The trade market is starting to heat up.
By the time American Thanksgiving, which was last week, rolls around, teams around the NHL should have a good idea of where they’re at. We can pretty much tell at this point which teams have legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, who are in the mix to be playoff teams, and who are toast.
The Oilers appear to be a team with legitimate championship aspirations. After Wednesday night’s impressive win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton owns a 16-5-0 record and the best points percentage in the league at .762.
Ken Holland largely stood pat at last year’s trade deadline, trading a fourth-round pick to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for veteran shutout defender Dmitri Kulikov. This time around, he likely won’t be so conservative. Back in October, Bob Stauffer said on OilersNow that Holland would be comfortable trading the team’s first-round pick to make an upgrade, something he hasn’t done since joining the organization in 2018.
Over at Daily Faceoff, Frank Seravalli listed 15 Trade Targets as the market heats up moving into December. Let’s go through some names who could be of interest to the Oilers…
1. Joonas Korpisalo
Goaltender, Columbus Blue Jackets
Contract: Pending UFA, $2.8 million AAV
Scoop: It’s the Elvis Merzlikins Show in Columbus, now and for the foreseeable future. Merzlikins has carried the Blue Jackets – and next year begins a fresh five-year, $27 million deal. Plus, the Blue Jackets have Daniil Tarasov eventually waiting in the wings. Korpisalo has not put in a formal trade request, but GM Jarmo Kekalainen is aware that Korpisalo would be open to an opportunity to play elsewhere. Teams have engaged with Columbus on Korpisalo as recently as the last couple weeks. He’s struggled these last two seasons – but made a believer of many with his play in the ‘bubble’ in 2019-20.
Coming into the season, goaltending was Edmonton’s biggest question mark. The team tried to upgrade the position over the off-season but wound up rolling with the Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen tandem for a third go-around. Despite Smith getting injured in the third game of the season and falling off the grid, goaltending hasn’t at all been an issue for the Oilers.
Koskinen has had an excellent bounce-back showing after a tough season in 2021. Through 14 games, he has a .914 save percentage, which is pretty much on par with what he did back in 2019-20 when he had his strongest season in the NHL. There’s also Stuart Skinner, who’s been fantastic in relief of Smith. Through six games, the rookie has a .928 save percentage and looks like a legitimate NHL goaltender.
At this point, it doesn’t seem as though goaltending is a pressing need for the Oilers. Even if it becomes an issue, I’m not sure Korpisalo, who has a .892 save percentage between this season and last, would be an upgrade over what they already have.
2. Jake DeBrusk
Left Wing, Boston Bruins
Contract: Pending RFA, $3.675 million AAV ($4.85 mil. minimum qualifying offer)
Scoop: DeBrusk’s trade request has been well publicized, grabbing headlines and generating interest. As many as 12 teams have reportedly inquired about DeBrusk – and though he’s been needed in the lineup, Bruins GM Don Sweeney has been active in attempting to facilitate a deal and diffuse the situation. There have been questions about DeBrusk’s attention to detail and effort level (publicly via coach Bruce Cassidy). The difficulty is other teams have seen that, too, leaving Sweeney in a position of weakness, trying to trade a talented young scorer while his value is seemingly at an all-time low.
We’ve been talking about Jake DeBrusk’s homecoming for quite some time.
I speculated about the possibility last season when DeBrusk was made a healthy scratch and the idea popped up again earlier this week when the former No. 15 overall pick’s trade request became public.
DeBrusk has only eight goals in 59 games over the last two seasons but he isn’t far removed from scoring 27 goals in 68 games for the Bruins. There’s no doubting DeBrusk’s upside as a high-energy, physical, power-forward who can score goals and he would certainly be a worthwhile reclamation project for most teams.
Does it make sense for the Oilers? It did last season before the team went out and signed Zach Hyman in free agency and traded for Warren Foegele to add depth on the wings. You can obviously never have too many good players and the Oilers aren’t so loaded on the wings that they can’t fit DeBrusk, but the challenge here is the salary cap.
DeBrusk has a $3,675,000 cap hit this season and then he becomes a restricted free agent and will earn a $4,850,000 salary in 2022-23 if he’s issued a qualifying offer. With other areas of need (the blueline, third-line centre), it’s difficult to see Edmonton taking on this kind of financial commitment for another winger right now. The only way I could see it working is if Zack Kassian is going back the other way.
8. Dylan Strome
Center, Chicago Blackhawks
Contract: Pending RFA, $3 million AAV ($3.6 mil. minimum qualifying offer)
Scoop: It’s been a tough haul for Strome this season, who has been trying to find his game after a season-opening healthy scratch. We reported then the Blackhawks, under GM Stan Bowman at the time, was working to try and find Strome a new home. Interim GM Kyle Davidson has continued the effort, but there has not been a fit. Strome has three points in 12 games, understandably lacking confidence, just two seasons removed from a 38-point campaign in 58 games during the Covid-19 shortened 2019-20 season.
Speaking of the third-line centre spot, an interesting name who could fit is Dylan Strome, yet another young player who could be in need of a change of scenery.
The former No. 3 overall pick was a bust for the Arizona Coyotes, scoring just 16 points in 48 games over parts of three seasons. He was traded to Chicago in 2018 and had a breakout season with the Blackhawks, scoring 51 points over 58 games. Strome then scored 38 points in 58 games in 2019-20 but has fallen off since. He had just 17 points in 40 games in 2021 and he has three points in 12 games this season.
Again, money would need to be going out the other way, but if the Oilers are going to acquire a reclamation project, it would make more sense for it to be Strome than DeBrusk, given the former fits a more glaring positional need. There’s also an interesting connection here, as Strome played with Connor McDavid on the Erie Otters in the OHL.