As the trade deadline nears closer, what assets should the Oilers trade?

Photo credit:© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
We’re currently at the 50-game mark of the season for the Edmonton Oilers, and the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline is just a month away. Obviously, the biggest question is: who will the Oilers trade for? 
I’ve written some pieces about potential trade targets on defence, which include Jakob Chychrun, Joel Edmundson, and Vladislav Gavrikov. It’s likely that the Oilers will target a defender, although they may acquire a cheap bottom-six forward as well.
But another major question that surrounds this team is what assets they’ll need to trade, as Edmonton is extremely tight to the cap. They’ve used $9M in LTIR space, which includes Kailer Yamamoto’s $3.1M cap-hit. Yamamoto has been skating with the Oilers, and the earliest he can be activated is February 12. Before they activate him, they will need to clear $1.975M. This can be accomplished by waiving Devin Shore and waiving/trading a player making over $1M. 
They’ll already need to make some moves to deploy a full, healthy roster, so if they want to add an impact player or two? More cap juggling and moves will be required. 
Here’s a look at the potential assets that the Oilers could and/or should move as we approach the deadline.
*All stats via Natural Stat Trick, all cap info via PuckPedia and CapFriendly

Roster Players

Jesse Puljujarvi
The most obvious and realistic trade candidate is Jesse Puljujarvi. Per Frank Seravalli on Daily Faceoff, it’s nearly a lock that Puljujarvi will be traded by the deadline. Considering the constant trade rumours surrounding him since June, alongside his $3M cap-hit, it should be no surprise.
I’ve been a vocal advocate for Puljujarvi for quite some while. I still believe he was the team’s best RW last season, and his defensive numbers have been superb in each of the past three seasons. However, his offensive game has massively deteriorated in essentially every way possible this season, which includes both his point production and underlying metrics. 
There’s nothing I’d want more than to see him succeed in Edmonton, but at this point, it may be best for both sides to move on and part ways. Puljujarvi deserves a fresh start on a different team.
Ryan Rishaug stated that a potential Puljujarvi trade should be a “full money out” deal, even if it takes an asset to do so. It does make sense why his trade value is quite low.
Looking at this from the perspective of other teams, why would you trade multiple or valuable assets for him? Even for teams that do genuinely value Puljujarvi, and feel that they can give him another chance to unlock his potential, they have the option of simply waiting until the offseason. If Puljujarvi is somehow not dealt by the deadline, it’s very likely that Edmonton won’t qualify him at his $3M qualifying offer in the summer, meaning teams can just sign him for a lower cap hit as a UFA, rather than trading assets for him at a $3M cap-hit. Alongside the fact that trade value is largely dictated by production, it’s evident why it’s difficult to move him.
If the team needs to use assets to move him, I don’t think trading him is the right choice. I would rather try to waive him first or wait until the off season.
Warren Foegele
Puljujarvi is the most realistic and likely option for a cap dump, but Warren Foegele and his $2.75M cap hit should also be in trade discussions.
In fairness, they are similar players in several ways, as both of them are mediocre producers/offensive players, but Puljujarvi is the considerably superior defensive player. Furthermore, Foegele is a natural LW, and the Oilers have plenty of players that can replace him (most notably Dylan Holloway), whereas Yamamoto and Ryan would be Edmonton’s only right-shot forwards if Puljujarvi is dealt. 
I think Puljujarvi deserves a fresh start, but Foegele would be my top trade candidate based on performance/value. 
Kailer Yamamoto
The odds of Yamamoto being dealt prior to Puljujarvi is less than 1% — it’s safe to say, it’s not going to happen. That said, it isn’t as if Yamamoto is performing at an exceptional level. 
In the past two seasons, Puljujarvi has produced at a 0.40 PPG. Yamamoto is at 0.47. Neither of those production rates are spectacular, especially considering the quality of linemates they play with, but at the least, Puljujarvi provides considerable defensive value.
The simple fact is that all of Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, and Foegele have struggled to produce and make an impact offensively, while they nearly combine for $9M in cap space. Edmonton needs more from all of them, and if one of them is in trade talks, all of them should be. Realistically, though, it’s quite likely that Puljujarvi will be the only one moved by the deadline.
One of Edmonton’s right-shot defencemen
The Oilers could benefit from adding a right-shot defenceman. Of course, in a perfect world, you would attempt to acquire both a RD and a LD, but that seems like a near-impossible feat with Edmonton’s current cap situation.
Edmonton’s current top pairing of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci just isn’t cutting it. They hold a mediocre 48 xGF%, and have been out-chanced at a ratio of 317 – 339 at 5v5. They don’t inspire a lot of confidence in a contending team. Nurse needs a strong partner at RD, someone who can defend entries, move the puck, and break up the cycle.
If the Oilers target a RD, one of Edmonton’s RD would be on the way out. In this scenario, I would look towards trading one of Barrie or Ceci.
To his credit, Barrie is having a solid season (although his metrics away from McDavid is a concern), but his $4.5M cap hit should make him a legitimate trade candidate. Even from an offensive perspective, the top power-play unit scores 15.8 goals per hour with Barrie on-ice, while they score 16.5 goals per hour with Bouchard. Barrie doesn’t add much defensive value, and he can be replaced on the PP.
However, moving Ceci should also be a possibility. He hasn’t had a good season, and while that’s largely the product of difficult QoC, he still remains replaceable. Edmonton needs an upgrade on him at 1RD, so if the team is hesitant to deal Barrie for whatever reason, Ceci should be the guy to move.
With all of that said, this is an unlikely scenario. A couple of weeks back, Bob Stauffer mentioned on OilersNow that none of Edmonton’s RD will be on the move, so this is more of a personal suggestion.
Both Ceci and Barrie struggle at defending the rush and retrieving pucks in the DZ under pressure. Ceci isn’t an efficient breakout passer, and Barrie has declined in this aspect at 5v5. Replacing one of them with a RD that performs well in these facets to play with Nurse would improve this team.

Prospects/Younger Players

It has been reported that the Oilers consider Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg as “untouchable.”
In sheltered minutes this season, Broberg has been exceptional, but the major question is if he can sustain that level of play against tougher competition. Broberg has played less than 13% of his TOI against elite competition. I certainly wouldn’t actively shop Broberg, but until we know that he can hold down a top-four role, he shouldn’t be regarded as an untouchable asset. Not at all.
Trading Broberg for someone like Jakob Chychrun has some risks but should be a possibility. Chychrun has already proven that he can post relatively strong results on the top-pairing of one of the league’s worst teams in the league, and at 24, he’s only going to get better. Broberg could reach that level, but right now, he’s an unproven player that seldom plays against top lines, whereas we know that Chychrun can make an impact under harsh deployment, and this deployment difficulty will lessen if he moves onto a good team.
The same should apply to players like Dylan Holloway, Xavier Bourgault, and Reid Schaefer.
One of the major advantages of keeping younger players is the ELC value they can provide, which is important in such a tight cap league. Furthermore, considering Edmonton’s current RW conundrum, it’s likely best to keep Bourgault. I’m a fan of Holloway’s game and potential as well. 
In a vacuum, I’d prefer to keep all of Edmonton’s top prospects as opposed to not. However, none of them should be considered untouchable. I wouldn’t trade them for rentals or short-term options, but they should be on the table for proven impact players, like Chychrun.

Draft Picks

On one hand, the 2023 draft seems to be one of the deepest drafts in the past decade. On the other hand, that shouldn’t matter a ton to a cup contender. The 2023 first-round pick should be in play.
The highest pick a playoff team can obtain is the 17th overall pick. Even considering that 2023 is a strong draft, a 17th overall pick typically takes roughly ~2.8 years to play at least 50 GP in the NHL based on the past decade. It takes even more to make a genuine impact, and of course, there’s no guarantee that pick turns into an established NHLer either. If the Oilers go deep into the playoffs, their first-round pick will be lower, and naturally, it will require more time to become a consistent NHL player and make an impact.
Edmonton’s priority should be to win. The possibility of that draft pick turning into a good player 2-3+ years down the road shouldn’t be their primary concern.
We’re currently in the prime years of McDavid and Draisaitl, and the urgency to win should be high. I feel that the aim should be to win a cup before McDavid and Draisaitl’s contracts expire. There’s a very solid chance that they do re-sign in Edmonton following their current contracts regardless of if they win a cup or not, but it goes without saying that winning will give them the biggest incentive to stay. With McDavid producing at a 150-point pace, they shouldn’t waste this season.
In the 2022 playoffs, Edmonton made the WCF largely due to phenomenal play by their stars, but the primary reasons Edmonton couldn’t go all the way and win the Cup were poor defence and inadequate depth scoring. They allowed more 5v5 goals per hour than any other team that made the second round, and the team without McDavid was out-scored 15 – 26. Compare this to the eventual cup-winning Avalanche, who out-scored the opposition 32-27 without Nathan MacKinnon at 5v5.
However, this season, the Oilers have out-scored the opposition 45 – 38 with McDavid and Draisaitl off-ice at 5v5, equating to a very respectable 54% goal differential. That’s roughly on par with several other cup-winning teams in the past decade. For once, the team is performing quite well without their best players on-ice and has sufficient depth scoring. Find a solution to Edmonton’s top-pairing, and who knows? This team could make quite a bit of noise in the playoffs again.
Especially considering that they’ve kept their first-rounder for each of the past three years under Holland, Edmonton’s first-round pick and prospects should all be on the table for an impact player.
Find me on Twitter (@NHL_Sid)

Check out these posts...