An in-depth preview of the 2022 NHL Trade deadline for the Oilers; players to target, players to avoid, and what Ken Holland should do

Photo credit:© James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline takes place in exactly two days on Monday. This is the second part of my two-part series covering the deadline.
In the first part of this series, released last week, I reviewed Edmonton’s last two trade deadlines, and also took a look at Holland’s deadline history with Detroit.
In this piece, I’ll dive into a variety of realistic options that Edmonton may pursue. I’ll identify if they’re good options to pursue, risky bets, or if they’re simply poor targets that should be avoided.
*All stats via EvolvingHockey unless stated otherwise
*Note: I recently developed analytical player cards for skaters, which I will frequently use in this piece, and future articles. If you’re perplexed on what some of these categories mean or represent, here’s a piece thoroughly explaining them

Preferable targets

Justin Braun

Braun, a pending 2022 UFA, would be a solid target for the Oilers. He has a cheap cap-hit, and his trade value should be reasonably low.

He’s a superb defensive player, who excels at defending in his own zone, and his entry defence results are also above-average. An added benefit is that Braun can perform well under exceedingly difficult deployment. His overall metrics against elite competition aren’t appealing, but that’s primarily the cause of his poor offence, as he still defends effectively against elite QOC.
With that said, his offensive ineptitude can’t be ignored, as Braun is below-replacement offensively at the NHL level. He’s quite dreadful at passing and moving the puck.
It’s a legitimate concern, but Braun still remains a good target, especially considering Barrie and Bouchard’s defensive struggles.

Mark Pysyk

Pysyk is a roughly average offensive defenceman, and a superb defensive one. It’s more impressive when you consider he’s posted these results on an abysmal Buffalo team.
His transitional entry results are also relatively good, and he’s above-average in regards to In-DZ play and Entry Defence. 
From a results-based standpoint, he’s essentially a superior offensive version of Cody Ceci, and marginally better defensively. His penalty-killing metrics would also be a significant benefit for Edmonton, a team with a bottom-five penalty-kill this season.
The only notable downside for Pysyk is his fairly-average deployment. His performance against elite QOC is still acceptable, but you would like to see a potential top-four defenceman have more experience against tougher competition. 
Regardless, one could argue that playing with poor teammates on Buffalo (his quality of teammates ranks in the 11th percentile) essentially counteracts this. Edmonton should certainly pursue Pysyk.

Carson Soucy

Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer has repeatedly mentioned Carson Soucy’s name. He’s a similar player to Justin Braun.
Although Braun has posted similar results, he’s accomplished this with much tougher deployment, and his cap-hit is also cheaper. However, Soucy’s overall EV impact is slightly superior. 
In addition, a unique advantage that Soucy has over other available targets is his ability and experience to play both LD and RD. It’s uncertain if Soucy can handle a difficult role, but he definitely qualifies as a solid low-risk, high-reward bet.

Brett Kulak

I’m a big fan of Brett Kulak, primarily because I think he would assist Edmonton in one of their primary weaknesses;  entry defence.
Not a single Oilers defenceman (with a minimum of 400 TOI) in the past two seasons has posted an overall Entry Defence percentile score of over 65%. This issue has significantly improved under Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson, but further improvement in this aspect of the game would be beneficial.
Kulak places in the 81st percentile for Entry Defence. Again, he’s your typical low-event, “stay-at-home” defenceman, analogous to Braun and Soucy. However, just in regards to team-fit, he may be a superior option. 
Kulak is posting solid results on a dreadful team (Montreal), similar to Pysyk, but he’s additionally produced superior metrics against elite QOC.

Nick Paul

Edmonton is also rumoured to be interested in Nick Paul.
Paul is a shutdown, defensively-inclined winger. He’s not an amazing fit for Edmonton, as they require strong finishers in their bottom-six, something Paul certainly is not. I place him in this category as there’s minimal risk in trading for him, and he would still be a very fine acquisition due to his exceptional defensive results, but I’m not his most avid fan. 
However, Bob Stauffer mentioned that Ottawa coach DJ Smith is fond of Zack Kassian, and a Kassian for Paul trade would be an excellent decision.

James Reimer and Anton Forsberg

Edmonton initially had Anton Forsberg as their third-string last season, but Carolina claimed him off waivers (good time to remind that Holland could have claimed Nedeljkovic the next day, but didn’t 🙃) and he’s currently enjoying a fine season with Ottawa.
Forsberg has a 0.916 SV% and has saved roughly five goals more than expected (GSAx). He would rank first on the Oilers in SV% and GSAx, in spite of playing behind an inferior team.
James Reimer, currently on San Jose, would also rank atop Oilers goaltenders in numerous metrics, as he’s also posted a SV% of 0.916, alongside a GSAx of 6.2.  
Neither of them are the solutions, but they’re definite upgrades on Mike Smith. Although Edmonton should expect better, I wouldn’t mind a rotating tandem of Forsberg/Reimer and Koskinen.
Other players that fit this category: Vladislav Gavrikov, Calvin De-Haan, Zemgus Girgensons

High-risk, high reward players

Jakob Chychrun

Jakob Chychrun is a very fascinating player. I could write an entire piece listing all the various advantages and disadvantages. 
From one perspective, Chychrun’s microstats generally seem respectable. He’s excellent at moving the puck, and above-average in regards to entry defence and breakout passing. Chychrun also logs a lot of minutes.
On the other hand, his macro-level on-ice results aren’t impressive. Of course, his team is likely dragging him down to an extent, but it’s hard to argue they’re extremely encouraging from any perspective. His In-DZ play is below-average, and although he does play significant minutes, he shockingly doesn’t play difficult competition on a regular basis.
Per PuckIQ, Arizona defencemen Dysin Mayo, Janis Moser, and Anton Stralman all play elite competition at a superior rate to Chychrun. I honestly find this a bit hard to comprehend, but it’s statistically and factually true.
In addition, although this issue has decreased under Woodcroft, another concern for Edmonton has been the constant low-quality point-shots from the d-men (especially Nurse). Chychrun shoots at a considerable rate, so this is unideal. His finishing is inflated by an unsustainable SH% heater the prior season, and most of his shots are also typically low-quality.
Furthermore, Chychrun’s reported trade value is through the roof (although his recent injury somewhat lowers it).
I was originally a huge fan of Chychrun, but my opinions have changed. He’s the perfect definition of a high-risk, high-reward player; there’s a plausible chance he thrives alongside McDavid and Draisaitl, yet there’s also a legitimate possibility that the (potential) lofty trade package they send, isn’t worth it. I’d remain cautiously optimistic about him.

Travis Sanheim

Travis Sanheim is one of the league’s more underrated players. His goal share has been hampered by dreadful goaltending, and he’s a superb two-way player, regularly deployed in a difficult role.
Sanheim’s Entry Defence results would rank atop Edmonton, and in addition, he’s an excellent puck-mover. Darren Dreger has reported there’s a possibility he’s available due to Philadelphia re-signing Ristolainen.
He qualifies as a “high-risk, high reward bet,” largely due to his decently high trade value. However, he’s a much safer bet than Chychrun. Good teams should pursue a player like him.

Scott Mayfield

I wrote a piece several weeks back about Edmonton’s RD trade targets, where I stated that Scott Mayfield would be an excellent player to pursue. I still believe that, as he’s a solid two-way defenceman who has experience playing in extremely tough roles. However, there are two concerns.
One concern is his uncertain trade value. Mayfield is a 6’5, right-shot D with a cheap, $1.5M cap-hit; numerous GMs would adore that type of player. If he’s available, there’s likely a considerable market for him.
Another issue is that his metrics aren’t as appealing away from Adam Pelech. Mayfield is a slight negative in 5v5 GF% and xGF% with Pelech off-ice. His individual microstats still seem fine, but it’s worth mentioning.
There are several risks, but Edmonton should still consider him as a preferable RD target.

Dominik Kubalik

Recently, rumours of Edmonton pursuing Dominik Kubalik have surfaced, per Ben Pope. Kubalik remains as a precarious option for Edmonton.
He was a phenomenal finisher in 19-20, a season in which he posted 30 goals in 68 GP, but his finishing has dropped off considerably since then. From a play-driving and defensive perspective, he doesn’t provide much, and Kubalik’s passing abilities are abysmal.
Could he rebound to his former self? That is a possibility if he’s placed alongside McDavid or Draisaitl, but it’s likely a considerable risk. I don’t feel he’s a significant upgrade on Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Kane or Hyman.
Other players that fit this category: Artturi Lehkonen, Damon Severson (Severson is a brilliant two-way d-man, but high trade value is the primary issue), John Klingberg, Jake Debrusk, Marc-Andre Fleury

Players to avoid; “Buyer Beware”

Marc Staal

Marc Staal is decent at defending the rush, but he’s one of the worst players in the database for my play-style rankings. His overall on-ice results are also quite unappealing. 
I don’t feel Staal is much more than a 7D. His on-ice Goals For/60 is inflated by an unsustainable on-ice shooting%, and beyond that, there’s little reason for Edmonton to target him. At this point of his career, Staal simply doesn’t provide enough value to an NHL team, especially a potential contender.

Dean Kukan

Dean Kukan is yet another player that’s mentioned in rumours involving the Oilers. He certainly isn’t a terrible player, but he doesn’t fit the other two categories, and I feel he would be a poor fit for this team.
On the positive side, Kukan is exceptional at exiting the zone and blocks lots of shots. However, his overall defensive impact is average, largely due to his inability at defending the rush. As stated previously, this is already a notable weakness for this team. Kukan’s offensive talent is substandard as well, so it’s best to avoid him.

Nicolas Deslauriers

Edmonton has reportedly pursued a “forward with bite,” and Nicholas Deslauriers’ name has been connected to the Oilers. I really dislike him.
He’s below-replacement in regards to 5v5 play, special teams, and finishing. Deslauriers also takes a high amount of penalties.
Some may assume I have a bias against physical, “gritty” players, but that’s not necessarily true. Numerous players around the league use their physicality to aggressively forecheck, create turnovers, win puck-battles, and generate overall positive on-ice impacts. Zach Aston-Reese, MacKenzie Weegar, and Marcus Foligno are superb examples, and I strongly feel that every team requires physical players such as them.
However, I dislike players who provide nothing at the NHL level but physicality, and Deslauriers is a prime example. Acquiring him won’t necessarily hamper the team, but he provides minimal on-ice impact at the NHL level.

Joonas Korpisalo

Joonas Korpisalo has allowed fewer goals than expected in each of the past three seasons. In total, he has a 0.898 SV% and an abysmal GSAx of -39.3; in other words, Korpisalo has allowed roughly 39-40 more goals than expected in the past three seasons combined, ranking dead last among all goaltenders in that span.
If Edmonton desires to fix their issues in net, Korpisalo would be the exact opposite of a solution.
Other players that fit this category: Martin Jones, Nick Leddy, Robert Hagg

Predictions and opinions on what Ken Holland should eventually do

Per Elliotte Friedman, Ken Holland doesn’t want to deal his best assets if the team isn’t good enough to contend for a Cup, and Holland didn’t think it makes sense as they slipped towards the playoff cutline.
These reports by Friedman are concerning. 
The primary reason is that this is an entirely self-inflicted wound by Holland. Asset and cap management has been abysmal during his tenure in Edmonton, as he’s spent a combined ~$14.9M on Duncan Keith, Tyson Barrie, Kyle Turris and Zack Kassian alone. Twelve of their current roster players have been acquired by Holland himself, and this excludes re-signed players; this is Holland’s team, not Chiarelli’s misdoings anymore.
Holland has been GM for nearly 1050 days. He had roughly $26M in cap space last off-season and still hasn’t found a proper starting goaltender. The highest-paid GM in the league just can’t be given the benefit of the doubt for “trying” to obtain one.
Well-managed organizations like Colorado, Tampa and Florida continue to be active buyers. All their picks and prospects are on the table, they consistently target the larger fish in the market, like Claude Giroux, and their most significant priority is to win now.
No one makes excuses for them, simply because no one needs to. They consistently find methods to creatively create cap-space to improve and add to their already-superb teams. Even our rivals in Calgary are loading up.
Meanwhile, following an off-season where a roster with two superstars in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had $26M in cap space, there isn’t even a guarantee that the Oilers eventually qualify for the playoffs. It seems like Edmonton’s objective for this season is simply to make it into the playoffs and win a round, which I perceive as a false achievement.
The bar for success with these elite talents just can’t be this low, especially as Leon Draisaitl turns 27 in several months. Connor McDavid is 26 next year.  This is the seventh year that Edmonton has had McDavid and Draisaitl on their roster. The objective should be nothing short of the Stanley Cup.
Last season, Ken Holland stated “You can’t go all-in every year,” a season in which Edmonton had their most preferable path to the WCF (as they played in the Canadian Division).
It’s disappointing that, a year and an off-season with considerable cap flexibility later, Edmonton still doesn’t feel they’re in this position. 
To add on, the Oilers are in a tight situation next season. They have a total of eight forwards under contract, as Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod all require new deals. This limits their cap-space to pursue a goaltender, and their defence also likely requires upgrades.
There should be a sense of urgency to win this year, yet there isn’t.
The roster is certainly flawed, but the team ranks top-five around the league in numerous 5v5 categories under Jay Woodcroft. Adding a significant piece could genuinely make a considerable impact on their contending hopes. Edmonton should be aggressive buyers.
Of course, you could also argue it’s best for Edmonton’s welfare if Holland doesn’t make any moves. His poor deadline history in the cap-era with Detroit is a major red flag, as I mentioned in my piece last week. I certainly agree, and this consequently places Edmonton in such a messy conundrum.
My eventual prediction is that Holland flips some low-round picks for a 3LD or 3RD, and perhaps a 4th-line forward as well. Ideally, he offloads players such as Archibald, Kassian, Smith and perhaps even Barrie, but I don’t see him pursuing larger pieces or making any big moves. 
The clock is ticking for Holland, and there’s a very likely possibility that he disappoints yet again at this year’s deadline. I hope I’m wrong.
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