a goalie. EDM is in need of a strong option for RHD (among other things). EDM could send Talbot (if he agreed to the trade) to PHI in exchange for a high pick and a prospect. EDM could then flip that pick and/or prospect along with Benning to STL for Parayko. The money moving out might be close enough to Parayko’s salary.
    Until injuries cleared up…
    Drasaitl-McDavid-Chaisson
    Khaira-Nuge-Puljujarvi
    Lucic-Brodziak-Kassian
    Reider-Spooner-Cags/Zykov/Rattie
    Nurse-Larsson
    Gravel-Parayko
    Garrison-Jones

    Next year the d core could be…
    Klefbom-Larsson
    Nurse-Parayko
    Russell-Bouchard
    with Sekera either being traded or buried in the AHL.

  • Foxconn

    Colton Parayko and Connor McDavid worked so well together at the World Championship tournament. Chiarelli would be a genius if he could land Parayko without giving up the farm.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Klefbom/Sekera/Russel are out, but we still managed to win a game…lets wait until/if we lose the next 7 in a row, than an article like this will make more sense, because if that happens we are out of the play-offs and in full panic mode

      • IRONman

        Once again the d needs fixing. Parayko is ideal. Don’t fool yourself. He is local boy and played well with McDavid. Bouchard needs time to develop, no more rushing prospects. Selanne didn’t play till 22 yo. I am happy being 9-2-2. Rock on Oilers.