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Oilers could turn to Reilly Smith as Plan B option to Jake Guentzel

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Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers are looking to add pieces to their Stanley Cup puzzle and with the trade deadline almost a week away, things are expected to heat up from now and until then. One of the most sought-after options on the market is Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jake Guentzel, who has scored 98 goals over the last three seasons, and despite being sidelined as of late, he’d be a huge boost to the Oilers’ forward group if they could grab him.
It was reported that Edmonton was one of five destinations to watch for as a possible fit for the Penguins’ forward, and the NHL Network also proposed a mock trade, which had Guentzel headed to the Oilers in exchange for Warren Foegele, prospect Beau Akey and first and third-round draft picks, which is quite the haul for what would likely be a rental.
To add to that, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli spoke recently on  the “Kevin Karius Show” and detailed that Guentzel’s price tag might be too steep for the Oilers and subtly mentioned how a Penguins’ teammate of his could be a fit instead:
“I’d be very surprised at the end of the day if it ends up being Guentzel. I don’t think they want to spend — not to say they don’t believe in him, I think the price is going to be expensive and I think there’s almost zero chance that he re-signs in Edmonton, and I think that part of it is certainly of consideration, but I think Reilly Smith would be a totally different conversation.”
That said, if the Oilers find a deal for Guentzel to be too costly, Reilly Smith would be a decent backup option to help solidify their forward group, and Seravalli also stated that teams view him as “Jake Guentzel-Lite.” He’s a left-handed shot that can play both left and right-wing, has recorded five 20+ goal seasons, and despite a dip offensively this year, he notched 26 just last season. In the hypothetical scenario that the Oilers acquired him, he could slot in at right wing on the second line. His shoot-first mentality could mesh very well with Leon Draisaitl’s playmaking and he’d be in position to unleash quick one-timers on his off-wing.

Smith Would Be Valuable for a Playoff Run

Pittsburgh acquired Smith from the Vegas Golden Knights for a third-round draft pick last June, after winning the Stanley Cup just two weeks prior. In addition, he was a key player in Vegas’ Cup run last season, racking up 14 points in 22 playoff games and he played the second most minutes among forwards on the penalty kill (36:41 minutes). Because of his experience playing in high-pressure situations, he’d be a valuable asset for the Oilers in the playoffs and it’s also worth noting he scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Yet, the downside is that his point production has dipped this season with the Penguins. His 25 points, puts him at a 0.50 points-per-game (P/G) pace, whereas last season he produced at a 0.72 P/G rate. However, there could be various factors contributing to this — one of them being that he’s playing with a completely new team, within a new system, after spending six seasons with a team that just won a Cup. Despite that, a change of scenery might be good for him and this could just be an off-year, as he’s recorded four 50+ point seasons in the last six, before this one.

What Would It Cost the Oilers to Acquire Smith?

The 32-year-old has a $5 million cap hit and has a 10-team no-trade list with one year remaining on his deal, but Seravalli had him at #8 on his latest list of trade targets, saying:
“The Pens took on Smith’s full $5 million salary from Vegas as a cap casualty and only gave up a third-round pick to get him. It was a worthy gamble but hasn’t paid off. Now, the Penguins could leverage their salary cap space and retain half on Smith to make him a quality addition (with them) that nearly every team in the league could afford.”
If half of Smith’s salary were retained as Seravalli mentioned, he’d come in at a price tag of $2.5 million. According to CapFriendly, without making any changes, the Oilers are projected to have just over $2.3 million in cap space by the trade deadline, meaning they’d still likely have to move a $775,000 contract, to acquire him.
All things considered, Smith’s tenure in Pittsburgh so far hasn’t worked out as planned and this could be a prime “buy low” opportunity for Edmonton. He was traded to the Penguins last summer for only a third-round pick and if they retained salary, or if a third team was involved to help broker the deal, I’m wondering — is a combination of a second and third-round draft picks, along with a B-level prospect enough to get a deal done? If so, the Oilers would be getting a suitable player for their top six (at minimum their top nine), at a significantly lower cost than what it would take to acquire Guentzel. On top of that, they’d have him on board for one more season after this one.
Without a doubt, Guentzel is the most dynamic forward available on the market, but if the Oilers are opposed to paying the price for him, how do you feel about the idea of adding Smith upfront?

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