Have the Edmonton Oilers’ trade deadline plans changed?

Zach Laing
10 months ago
It’s no secret the Edmonton Oilers are looking to beef up their roster ahead of a playoff run this year.
A recent six-game wining streak has entrenched them in the conversation for the Pacific Division title once again as the Vegas Golden Knights flutter with more injuries. The Seattle Kraken and LA Kings are in the mix, but Edmonton has a legitimate shot at winning this division.
They’re likely to need some help in doing so as the Oilers still have some holes on their roster. The defence has been a contentious issue for the team all season, but the Oilers’ big six — Darnell Nurse, Cody Ceci, Brett Kulak, Tyson Barrie, Philip Broberg and Evan Bouchard — have all seen their games settle down as of late. It’s a great sign for the club, but it could very well change the Oilers’ plan as they approach the deadline.
First and foremost, before there’s any talk of additions, we have to acknowledge that one of these six players would be forced out of the lineup if the Oilers were to add on the back end. Nurse and Ceci aren’t going anywhere. The two have had their issues this year, but the Oilers clearly value them as the top pairing. Kulak and Barrie, albeit imperfect, have held their own this season. Broberg and Bouchard, meanwhile, have been posting some of the best shot and goal-share numbers among all defensive pairings in the league. They’re playing against lower-level competition, but they’re more than holding their own. All of these defencemen — beyond Bouchard, who is an RFA at the end of the year, are under contract through at least the 2023-24 season — with many of them beyond.
Who comes out of the lineup if the Oilers make a splash adding a rental like Joel Edmundson or Valdislav Gavrikov? Are either of them really going to be that significant of a difference maker on the backend? I have a hard time believing so. I’d be happy to pass on either of them and let other NHL GM’s overpay for a player who likely won’t be worth it.
People say Gavrikov is a legitimate top-four defenceman, but he has some big warts in his game. This is from Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, who did a profile on the rearguard Monday:
The real truth may not be related to Gavrikov’s actual play at all, which is that team executives and broadcasters don’t really know how to define him, and so because he blocks shots and throws the occasional crosscheck in front of the net, he gets labeled as physical and it sticks.
Unfortunately, it’s an incorrect characterization, because Gavrikov is not physical in the traditional sense of creating contact and winning pucks in contested areas. He contains offense more than he stops it, and he tries to force opponents into worse spots to shoot rather than separating forwards from pucks, which would win back possession for his team.
Opponents have keyed in on the fact that Gavrikov isn’t a great puck mover, especially under pressure. He resorts to rimming the puck, in an attempt to bypass the forecheck, rather than to escape pressure and find better outlets. With space, he makes simple plays but nothing flashy. He will occasionally join the rush, but he is more of a decoy than a threat.
Gavrikov’s foot speed has always been on the plus-side of the ledger, but this season has presented some concern. He has taken twice as many penalties as he’s drawn, and while a minus differential is normal for a defender, double the pleasure is not double the fun for the Jackets.
I’m not convinced that’s the guy the Oilers need. At 5×5 this season, his goal-scoring and scoring chance rates are worse than his teammates. That’s not a good sign.
Edmundson might be a fine addition as a third-paring defenceman who can be a big physical presence, but at the suggested cost of a first-round pick, I firmly believe that’s an overpay.
We know things are set in stone in the crease, but how about the forward group? This is an area I think the Oilers can make some improvements come the deadline, and where I would be most comfortable using a first-round draft pick this year. The number of high-end forwards out there is real this season.
Among forwards, Bo Horvat, Jonathan Toews, and Ryan O’Reilly are the three I have the most interest in. They all fit similar roles: defence first centers who are strong in the faceoff dot. I think Horvat is a long shot at this point, even if he were open to coming to Edmonton. Toews controls his fate with a full no-movement clause and it’s entirely up in the air where he will land. O’Reilly, however, could be one of the most interesting names on the market. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli has him ranked 12th on his trade targets board and had this to say of his situation:
12. Ryan O’Reilly
Center, St. Louis Blues
Age: 31
Stats: 37 GP, 10 G, 6 A, 16 Pts
Contract: Pending UFA, $7.5 million AAV
Scoop: Oddly, the Blues have hung tough in the playoff race since the team announced early in the New Year that O’Reilly (and Vladimir Tarasenko) would miss a significant chunk of time. That has called into question as to what GM Doug Armstrong will do at the deadline, in particular with their heartbeat in O’Reilly, if they’re still in the race when he’s ready to return in mid-February. The smart money is still betting on the Conn Smythe trophy winner being on the move. But it’s not set in stone. His broken foot may in fact enhance his trade value since teams know they’d be acquiring a rested player. There’s no doubt O’Reilly has struggled this season. The entire Blues team has been inconsistent. And now, an uncomfortable conversation around the captain is on tap.
It’ll be interesting to see if O’Reilly shakes loose ahead of the deadline because if he does… hoooo boy that would be a big addition to the Oilers’ top six. He continues to be a strong driver of play both offensively and defensively. Adding him into a good Oilers top nine would immediately bolster the team’s forward group, and I’m salivating at the line combinations Jay Woodcroft and co. could utilize.
He wouldn’t be cheap. The Oilers first-round pick would almost undoubtedly need to be part of the trade, and the team would need to work some cap gymnastics with at least one of Warren Foegele or Jesse Puljujarvi with the Blues retaining 50% of O’Reilly’s salary. If Foegele is included, Edmonton would be bringing on an additional $682,000 against the cap, while if Puljujarvi is included, that number drops to $432,000.
Nonetheless, it’s going to be interesting to see what shakes out in the next month.

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@oilersnation.com.

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