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Photo Credit: © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A detailed list of Off-Season Trade and UFA options for the Edmonton Oilers

With NHL Free Agency approaching in less than two weeks from now, while the 2022 NHL Draft takes place in just five days, there are plenty of rumors and discussions surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.

This is a crucial off-season for the organization, as they have multiple areas throughout their roster to address, and limited cap space to accomplish it.

Firstly, Evander Kane may have priced himself out, and Edmonton should pursue a strong finisher and goal-scoring winger in his place.

Furthermore, it’s been reported that Mike Smith will likely spend next season on LTIR, while Mikko Koskinen has left for Switzerland, so Edmonton undoubtedly requires a goaltender (maybe even two, if Stuart Skinner is not ready). An upgrade on the defensive backend would also be quite beneficial, especially considering the possibility that Duncan Keith retires.

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Without further ado, here’s a detailed list of numerous players that the Oilers could pursue, via trade and free agency.

*All microstats via AllThreeZones, all other metrics via EvolvingHockey and PuckIQ unless stated otherwise

*Note: I recently developed analytical player cards for skaters, which I will frequently use. If you’re perplexed on what some of these categories mean, here’s a piece thoroughly explaining them

Preferable targets

The players in this category are players with quality results, and possess less risk in regards to acquiring them in comparison to other targets. In my mind, these are Edmonton’s most preferable options.

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Dylan Strome (Trade)

Pros: Dylan Strome’s primary strengths are his skills with the puck. His ability to finish his chances is superb. Strome also excels at initiating breakouts in the defensive zone and setting up teammates in high-danger areas. In 2021-22, he would have ranked 3rd among Edmonton’s skaters in cross-slot passes. 

Strome’s defensive skills are above-average, and he could be a solid asset for Edmonton’s PP2 unit. His qualifying offer is $3.6M, which is a fair deal for the value he provides. 

Cons: Penalties are an issue for Strome, and he could improve at generating rush chances. Aside from that, though, there aren’t many downsides in regards to pursuing him as an option. Relative to the other targets on this list, his acquisition cost is unlikely high. 

Connor Brown (Trade)

Pros: Brown is a fine middle-six winger. He excels at generating chances off the rush and off dump-ins, and he’s also quite good at drawing penalties. Additionally, Brown is an above-average forechecker and finisher. He’s a well-rounded offensive player overall, and has experience against difficult competition.

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OilersNow host Bob Stauffer has frequently mentioned a potential trade involving Zack Kassian and Brown, which is certainly a smart idea (do not trade Puljujarvi for Brown, though).

Cons: Although Ottawa’s poor system plays a role, Brown is a below-average defensive player. He’s also quite poor in regards to special teams. Nonetheless, the pros outweigh the cons.

Carson Soucy (Trade)

Pros: Soucy’s name has been frequently mentioned on OilersNow. In the role he plays in, he’s an excellent defensive defenseman, as he excels at suppressing both rush and in-zone scoring chances. Furthermore, Soucy also has the ability to play both LD and RD, making him quite versatile. At a cheap cap hit of $2.8M, he would be a solid replacement for Tyson Barrie.

Cons: Soucy is prone to taking an exceedingly high amount of penalties. Additionally, he provides minimal offensive value beyond his finishing, which is typically an unsustainable trait for most defencemen. Soucy is also sheltered to a considerable degree, but regardless, if Edmonton acquired him, he would primarily play in a third-pairing role anyways.

Ville Husso (UFA)

Pros: Using the goalie model from Clear Sight Analytics (a private analytics community that NHL teams use, with superior data than public models), Ville Husso led the entire league in save percentage above expected. His expected SV% was 0.884, while his actual SV% was 0.918. 

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He was excellent this season, and Pierre Lebrun of The Athletic has reported that Edmonton has shown interest in him. The pending UFA is expected to earn a contract of around ~$4M. At an age of 27, he’s fairly young for an NHL goaltender.

Cons: He has limited NHL experience outside of this year, and allowed roughly six goals more than expected in just 17 GP in 2020-21. Nonetheless, I still feel he remains a strong target.

Other players that fit here: Mark Pysyk, Ross Colton, Jani Hakanpaa

Good / Great targets with some risks / downsides

This category includes a variety of good targets that Edmonton should still consider pursuing. However, I may have mixed feelings about them, and/or they may hold certain risks or disadvantages, such as a potentially pricey contract, uncertain trade possibilities, or injury history.

Andre Burakovsky (UFA)

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Pros: Burakovsky is a fantastic finisher, ranking in the 95th percentile in finishing, and 34th overall among forwards in 5v5 Goals/60 in the past two seasons. Burakovsky is also a splendid play-maker, and is exceptional at starting breakouts. He can efficiently move the puck throughout all three zones, and generate a high amount of dangerous chances off the rush. He could be a superb offensive fit for McDavid.

Cons: Burakovsky is a below-average defensive player, but the larger concern is his contract; coming off a cup win with the Avs, Burakovsky’s contract is uncertain, and there’s the possibility that it’s quite pricey. He still remains an excellent target, but I’m not entirely sure how much he’ll cost.

Mason Marchment (UFA)

Pros: Marchment is an exceptionally well-rounded offensive player. He’s one of the only players in my entire player card database to rank above-average in each play-style category. He generates a high amount of net-front chances, sets up his teammates in the OZ quite frequently, forechecks aggressively, and he’s strong in transition. His defensive results are also quite good.

Cons: With 47 points in 56 games, Marchment’s contract could be decently high. Relative to the chances he obtains, Marchment is also a mediocre finisher. 

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Furthermore, his results seem almost too good to be true; there’s a possibility that his metrics are exceedingly inflated by Florida’s excellent system, and he could regress on a different team. He still remains a valuable player, but Edmonton should remain fairly cautious about him.

Jake Debrusk (Trade)

Pros: Debrusk is a strong offensive player. He consistently drives towards the front of the net to obtain deflections, rebounds, and quality chances around the slot area. Debrusk also performs well at carrying the puck through the neutral zone, and drawing penalties. Not to mention, his finishing skills rank above-average.

Cons: Around December 2021, it was reported that Debrusk requested a trade, as he struggled production-wise. At the time, I wrote an article about him, stating that his subpar production was primarily the result of poor luck, and my analysis was correct; he scored 20 goals in 54 games ever since. 

With Debrusk’s resurgence and his recent contract extension, alongside the fact that LW Brad Marchand will be out for the beginning of next season, Boston may be reluctant to currently move him.

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Conor Garland (Trade)

Pros: Garland is an exceptional two-way winger. He’s one of Edmonton’s stronger defensive options, while he still manages to generate scoring chances at a high rate, primarily due to his excellent play-making abilities in the offensive zone. Garland also tends to dump the puck at high rates, and performs well at creating chances off the forecheck. Via the Fourth Period, Edmonton is one of several teams linked to Garland.

Cons: Garland was a strong finisher in 2019-20, with 22 goals on 15.5 expected goals. In 2020-21, he was slightly below-average, with 12 goals on 12.4 expected goals. With Vancouver, he scored 19 goals on exactly 19 expected goals. Consequently, his finishing is somewhat inconsistent, and his recent results have been rather unimpressive. An inconsistent finisher isn’t the most preferable trait for Edmonton. Furthermore, his trade value could be decently high.

Darcy Kuemper (UFA)

Pros: In the past three seasons, Kuemper has saved roughly 24 goals than expected to. He ranks 4th in the entire league by this metric, behind Sorokin, Shesterkin, and Hellebuyck. His numbers in the regular-season are quite encouraging, and he could be a splendid option.

Cons: Kuemper is quite injury-prone, as he’s missed several games in each of the past four seasons. Anything exceeding 2-3 years on a potential contract is a risky deal. Furthermore, although I dislike using the playoffs to evaluate players due to the limited sample size, Kuemper’s playoff performance raised some red flags, as he posted a mere .901 SV% behind a marvelous defensive squad. He’s still a fine target, but there’s certainly some risks.

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Jack Campbell (UFA)

Pros: In 2020-21, Campbell saved exactly five goals more than expected to, and ended the season with a strong SV% of 0.919. In 2021-22, he had an outstanding start, with a SV% of 0.938 after his first 24 games, and he saved a whooping 15 goals above expected. At that point, Campbell was a potential Vezina nominee.

Cons: It would be an understatement to say that Campbell’s second half of 2021-22 was disappointing. He posted a dreadful SV% of 0.890, and allowed roughly 21 (!) goals more than expected. To add on, it was previously reported that public goalie models slightly overrate Campbell’s value, which makes this even more concerning.

I nearly placed Campbell in the “high-risk, high-reward” category, as he’s certainly a risky option. On the 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman stated that he sees Campbell as a fit with Edmonton. Personally, I would strongly pursue Husso and Kuemper first, while Campbell could be a consideration as a “Plan C” if those two are unavailable.

Other players that fit here: Ilya Mikheyev, Scott Mayfield, David Perron, Nino Niederreiter

High-risk, high-reward players 

The players in this category typically possess a pricey cap-hit and/or a high acquisition cost, and come with various risks. However, they do have considerably high potential, and could end up making a significant impact on Edmonton’s regular-season and playoff success.

Jacob Chychrun (Trade)

Pros: Chychrun is a minute-munching defenceman, with above-average defensive results. He’s good at moving the puck, and generates a high amount of rush chances on a pretty poor rush team.

At his current age, Keith shouldn’t play 2LD, and an upgrade is required. If Kulak doesn’t re-sign and/or Keith retires, Chychrun is an ambitious option.

Cons: Although he plays significant minutes, Chychrun’s quality of competition isn’t that impressive; he ranks 4th among Arizona’s defenceman in TOI% spent against elite competition via PuckIQ. Furthermore, he’s poor at generating in-zone offence and shutting down opposing zone entries. Chychrun also takes a high amount of low-quality point shots, which is an unpreferable skill if he desires to play with McDavid. He did lead all NHL defencemen in 5v5 Goals per hour last season, but it was the product of an unsustainable shooting-percentage heater.

His reported trade value is exceedingly high, and I’m not sure if he’s worth it. It’s highly likely that his team has dragged him down, but it’s still a risk to assume to what extent he’s hampered by his team. Chychrun is the textbook definition of a high-risk, high-reward target.

Travis Sanheim (Trade)

Pros: Sanheim is a superb two-way defencemen. He excels at moving the puck up the ice, and effectively supporting his forwards with excellent passing abilities in the offensive zone. Sanheim is also a strong in-zone defender, and he has significant experience playing a high amount of minutes against top competition. He’s another ambitious LD option.

Cons: Sanheim is essentially a liability in regards to special teams, and he’s a below-average rush defender. The more significant reason I place him in this category is due to his (potentially) high trade value, but he is a safer bet than Chychrun.

Jakub Vrana (Trade)

Pros: Vrana is a phenomenal finisher. In the past two seasons, Vrana has scored at an outstanding rate of 1.71 5v5 goals per hour, ranking 2nd in the entire league, even ahead of both Draisaitl and McDavid. Vrana takes shots at a high rate, typically off the rush, and he’s also an excellent forechecker. 

Cons: Vrana was traded from Washington to Detroit at the 2020-21 trade deadline, and the possibility that Detroit desires to move him is (unfortunately) low. It will cost a lot for teams to acquire him, but he could be worth it.

Alex Debrincat (Trade)

Pros: Debrincat is a top-five goal-scorer and finisher in the NHL, with 73 goals in the past two seasons. Debrincat is deadly in transition, consistently generates high-quality rush chances, and excels at drawing penalties as a result of his speed. He also managed to produce average defensive results on a Chicago team with an abysmal defensive system. He’s undoubtedly one of the best wingers in the league.

Cons: Debrincat’s trade value is incredibly high. Edmonton will need to send a significantly lofty package with picks, prospects, and NHL players to acquire him. 

With a cap-hit of $6.4M, it will be difficult to fit him on the roster without the departures of other assets. Furthermore, he only has one year left on his current deal, and a qualifying offer of $9M next season. Debrincat could score 50+ goals with McDavid, but there are evidently immense risks involved. 

Other players that fit here: Filip Forsberg, John Gibson, Jesper Bratt, Dominik Kubalik 

What about Josh Anderson?

Pros: Josh Anderson’s name has been mentioned several times on OilersNow. He’s a big, physical winger, with above-average finishing results. Anderson additionally has experience playing against difficult competition.

Cons: Anderson is poor at driving play. He’s below-average defensively, and due to his horrid passing abilities, he struggles at generating scoring chances for his linemates; he’s abysmal at starting breakouts and making quality passes in the offensive zone. Not to mention, he takes an alarming amount of penalties.

Furthermore, he’s an exceedingly streaky scorer. Anderson does have stretches of strong goal-scoring, but also has stretches of games in which he’s simply an on-ice liability. With a pricey cap-hit of $5.5M, alongside numerous other red flags, it doesn’t make much sense for Edmonton to pursue him; simply put, the cons outweigh the pros. The good news is that Montreal is reportedly somewhat reluctant to move Anderson in the first place.

It will be interesting to see what Holland will eventually do this off-season, and how the roster could look in September. 

What are your thoughts on the players I’ve mentioned? Do you agree or disagree with my evaluations? Did I forget any other good targets?

 

Find me on Twitter (@NHL_Sid)