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Ken Holland is Still Looking

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Photo credit:Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
29 days ago
I expect Ken Holland to make another move before tomorrow’s NHL trade deadline. The Edmonton Oilers are good and the acquisition of Mattias Ekholm tells us Holland believes his team is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Edmonton is tied with Colorado for the most points and best points% in the Western Conference since January 1st. Consecutive blown leads v. the Rangers and Avalanche didn’t look great, but those two games shouldn’t overshadow how well the Oilers have played overall. They aren’t perfect and still need to reduce the glaring errors, but adding Ekholm gives them a steady, strong defender, which the team desperately lacked. He and Darnell Nurse give the Oilers an excellent 1-2 punch on left defence. Ekholm should be a steadying influence on Evan Bouchard as well as Philip Broberg.
If the Florida Panthers decide they are a seller, and Radko Gudas is available, Edmonton would be interested. I do see them adding a forward, and possibly two depending on the health of Kailer Yamamoto.
Yamamoto was on the receiving end of a hard hit from Justin Holl last night. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t like it and proceeded to crush Holl in a fight.
It was great to see RNH step for Yamamoto, but Yamamoto’s health is the main question. Yamamoto has missed a month on two separate occasions this season. The first was for a concussion, but when he was placed on LTIR in January it was due to neck issues. His body was misaligned. He had a similar issue that Sidney Crosby had over a decade ago. For a long time, they thought it was concussion-related for Crosby, but it turned out to be his neck and vestibular, which impacted his balance.
Yamamoto has had similar issues, and the hit from Holl didn’t help. Yamamoto isn’t a perimeter player. He gets involved in plays, but his small stature often leads to him taking a lot of contact to the neck and head. It is unavoidable, and his health status will have a major impact on what Holland does before tomorrow at 1 p.m. MT.
I felt the Oilers were looking to add a bottom six, right-shot forward who can take draws prior to last night, but Yamamoto’s status, especially if it lands him on LTIR, would give Holland an additional $3.1m in cap space to add a top-six forward.
I wrote about Nick Bjugstad last month as being a part of a potential Jacob Chychrun trade. The Oilers have had interest in him for a month. His $900K cap hit makes him an easy piece to add, cap-wise, and he’s had a strong season with 11 goals and 20 points 5×5 for the Coyotes. He’s also managed to outscore the opposition 33-27 at 5×5. He’s played an equal amount of minutes v. Elite players (256 min), Middle (259) and Grit (260) via PuckIQ.com. 
He has rebounded from a tough season last year, and I was told last night that injuries were a factor in his struggles down the stretch and not playing for Minnesota in the playoffs. He is a big body, but not overly phyiscal. He can help on faceoffs, specifically on his strong side. He’s a right shot who is much better on his backhand than on his forehand, and with Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Ryan McLeod and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all being lefties, adding another right-shot centre, along with Derek Ryan, would help their depth.

TOP-SIX OPTIONS…

Yamamoto’s health will determine if the Oilers can add a top-six forward. I’m told there is some concern about his health. Is he one hit away from being out? When healthy he is a solid player, but the Oilers lack right wingers right now.
James van Riemsdyk is available, but he’s a left shot. Ideally, Edmonton would prefer a right-shot, but he is an option.
Jonathon Drouin is an option, but he’s also a left shot. He can play either wing though. The other concern is he doesn’t have a goal this season. He has 18 assists in 37 games, but Edmonton could use more of a shooter.
Andreas Athanasiou has 14 goals in Chicago. He’s also a left shot, but he can fly. Some might say “been there done that” and pass.
Max Domi is having a great year in Chicago, but he’s played centre mainly. He’s also a left shot, but with 18 goals and 49 points he’s an interesting option for sure.
Jakub Vrana has 33 goals in his last 81 games. But those games have been spread out over the past three seasons. He scored 13 goals in 26 games last season before an injury, and then he was in the NHL’s substance abuse program to start this season. He played 17 games in the American Hockey League, before being recalled to Detroit. He’s scored 1-1-2 in five games. He can score, but he’s a $5.25m cap hit for next season. Detroit would have to retain some salary for any deal to work, and they might as there is talk they could buy him out.
Nick Schmaltz has 18 goals and 24 assists for Chicago this season and could be another right-shot target provided that Yamamoto misses any time. Again, the Coyotes would need to retain some salary for a deal like this to work — his $5.85 million cap hit is an issue — but the Oilers may need to do something to bolster the right side.
There aren’t many right-shot options available, so if Yamamoto’s health is a concern the Oilers might have to look at a left shot or make a trade involving a player that hasn’t been rumoured to be on the trading block.
Regardless of what happens with Yamamoto, expect Holland to make a move before tomorrow’s deadline.

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