Edmonton Oilers can’t sit idle as arms race heats up

Zach Laing
1 month ago
This ain’t a scene, it’s a goddamn arms race.
The Edmonton Oilers took a significant swing Wednesday, acquiring forwards Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick from the Anaheim Ducks.
Sending out their 2024 first-round pick, 2024 fifth-round pick, and 2025 fourth-round pick—the latter two of three with conditions contingent on the Oilers winning the cup—they were able to acquire Henrique with 75 percent of his salary retained and Carrick with 50 percent of his salary retained.
It’s tidy work by the Oilers, managing to plug two holes in their roster with a singular move. It’s also a trade in which Edmonton had to move out this year’s first-round pick, an asset highly coveted in the NHL trade market as the deadline day looms. As much as Henrique will help in the Oilers’ top nine with additional scoring and strong two-way play, and Carrick will be a nice physical depth piece who can chip in a goal here or there, Edmonton’s work can’t be done at this year’s trade deadline.
That’s because all around them, teams are pushing even harder to go all in.
The Vancouver Canucks have acquired Elias Lindholm.
The Dallas Stars acquired defenceman Chris Tanev last week.
The Vegas Golden Knights acquired winger Anthony Mantha on Tuesday, and defenceman Noah Hanifin last night.
The Colorado Avalanche acquired defenceman Sean Walker and centre Casey Mittlestadt yesterday.
Much like the Oilers in their deal with the Ducks, these other teams have parted with premier assets in the deals in the form of high-end draft picks and top prospects. These teams aren’t going to stop there, either, as it should be no surprise for them each to be continuing to add.
Ken Holland did something in acquiring Henrique and Carrick that he doesn’t often do in picking up rental players with such premium assets. The acquisition of Mattias Ekholm last year saw them part with their first, but he had three years left on his contract marking the first time he used such a draft pick in a deal to acquire a player. He’s used second-round picks in acquiring Andreas Athanasiou in 2020, and Brett Kulak in 2022.
If he and the Oilers are as dead set as they should be on winning a Stanley Cup this year, they need to continue to add assets beyond the seventh defenceman he hinted at on Tuesday.
“I am going to continue to talk to teams about another defenceman, a veteran defenceman. We’ll see,” said Holland. “It depends on what’s available, it depends on what the cost is. We’ve obviously spent some draft capital over the last two, three, four years, and again today. Cost will factor in. We like the six (defencemen) we’ve got.
“I would think if we do something, we’re bringing in somebody to be number seven. How aggressive are we with draft capital for somebody to come in to be a number seven. We’ll see what the next 48 hours brings.”
Holland must have his sights set on an addition greater than a seventh defenceman, something the Oilers haven’t ran with all year long. It’s not to say that adding a depth piece like that is unnecessary, but Edmonton must find a way to upgrade on Cody Ceci in their top-four.
A serviceable defenceman, Ceci has struggled in the playoffs in each of the last two years. With him on the ice at 5v5, the Oilers have been outscored 27-24, and in all situations, those numbers get even worse being outscored 41-28. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
The Golden Knights didn’t sit idle after acquiring Mantha, getting Hanifin not long after. The Avalanche didn’t sit idle after acquiring Walker, acquiring Mittlestadt not long after. And now, the Oilers can’t sit idle after acquiring Henrique.
The problem is there isn’t a robust market for defencemen, with Walker, Hanifin and the recently re-signed Nick Seeler some of the top available names. Holland would have to find another Ekholm-esque move, picking up a defenceman who wasn’t really known to be available before the deal shook loose.
Names that come to mind: the Nashville Predators’ Alexandre Carrier, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex Vlasic, the Arizona Coyotes’ Juuso Valimaki or Matt Dumba, or maybe they get crazy and revisit a deal for Jakob Chychun of the Ottawa Senators.
There are other premier players still available up front, too, and one that jumps out right away is St. Louis Blues winger Pavel Buchnevich. He’s an elite two-way player who the Oilers could obtain for this year and next with 50 percent — or more — of his salary retained. Maybe Edmonton could also swing picking up Tyler Tucker in the deal, a 24-year-old two-way blueliner with some bite to his game. Other high-end wingers remain, too: Jake Guentzel, Tyler Toffoli, Reilly Smith, Max Pacioretty, Jordan Eberle, and Anthony Duclair all jump out.
All in all, whether they’re adding a defenceman to replace Ceci or trying to pick up the best player available, Edmonton can’t sit idle in the next day and a half ahead of Friday’s 1 pm MST trade deadline. Otherwise, it could cost them in this arms race.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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