Oilers searching for upgrades ahead of trade deadline, but GM Ken Holland says it’s difficult to determine needs “with the way the team is playing”
By Cam Lewis9 days ago
For the first time in two months, the Edmonton Oilers had a rough week.
Their 16-game winning streak was snapped by the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, the same team that ended their Stanley Cup dreams back in the spring. The Oilers got back into the win column on Friday with a win over the basement-dwelling Anaheim Ducks but then put forward a lacklustre effort on Saturday against the L.A. Kings and lost 4-0.
Two losses during a three-game road trip in February is usually nothing to write home about, but coming up short against Pacific Division foes will inevitably cause some anxiety in Edmonton. That said, while many fans are hoping to see changes made and holes plugged over the next few weeks, general manager Ken Holland appears to be comfortable maintaining a patient approach.
“What do I think I need?” Holland said to Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic following the team’s road trip. “Right now, it’s hard to have a whole bunch of (needs) with the way the team is playing.”
Again, not necessarily the ideal answer for fans who are hoping for a shake-up to come right away, but also not surprising given the position that the Oilers are in. Edmonton is pressed right up against the salary cap without a deep prospect and draft pick pool to trade from, so finding a deal that works will require some creativity.
Holland also spoke with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic last week and gave a fairly non-committal answer about the team’s deadline plans. It’s obvious that the Oilers are in win-now mode, but who they’ll add and who they’ll have to subtract in order to make things work financially is anybody’s guess at this stage. The latter is the bigger challenge than the former here.
“Certainly, I’m going to do everything that I can between now and the deadline to see if we can do something to make our team a little bit better,” Holland said.
The trade deadline for the 2023-24 season is on March 8, three weeks from this upcoming Friday. The Oilers will host Holland’s former team on Tuesday, the Detroit Red Wings, and then they’ll hit the road to play in St. Louis, Dallas, and Arizona on Thursday, Saturday, and Monday. After that, they’ll have a five-game homestand to finish off February.
By that point, Holland and Co. will have enough clarity to know which changes need to be made in order to push the Oilers over the top. It should be clear by that point if Dylan Holloway can be the bottom-six centre the team needs, if their new-look defensive pairings are helpful, and who’s going to form a tandem between the pipes with Stuart Skinner. Also, by March, middling teams around the league will have decided which direction they’re going to go when it comes to selling or pushing for the playoffs.
Though a lot can change over the next few weeks, it’s looking right now like Edmonton’s big splash will be adding a top-six forward who can score goals. The Oilers teed off on the Ducks with five goals last week but they only managed one goal, a shorthanded marker from Connor McDavid, in their losses to the Golden Knights and Kings.
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