How the Edmonton Oilers could land Nikolaj Ehlers or Patrik Laine

If you missed it earlier, TSN’s first Trade Bait list of the offseason hit the interwebs today and with it came a few surprises.

While Adam Larsson was the lone Oilers players on the list, there were two Winnipeg Jets added that could be of major interest to Edmonton.

Patrik Laine came in at the fifth spot, while Nikolaj Ehlers came in at 12.

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The Jets lost Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot from their back end in the last year dealing a significant blow to their defence. While their GA/g increased from 2.96 to 2.83 from 2018-19 to 2019-20, it’s largely in part to a Vezina calibre season from Connor Hellebuyck.

Here’s what TSN’s Frank Seravalli had to say about a potential deal:

By no means is Laine a lock to be traded. Free agency will be one road for the Jets to attempt to fill the crater left by Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot on the backend since last offseason.

That will be a challenge for Winnipeg, even with money to spend, and only a few true standouts ever make it to market.

That leaves Laine (or fellow winger Nikolaj Ehlers, also on the Trade Bait board) as perhaps the most logical deductions from a Winnipeg trade chip perspective because the Jets are unlikely to move Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler or Kyle Connor – who scored 10 more goals than Laine this season.

Winnipeg has holes, and the Oilers might be able to help fill them.

Patrik Laine

Laine just completed his fourth year in the NHL and has scored a wildly impressive 138 goals in 305 games to kick start what will undoubtedly be a long career. This past year he scored 28 goals and 63 points in 68 games on pace for a 33 goal season.

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At 22, his early talent as a pure sniper drafted two spots ahead of fellow Finn Jesse Puljujarvi. While there have been defensive warts in Laine’s game, reports out of Winnipeg suggest this season was his most complete as an NHL player.

His isolated impacts show his offensive and defensive isolated impacts are 2-3 percent below league average, and his underlying 5v5 analytics are also… well below league average.

But what’s he’s good at is putting the puck in the net. Like, really good at it. Over the last three years he’s scored 1.5 goals per hour ranking him seventh among all NHL players and ahead of both Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.

At the end of the day there’s very few players who can score like Laine in the NHL today and it’s even less often that these players actually become available in the market. He would be a tremendous fit alongside Connor McDavid and would give 97 one of the most potent goal scorers in the NHL.

Laine is due $6.75-million next season and is an RFA after.

Edmonton should be taking a look at Laine.

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Nik Ehlers

If Edmonton were smart, they would be targeting Ehlers over Laine. His goal-scoring ability isn’t far off from the elite category in the NHL scoring 1.3 goals per hour, the 25th best number in the NHL over the last three seasons and not far off from Laine.

On top of that Ehlers is a much more complete player. He drives play at 5v5 and has held a positive goals rate in each of his five seasons. Ehlers scored 25 goals and 59 points in 71 games this past year. It was a big bounce-back year for Ehlers, who had scored 37 points in 62 games the season prior.

Ehlers isolated impacts paint a much different picture than Laine. Offensively Ehlers provides offence at an eight percent rate higher than league average while providing defence at a three percent worse than league average.

He’s on a friendly contract paying him $6-million through the 24-25 season without any movement clauses. Much like with Laine, Ehlers would immediately be able to slot in beside Connor McDavid and be a offensive threat.

Edmonton should be taking a much longer, harder look at Ehlers than Laine.

The cost

This is where it gets interesting. Winnipeg needs defencemen. Edmonton needs top-six wingers. There’s a deal to be had here.

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I reckon if the Oilers are looking to acquire one of the two, the conversation would start with Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom. What’s important to note too is the salary comparables. Ehlers’ deal is much friendlier than Laine’s and closer to that of Nurse, who is making $5.6-million for the next two years.

With Edmonton inching close to the incoming flat cap, it would make the most sense for there to be a Nurse/Ehlers swap. Given what Ehlers has done and what he brings to the table, the Oilers would likely need to include more and I could very well see Adam Larrson and/or Andreas Athanasiou added into the deal.

Nurse is good, Ehlers is very good. It’s as simple as that. Edmonton would still win a theoretical deal even if Larsson AND Athanasiou were added into the mix. The Oilers organizational Leftorium is deep and Caleb Jones showed he is ready for more minutes. Look for him to have an Ethan Bear-esque breakout campaign next year.

On Twitter: @zjlaing