Is Connor Brown’s time with the Edmonton Oilers close to the end?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
When word broke last summer that the Edmonton Oilers had an interest in Connor Brown, you can file me as one of those who was optimistic about it.
The connection to Connor McDavid, his ability to produce points in the past, and the belief that he was going to be hungry coming off an ACL tear led many down a similar path.
Nobody could’ve predicted how bad things would’ve turned out, and as the NHL’s trade deadline approaches, Connor Brown’s time with the Edmonton Oilers is ticking.
He now finds himself out of the Oilers lineup as a healthy scratch for the second time this season, the first coming in December, which left Brown highly emotional. That scratch was done to try and wake him up amid a rough stretch, but this scratch is different after Wednesday’s acquisitions of Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick.
Brown has made his mark on the Oilers as a penalty kill specialist, playing the third most shorthanded minutes and providing solid results. The problem is that both of the Oilers’ recent acquisitions led the Ducks in penalty kill among forwards, and during a press conference after the trade, GM Ken Holland talked about how both players were effective there.
“Both are versatile. One shoots right and can play right-wing, center, both can penalty kill, Adam shoots left and can play left-wing or center. Maybe he trys right wing,” said Holland. “I think we got some versatility, some depth. I felt we got deeper.
“The importance of penalty kill come playoff time, the importance of centers come playoff time, the importance of depth come playoff time were all factors in the decision to make the deal.”
What’s more, is that Brown hasn’t been able to produce a lick of offence for the Oilers. Five assists at 5v5, sure, but that’s a number passed by Corey Perry in 36 less games. Brown hasn’t scored, good looks be damned, and as the Oilers continue to struggle to find offence out of their bottom six, there simply isn’t room for Brown in this lineup anymore.
Hockeyviz.com slots Brown’s overall production at a fourth-line rate, which is largely due to his penalty kill work. Meanwhile, Evolving Hockey’s Wins Above Replacement model has him as the second least valuable player in the entire league this season, providing -1.6 WAR.
For as imperfect a player as he is at driving play, Carrick has still been able to chip in offensively this season, picking up eight goals and 11 points in 61 games in Anaheim. Couple that with being a highly physical player who doesn’t shy from biting back, and it’s another thing pushing Brown to the fringe of this roster.
Edmonton has options now, and that’s something that they haven’t been able to say for the overwhelming majority of this season. But the accrual of cap space throughout the season has led them to where they can now add players without subtracting and allowing legitimate competition in the bottom half of the roster.
It’s not only hard to imagine the Oilers re-signing Brown at season’s end, but it’s difficult to see him cracking back into this lineup on a regular basis down the stretch run of the season. If the Oilers look to make a trade between now and Friday’s 1 pm MST trade deadline, Brown could be a player the team moves out to help alleviate cap restraints.

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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