WWYDW(SE): External Improvements

While the first month of Edmonton’s season has been fantastic, there’s no doubt that the team is going to need a little bit of help in order to earn a playoff spot in the competitive Pacific Division.

The team’s success early on has been the result of a few factors. First and foremost, the team has gotten other-worldly play from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who have combined for 49 points in 15 games. The blueline has also been strong. Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse are playing some of their best hockey and rookies Joel Persson and Ethan Bear have stepped up admirably beside them. And finally, both Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith have been good in net, taking some pressure off of the offence.

But there are also a few glaring weaknesses that could ultimately hold this team back. Those issues are up front. The Oilers badly need scoring depth and they could use an upgrade on their third-line centre. I talked a couple of weeks ago about how there are options in the AHL that could fill those roles, but that’s probably counterintuitive to Ken Holland’s plan of slowly bringing along key prospects in the minors. With that in mind, the Oilers might be best suited looking externally for upgrades to their roster.

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That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SUNDAY EDITION question. How should Ken Holland go about upgrading the Oilers’ roster? Should he look to make a move early? Or wait until the trade deadline? Should he be in the market for a rental? Or only longer-term options? Should he bother making additions? Or should the long-term continue to be the priority despite the team’s hot start?

The idea of upgrading the Oilers’ roster is somewhat of a difficult balancing act. As I said above, the best plan to make upgrades is likely looking externally because the team is finally prioritizing bringing along their prospects slowly. But if Edmonton goes out and makes an addition to help the team right now, they’ll likely have to dip into their prospect depth or draft pick capital in order to do so. No matter what, making a game-changing addition to this roster will involve deviating from the long-term, take-it-slow plan.

The best-case-scenario, of course, is that Holland can manage to turn the disgruntled Jesse Puljujarvi into a player that can help the roster right now. But, more than likely, Holland will need to find a creative way to upgrade Edmonton’s weaknesses in the short-term without straying away too much from the long-term.

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Taking a look at rental options, a couple of names pop out as sensible additions. Tyler Toffoli’s offence has cratered along with the L.A. Kings’ struggles but he would nicely round out the Oilers’ top-six. The Senators are certain to sell at the deadline and J.G. Pageau is the multi-dimensional, two-way centre the Oilers badly need. More names will pop up as other middling teams slide out of contention, but those are the types of names I would expect the Oilers to consider.

The difficulty for the Oilers, of course, is rationalizing involving themselves in the rental market when building up the farm system is still a priority. Making the playoffs this season is certainly a priority, but there’s also an eye on the bigger picture right now. This could put Holland in a position to make more of an old-school hockey deal in order to fill up a position of need.

The team’s blueline has thrived in the absence of Adam Larsson, which could provide an interesting opportunity down the road. If the Oilers decide that their young defencemen have shown enough, they could dangle Larsson’s name in a trade for a forward. They could also keep Larsson and dangle Matt Benning’s name, though Benning wouldn’t net as much of a return as Larsson would.

I know it’s very early to start talking about this, but it’s a worthwhile idea to consider making additions well before the trade deadline to get a leg up on the competition. There are plenty of avenues to take, the key is deciding how much of a priority making in-season improvements are this year. Though Holland’s eyes are obviously on the big picture, it won’t be easy to ignore this hot start and what might come of it if the right additions are made.

Edmonton Oilers willing to trade up or trade back at NHL draft

What say you, Nation? What route should Holland take to upgrade the roster? Are the Oilers at a point in which they should consider dealing prospects and draft picks? Could a classic hockey trade work? Or should they stand pat and roll with what they have? 

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