2024 Trade Deadline Preview: Potential trade targets for Edmonton, and what Ken Holland should ultimately do

Photo credit:https://twitter.com/EdmontonOilers
4 months ago
The 2024 NHL Trade Deadline is officially two days away.
For the Edmonton Oilers, this is a crucially important deadline. Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard’s contracts expire after two seasons, including this one. With both expected to receive massive raises, Edmonton’s ideal window to win a Stanley Cup is within these next two years. The team in 2025-26 may not be as good as their current roster.
It is Year 9 of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The time to go all in and win is now.
“We’re trying to win,” said Holland in a recent Q&A with Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic. “If you don’t think we’re trying to win, I’m telling you that we’re trying to win.”
“We’re doing everything we can to be competitive and put the best team we can on the ice.”
So, what exactly are Edmonton’s primary needs? Who could they acquire to maximize this team’s potential? Based on Holland’s comments in the Q&A linked above, it is unlikely Edmonton will pursue a goalie.
“No, I’m not exploring the [goalie] market at all,” answered Holland in response to a question regarding Edmonton’s situation in net. “We feel really good about our goaltending.”
Don’t expect Edmonton to add a goaltender. At this stage, Edmonton will likely acquire at least one forward and at least one defenceman at this deadline. Preferably, Edmonton could use a top-six right wing for Leon Draisaitl, a top-four upgrade on Cody Ceci at right defence, and some bottom-six forward depth.
Without further ado, here is an in-depth preview of the deadline for the Oilers, outlining potential trade targets, assets that the Oilers may move, and what Edmonton’s management should ultimately do.
*All microstats via AllThreeZones, all cap info via CapFriendly, and all other statistics via EvolvingHockey, Natural Stat Trick and PuckIQ


While the Oilers have deployed McDavid and Draisaitl on the same line as of late, their top line heading into the playoffs should be the RNH – McDavid – Zach Hyman trio, the line currently ranking first among all NHL forward lines in 5v5 expected goal differential.
As for the second line, the objective should be to play Leon Draisaitl at 2C full-time and acquire a top-six winger for him via trade. Edmonton currently ranks first in the league by nearly every model in expected goals at 5v5 but ranks second last in goals scored above expected; they could certainly use someone with finishing talent. 
In general, the forward depth could use improvement. In the calendar year of 2024, the Oilers have scored a mere 1.2 goals per hour at 5v5 without their two superstars on ice.
Here is a closer look into potential forward trade targets for Edmonton.

Pavel Buchnevich

Pavel Buchnevich might just be the best available forward on the market. The 28-year-old winger on the St. Louis Blues carries a $5.8M cap-hit on a contract that expires after 2024-2025; with an extra year on his contract, he would not be a rental. 
Buchnevich is a fantastic player, producing 191 points in 195 games in his tenure in St. Louis. His 5-on-5 production and finishing results are superb. What distinguishes Buchnevich from other potential top-six targets is his strong two-way results, as Buchnevich is a reliable player in his own end, potentially making him the perfect fit for Draisaitl.
Buchnevich has been linked to Edmonton several times. In a recent article by Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jeremy Rutherford on The Athletic, Rutherford reports the Blues’ asking price could be equivalent to two first-round picks, “which could come in the form of a first-round pick in 2024 and a recent first-round pick.” Based on these comments, a package including the 2024 1st and Philip Broberg could work.
The price is certainly high, but for a high-end player like Buchnevich, I believe it would be worth it.

Jake Guentzel

Jake Guentzel is the top rental option out there. The 29-year-old forward is in the final season of a five-year contract at a $6M AAV.
Guentzel is a fantastic offensive player. Prior to his injury this season, Guentzel was producing at a 36-goal, 87-point pace, as his scoring rate of 1.1 goals per hour at 5v5 ranks in the 93rd percentile among all forwards in the past three seasons. Guentzel is additionally a proven playoff performer, with 34 goals in 58 career playoff games. While Guentzel is far from good defensively, his offensive capabilities far outweigh it.
The potential acquisition cost for Guentzel is expected to be high, as Pittsburgh is reportedly looking for a 1st, a young NHL player, and prospects, while various teams are interested. The Oilers have been linked to Guentzel for quite some time. It’s a very steep price for a rental, but make no mistake, Guentzel would be an excellent addition.

Tyler Toffoli

Another potential rental option is Tyler Toffoli, a 31-year-old winger on the New Jersey Devils on an expiring contract with an AAV of $4.25M.
Toffoli’s finishing results are somewhat inconsistent and have fluctuated throughout his career. However, he still remains a reasonably productive forward, scoring a solid 0.85 goals per hour at 5v5 throughout the past three seasons. Compared to someone like Tarasenko, Toffoli is much more responsible defensively, while additionally possessing the benefit of being right-handed.
On Insider Trading, Darren Dreger mentioned that Toffoli could be a fit in Edmonton. Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald stated the team was not shopping Toffoli, but that does not necessarily mean he won’t listen to calls.

Nic Dowd

Nic Dowd, a 33-year-old center on the Washington Capitals making just $1.3M, is one of Edmonton’s best 3C options.
In the past three seasons, only seven forwards have played a higher percentage of their TOI against elite opponents than Nic Dowd, who sits at 39 percent. Dowd’s deployment in Washington has been exceedingly difficult, but the results have been quite good. Dowd is reasonably productive at 5v5, and more prominently, Dowd’s defensive metrics are excellent.
Dowd could center a potential shutdown third line for Edmonton, opening up opportunities for McDavid and Draisaitl to receive better match-ups, while Ryan McLeod could play at wing full-time. However, the acquisition cost for Dowd could be a first-round pick, which is quite high for a third-line center.

Adam Henrique

Adam Henrique is another center option for Edmonton. 
Like Dowd, Henrique has plenty of experience playing against difficult match-ups. Dowd is more effective defensively, but Henrique is the superior offensive player. Henrique has 42 points this season in 60 games, nearly a 60-point pace. Having McDavid, Draisaitl, and Henrique down the middle is quite enticing.
On Insider Trading, Chris Johnston mentioned that Edmonton’s priority could be to acquire Henrique. However, Henrique is 34, and carries a hefty AAV of $5.825M. Similar to Dowd, Henrique would be a great addition, but the question is whether he would be worth the potential cost.

Other options:

  • A reunion with Jordan Eberle could be quite interesting, as Eberle fits Edmonton’s need for a right-shot top-six RW. Eberle’s 5v5 production results throughout the past three seasons are quite solid. However, Darren Dreger has mentioned Seattle is looking to extend him.
  • The Oilers could also be pursuing a fourth-line center, and Sam Carrick has been mentioned numerous times by Bob Stauffer on OilersNow. Nothing about Carrick’s offensive or defensive results particularly stands out, as he has been a fringe NHL player for the good majority of his career. I’m not a fan, but don’t be surprised if the Oilers eventually acquire him.
  • I like Yakov Trenin as a 4C option much more than Carrick. Trenin’s underlying defensive metrics are fairly strong.
  • Reilly Smith is not a high-end player, but remains a fairly effective second-line winger. If the Oilers fail to acquire Buchnevich, Guentzel, and Toffoli, Smith could be a back-up option worth considering.
  • Scott Laughton could be an option, but he has produced at a mediocre rate of 1.4 points per hour at 5v5, alongside middling defensive results. Not an avid fan of his either.
  • David Perron was a solid producer in prior seasons, although his results have significantly declined this season. 
  • Colin Blackwell could be a potential addition for the bottom-six
  • Some cheaper middle-six winger options include Gustav Nyquist and Anthony Duclair. The Oilers could potentially target one of them and save assets to acquire a defenceman and/or another forward; however, targeting a high-end winger such as Buchnevich should remain the top option if possible.


As I’ve outlined in detail in prior articles, the Oilers could greatly use an upgrade on Cody Ceci. The pairings of Ekholm/Bouchard and Kulak/Desharnais have had fantastic seasons, and if Edmonton can acquire a competent partner for Darnell Nurse, this would truly be one of the NHL’s most well-rounded defensive cores.
Here are a few potential top-four RHD options.

Alexandre Carrier

Alexandre Carrier, a 27-year-old defenceman making $2.5M on an expiring contract, is a player I have been quite fond of.
While Roman Josi is Nashville’s No.1 D, no defenceman on the Predators plays more against the opposition’s best than Carrier, who has played over 40 percent of his TOI against elite competition this season. In those minutes, Carrier holds a +3.8 relative DFF% (dangerous shot differential), while Nashville has out-scored elites 14 to 10 with Carrier on-ice.
At 5’11 and 174lbs, Carrier is relatively undersized, but if he has proven to still perform well while consistently playing against the NHL’s best, is it really a significant issue? 
Carrier’s results suggest he would be a considerable upgrade on Ceci, most notably in regards to transitional play. Carrier is a fairly reliable entry defender, boasting a 13 percent entry denial rate (league average is ~9.5 percent), while he also leads Nashville in d-zone retrievals leading to zone exits. He excels at moving the puck under pressure, while limiting turnovers.
Although Nashville is currently on an eight-game winning streak, Jeff Marek has reported that Carrier is likely to be moved, as he’s on an expiring contract and Nashville would like to make room for prospect Spencer Stastney in the NHL. A few weeks back, Frank Seravalli on Daily Faceoff stated that Carrier could net a second-round pick, which is a very reasonable asking price and something Edmonton should strongly consider.

Sean Walker

Sean Walker is a 29-year-old defenceman on the Philadelphia Flyers, with a $2.65M cap-hit on the final year of a four-year contract.
Walker is a fascinating player. On one hand, Walker has had a strong season with Philadelphia, boasting fantastic on-ice goal and expected goal differential results in a top-four role. 
On the other hand, Walker’s track record raises some red flags. He was extremely sheltered in his time with Los Angeles, alongside decent results at best. He showed no indication of being a top-four defenceman, suggesting this season could simply be an outlier he may never repeat. It has been reported that Philadelphia’s asking price could be a first-round pick.
I still believe Walker can be a fine option and an upgrade on Ceci, as he is genuinely having a strong season which should not just be entirely dismissed. But, is he worth a first after just 60 games as a top-four defenceman? I am doubtful.
Walker has been connected to Edmonton a couple of times, including Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts and Anthony Di Marco of the Fourth Period

Nick Jensen

Nick Jensen, a 33-year-old defenceman on the Washington Capitals, is not the worst back-up plan.
My primary qualm with Jensen is that he struggles to defend the transition, which is why I have doubts if he would stylistically pair well with Nurse defensively. That said, Jensen remains strong at breaking up cycles and exiting the zone, areas where he would be a substantial upgrade on Ceci.
Jensen carries a $4.05M cap-hit for the next three seasons, including this one. His contract, combined with his age, raises some very obvious risks. But, if the other RHD options are unavailable, and if the acquisition cost is cheap, Jensen is worth considering.
Friedman mentioned Jensen as a potential option for Edmonton on the 32 Thoughts Podcast. Note that Holland had Jensen on his roster when he managed Detroit, so there is a connection there.

Other Options

  • I was a big fan of Chris Tanev, who could have been a great fit for Nurse, but he ultimately was dealt to Dallas. There have been reports Edmonton may have potentially offered their first-round pick for Tanev, but Calgary declined.
  • Artem Zub would be an excellent option, and could be an exceptional fit for Nurse defensively; unfortunately, it is quite doubtful if Ottawa would trade him.
  • Radko Gudas would have also been an exceptional target, but he has a no-trade-clause, and there was a report back in August that Gudas was not interested in playing in Canada
  • Colton Parayko is a fascinating option, but with seven years left on a massive contract with a $6.5M AAV, the probability of a trade realistically happening and fitting under the cap is quite low. I’m also not sure if he pairs stylistically well with Nurse.
  • Could the Devils be willing to let go of John Marino? Marino has had a subpar season, but his defensive results in prior years were excellent.
  • I would stay far away from David Savard. I do not believe he is an upgrade over Ceci.
  • Edmonton may ultimately choose to stick with their current group of six defencemen, and simply acquires a depth defenceman instead of an upgrade on Ceci. While this would be heavily disappointing in my eyes, it is a very realistic possibility.
  • In terms of seventh defenceman options, Joel Edmundson’s name has been linked to Edmonton several times. Edmundson’s defensive results are quite poor, as his impact on preventing even-strength scoring chances ranks in the 13th percentile among all defencemen, while his impact on preventing goals against ranks in the 2nd percentile. If he’s simply nothing more than a veteran 7D, it’s not the end of the world, but Edmonton should aim far, far higher for a defensive upgrade.

Final Thoughts; what path should management take?

Edmonton will possess roughly $2.373M worth of cap space on Friday. There are three obvious players on the roster who could be cap casualties; Cody Ceci ($3.25M cap-hit), Warren Foegele ($2.75M cap-hit), and Brett Kulak ($2.75M cap-hit). If Edmonton desires to add multiple players, it seems likely at least one of them will eventually be dealt. All picks and prospects, including Philip Broberg and Dylan Hollowayshould be on the table in potential deals.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, adding at least one forward is inevitable. The question is if Edmonton decides to aim high for a player of Buchnevich or Guentzel’s calibre, or decides to add a couple of middle-six / bottom-six forwards to improve the overall depth.
The decision to stick with the current goaltending tandem is a risky one. Following a brutal start, Stuart Skinner has had a solid season overall, but he can be streaky. Calvin Pickard does not have a great track record of being a bonafide NHL goaltender in the first place, let alone being a quality and reliable back-up option in the playoffs if Skinner were to potentially struggle. Jack Campbell is an even riskier option.
Considering there isn’t exactly a long list of good goaltenders available, it’s not an awful decision by Edmonton to not explore the goalie market.
But at the very least, Edmonton must attempt to improve the defence in front of their goalies.
In the past two playoffs, the Oilers rank second among all teams in goals per hour, just 0.06 goals per hour behind Vegas. On the other hand, out of all teams with a minimum of one playoff series win, Edmonton has allowed the most goals per hour, at 3.52. 
Edmonton undoubtedly has room to improve their forward depth and finishing, and it can be argued that a guy like Buchnevich makes far more of an impact than any top-four right-defenceman currently available. I certainly agree. But, the fact remains that this team has more room for improvement at preventing goals than scoring. At the end of the deadline, if all Edmonton does to improve their defence/goaltending is acquiring a 7th defenceman, I would feel a bit underwhelmed. 
In my view, for Edmonton to have a truly successful deadline, the forward group and the top-four defensive pairs should be improved by the end of Friday.
Ultimately, there are a variety of ways in which the Oilers could approach this deadline, as Edmonton has been rumored to be interested in a variety of different players. We can only wait and see what Ken Holland and Jeff Jackson eventually decide to do.
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