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Oilers are “one of the many teams” who have expressed interest in Flames defenceman Chris Tanev
By Cam Lewis13 days ago
We’re just one month from the trade deadline for the 2023-24 season and it’s still unclear what the Edmonton Oilers are going to do.
Edmonton’s historic 16-game winning streak erased the early-season anxiety that the Oilers desperately needed upgrades at multiple positions, but coming up short in a tight battle against the Vegas Golden Knights was a sobering reminder that there’s still room to improve.
Three areas stand out as possibilities for the Oilers to upgrade — A 1B goaltender with playoff experience to play in tandem with Stuart Skinner, a goal-scoring forward who can play either centre or the wing, and a right-handed defender to suit up in the top-four with Darnell Nurse.
There are internal options for the first two areas mentioned. Jack Campbell has played well in the American Hockey League lately and might get another look with the big league club, though there’s legitimate concern that Calvin Pickard won’t get through waivers unclaimed. Dylan Holloway has been effective since returning from injury and might erase Edmonton’s need to add another forward if he keeps it up.
But when it comes to upgrading the blueline, there doesn’t appear to be somebody within the organization who’s ready to step up and take on such a role. The top option would be Philip Broberg, who’s in the final season of his entry-level contract, but the team’s first-round pick from the 2019 draft hasn’t proved that he can handle top-four minutes at the NHL level.
What’s more likely is that Broberg would be one of the pieces moved to acquire a veteran defenceman, if the Oilers choose to go that route. And since the Oilers are pressed right up against the salary cap ceiling, adding to the blueline would also likely require sending another salary out the other way to make things fit under the cap.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Edmonton’s top pairing of Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm rank first and second among defencemen in terms of expected goals for percentage, while the team’s third-pairing of Brett Kulak and Vincent Desharnais rank seventh and eighth. Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci rank 66th and 73rd respectively. Making an upgrade to that second pairing could give the Oilers among the best bluelines in the league.
Packaging up Ceci and his $3.25 million cap hit along with a prospect like Broberg or a draft pick seems like the easiest way for the Oilers to make an upgrade to their blueline. But as former Oiler Luke Gazdic noted last week on Oilersnation Everyday, moving a player could disrupt the positive mojo that the team has going for them.
“I struggle with this because I understand how close the guys get in the room,” Gazdic said.“If you’re going to go out and trade [Cody] Ceci, which is a possibility, you better be sure that what you’re getting in return is a major upgrade.I think he [Ceci] has given you a lot of serviceable minutes. I think he’s been a hell of a defenceman for them and that’s not something you can always say. Under some good coaching and structure, he’s turned into an important piece for the Oilers.”
Last year, the Oilers had to send Tyson Barrie, a very popular teammate and a key part of the team’s excellent power play, as part of the return to the Nashville Predators in order to make it possible to fit Mattias Ekholm under the cap ceiling. It was a difficult pill for the players in the room to swallow, but the move ultimately made the team better.
Is there a similar deal out there to be made this year? It’s difficult to say because not all of the bubble teams have given up on their playoff aspirations just yet. The Calgary Flames are in seller mode, having moved Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm already. The next name that appears to be on the way out is shutdown defender Chris Tanev, who the Oilers have reportedly inquired about.
Tanev carries a $4.5 million cap hit and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so the difficulty with moving Ceci for Tanev is that it creates a hole to be filled for the 2024-25 season. There’s also no guarantee that Tanev is an upgrade over Ceci at this stage, as Calgary’s top right-handed defender sits 69th, right between Nurse and Ceci, in terms of expected goals for percentage this season.
Frank Seravalli appeared on ONE on Wednesday and mentioned that the Flames are seeking a second-round pick for Tanev. Considering the lack of quality defencemen available and the number of teams looking to add, they might wind up getting more than that. As TSN’s Darren Dreger said, Edmonton is one of “many teams” who have already expressed an interest in the Flames’ top remaining trade asset.
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