Photo credit:Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Trade Talk: Scoring forwards who could really help the Oilers
By Jason Gregor13 days ago
The NHL trade deadline is one month away, and trade speculation and rumours will be rampant over the next 29 days. The Edmonton Oilers will make a trade, likely two, but will either be a major move?
The Edmonton Oilers are good. If the Stanley Cup playoffs started today, they’d be a legitimate favourite. Their biggest issue isn’t their roster, it is their division. Vancouver and Vegas are also very good, and Edmonton will face one of them in the first round — and if they win, they’ll likely face the other in the second round. Finishing first in the Pacific should be a major advantage because that team, likely Vancouver, will avoid Edmonton and Vegas in the opening round.
Vancouver made a big addition last week adding Elias Lindholm. The move strengthens their second line, and right now, I’d argue the Oilers’ biggest need is a second-line right winger. But the challenge is there doesn’t seem to be many options on the market. Warren Foegele, along with Ryan McLeod and Dylan Holloway, would give Edmonton a very competent third line, but Foegele has never been a second-line scorer. He’s had a great first 46 games, but if he only scored six or seven goals down the stretch, I wouldn’t be shocked. His career high in goals is 13, and while he is on pace for 18, being on pace and finishing at that pace are different.
If Edmonton can find a second line right winger, it will bolster two lines, and make them a deeper team. I’d argue it would make three lines better, as Corey Perry would then be on the fourth line.
We will start with the top-six options, but after doing some research, I feel there is a bottom-six duo I think could really help the Oilers.
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Jake Guentzel: His name has been out there, but I don’t see him being shopped right now. The Penguins aren’t as bad as their record. Their 5×5 play has been solid. They rank third in expected goals, and they are seventh in xGF%. Their GF-GA ratio is +15, and their GF% at 5×5 ranks fifth. Their power play is killing them. Their PK is 10th, but they are 30th on the PP.
They did score twice on the man advantage in their 3-0 win over Winnipeg in their first game after the break. They rank seventh in PP opportunities/game but haven’t found any consistency on the man advantage despite loads of talent. Against the Jets they decided to split the PP time evenly between two units. Each unit scored. Erik Karlsson, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, Lars Eller and Rickard Rakell were one unit while Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, Reilly Smith and Guentzel were the other. It was the second game they’ve went with two units and split up Crosby and Malkin.
It worked, and if the Pens’ PP is even average, they will make the playoffs, so I don’t see Guentzel being an option. Even if he becomes available, he’d likely want PP time, and the Oilers don’t need him there. And he’s American, so the odds he re-signs in Edmonton are low. He’s also a left shot and plays more on the left wing.
Tyler Toffoli: He’d be a very good option for the Oilers. He’s won a Cup. He was great last season with a career-best 34 goals and 73 points. He has 21 goals and 34 points this season, despite only playing 59% of his 5×5 time with Jack Hughes. Hughes has been out of the lineup with various injuries, but Toffoli is still scoring goals. He’s on pace for more goals this season, despite playing less with Hughes. Toffoli is a very smart player who knows how to perform in the playoffs. The Devils get Hughes back tonight, and that will be a big boost for their playoff aspirations.
They are in a battle for third place in the Metro with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders, and the Wildcard with Tampa Bay and Detroit.
Toffoli is a pending UFA, and while he’s unlikely to re-sign, adding him wouldn’t cause as much interruption on the power play. He’s been on good teams without being on the first PP unit. You have to factor in how any acquisition will impact the dressing room.
Travis Konecny: He’d be a great addition, but would the Flyers move him? I’d say the chances are very low. He leads them with 23 goals and 51 points. He’s the heartbeat of their team and he has another year remaining on an excellent value contract at $5.5m. The price tag would be high, but with another year on his deal he fits what Ken Holland looks for at the deadline. If he is giving up a first round pick, he’d rather get a player with term in return.
Phil Kessel: Not happening. Next.
Vladimir Tarasenko: He is the best pure shooter available. He is a left shot, but can comfortably play the right side. He is a six-time 30 goal scorer. He can finish. He is having a decent, not great, season in Ottawa and his consistent commitment is a concern. When he’s on he is dangerous, but I’m not sure he has the offensive punch now than when he won a Cup in St. Louis, and if he isn’t scoring he doesn’t do much else. But a chance to play with Draisaitl, could ignite his desire and that makes him an option.
Anthony Mantha: He’ll be a UFA in the summer. He’s found his game again after two rough years in Washington. He has 15 goals and leads the Capitals with 14 goals 5×5. He wouldn’t expect to be on the first unit PP in Edmonton. Holland knows him well from their time in Detroit. The Capitals thought he’d be this player when they acquired him, but he hasn’t come close to living up to his $5.7m AAV. This year he’s at least looked like the player they were hoping for. His cap hit is the challenge, as even if the Caps retain half the Oilers would be taking on $2.85m.
Jan 8, 2023; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) shoots during the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
I’m certain the Oilers will add a depth defencemen with experience. I know many are wondering if they will make a big splash on the blue line. I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m not sold it is their main priority. As we’ve discussed before, if the Oilers could find a clear upgrade on Cody Ceci, I think they’d look at it. But I don’t think the names available are glaringly obvious upgrades in the likes of Chris Tanev, Sean Walker and Alex Carrier. Mattias Ekholm was an obvious upgrade to the Oilers’ left side on defence, and that is why Holland acquired him. He also had three more years remaining on his deal when they acquired him.
If we look at right defenders with term, who would be upgrades, the list is quite short, and I haven’t seen these names on any trade bait board. Frank Seravalli didn’t have either on his list. His list will change, as some players could become available, or more likely to move, closer to the deadline, like Ekholm last year. I’d be surprised if either of these guys are moved, but they would be upgrades.
John Carlsson: He has two years remaining at $8m. He’s an outstanding puck mover, but he also likes to be on the PP, and the Oilers have a very good power play quarterback. If you think the Oilers need to swing for the fences, then I’d make a call to Washington just to let them know I’m interested.
Colton Parayko: The St. Albert product has six years more years remaining on his $6.5m AAV contract. Doug Armstrong has said he’s looking to make changes on his team. They are transitioning from their Cup winning roster from 2019, to younger guys like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Parayko would be an upgrade, but he also has double the cap hit of Ceci. He’d be another big move, but I’m not sold the Oilers have to go big-name hunting.
Remember when Florida acquired Claude Giroux and Ben Chairot? They were in first place in the NHL. Did they really need to add a top-six forward and top-four defender? They did win a playoff round for the first time in forever, so you could argue it was worth it in that sense, but did either make that big on an impact?
The Oilers are a legit contender right now and might not need a major move to win. I do expect them to add something, but many Cup winners have had better luck by adding role players.
Nic Dowd: He will be highly sought after. Don’t be surprised if Washington lands a first round pick for him. He is very similar to Barclay Goodrow in 2020. Many people incorrectly overreacted to Tampa giving up a first for Goodrow, but they knew what they needed. They wanted him to help their bottom six and penalty kill, and he did. He was a very good bottom-six player, and they won back-to-back Cups. Of course, whoever acquires Dowd won’t be guaranteed one cup, never mind two, but he will fill a specific role.
He is a right-shot centre, who can chip in offensively. He has seven 5×5 goals, after scoring 13 goals last season. He’s averaged the most minutes per game of any Washington forward against Elite competition. He’s played 207 minutes v. Elite in 39 games and managed to outscore them 7-3. His overall DFF% doesn’t look great, but that’s more so due to his line not generating a lot of offence and he almost always starts in the D-zone. He’s had 23 O-zone starts compared to 188 in the D-zone and 106 in the neutral zone. Jean-Gabriel Pageu has the most Dzone starts among forwards with 199, but he’s played 50 games. Dowd is at 188 in 39 games. He and his line take a lot of the tough matchups for Washington, and they still outscore the opposition. It is quite impressive.
Acquiring Dowd could give Kris Knoblauch the option to free up Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl from the odd tough matchup. It could free them up to play against opposing teams’ bottom six.
Dowd has another year at $1.3m and he’d be an outstanding fourth line centre addition for the Oilers.
Brandon Duhaime: He’d add some much-needed physicality and speed to the Oilers’ fourth line. He can fly, is physical and he’s been a regular on the Wild penalty kill. He doesn’t have great underlying numbers, but also starts far more often in the Dzone (71) than he does in offensive zone (44). He annoyingly popped up on Frank’s trade bait board earlier today, which ruined my idea of an under-the-radar addition. But could the Oilers make a package to acquire Duhaime and Zack Bogosian (depth, veteran D-man)? I can’t see it being a lot.
Beck Malenstyn: While we are on the idea of adding two players from a team, the Oilers could look at adding Malenstyn with Dowd. This is the duo I referred to at the top of this article.
They have played almost exclusively together. Malenstyn has only 17 O-zone starts compared to 192 D-zone starts (in 47 games). If you add both, it will lower the time needed for Dowd to build chemistry in Edmonton. Malenstyn is an RFA at the end of the season with an AAV of $762.5K and he leads the Caps in PK/game at 2:45. He’d help at 5×5 but also on the PK.
Adding both of them in one deal would be great, and could give Knoblauch the freedom to give McDavid and Draisaitl a few easier matchups. Malenstyn is 6’3″, 200 pounds and would bring some more size and tenacity to the Oilers’ bottom-six. He is top-20 in hits among NHL forwards.
If the Oilers could add a proven scorer, second line RW, that would help, however, there aren’t many available. Bolstering their bottom six with the Capitals’ duo could be just as important for a long playoff run.
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