2023-24’s Biggest Storylines #4 – Trade Deadline Plans
2 months ago
Rolling along on my countdown of the ten biggest storylines to watch heading into next season for the Edmonton Oilers. Today, I want to look a little way down the road.
So far in the series, I’ve been talking about the players who are currently on the roster or a part of the organization, but today, I want to talk about who the team could be looking to add as the year goes on.
The offseason was relatively quiet for the Oilers. Aside from the addition of Connor Brown, Ken Holland really didn’t make any big splashes. However, I suspect that similar to last year, Holland will get the itch to want to add another piece to this roster before the 2024 trade deadline.
What part of the roster will Holland look to upgrade? That’s dependent on a lot of things.
Earlier in the series, we talked about the impact of Ekholm and how having him around for a full season could really make this blue line a strength for the Oilers. I think right now, a lot of Oilers fans would say that adding a right-shot version of Ekholm would be something that would make a lot of sense. Basically, finding an upgrade for Cody Ceci.
But, if Darnell Nurse bounces back this season and Ekholm keeps looking like a legitimate top-pairing defenseman, maybe the Oilers won’t need to go that route. They could look to spend their assets elsewhere.
We’ve also talked about Connor Brown’s arrival and also some breakout candidates in this forward group. If Brown comes in and looks like Zach Hyman-lite, then the Oilers’ top six will be full of really effective complimentary pieces to ride shotgun with McDavid and Draisaitl.
If Brown doesn’t hit the way that the Oilers are hoping, then the Oilers will likely need to be shopping for a scoring winger at the deadline.
Really, the biggest factor that will impact the Oilers’ deadline plans is health.
If the Oilers have a major injury next season, that will drastically change how Holland handles the deadline. There will be a hole in the lineup to fill and Holland could have LTIR space. Looking at you Vegas and Mark Stone.
If a top-six forward were to suffer a significant injury, then that would instantly become their biggest need. Same thing if they were to lose a key defenseman like Nurse, Ekholm, or Bouchard.
The Oilers appear to be a relatively complete team at the moment. If everyone stays healthy, then there are two clear-cut ways for them to make an upgrade at the deadline, even though they only have a few hundred thousand dollars in cap space. If they want to upgrade their forward group, then they could move out Warren Foegele’s $2.75m cap hit and if they want to upgrade their blueline, then they could trade Cody Ceci and his $3.25m cap hit.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
On top of that, they have some interesting assets that they could use as trade bait. If they really take a big swing and try to land an elite player, like Ekholm, then I could see one of Philip Broberg or Xavier Bourgeault being used as a trade chip. They also have some ‘B’ level prospects like Tyler Tulio and Matvey Petrov among others.
They also still have their first-round picks for each of the next three drafts at their disposal along with a second-round pick in 2024 and a third-round pick in 2025.
You don’t want to just spend all your picks at one deadline but there are a handful of reasons to believe that the Oilers will be ultra-aggressive this season.
The first is that Ken Holland is in the final year of his deal, I could see him getting extra aggressive with future assets at this year’s deadline and again, he’ll have the ability to do so. The Oilers system is totally empty and they own some high-picks in the next few drafts.
The fact that they’re not running in LTIR also is a huge positive factor.
Also, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have both been very outspoken about the disappointment they felt by losing in the second round last season. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed and I believe the organization will be very motivated to give those players all the help they need to go on a deep run this spring.
I just can’t see a scenario where Holland looks at McDavid and Draisaitl and says that they’ll be standing pat in February. Those two deserve to head into the playoffs with as close to a complete roster as possible.
This team is fully capable of being one of the best teams in the league during the regular season and if that’s the case, then I would fully expect that Ken Holland is going to give them everything they need to try and win a Stanley Cup in what could very well be his final season as an NHL GM.
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