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Could (and should) the Oilers trade Philip Broberg this summer?

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Photo credit:© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
NHL_Sid
9 months ago
With 10 days left until the 2023 NHL Draft and 13 days left until Free Agency day, trade talks and rumors are gradually heating up throughout the league. For the Edmonton Oilers, they’ve been rumored to have interest in several players, such as Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, and Brett Pesce.
The next question is who would be going the other way in potential trades for those players. It seems that Kailer Yamamoto is the player most likely to be moved this off-season, but one name that’s popped up is 21-year-old defenceman, Philip Broberg.
According to Anthony Di Marco of the Fourth Period, Broberg’s name has been tossed around in regard to a potential deal for Konecny. Per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, it’s likely that Broberg (and both Kulak & Desharnais as well) would be dealt before Cody Ceci. 
In a recent Q&A, Ken Holland didn’t give a clear response in regard to Broberg’s future.
“I don’t really have an answer for you right now,” said Holland. “That’s what I’ve got to sort out in the next couple of weeks.”
“We’re in win-now mode. That’s why I traded a second for Kulak and kept Kulak. He’s been everything we hoped he could be. We made the deal for Ekholm. We’re trying to bring in veteran defencemen because, come playoff time, we probably win with veteran defencemen over kids.”
“I’ve got to sort all that out.”
After being drafted 8th overall in 2019, Broberg spent the next two years with Skellefteå AIK of the SHL, and alternated between the NHL and AHL in 2021-22. This past season in 2022-23, he began the year in Bakersfield but was primarily on Edmonton’s roster since November. While heavily sheltered from opposition top lines, Broberg played on the third-pairing with Evan Bouchard until the Mattias Ekholm trade. Since March, Broberg either played limited minutes or was a healthy scratch.
As Holland said, it’s evident that the Oilers are in win-now mode. Should they keep Broberg and let him continue to develop, or should they trade him for a more impactful player?
Let’s go through the numerous pros and cons of trading him.
*All on-ice stats via Natural Stat Trick

The case against trading Broberg

Albeit in a sheltered role, Broberg still produced strong results in the NHL; there’s certainly potential there

Prior to the Ekholm trade, Broberg and Bouchard produced fantastic results together.
I wrote all about Broberg’s performance back in January, and at the time, he was Edmonton’s best defenceman at retrieving pucks in the defensive zone under pressure and defending zone entries. At the end of the season, Bouchard and Ekholm were ahead in retrieval success rate, but Broberg still led the defencemen at preventing controlled zone entries. Broberg’s greatest strength is his skating abilities, and they’re reflected in these results at the NHL level.
With Broberg on-ice at 5v5, the Oilers controlled 59 percent of the expected goals, 58 percent of the shots, and 53 percent of the goals. Behind Ekholm, he was second among the team’s defencemen in on-ice goals for per 60. At a glance, these results are quite strong.
Of course, it must be noted that he was heavily sheltered. On average, a defenceman will play roughly 26-28 percent of their total TOI against elite competition per PuckIQ, but Broberg played a mere 11.8 percent of his TOI against elites. His deployment has certainly played a significant role in those exceptional results.
With that said, it’s hard to ask a lot more out of Broberg with that role. With the role he was given, he essentially did all he needed to, and he obviously can’t control his own deployment. 
There’s a very valid argument that trading Broberg before seeing how well he could perform in a higher role could be an unwise idea. Perhaps he does possess the capability and potential to perform well in the top four, and Edmonton simply hasn’t given him that chance.

Broberg’s age and cap-hit

The Oilers are exceedingly tight to the cap. It’s inevitable that at least one of their players will be moved or bought out. Currently, it seems likely that the player is Yamamoto, but Cody Ceci, Warren Foegele, and Brett Kulak are not exactly safe.
The major advantage that Broberg possesses is his $863K cap hit. He’s young, cheap, and isn’t eligible for waivers; even if he can only perform well on the third-pairing, he provides a ton of value and versatility for a cap-stricken team like Edmonton. The Oilers will already be forced to play some of their prospects such as Dylan Holloway and Raphael Lavoie to run a full cap-compliant roster, so they will be reliant on their young players to take a step forward and play above their cap-hit.
From purely a cap-wise perspective, it could make sense to potentially move Kulak to clear cap and have a cheaper, younger Broberg play in his spot full-time. 

The case for trading Broberg

With Ekholm, Nurse, and Kulak on the roster, Broberg is unlikely to receive much, if any top-four time

In the Q&A linked above, Ken Holland mentioned that both he and Jay Woodcroft believe Broberg could develop into a top-four defenceman, but the question is: how much opportunity does he have to progress in Edmonton?
“To play better, you’ve got to play,” said Holland. “When you’ve got Darnell Nurse on the left side, and Ekholm, and Kulak, they’re pros. It’s a dilemma.”
Even if the Oilers kept Broberg, there’s certainly no guarantee he reaches his full potential on the roster at the current moment. Ekholm and Nurse are obvious locks to play as Edmonton’s top two LD next season, and right now, Brett Kulak is a better player than Broberg. Personally, I’m hesitant to move Kulak.
An added benefit is that, although the Oilers haven’t tried him there, Kulak has experience at the NHL level at RD with Montreal. I’m not sure how I feel about Broberg playing on his off-side full-time, and it’s worth noting that Holland mentioned Broberg is much more comfortable on the left side. Broberg didn’t have significant experience at RD in Bakersfield.
Perhaps giving a pair of Ekholm – Broberg a chance wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but you could argue that you could simply just trade Broberg for an actual established RD rather than playing him on his off-side.

Acquire an impact player that can help the team win now

Holland made a bold decision drafting Broberg over various players such as Trevor Zegras, Matt Boldy, and Cole Caufield in 2019. Four years later, those forwards are making NHL impacts for their respective teams, with Caufield recently signing an eight-year extension worth $62M, while Broberg has had a difficult time being a regular NHL player for the Oilers. There may even be a possibility that Broberg starts the 2023-24 season with Bakersfield in the AHL. 
Of course, defencemen take longer to develop on average, but taking longer to make an impact is not exactly a good thing, especially for a team in win now mode. Even then, Thomas Harley, a defenceman drafted 18th overall in the 2019 draft, played all 19 playoff games for a Dallas Stars squad that had a deeper playoff run than Edmonton. 
It’s still uncertain how good of an NHL player Broberg is at the current moment. Even though his raw on-ice results are strong, his exceedingly sheltered deployment cannot be ignored. Perhaps Broberg could indeed handle a tougher role, but it isn’t likely that he obtains that chance with Edmonton in the first place.
Simply put, I believe the Oilers need more from a top-ten pick drafted four years ago. Broberg needs to provide value to Edmonton in some way or the other, whether that’s as an effective NHL player for the Oilers, or as a trade piece.
If there’s an impact player available, someone that can push the Oilers closer to the cup, Broberg absolutely needs to be in play in a potential package for that player. Broberg likely has more trade value than any of Edmonton’s picks and any other players they’re willing to trade.
Think of it like this; would the Oilers obtain more NHL value from Broberg playing on the third pair/Bakersfield, or from the quality 2RW or 2RD that they could trade him (in a package) for?
In regard to specific deals, I think I would be willing to trade Broberg for Konecny. As I outlined in this thread on Twitter, the Oilers struggled at scoring 5v5 against Vegas in the second round, and for the past two years, McDavid’s non-Draisaitl linemates have had immense trouble finishing their chances. McDavid ranked 1st in the league in shot assists per 60, but 86th in actual assists per 60. A strong 5v5 offensive player such as Konecny could be huge for this team.

Final Thoughts

Jan 5, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Philip Broberg (86) and New York Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier (18) chase a loose puck during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Of course, the Oilers shouldn’t just give Broberg away. I don’t think anyone wants to particularly move him for the sake of it, and considering his cheap cap hit, there’s certainly no urgency or requirement to trade him. It’s also unwise to call a 21-year-old defenceman a “bust.”
I believe Broberg will eventually develop into a strong two-way NHL defenceman, and there’s undoubtedly potential there. He’s already shown to be a strong skater at the NHL level, and again, he essentially did all he needed to with the role he was deployed in. Trading Broberg before seeing how he could perform in a top-four role has a risk of aging poorly. Not to mention, Edmonton’s defensive prospect pool after Broberg is quite shallow.
However, considering that Ekholm, Nurse, and Kulak are ahead in the depth chart, it’s unlikely that he obtains a higher role in the first place, barring injuries. It’s not just the matter of if Broberg is a solid NHL player or not; for me, the primary question is how he could increase Edmonton’s chances of winning a Stanley Cup. On this current roster, how much value would Broberg provide as a 5th or 6th defenceman as opposed to being the primary trade piece for a proven impact player? 
Edmonton’s cup window is these next two to three years, and their LD depth is already quite strong. If Broberg can’t make a meaningful impact on the current roster due to the LD ahead of him on the depth chart and/or because he’s not ready to do so, they could trade him to address their actual areas of need. 
I like Broberg, and there are risks with trading him, but if he helps you get a strong scoring winger or a quality RD partner for Nurse, that’s a deal Edmonton should highly consider.
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