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If the Oilers become buyers…

Barring some ridiculous cold streak, the Oilers will head into 2019 in the thick of the playoff race. January is usually when we really see trade talks start to heat up and right now, there is every reason to believe that this team will be ‘buyers’ in the time leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, which falls on February 25th.

We saw Peter Chiarelli in a similar position back in the 2016-17 season and the only really big move he made was made swapping Brandon Davidson for David Desharnais. That’s not exactly what I would call “loading up” at the deadline.

I believe that the Oilers made a big mistake not adding a big name at the 2017 trade deadline. They had McDavid and Leon on their ELC’s and they opted not to take advantage of the available cap space.

This year, I don’t think Peter Chiarelli will be as conservative. He can’t be. If this team doesn’t make the playoffs, he won’t have a job. You could argue that just making the playoffs won’t be enough. This team needs to win a round for Chiarelli to be completely safe.

The trade deadline and the time leading up to it will be Chiarelli’s last chance to ensure that he is this teams General Manager past this season.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Peter Chiarelli would love to be aggressive at this year’s deadline, but there are some things standing in his way.

CAP AND ROSTER SPACE

It’s no secret that the Oilers are in trouble when it comes to the salary cap. Once Andrej Sekera returns, they will be right up against it and really won’t have any room to add a body, unless they’re sending a contract back the other way. Even then, moving out a bad contract is not as easy as it seems. I’ll get to that in a second.

They’re also at 48 contracts, which is just two off the limit. Teams rarely like to sit right at 50 contracts, so if the Oilers are going to bring in a body, their likely needs to be one going the other way, regardless of the salary implications.

WHO ARE THE MOVEABLE CONTRACTS?

Would it be nice if the Oilers could pawn off either Milan Lucic or Andrej Sekera? Sure, but that’s unlikely and I’d say it’s near impossible to do during a midseason transaction. Lucic is struggling and Sekera hasn’t been 100% healthy for close to 18 months. It’s probably a non-starter.

They have Ryan Spooner, who was scratched last night against St. Louis. He’s currently sitting at a $3.1 million cap hit and has one more year on his deal. I could see a team being willing to take back some of his money if it’s a part of a package deal for another deal. He’s struggled this season, but some team might see some upside.

I love Zack Kassian, but you can’t deny he makes at least $900k too much. While I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s moved this summer, I don’t think the Oilers would want to deal with the backlash from the fan base, and potentially from within the locker room, if they dealt Kassian just months before a potential playoff run.

Tobias Rieder makes $2.0 million as well and he’s been a little inconsistent this year. He’s an RFA at the end of the season as well. If the Oilers have a player coming back that is an upgrade on him, it might make sense to ship him out and create a little cap space.

On the back end, Kris Russell and Matt Benning both have moveable contracts. I think Russell has actually been really solid this season, so I would hesitate to move him right now. I also know the organization really values him, so I don’t think there’s a scenario where they ask him to waive his no-trade clause.

I’ll be the first one to say that Matt Benning has not been playing good this season. I’ll also be the first one to say that I had very high hopes for Benning coming into this season. We know how hard it is to find offensively gifted right-shot defenseman and I believed Benning could have been a good second powerplay, third pairing option. He hasn’t looked the part this season.

Still, he isn’t close to 200 games played and defensemen never develop in a straight line. I would be hesitant to move him just for cap relief. I still think there’s some potential, but if the Oilers are bringing in a good defenseman and sacrificing Benning is a part of the package needed to make the move, I wouldn’t be too upset.

In short: Ryan Spooner and Tobias Rieder are really the only two contracts from the forward group that I think can be moved. Benning could also be moved if there’s a deal for a strong, top four defenseman.

LACK OF PROSPECT DEPTH

We are slowly starting to see a solid foundation of prospects being built in the Oilers system. On the back end, they have Evan Bouchard, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and William Lagesson amongst others. Up front, talent like Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, and Ostap Safin make up their AHL core. There are multiple players with NHL potential, but still very few true ‘Grade A’ prospects.

When it comes to adding a piece at the trade deadline, it obviously helps to be loaded with draft picks and high-end prospects. Right now, I’m just not sure the Oilers are in a position where they can sacrifice one of the few good prospects they have.

As far as picks go, the Oilers will likely be staying on the playoff bubble so it’s really risky to move their first-round pick unless they lottery protect it. Even then, they need to keep building up their prospect depth and keeping first round picks goes a long way towards doing that.

They do still own their second round pick and a pair of third-round picks. I could see them dangling those in order to get an upgrade somewhere on their current roster.

If those are the pieces you’re putting on the block, I don’t think you can expect a very high-end return. That brings me to my final point.

WHAT’S THE RETURN?

The Oilers could benefit from both a top line winger and a top-four defenseman, but I don’t think that’s something we could realistically expect at this point. As I laid out above, they don’t have the cap space or the high-end prospect depth necessary to make a deal like that happen. I would say it’s unlikely.

The price to acquire a defenseman is always much higher than the price to acquire a winger, so I believe Chiarelli’s best bet would be to use the few assets that he has on a strong scoring winger.

It will be tough to pull off, but if you throw in Tobias Rieder or convince the other team in the deal to take back Ryan Spooner, you could have the cap space necessary to bring in a body. Package that with a pair of draft picks and maybe a ‘B’ level prospect and you might just have enough to get an impact winger. I’m not saying a star player, but someone who can step inject a little more offence into this lineup.

Regardless of what happens, I’d suspect we’re going to see Peter Chiarelli try to be very active in the months leading up to the trade deadline. Will it result in a move? Only time will tell, but it’s clear that it will be a very difficult task for the Oilers General Manager.

  • SRELIOFAN

    You would have to explain this idea of a “package deal” to Chiarelli since he seems to only know how to trade 1 for 1.

    I don’t trust him anymore and I think he should be fired even if the Oilers make the playoffs. If they make it, they will make it in spite of Chiarelli’s work, not because of it.

    • Oilerup!

      I don’t necessarily like the thoughts of Pete wheelin and dealin freelance and alone but……. Based on the moves made since the season started I firmly believe and has someone lookin over his shoulder or a least working directly with him ( Keith G) now more than before….. so I’m a little more comfortable with rentals and trades than last year.1
      We have to go deep into a second round for PC to be here next year!

      • Second round? They wont even be in it. Between piss poor management and WWE officiating, the fix is in. So now apparently the evidence does not have to be conclusive to overturn the correct call? Since when? Does that apply to all Canadian Franchises or just the Oilers? And apparently if Talbot is playing there is no such thing as goaltender interference EVER? NHL and their corrupt officiating are ruining this sport.

  • 18% body fat

    So Bouchard is on the team next year, Jones is looking good, Perssons is looking good and 2-3 years older than the other D prospects, and Laggeson is holding his own.

    Where does this leave Bear or Benning? The next wave dont look bad as potential bottom 6 d either, Samourakov, Kempe, Marino, Berglund.

    So do you trade Bear, as his skill as duplicated by berglund, and persson, and out matched by bouchard, or do you hope he is a top 4.

    Benning is definitely the guy to go, but will he get you as much as Bear.

    Evening if they chose bear to get something in return benning still needs to go.

  • TKB2677

    Spooner can absolutely go. At the time of the trade I didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, just wanted to see. Strome was a 3rd line player who wasn’t that fast, doesn’t bring a lot of offense but wasn’t scoring at all. The only thing I liked is he was right handed. Spooner is faster and more offensive so I was willing to see how it turned it. It’s been a mistake so if you can get rid of him, I would.

    For Kassian. Maybe he is liked in the room, I don’t know. But he makes 1.95 mill which as was states is at least 900k too much. He has 2 goals, 3 pts in 32 games so at this point if he scores 10 pts for the season, call yourself lucky. He plays on the PK but the PK sucks. He doesn’t draw penalties because the refs don’t like him. So right now he isn’t even producing or bringing you good, 4th line numbers while making twice as much as he should. So if you can get rid of him, you have to do it.

    Rieder. I was pumped by the signing. He’s fast, supposedly good on the PK and is usually a low-mid teens, 30 pt guy. At 2 mill, I thought it was a hell of a signing. In 22 games he has 7 assists, that’s it. Not a single goal and he’s another guy part of a bad PK. When will he score? No team can afford to pay a guy 2 mill to not score a single goal and be part of a terrible PK.

    • Hockeytalkguy

      @TKB…..VG analysis. Being up against the cap is going to make it tough to try make the team better. Trying to move some of these contracts like you stated could be next to impossible. I’ve said before….I don’t know how you fix it.

  • Jerri Kurli

    Chia has definitely done his damage. What he was left with though is something that doesn’t seem to get recognized. He was left with the worst prospect pool in the NHL, with years of some of the sickening draft picks this game has ever seen. He, with the group he put together has righted that ship and started to build a solid group of prospects. Don’t get me wrong, he traded away some damn good picks, and players that were trades we lost. I’m quite aware of Hall, Eberle, and how Griffin Reinhardt came to town. Stocking the cupboards take time and IMO the Oilers did better at the draft than just about any team (Islanders cleaned up). We got a future stare in Bouchard, Ryan McLeod looks to me like a sure thing, also we were able to scoop the highest ranked goalie in the draft. Our goalie cupboard is stocked, our defenseman in the pipeline are stronger than I can recall seeing, our forwards are nothing to blow your hair back, but there is definitely potential there. Chia also wins most of his trades. The sad thing being is the ones he lost are the ones he couldn’t afford to lose. The most important ones.

    Hopefully our backend can hold there own, and Klefbom comes back and picks up where he left off, I cannot see Seks comeback being very successful but one can hope.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy holiday to you & yours… This is definitely a time of joy & merriment. So with that in mind, I am going to try to disconnect from the Oilers for a few weeks… Last nights game was an abysmal effort by the team in which they should have secured 2 points easily. They, as a team have obviously checked out as well… I can’t let the fact that the effort put forth pissed me off beyond belief & this holiday season is not conducive to that kind of emotion. I really don’t think we have a team as unskilled as everyone says as they have showed us they have the tools… I just can’t stand the lack of commitment & it’s affecting me as a fan…
    Happy Holidays to you all, I wish we could all get together for a “toddy” or something?
    Cheers,…

  • Heschultzhescores

    It took a special kind of stupid to put a team with all that potential a few years back, and make them into what they are today. Then you throw in that we are absolutely maxed at the cap as well. It’s mind boggling how Chia still has a job. He has sabotaged this team if anything. No we do not need Chia wheeling and dealing, he’s like s lottery winner who blows his money and declares bankruptcy in few short years.

  • KennyG

    The only fix for this team is time. Ya sorry but until some contracts run there course there is nothing to do but play on with what they have. Oh ya there will always be PTO additions and PC looking for lighting in a bottle with adding aging nhl vets. We are still living in the DOD just nobody wants to accept that. Me included..

  • The Ghost of Alex Plante

    This would have to be an off season move, but I can’t help but think there might be a good opportunity to get Trouba out of Winnipeg this summer. They’ve had seemingly difficult negotiations twice now and Winnipeg is facing an impending cap crunch. With Trouba needing another new deal maybe now is the time they’ll seriously look at moving him?

    Would something along the lines of Russell, Bear and a 1st get it done? I believe Russell gets to submit a list of teams he’d be willing to move to and you’d have to think Winnipeg would be on that list (winning team, western Canadian team). Winnipeg saves some $ while getting a serviceable NHL d-man back, a legit RD prospect and a 1st. Edmonton gets a top 4 RD, and suddenly that right side looks pretty good with Larsson, Trouba and Bouchard. You’d think the Oilers would have to move out some salary in a separate deal (Kassian/Benning/Spooner) to make it work as Trouba is probably coming in at $6 million +.

    Thoughts?

      • The Ghost of Alex Plante

        Maybe replace the 1st with a 2nd but there is no way Russell and Bear get that done. Trouba is a much better player than Russell, plays at a position worth more of a premium and is still under 25. No way Bear alone is enough to bridge the gap between Russell and Trouba.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      The last thing this team needs is another “entitled” punk who has a history of holding out for more money…
      To my eye, Trouba is a good defenceman , but he’s no Doughty or Burns. I’m sure we could find someone that does not have as much “me-me” attitude… Happy Holidays…

      • The Ghost of Alex Plante

        Can’t blame a player for holding out for what he believes he’s worth. Someone has to look out for their interests, and it certainly won’t be the teams doing it.

        And who said he’s a Doughty or a Burns? Those guys would cost a hell of a lot more than the package I’m suggesting for Trouba.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          Yes it will, if a team wants them they’ll pay them a fair price. If they don’t, they won’t.
          A major problem with this league (and many others) is that the players are setting their value & not delivering.
          In any other business transaction or employment situation, if you don’t get what you paid for you get a refund or fire the employee. Some, not all pro contract players coast after getting the big pay-day. It shouldn’t be that way. It isn’t in many other industries outside of sports…
          The “Doughty, Burns” reference was to show that those 2 are in one category (amongst others).
          There are many, many more defencemen in the league that fall into Trouba’s class that would be a far better value. I’m saying that you don’t need to spend 6 mil to get a great defenceman.

          • The Ghost of Alex Plante

            You can’t honestly believe that a NHL teams puts a players interests over their own? Of course they don’t, and why would they? I really don’t see the problem in a player advancing their own interests. It’s no different than an engineer using standard industry wages as an argument that he/she should get paid more at their job.

            If you’re bothered by players getting big contracts and not living up to them, blame the GM who signed the deal. Don’t blame the player with a very limited earning window and a risk that their career/earning potential can end the next time they step on the ice. I’m all for guys getting as much $ as they can, it’s up to GM’s to show restraint and manage their salary cap properly, not the players.

            Without a doubt there are defenseman out there with more value, but how many are actually available? I’d love to have Josi on the Oilers, but that’s just not realistic. At least with Trouba there is a conceivable scenario in which he is available and we won’t have to give up Drai/Nuge to get him.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            “You can’t honestly believe that a NHL teams puts a players interests over their own? Of course they don’t, and why would they?”
            Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the Oilers? But most owners look after their staff… When it comes to a hockey team, your players are your only inventory… Your most valuable asset. Of course an owner would look after their players. I can’t believe you think otherwise..? In this day and age, great staff are hard to find. When we do, we sure look after them.

          • The Ghost of Alex Plante

            In terms of salary, absolutely they don’t. Every singe team in the league would take McDavid at $4 million if they could, even though he is clearly worth triple that amount. It’s up to the player or, by extension, his agent to get what they are worth.

            It really makes no sense to me how you can possibly think that owners/NHL teams are out there trying to get their players the most money they can. Unless you are simply confused about what this discussion is about? Since this discussion has always been about salary, are you trying to tell me that you think what is wrong with the Oilers is that they haven’t been “looking after” (paying) their players enough?

            Also, not really sure how the “in this day and age, great staff are hard to find” comment is relevant? This is the NHL and NHL players we are talking about here, not Joe’s auto repair.

  • A-co

    Step one should be the oilers firing Pistol Pete..
    Step two would be purging the lineup of dead weight..
    Step three would be adding a top defenseman
    Step four would be finding a winger that has a shoot first mentality
    Personally I wouldn’t trust Petey to make any drastic moves to this roster since he us the one that has handcuffed this roster with bad contracts and has made some terrible trades. This season is what it is…maybe they make the playoffs BUT this team is not a contender the way it is put together. First domino to fall is pistol pete leaving town.

  • Oil9744

    I was a Chiarelli supporter at first but he’s made some terrible, terrible, terrible trades and signings, there is no denying that, I don’t think he’s capable of managing an NHL Cap properly, sign players to a decent amount of money, never mind make a big trade, It’s a bit scary to think but I believe our next years 1st rounder is all but gone this season no matter what, Chiarelli wants to keep his job and he’s gonna add a player to help this roster out now, hopefully he gets a player that’s worth it but with his track record it’s gonna be really, really tough. Hold on to your shorts Edmonton, Pistol Pete is driving the boat for a little while longer! #oilersdrama

    • Randomfan

      The problem is oilers are just not only 1 piece away they are 2 or 3 pieces away. And its hard to fill so many holes with trades. Just go with what you have and hope you make the playoffs. And most importantly hope PC gets canned at the end of the season.

  • Hughsey

    yeah we cant really be buyers at the deadline, we would for sure have to get rid of someone with a high contract. Benning will not fetch us a top 4 defenseman just for him, i could be reading it wrong maybe in a package but not just straight up.

    Petey put us in this position were when we are good we can add any big name pieces due to the contracts he has given out. With the guys listed in the article we wont be getting any big names we would have to move a nurse which i think we should, or jesse.

    If petey can somehow hose a team like other GM have hosed him then awesome. think we have to work with what we have hope im wrong

  • rnj

    I think it’s a bad idea to go after a player who “can make an impact”. Those are the guys that are gambles and every time a trade like that happens it’s a small downgrade.

    You can keep taking future prospects out of the pool to move the needle a bit (maybe).

    This is the approach that’s gotten us a revolving door of middling players at the expense of our top talents. If we had just waited and moved for an actual impact defenseman.

    These trades are like a forced cross crease pass through traffic. Yeah the opportunity is there but it’s not likely. Reset and set up a better opportunity.

    I’m ok with missing the play offs this year to avoid bad trades and giving up prospects. Keep the prospects, draft well, develop who we have.

    We’re on the bubble, so it’s different from other years. Its not expecting to go from 29th to playoffs with development and healthier seasons. Its 18th to a top 10 team with a bit of growth and less injuries.

  • Ohlyr

    I don’t know what is more Frustrating, watching Chiarelli make another bad trade, or waiting for Talbot to bounce back?
    “I can’t put my Finger on it”… LOL

  • Vanoil

    Why would you touch Reider? He is one of the few reliable, experienced wingers we can plug and play on any line right now. Makes ZERO sense. Colton Parayko is available and would be an immediate long-term upgrade on the right side, leaving Bear time to mature (though he doesn’t really need it) and shielding Bouchard next year (should he not be ready). That leaves Benning in a comfortable 3rd pairing role. On the other side Klefbom, Nurse, and Jones / Russell (as 7th D) again is the making of a solid base. What would it take to get Parayko? 1st round pick, plus? I would offer up Puljujaarvi straight across — he is still unknown potential so they may be intrigued, while we wouldn’t have to give up much else. Besides, ultimately Yamo seems to be the smarter option to keep and you have Hebig, Benson (and to a lesser extent Marody) who are likely smarter all-round players. I would offer any of those up (along with the requisite Draft picks) if it could get the deal done, but realisitcally, you have to wonder if PJ is in the plans long term here — definitely not as a top-six and unless he finds chemistry with Draisaitl (or on his own line), probably not within the top 9. He still has some post-draft value, the risk is keeping him too long and not being able to get anything in return (if he isn’t going to be here long-term). Parayko for Puljujaarvi — that’s a hockey trade which might makes sense to the Blues (though they will likely want another draft or prospect as well).

  • I am hesitant to watch Peter do any kind of major lifting and doing anything with any huge impact, but despite fear of him having a not so great record with any A level trades, he has actually made a few pretty handsome B, and C level deals/acquisitions… that being said I think it is possible he wins a couple small deals and with some cap space there has gotta be a guy about to go to market that would like a McStat/Payday boost rental session next to Connor.
    Fear is this guys reputation will have him eat sh to get what he needs in desperation. Move cash, rent a winger. At this stage I feel like our defense is close to where it should be and thats where our future is growing within now… A guy like Wayne Simmonds is possible… I like the way that sounds…

    Taylor Hall @ 6 mil would be pretty sick too. What a shame. So what if the guy cooked the puss after a game. A good coach like Hitch would have whipped him to work. That kind of player is almost irreplaceable. Will never stop crying about that one. Im just glad Larson is actually above average as it cuts the edge slightly… a draft pick or two back would have too… jus saying

    Ranting complete..?

  • Ron Burgundyz

    Looking at the UFA list, there are a couple of options that should be gettable for a pick, which we have the option to do at 48 contracts but thanks to Chia’s cap mismanagement are probably not doable – capfriendly says we only have 50 grand in space!! That is a shame, as there’s a guy every playoff team in the league should be looking into this year: Panarin. He is UFA next year, doesn’t have a no-move and doesn’t want to be in Columbus, and they would be crazy not to try to get something for him. He would immediately make our top 6 lethal, and even if we had to give up picks or prospects and he walks in the summer he’d be worth it for a shot at Stanley. But his $6MM cap hit would take a miracle to absorb. But hey, we have Looch – he’s a playoff performer still, right?