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G57 Game Notes: Oilers trade talk, another Connor McDavid milestone, and winning consistently

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Photo credit:© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers have five games in the nine dats before the NHL trade deadline next Friday. Those five games won’t alter (or at least they shouldn’t) what Ken Holland and his management team want to add before the deadline.
— We could have a good debate over what is the Oilers’ most pressing need. Some will say a top-six right winger. Others are focused on upgrading Cody Ceci, while others look at upgrading the bottom six and specifically the fourth line. Upgrading Ceci isn’t nearly as easy as some want to believe. Chris Tanev is one option, but in order to add him, you need to move Ceci out. Giving up Ceci and a top pick is a lot for a player with no term. Alex Carrier and Sean Walker are #5 D-men on a Cup contending team, so I’m perplexed by those who think acquiring either would make the Oilers better.
— Ceci has the lowest GA/60 among the Oilers’ top-four defenders since Kris Knoblauch arrived. He isn’t nearly as bad as his detractors claim. It is fair to say he isn’t a legit top-pair RD, but he is a solid #4. The question for management is if they view Tanev as a significant upgrade. If they do, then it will make sense to try and acquire him.
— A proven top-six scoring winger would be great. Edmonton has five forwards who produce like top-six forwards consistently in Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evander Kane. They have others who can moonlight there and get hot for stretches like Corey Perry, Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod, but none are consistent top-six forwards at this stage of their careers. The Oilers could just rotate them in and run with the hot hand for a few games. It has worked to this point, but the appeal to add a consistent top-six scorer makes sense. Jake Guentzel makes sense, but he will cost a lot. I like Anthony Mantha as an option. He is having a great season in Washington now that the coaching staff has given him an opportunity. He’s huge, a good skater and has great hands. He has 17 goals at 5×5 this year to lead the Capitals. Only Hyman (25) has more on the Oilers. McDavid, Draisaitl and Kane are second on Edmonton with 12 each. Don’t underestimate the impact Mantha could have, and I think the cost for him will be lower than for Guentzel. And the odds to re-sign Mantha are higher. The issue is cap space. Mantha has a $5.7m cap hit. Washington would retain 50%, if needed, and Mantha is more enticing by the day for me.
— I think you know my thoughts on Nic Dowd. I wrote why I like him and Beck Malenstyn as a pair. Dowd is expected to return to the Capitals lineup on Friday. He missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, but he’s been skating for the past few days and is expected to be cleared for Friday. The Capitals play three more games before the trade deadline and there is has been lots of interest around the NHL for Dowd. He is more of a third line centre than a fourth liner, when you look at minutes played and who he plays against. He would be a similar addition as Nick Bjugstad, who could play on the third or fourth lines. Bjugstad is a better shooter, but Dowd is better on the PK and defensively 5×5. He’d be a great addition to the Oilers, and he has another year at $1.3m, which is a great value contract. Adding both Mantha and Dowd in one trade would be outstanding for the Oilers, but it could cost a lot.
— Edmonton wants to add a veteran depth defenceman. The challenge is there aren’t a lot on the market. Joel Edmundson is available, and currently has a $1.75m cap hit, so if the Caps retain half he’d make sense. Edmonton doesn’t want to eat the full boat for a who might not dress very often. Ideally, they’d find a veteran D-man with a cap hit around $1m, and the team moving him can eat some of it, to make it better financially.
What do you think is the biggest need for the Oilers?
— Connor McDavid reached the 70-assist mark for the sixth time in his NHL career on Tuesday. He is on pace for 104 assists, which only Mario Lemieux (114) and Wayne Gretzky (10x) have done in an NHL season. McDavid is only the fifth player in NHL history to have six seasons with 70+ assists. Gretzky did it 16 times, Mario Lemieux (8x) and Paul Coffey, Bobby Orr and McDavid (6x). McDavid will for sure finish at least second on this list.
— McDavid leads all active skaters of course, but only Sidney Crosby and Nikita Kucherov have done it twice. Kucherov needs six more assists to reach 70 for a third time this year, while Nathan MacKinnon needs eight to amass 70 helpers for the first time in his career. When he does, he will join Leon Draisaitl, Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau, Roman Josi, Erik Karlsson, Evgeni Malkin, Artemi Panarin and Blake Wheeler as the only other active players to do it once. Quinn Hughes is also on pace to reach 70 assists and could be the third defenceman in three seasons to do it.
— McDavid’s two assists on Monday extended his consecutive assist streak, without a goal, to 23. He has 23 assists in 10 games and a big game tonight could tie him with Gretzky for the Oilers single-season record of most assists between goals.
SeasonPlayerPOSGPassists First goalNext goal
1980-81Borje SalmingD494112/3/19804/5/1981
2017-18Henrik SedinC563811/14/20173/22/2018
2002-03Doug WeightC293012/5/2002 2/08/2003
1985-86Wayne GretzkyC10261/25/19862/16/1986
2023-24Connor McDavidC10232/6/2024??
1996-97Wayne GretzkyC222312/30/19962/21/1997
2007-08Nicklas BackstromC21231/17/20083/3/2008
McDavid is now tied for fourth, among forwards, with 23 assists between goals, but he’s only done it 10 games. Henrik Sedin went 38 assists without a goal, but over a 56-game stretch. McDavid and Gretzky are on a much shorter time period than the others. To me it is actually impressive how many assists McDavid has in a 10-game stretch.
Zach Hyman is riding a five-game goal-scoring streak, the longest of his career. He is tied with David Pastrnak and Kucherov for third with 38 goals, one back of Sam Reinhart. Hyman has already set a career high and he has a great chance to reach 40 or 50 goal plateau.
—If he scores 50, it will give the Oilers a different 50-goal scorer three years in a row. Draisaitl scored 50 in 2022, McDavid had 64 last year and now Hyman. That has only happened two other times in NHL history. The first was the Oilers from 1982 to 1984 with Mark Messier (1982), Wayne Gretzky (1983) and Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri (1984). The LA Kings did it in 1988-1990 with Jimmy Carson (1988), Gretzky and Bernie Nicholls (1989) and Luc Robitaille (1990).
— Evan Bouchard scored his 15th goal of the season on Monday and is now tied with McKenzie Weegar for most goals by a defenceman. He is on pace for 21 goals, which would make him only the fourth D-man in Oilers history to score 20 goals in a season. Paul Coffey did it five times (48, 40, 37, 29 and 29), while Sheldon Souray (23) and Charlie Huddy (20) also did it. Darnell Nurse had 16 goals in 56 games in the shortened 2021 season, and was actually ahead of Bouchard through 56 games.
Only 17 D-men have scored 20+ goals in a season during in the salary cap era, and Bouchard is looking to become the 11th active defender to do it. Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson have each done it three time, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the only other active defender to have done it twice.

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