WWYDW(TE): Who should the Edmonton Oilers consider untouchable?
Photo credit:Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis10 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have put together a season-changing month of January, going 7-2-2 and climbing into a position in which winning the Pacific Division is a legitimate possibility.
They’ll play the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday before heading into a week-and-a-half break for the All-Star game. After that, the Oilers will play 12 more games before the March 3 trade deadline, seven of which are against non-playoff teams.
It’s an excellent opportunity for the Oilers to continue to put up points in the standings and ultimately prove to general manager Ken Holland that he should make a splash to improve the roster that’ll help the team go on a deep playoff run.
Through his first three seasons at the helm of the Oilers, Holland has been very conservative with his top draft picks and top prospects. In 2020, he moved two second-round picks and two later draft picks to add Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis, and Mike Green. In 2021, his only move was trading a fourth-round pick to acquire Dmitri Kulikov. And then in 2022, he moved a second-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and depth defender William Lagesson for Brett Kulak and Derick Brassard.
After last spring’s trip to the Western Conference Final, many fans in Edmonton are hoping that this is the year that Holland will finally go all-in to push the Oilers over the top. But knowing Holland’s conservative, big-picture reputation, that’s far from a guarantee.
Let’s go through Edmonton’s major trade chips ahead of this year’s deadline and try to determine who Holland might consider untouchable…
Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton’s first-round pick from the 2020 draft saw surprisingly little ice time in the first few months of the season but he’s been earning a larger role on the team as of late. Through 11 games in January, Holloway has scored two goals and five points while logging an average of 11:19 per game. At even strength, he has an 8-to-2 on-ice goal differential.
Holloway is a big part of the Oilers’ future and he’s really starting to look the part recently, so it would be very surprising to see him get dealt.
There was plenty of talk early in the season that the Oilers should send Broberg to the Arizona Coyotes as the centrepiece of a Jakob Chychrun deal but that’s quieted down lately because of the young Swede’s excellent play alongside Evan Bouchard.
Over the month of January, Broberg is averaging 14:35 per game in all situations and he has a sparkling 13-to-4 on-ice goal differential at even strength. It’s important to note that Broberg isn’t going up against top competition but his play has been very encouraging nonetheless.
Given how much time the Oilers have invested in developing him and the fact it’s starting to pay off, it’s very difficult to imagine Holland moving Broberg at this point.
Over the past few drafts, Holland and Edmonton’s scouting staff have leaned heavily into adding forwards to the team’s system. Their top pick in 2021, Xavier Bourgault, was one of the oldest forwards selected in the first round, so the hope is that he’ll have a quick path to contributing at the NHL level.
In his first professional season, Bourgault has nine goals and 19 points over 38 games for the Bakersfield Condors. He won’t be called up this year, but it’s reasonable to assume Bourgault will be in the NHL at some point in 2023-24.
With Jesse Puljujarvi likely nearing an exit and uncertainty around Kailer Yamamoto’s future, you can see why Holland would want to hang on to Bourgault. But since he isn’t contributing to the current team, Bourgault wouldn’t be untouchable like Holloway and Broberg are.
Like Bourgault, Schaefer was one of the oldest forwards selected in the first round of his draft class. The dream scenario for him is one season in the WHL, one season in the AHL, and then he’d make the jump to the NHL during the 2024-25 season and take over the role of Edmonton’s top-six power forward from Evander Kane by the time his contract expires.
That’s all way down the road, of course, and it involves a whole bunch of ifs and maybes. Schaefer has played pretty well this season, with 19 goals and 33 points over 29 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds, but he likely wouldn’t be untouchable if the right deal came around.
The 2023 first-round pick
The Oilers haven’t moved their first-round pick in a trade deadline deal since all the way back in 2006 when Kevin Lowe acquired Dwayne Roloson from the Wild. The trade was risky, as the Oilers were right on the bubble of making the playoffs and they could have been handing a pick in the first half of the first round of the draft to a division rival, but Roloson wound up helping them reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Holland has also only moved his first-round pick in a deadline deal once in the salary cap era. That came in a three-way trade in 2012 in which the Avalanche sent defender Kyle Quincey to the Lightning for Steve Downie, and the Red Wings sent a first-round pick to Tampa for Quincey.
Quincey was a solid-but-unspectacular defender for Detroit for a few seasons while the Lightning struck gold with that draft pick, as they selected goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy at No. 19 overall.
That’s obviously an unfortunate result but it’s the reality of moving first-round picks. Sometimes you’ll end up trading Andrei Vasilevskiy for Kyle Quincey and sometimes you’ll end up trading Dwayne Roloson for Trevor Lewis.
Given the context of where the Oilers are at right now, trading the first is worth the risk. There’s a very low chance that whoever gets selected with this pick would be contributing to the team before Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid’s contracts expire.
What does it all mean?
The closer a player is to contributing to the big-league club, the less likely it is that Ken Holland will use them in a mid-season trade, especially if that trade is for a rental.
I’d expect that Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway are completely off the table, and that Xavier Bourgault and Reid Schaefer would only be made available in exchange for younger players who are under team control for multiple years or for an impending free agent that Holland figures he’ll be able to re-sign.
Edmonton’s first-round draft pick is very likely available for Holland to make an upgrade. As mentioned earlier, there’s always a risk involved with moving a top pick, but Holland and Co. have built up enough depth in the system that the team can afford to have a barren draft class in 2023 in order to push to win now.
Speaking of that depth, the Oilers’ system also features names lower down the list who could be enticing to other teams. Matvei Petrov has been excellent in the OHL and has considerable upside, Mike Kesselring has fared well in the AHL and could soon join an NHL blueline, and Olivier Rodrigue was a highly-touted QMJHL who’s turned a corner at the professional level.
What say you, Nation? Which players would you consider untouchable? Who would you prioritize adding ahead of the trade deadline to push the Oilers over the top?
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