We are still over five weeks away from the NHL trade deadline, but the rumours are starting to fly around. The Oilers have some needs but as their winning streak gets longer, and longer and some young players keep looking better, and better, their deadline plans start to get a little bit more complicated.
I firmly believe this is the season for Ken Holland to go all-in at the deadline and there are a handful of reasons why.
First off, their division is not very strong, again.
Vegas looked really good early in the season but they’re struggling with injuries right now and rookie Logan Thompson is starting to come back down to earth a little bit. I still think he’s a really good goalie, but that combined with the fact that there’s a realistic chance they don’t get Mark Stone back for the rest of the regular season means that first place in the division is very much up for grabs.
The LA Kings have solid forward depth and I like their blueline, but going up against Pheonix Copley in a best-of-seven series shouldn’t really scare the Edmonton Oilers. If they added at the deadline, then they could become a bigger threat, but as of right now, I don’t think they’re a better team than the Oilers.
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The Seattle Kraken basically have four-second lines and their defence is good. But their goaltending is a big question mark and it’s unclear if they’ll address is before the deadline.
Those are the three teams sitting above the Oilers right now in the division and they all have some clear flaws. Top spot in this division is right up for grabs and for the second season in a row, I really don’t see a team in this division that is clearly better than the Oilers. 
Also, McDavid is having another historic season and last year both he and Draisaitl showed that they can keep up their offensive production in the postseason. If they got more help than they did last year in the playoffs, then I’m not sure if there’s a team in the West that can stop them.
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Colorado is not as good as they were last season either. There is not a clear-cut juggernaut in the entire Western Conference in my opinion. Everyone has flaws.
That means Holland should be doing everything in his power to load up this lineup for a potential run to the Western Conference finals, or deeper.
That means adding both a forward and a defenseman, the question is of what calibre.
Last year, Holland scooped but Brett Kulak from the Canadiens and Derrick Brassard from the Flyers. He had also just signed Evander Kane a few months earlier. Three moves in the months leading up to the deadline.
This year, I’d expect the same honestly. An impact forward, a solid defenseman, and another depth piece.
However, with the recent play of Philip Broberg, I think Holland can get a defenseman that slots into this lineup nicely without sacrificing a first or even second-round pick. Broberg and Bouchard are starting to thrive in a third-pairing role and while I understand that the quality of competition they’re facing is weak, the numbers are still impressive.
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My ideal kind of target for the Oilers is a defenseman who is strong in his own end and can play both the left and right side. That way they can lean on this new piece to take some minutes off the plate of both Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci. If you had a shutdown-type d-man who can handle tough matchups and lots of d-zone starts, then life would get much easier for both Nurse and Ceci.
I don’t think Holland needs to go spend a first-round pick on Vladislav Gavrikov or move Philip Broberg in a deal for Jakob Chychrun. Just because it’s time to go all-in doesn’t mean the Oiler’s GM needs to spend foolishly.
The team will need players who can contribute to the lineup while on their first or second contracts and Broberg is looking like a player who can be an impactful piece for the next few years while his cap hit remains low. It’d be foolish to move a player like that.
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The same goes for Dylan Holloway and to an extent, Reid Schaefer and Xavier Bourgeault. Holloway is already here and contributing and the other two are just a season or two away. 
I’d be hesitant to move on from those top prospects simply because they’re much closer to contributing than whoever you might take in 2023 or 2024. 
Also, even if you kept your first-round pick this year, that player is two-three years away from being in the lineup and it’s important to remember that the Oiler’s forward core is more or less set for the next few seasons.
McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Kane, and Hyman are all signed for at least the next two seasons. On top of that, you have McLeod, Yamamoto, Kostin, and Holloway that you can keep around as well. That’s nine forwards right there. If you believe in this core, then there’s no need to keep adding high-end prospects into the system. 
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You can keep Bourgeault and Schaefer as your built-in insurance pieces for the next few seasons and confidently move your next two to three first-round picks knowing that your system isn’t totally barren. 
I do not think there is a rental defenseman on the market that is worth a first-round pick and I’m not a fan of acquiring anyone with term because you have Nurse, Kulak, and Broberg on the left side for next season. 
You can get a solid rental by using a second or third-round pick. That means you can dangle your first-round pick in a deal for a forward and the idea of this team adding a big-name forward piece has me salivating.
Ryan O’Reilly, Jonathan Toews, and Bo Horvat are all on the block and would be great fits. A move like that would give Head Coach Jay Woodcroft a few options.
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He could run McDavid, Draisaitl, and the new piece down the middle and give the Oilers unmatched centre depth.
He could also run McDavid, the new guy and Nugent-Hopkins down the middle and play McDavid and Draisaitl on the same line while still having good depth on the other two lines. Imagine this for night one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Draisaitl – McDavid – Kane
Holloway – New Guy – Hyman
Kostin – Nugent-Hopkins – Yamamoto
Ryan – McLeod – Janmark
(assuming both Foegele and Puljujarvi are moved for cap relief)
That top nine would be very hard to stop. 
I know a lot of people will read this and say “but the Oilers need to be better defensively” but I don’t think you should ignore the impact that adding a good defensive centre like Toews or O’Reilly could have. You need all five players on the ice to contribute in the defensive zone and having a centreman who really knows how to navigate things in his own end would help the team out just as much as a strong defenseman.
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Broberg has taken a step forward and Desharnais gives the blueline some decent depth. Ken Holland should spend his big asset on a forward at this year’s deadline.

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