Trading away a first-round pick has been very, very uncommon throughout the history of the Edmonton Oilers.
The only instance in which the team didn’t draft in the first round came in 2006, as Kevin Lowe traded the pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Dwayne Roloson. Lowe also sacrificed the team’s 2008 first-round pick in the summer of 2007 in order to sign restricted free agent Dustin Penner to an offer sheet, but the Oilers had Anaheim’s 2008 first-round pick from the Chris Pronger trade because the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
Based on Ken Holland’s comments, it seems this trend is going to continue.
Back in January when the Oilers were mired in their worst slump of the season, Holland said he wouldn’t trade the team’s first-round pick if they weren’t higher in the standings. Here we are two months later and while the team is playing much better, they’re still on the bubble of the playoffs in the Western Conference.
While moving the first-round pick might net the Oilers a player that helps them go on a deep run, much like Roloson did in 2006, there’s also a possibility they get bounced immediately in the playoffs and that pick winds up being in the middle of the first round of the draft. An even worse-case-scenario is the Oilers move their first and miss the playoffs, as their spot currently isn’t guaranteed.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. Do you agree with Ken Holland’s logic that the first-round pick should only be moved if the team is up at the top of the standings? Or do you think it’s worthwhile to take a risk like Lowe did in 2006 and invest in a team that’s on the bubble?
The argument in favour of trading the first…
The argument in favour of moving the first-round pick for an upgrade at the trade deadline is pretty simple — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl aren’t getting any younger and it’s time for them to go on a run.
The Oilers, plain and simple, haven’t seen very much success during the McDavid era.
They made the playoffs in his second season in the league, beat the San Jose Sharks in the first round, and went up 2-0 on the Anaheim Ducks in the second round but failed to get the job done against an experienced, battle-tested opponent.
After that, the Oilers missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, which ultimately cost Peter Chiarelli his job as general manager. Edmonton made it back into the playoffs in Ken Holland’s first season but got dropped in the play-in round of the COVID-19 bubble tournament by the underdog Chicago Blackhawks. They were then swept in 2021 by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round.
While the Oilers might not look like a legitimate Stanley Cup team right now, the playoffs really are completely wide open. The Montreal Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Final last year and the Dallas Stars did so the year before that, and nobody viewed those teams as contenders.
The Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames are the only Western Conference teams in the top 10 in the league in points percentage. Anybody out west could go on a run, it seems.
The argument against trading the first…
The argument against trading the first-round pick pretty much comes down to the fact that it’s incredibly important to constantly have a pipeline of cheap, young talent coming up to your big league team because of the salary cap.
Things are going to be tight for the Oilers financially next season as Darnell Nurse’s contract that features a $9.25 million annual salary kicks in and Jesse Puljujarvi will be seeking a raise as a restricted free agent.
Edmonton has some inexpensive help on the way as Dylan Holloway and Xavier Bourgault will be pushing for roster spots in 2022-23. If Holland had traded away the first-round picks in 2020 or 2021, the Oilers wouldn’t have these cheap, promising young players on the way to fill the cracks on their roster.
Another thing to consider is just how much it’ll cost to make an upgrade on the current market. The Florida Panthers traded away their first-round pick in 2023 (along with a prospect) a few days ago in exchange for defenceman Ben Chiarot. While Chiarot is a quality veteran defender, he’s far from a game-changer. Even if the Oilers pony up the first-round pick at the trade deadline, it’s hard to say if it’ll be enough to net a player that makes them significantly better.
What say you, Nation? Do you think Holland is right to be conservative when it comes to the team’s first-round pick? Is this team good enough to take a risk and go all-in on? Let us know!
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