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A Winning Deadline Strategy

We’re exactly two weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline and the Edmonton Oilers sit six points back of the St. Louis Blues & Minnesota Wild for the two final playoff spots in the Western Conference. While the mountain they’re facing isn’t quite Everest, it’s certainly getting there.

The team is struggling right now and they are also just two points up on the Anaheim Ducks and LA Kings, who are tied for dead last in the conference. They’re all apart of a very tight, yet mediocre playoff race. A five-game winning streak thrusts you right to the top of the pack, while a five-game losing streak can send you tumbling to the basement.

This parity will make this year’s trade deadline very interesting. While most NHL insiders agree that this is a “buyers market”, they’re also reporting that the prices being set for rental players are currently sky high. Things will change and the skies will likely clear up a bit over the next two weeks, but as of right now, it’s hard to predict which teams will make a move to better their odds of making the playoffs and which teams will simply wave the white flag and sell off.

The Oilers fan base is largely split on what the team’s strategy should be, come February 25th.

They’re within reach of a playoff spot, and they have Connor McDavid. If one of their goalies can get red hot, then there’s a reason to believe they can squeak in. If they can dangle a second or third round pick and get a reliable goal scorer to plunk into their top six, then their odds of getting one of the wild card spots gets much better. They wouldn’t be a lock, and a lot of the solutions need to come from inside the locker room, but a small addition helps.

At the same time, this team is wildly inconsistent and as of late, they haven’t looked anything like a playoff team. Not only do they need to close a six-point gap, but they’d have to jump at least five other teams in the process. Considering that they don’t know who their GM will be this summer, it’s easy to see why the smart play might be to just sell off some assets and accept this as a lost season.

I personally don’t like dealing in extremes. I think the right strategy for the Oilers lays right in the middle of being all out buyers and straight sellers. Here’s how I believe the Oilers can come out as winners at the 2019 Trade Deadline:

1 – GET RID OF MONEY

Nov 25, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Cal Petersen (40) makes a save off a shot by Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) during the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Selling off Cam Talbot, Tobias Rieder, and Alex Petrovic might get you some assets back, but it doesn’t provide any cap relief for this coming summer, which is what the Oilers should be focused on doing at this year’s deadline.

It won’t be easy, but if they can get rid of some of the players that are set to make over $1 million next season, they could put themselves in a much better spot heading into the offseason.

It may be an unpopular move, but if you can find a team that’s willing to give you an asset and also take all of Zack Kassian’s $1.9 million cap hit, I think you should jump all over that. He’s a bottom-six forward, and while I know he’s a fan favourite, good teams can’t pay almost $2 million for a bottom six forward. They tried moving him earlier this season and couldn’t but he’s red-hot right now, so maybe they should try to sell high on Kassian to clear up space.

Matt Benning has struggled this year, but he’s still a 24-year-old right shot defenseman with some offensive potential. You might be able to find a rebuilding team willing to take him and his $1.9 million price tag, even if you don’t get much of a return.

Those are the two names I would look at moving out. Apart from that, they could try moving on from both of Brandon Manning and Ryan Spooner but I doubt that would happen unless the Oilers are willing to retain some money.

2 – SEARCH FOR SCORING

Oct 23, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Washington Capitals defensemen Michal Kempny (6) trips Edmonton Oilers forward Tobias Rieder (22) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

I’d like the Oilers to go out and take a chance on some players who could benefit from some additional opportunity at the NHL level. Players that are currently stuck as healthy scratches or scoring at a decent rate in the minors.

This type of player doesn’t need to cost you a first or second round pick but could benefit the team this year and for the foreseeable future if he pans out.

At last years deadline, the LA Kings took a flyer on Tobias Rieder (they also swapped backup goalies in the move), the Florida Panthers sent a third-round pick to Boston for Frank Vatrano, the Blues acquired Nikita Soshnikov from the Maple Leafs for a 4th round pick.

Rieder would play in 20 regular season games with the LA Kings scoring four goals and two assists before being let go in the summer. Soshnikov has only played 17 games with the Blues since the deal and has only scored one goal. Vatrano has been a success with the Panthers, notching 23 goals and 14 assists in 68 games since being acquired.

You could also look at the Canucks acquisition of Josh Leivo earlier this season as a successful “buy-low” kind of move. He was a regular healthy scratch in Toronto and since being given a solid opportunity in Vancouver, he’s scored seven goals in 24 games. That’s a near 24 goal pace and all they gave up was a low-level prospect.

I’ll put together a more complete list in the coming weeks, but a player like Nic Petan comes to mind.

3 – LEAVE BAKERSFIELD ALONE

Sep 20, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Winnipeg Jets goaltender Eric Comrie (1) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers forward Cooper Marody (65) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Condors are on an absolute heater right now with wins in 12 straight games. They’re on top of their division and if they can keep up their current level of play, they’ll likely go a solid run in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The success at the AHL level might make it tempting to call up the likes of Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones, and Ethan Bear towards the end of the season but the Oilers need to let the young players continue to play big, important minutes in Bakersfield.

The benefits of giving them 20+ minutes a night during the stretch drive and the AHL playoffs far outweigh the benefits of bringing them up to play 12 minutes a night of meaningless NHL hockey, should the Oilers season get to that point.

Whether the Oilers are two points out of the final playoff spot or sitting firmly at the bottom portion of the conference, I think they need to be both buyers and sellers. Try to buy low on some players who can contribute this year and beyond and also shed some cap space so when you hire your next General Manager, they can have a little bit more wiggle room.

It may seem like a long-shot, but there is a way for the Edmonton Oilers to be winners at the 2019 Trade Deadline.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Get rid of those embarrassing Orange jerseys… They are the problem. Show some pride & wear the 80’s / 90’s blue.
    It’s a proven fact that Orange Jerseys aren’t donned by winning hockey teams, as the flyers can confirm.
    Get rid of them, then concentrate on correcting what’s wrong with personnel. But you have to start there, build some much needed pride first. Who would accept a trade to the Oilers, when they would have to wear that ugly jersey? Give potential stars a reason to want to come….

    • MrBung

      It is like spraying perfume on a turd. Doesn’t matter what this team wears. It is who is filling them that is the issue. If they want to milk the fans some more money and have different coloured jerseys hitting the ice during games, then sure, change the colours again.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        You don’t understand deflection? We have heard & said everything about this tire-fire of a team until we’re blue in the face… The only things we haven’t discussed is changing the jersey colour or trading McDavid for immediate assets… Could we win a cup immediately if we traded McDavid?

    • Mark Lesser

      If the Oilers go back to wearing blue, get rid of the ads on the ice and boards, and put the logo outside of the center ice circle, like in the 80s, they will win the Cup this year. Or at least things would look better.

    • camdog

      In sheltered minutes, playing with d partner worse than him he’s done well lately. If Sekera’s got some game, I think those 2 would do well together on third pair.

  • rektangle

    And please oh please send JP down and leave him there. Let him go have some fun with the rest of the condors instead of playing 10 minutes per night on the fourth line of a very down and out hockey team. That poor kid, he deserves better than what he has gotten from the Edmonton Oilers management.

    • Oilers_1978

      i think oilers has made enough damage to JP to ruin his career…there are may be 20 games left in AHL… not enough to rebuild a player.. next year he is waiver eligible.. so he is done…and the list continues…

      gagner
      dubnyk
      yak
      shultz
      JP

      and more to come in the name of YAK..and the condors…

      Nuge was too brilliant to keep him above ground..but a more patient and proper development (would allow him to play injury free) would have made him a even better player/scorer

      • fasteddy

        Try telling a kid he gets $80k to play in Bakersfield vs $800k to play 4th line minutes and that makes good sense in the long run…..of course we all agree it’s better for the player, just saying there’s a little more to it.

        • Spydyr

          Try telling a kid to earn his NHL money not have it handed to him.

          It is obvious too most he should have been playing top minutes, been on the first unit powerplay and be learning the North American pro game.

          It would have helped both the player and the organization…….. but Oilers.

    • hagar

      Same. I will pay to watch a rebuilding team if the obc is shown the door. I used to go to a solid 20 games a year at the old rink, i havent even been once to the new rink to watch the oilers.

  • Tonya Harding Compete Level

    1. Send JP down for the rest of the AHL season. He’ll be a major contributor on a winning team.
    2. Try to re-sign the pending UFAs that you want to keep, which looks like Chiasson (1.3 or less for 2 yrs max), Malone (650 – loyal tweener), Gravel (650).
    3. Trade out as much money as possible without effecting the quality of next year’s roster aka Manning, Spooner, Petrovic, Reider, Brodziak, Talbot, Lucic (longshot I know). Retain some salary if absolutely necessary. Only in the case of Lucic sweeten the pot with draft picks/yam.
    4. Claim any interesting waiver wire experiments that pop up.
    5. Sign the RFAs in the summer for cheap aka Khaira, JP and Rattie.
    6. Let the new GM do their thing.

    • Tonya Harding Compete Level

      Also probably let Klefbom fully heal his hand in IR for another 1-3 weeks. No sense risking another injury or a slower recovery on a lost season.

  • Arfguy

    I wonder, if the Oilers cannot outright get rid of a contract like Lucic, what would it take to move his contract in exchange for something that is close to dollars and term?

    For instance, if Lucic were to agree to the move, could Edmonton try and trade him to Los Angeles for someone like Jeff Carter? Carter has about the same amount of term and dollars as that of Lucic, but is still pretty productive. Carter can play centre and right-wing. He also has plenty of experience.

    Sure, the Oilers would take on a player that is much older than Lucic, but I am wondering if something like that is possible this off-season. If it is possible, what else do you think LA would ask for?

      • Arfguy

        My question was…if LA were to do it, what else would they ask for? Lucic + 1st rounder? Lucic + 2nd rounder?

        What would be the “sweetener” to trade Lucic? Keep in mind, I mention LA, just because they seem to be on the brink of rebuilding and maybe wanting to trade players and get assets in return. Even when a team is re-building, they still need contracts to stay above cap floor.

  • Oilers_1978

    3. must do…but the AxxHxxxx in the oilers management will brings those guys after the deadline only to destroy their confidence and career…

    to implement a winning deadline or any strategy you need need competent management…but can those same AxxHxxxx (mcT, lowe, howson) hockey canada fantasy team builder bobN have the potency to make and implement a winning strategy…

  • bwar

    It’s sad that the closest we can get to shedding contracts is moving out a pair of guys scheduled to make under $2M each next season. Yeah that’s not even close to fixing the Chiarelli disaster. We need to hire a crazy mad genius who can convince Lucic to waive his NMC and then magically convince another team to take him in a trade with no retained salary. These dreams are feeling way too big.

    • Odanada

      Call it the “Chiarelli disaster” if you like, but Bobby Nicks hired Chia and should have been keeping an eye on him. If Katz can’t see that BN has messed up the Oilers for years to come, then I guess it will be more of the same. Katz doesn’t seem to know much about hockey or “winning”

      • bwar

        Makes you wonder who actually has the power to make decisions. Gonna be fun having 10 GM’s in the room trying to agree on making trades for deadline day. I’m not even confident they are capable of becoming cap compliant for Sekera’s return.

  • Oiler Al

    How did we get to this…… Charille walks into the room, drops a heap of turds, Nicholson walks in, turns the fan on “high” and the shictz creek hits the fan and now its a mess.

  • Vanoil

    How about they start building the roster for next year now. If Kassian and Benning are going to be part of that roster you don’t let them go to save a mere $2M in cap space because their respective replacements are going to be more expensive on the open market. [If you believe otherwise I have some good prospecting land to sell you at the YEG landfill site.] If you can’t dump the ugly contracts now, then you sit back and ride them out till you can, but use the TOI to ID best possible scenarios for personnel in 2019. If that means foresaking a little bit in the Bake so beit. You DO NOT want to start test-driving players from Bakersfield during the 2019/2020 season when points matter. An AHL championship is nice, but the farm team is there to eventually produce NHL talent, unless none of those players are going to make the team next year (possible but unlikely given the current Cap Hell we have inherited), it woud be fine to keep them all in the Bake otherwise give them the chance to test their skills and see the level of quality of Comp in the Show, now while the games are meaningless.

  • FutureGM

    Remember when we traded Petry and have been searching for a #3RHD ever since??? His name is Matt Benning. Stop selling legitimate players for a hopeful round 4 pick. Useless!!
    Im not a huge Benning fan but the kid is the best plus player on the team this year.

  • oil.99.97.11

    Please…the Oilers don’t have a “winning strategy” for anything! This organization is completely inept at the NHL level. Beyond their *shrewd* drafting of Connor McDavid, what in the hell else have they done that could even remotely be considered a “winning strategy” over the last # of years?!?!

    Sure, blame it all on Chiarelli if you want, but there’s a few other guys that “know a little bit about winning” that have allowed this whole debacle to unfold right in front of their faces. If the ownership and management of this team had any amount of pride or love for winning as the Oilers fanbase does, we should have seen resignations from several a long time ago…how about that for an appropriate “winning strategy”?

  • TruthHurts98

    How delusional are the writers at ON to keep talking about playoffs? If they win 5 in a row??? Have you seen the upcoming schedule? They’ve won one single game in their last 8! 6 in the last 22. If one of the goalies gets red hot??? Not with that defense in front of them, it’s not possible. They finally for the first time ever have a glimmer of hope in the Bake. So don’t touch it! Got that right:) No team in the league is going to take the Oilers bad contracts. If the contract makes the player worthless and too costly for any other team (Lucic, Russell, Sekera, Manning, Costkinen etc) it’s a BAD contract. Oiler management is clueless on this concept. It’s going to take an incredibly hockey savvy GM to attempt to fix this mess. It’ll take at least 2 years and probably more buyouts. Just the cold hard facts.

  • hagar

    The culture problem is sure getting legs from the msm. Just watching tim and sid and they are on board. At least we have national hosts calling the old boys out now, hopefully it catches the eye of katz and something starts happening.
    If there was even one single excuse left, it would be the new reason and scape goat. There simply isnt anymore excuses left after all these years, the liers have been alllowed to use up every inch until there was nothing left.

    • Randaman

      How dare you come forth bearing common sense! This is the Oilers we’re talking about here. They’ll wait until two days before the draft, you know, for time to prepare. Haha