Top five Oilers in-season trades: No. 3 — Bringing in Kent Nilsson

Zach Laing
2 months ago
The soup de jour in Oil Country these days is trade talks. After a sluggish start to the season, the Oilers are in a position where they should be active in the trade market. That inspired me to look back at some of the biggest in-season trades in Edmonton Oilers history. 
The countdown continues tonight with number three on the list, following behind the Paul Coffey trade, and the Bill Guerin trades.
And today, we’re rewinding the clock to 1987, when the Edmonton Oilers picked up Kent Nilsson from the Minnesota North Stars.
Drafted by the Atlanta Flames in the fourth round of the 1976 draft, Nilsson first came to play in North America in the 1977-78 season, playing for the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets, where over two years, he would be one of the league’s most electric players. He scored a stunning 81 goals and 214 points in 158 games, with back-to-back 107 point campaigns.
His scoring ways translated well to the NHL with the Flames, too, with 40 goals and 93 points in his 80-game rookie campaign. He would head to Calgary with the team in 1980, and last five more years before he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars for draft picks.
His time there saw them get knocked out of the first round of the playoffs, and in the second, they fell well out of the playoff race, sending him to the Oilers for cash on March 2nd, 1987.

Edmonton Journal Newspaper Clipping From March 3, 1987.

The acquisition was ironic in a sense. Then general manager Glen Sather said his club wasn’t getting enough offence despite already scoring a league-high 287 goals and being the lone NHL team to clinch a playoff spot. The second-highest-scoring LA Kings racked up 253 tallies at the time. It just goes to prove you can never have enough scoring.
Then 30 years old, Nilsson made more than the most of his time in Edmonton. Down the stretch run of the season, he would score five goals and 17 points in as many games, and continued to do so in the 1987 playoffs.
While names like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Andersson and Jari Kurri all got theirs, it was Nilsson whose six goals and 19 points played a key role in the post-season.
In the division semi-finals against the LA Kings, he notched three goals and seven points, helping beat them in five. Against the Jets in the division finals, it was five assists in as many games pushing the Oilers over the top.
And in the conference finals against the Detroit Red Wings, he kept up his production, including a tremendous two goal, four-point performance in game five, with two of his assists coming on the Oilers’ third and fourth goals, deciding factors in the 6-3 win.
The offence dried up in the Stanley Cup finals for Nilsson, notching just one assist in seven games, but the one he did get was key, setting up a game-tying Mark Messier goal in game seven.
Nilsson would return overseas, playing the following season in Italy for HC Bolzano, racking up 60 goals and 132 points in 35 games.
He would return to Edmonton for a six-game cup of coffee in 1994-95, scoring a goal.

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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