It’s about time to start talking about buyers and sellers.
If things were normal, we would be dealing with trade frenzy right now, as the NHL’s Trade Deadline generally tends to fall in late-February or early-March. But given the abnormality of the 2021 season, the Trade Deadline won’t come until April 12.
It feels like that’s a long way away and a lot can change over the course of six weeks, but general managers are surely starting to plan whether or not they’ll be adding ahead of the deadline.
Another wrinkle when it comes to executing trades this season is the two-week quarantine for players crossing the Canada-U.S. border. With that in mind, I imagine we’ll see a handful of moves made well before that April 12 date as contending teams want to get new players acclimatized to their new situation with plenty of regular-season games to spare.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. Should Ken Holland be adding to the team ahead of the deadline? If so, what parts of the roster should be improved? How much would you be willing to give up to make a big splash?
Back in 2006, Kevin Lowe made a whole bunch of moves ahead of the deadline that were key to Edmonton’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. In January, he upgraded the blueline by acquiring Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom in two separate deals, and then he pulled the trigger on two big moves in March, adding Dwayne Roloson and Sergei Samsonov.
2017 was a very different story as Peter Chiarelli mostly stood pat ahead of the deadline. The only swap worth noting from that season was the one that sent Brandon Davidson to Montreal in exchange for David Desharnais. The diminutive centre filled the third-line centre spot and scored a huge overtime goal for the Oilers in the San Jose series.
Finally, we have the 2020 Trade Deadline, which was Ken Holland’s first as the team’s general manager. Holland gave up a couple of late draft picks to add a couple of veterans in Tyler Ennis and Mike Green and he also moved a couple of second-round picks to acquire Andreas Athanasiou, a move that had both the present and future in mind.
The hope with Athanasiou, who was an impending restricted free agent, was that he could be an upgrade for the team’s short-term playoff push while also potentially filling a role long-term. That didn’t happen and Holland ended up letting him walk in the off-season. Still, this deal gives us an idea of what we might expect from Holland this year.
Holland bought at the trade deadline many times as the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings during his 22-year tenure, trading away first-round picks to acquire names like Kyle Quincy, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, and Chris Chelios.
The context is a bit different in Edmonton as one of Holland’s top priorities is to stock Edmonton’s farm system and build an assembly line that consistently funnels cheap, young talent to the big-league club. Given the Oilers don’t have their second- or third-round picks this year, moving the first-round pick in a pre-deadline splash will be a difficult decision for Holland to make.
The Oilers have certainly put themselves in a position to warrant being buyers. The team has won 11 of its last 13 games and now sits second in the All-Canadian Division behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Oilers look not only like a playoff team, but a team that could go on a deep run.
Where could Holland upgrade? Goaltending looked like an obvious place to improve, but Mike Smith has changed that narrative with amazing play over the past few weeks. The blueline features plenty of depth with a mix of youth and veterans. The offence is rolling and ranks first in the league in goals right now. The biggest hole right now, just like in 2017, is the third-line centre position.
Off-season addition Kyle Turris hasn’t been the answer and while both Jujhar Khaira and Gaetan Haas have played well, Edmonton’s doesn’t have a true shutdown centre to go up against top opponents in a playoff series.
Here are some names who could fit from teams who look as though they’re going to be in seller mode…
- Ryan Getzlaf: An impending free agent on a team that doesn’t have serious contention aspirations. Getzlaf is no longer the MVP candidate he used to be but he’s still a good player. He boasts plenty of playoff experience and would make the Oilers very deep down the middle.
- Eric Staal: The Buffalo Sabres made a handful of additions over the off-season but they haven’t been able to turn things around. Staal is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the Sabres will surely sell to recoup some assets. He has eight points in 17 games this year and is one year removed from scoring 19 goals in 66 games.
- Derek Stepan: Another impending free-agent veteran pivot on a bad team. Stepan isn’t as good as either Getzlaf or Staal but he would be a much cheaper acquisition. I’m not sure he’s an upgrade on either of Khaira or Haas at this stage, but it’s always good to have veterans in the mix. The one nice thing about Stepan over other rental veterans I’ve listed is the fact he wouldn’t have to quarantine.
- Luke Glendening: It’s always worthwhile to look at Holland’s old team to find names he might acquire. The name that stands out here is Luke Glendening, a pivot who doesn’t provide much offence but has been very effective in a shutdown role. He’s a free agent at the end of the season.
- Ryan Strome: A familiar face who once played effectively for the Oilers in a third-line role. Strome has broken out offensively with the New York Rangers since being swapped one-for-one for Ryan Spooner. He’s signed for one more season after this at $4,500,000. Would the money work? Are the Rangers interested in selling high on Strome?
- Ryan Donato: This would be much like the Athanasiou trade. Donato is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and could help the Oilers this year and beyond, which is something Holland clearly values. Donato has some big-game experience from his time in Boston and the Sharks appear to be on their way to seeing ahead of this year’s deadline.
What say you, Nation? Should Holland make a move ahead of the Trade Deadline? Which hole is the most important to fill? Would you give up the 2021 first-round pick? Or is it best to look for cheap, depth upgrades?