It’s the middle of January and the Oilers are still in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference. The team has struggled since Oscar Klefbom went down with an injury, winning just four of their last 14 games, but thanks to weak competition, they’re still within two points of a playoff spot.
There’s no doubt that if the Oilers plan on making the playoffs, they need to make upgrades to their roster. The biggest need for the team at this point is depth up front as the Oilers have relied almost entirely on three forwards to do all of the heavy lifting. The team could also still use help on the blueline despite the additions of Brandon Manning and Alex Petrovic. The Oilers badly need another puck-moving defender. Earlier in the month, Bob Stauffer mentioned how the Oilers should be prepared to use their first-round pick to make an upgrade so long as that player has term attached to their contract.
IMO the Edmonton Oilers must be exhaustive in their efforts to improve scoring depth up front and should be prepared to move their 2019 #1 if neccessary to acquire a legit top 6 FWD…with term…
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 9, 2019
The trade deadline is on Feb. 26 meaning the Oilers, who currently stand 21-21-3, have 17 games left to decide how they’re going to navigate. It’s hard to imagine the team being in on major rental players given the fact they aren’t really set up to go on a deep run through the playoffs. If the team is going to make a major addition, as Stauffer says, it should involve a player with at least another year left on their contract.
According to Sportsnet insider Chris Johnston, the NHL trade deadline is shaping up to be a buyer’s market. He’s already identified over a half-dozen teams who are positioned to sell — the Flyers, Rangers, Senators, Hurricanes, Red Wings, Blues, Blackhawks, and Kings. You might be able to add the Panthers, Canucks, and Ducks to that list, depending on how things go the next few weeks.
Here are players from that list with term that could help the Oilers:
- Kyle Palmieri (NJD): A versatile forward who plays both left and right wing. Palmieri is signed for two more years after this one at $4,650,000. He has 36 points in 44 games this year and has cracked the 50-point plateau in two of three years since arriving in New Jersey.
- Sami Vatanen (NJD): Acquired in a one-for-one deal last year with Anaheim, Sami Vatanen hasn’t maintained his offensive production in New Jersey. He has just 15 points in 41 games this year but a few years ago was a solid puck-moving and power play defenceman with the Ducks. He’s signed for one more year after this one at $4,875,000.
- Dougie Hamilton (CAR): After just half a season in Carolina, it seems Dougie Hamilton could be on the move again. Hamilton is that top-pairing, right-handed defenceman the Oilers badly need. He’s signed for $5,750,000 for two more years after this one.
- Justin Faulk (CAR): A name we’ve heard many, many times is Justin Faulk. He’s an offensive, right-handed defenceman who has been rumoured in trades out of Carolina for years. He’s got one more year left at $4,833,333 after this one.
- Teuvo Teravainen (CAR): Another versatile forward, the former 18th overall pick soon-to-be RFA could be available out of Carolina. He has 36 points in 44 games and plays both centre and wing.
- Mike Green (DET): Another name we’ve discussed here many times is Mike Green. Though he’s far from the player he was with Washington, Green is still an excellent offensive option for the power play. He’s signed for one more year at $5,375,000.
- Colton Parayko (STL): It’s a little shocking to me the Blues would consider moving Parayko, given he’s only 25 and is signed for three more years after this one at $5,500,000, but the Blues are apparently ready to sell anyone. Like Hamilton, he would be that top-pair right-handed defenceman that would round out Edmonton’s top-four, though he isn’t really known for his puck moving.
- Brayden Schenn (STL): After a huge season in his first season St. Louis last year, Schenn has had a bit of a step back on a struggling Blues club in 2018-19. He’s one year removed from scoring 70 points and has always been a force on the power play throughout his career. He’s signed for $5,125,000 for one more year after this one.
- Tyler Toffoli (LA): Though it might not be likely the Kings make a trade within the division, Tyler Toffoli would be a sensible option for the Oilers. He’s a consistent 20-goal scorer signed for one more year at $4,600,000. Toffoli is having a miserable season as he has just seven goals in 46 games, but everyone on the Kings is having a rough time.
- Jake Muzzin (LA): One of the league’s most underrated defenders could be a massive upgrade to Edmonton’s top-four. Muzzin is signed for one more year after this one at $4,000,000. He moves the puck well, has a good point shot, and has a lot of experience playing in the playoffs.
There are also a handful of good players on the rental market who could help the Oilers for a playoff drive, but, as I said earlier, a player with term is more worthwhile for this club. Given the volume of teams ready to sell, the Oilers could be a good position to make an upgrade to their roster that helps them beyond this year.
The other issue is Peter Chiarelli. Should the Oilers trust him to pull the trigger on a big trade this year? The majority of the deals he’s made have hurt the team and his most recent few moves — Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner and Drake Caggiula for Brandon Manning — have been puzzling. Trusting Chiarelli, who routinely has made trades that leak value from the team, to make a big move involving the first-round pick in a deep draft is a big risk.