September 27, 2023

If it’s not Connor McDavid holding the NHL’s high prize when the Stanley Cup is hoisted this spring, fingers will likely be pointed at Edmonton Oilers normal supervisor Ken Holland. The Oilers are in win-now mode, however like many NHL groups underneath the league’s present wage cap construction, there may be little room for the membership to make enhancements on the deadline.

As Holland told TSN this week, the group will likely be “greenback in, greenback out” in terms of making strikes. With that in thoughts, what might the Oilers do to enhance their roster? Right here’s a glance:

Oilers’ strengths and wishes

In an interview with The Athletic this week, Holland expressed confidence in his roster, particularly his ahead corps. On a group that options the NHL’s high two scorers in McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, in addition to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman, who additionally sit among the many league’s high 20 scorers, offence shouldn’t be a priority.

Scoring depth has plagued the Oilers up to now, however past its high 4, the group additionally has Evander Kane, who just lately returned from a month on injured reserve, and soon-to-be-reactivated Kailer Yamamoto. When Yamamoto is activated, nonetheless, the Oilers might want to shed quick cap house by waiving or buying and selling a number of forwards, and provided that activation might happen this weekend, Holland is on the clock.

In web, Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell have cut up time. Neither has been spectacular and each sprung leaks at inopportune moments this season. The Oilers are one in every of solely six groups to not file a shutout in 2022-23, and though goaltending has not lived as much as the group’s hopes when it signed Campbell final offseason, the group is handcuffed to its tandem.

Subsequently, the realm the Oilers could make the most important impression is on the blue line.

Past Darnell Nurse, the Oilers don’t have a real top-four defender. Tyson Barrie performs the function, and offensively contributes at that degree, however by way of puck possession and defending, Barrie and the remainder of the Oilers’ veterans on the blue line (Brett Kulak and Cody Ceci), quit extra probabilities than they generate. The truth is, the one Corsi and Fenwick constructive defenders are the Oilers’ least skilled and lowest ice-time-consuming blueliners: Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard, and Vincent Desharnais.

Commerce deadline targets for Oilers

To handle Edmonton’s want for an impression defender, Jakob Chychrun has been the identify most mentioned in rumours. The Oilers and Coyotes final made a deal in 2022, when Edmonton cleared cap house by transport Zack Kassian to Arizona in alternate for draft picks.

The reported asking worth for Chychrun is a number of first-round picks and a prospect or younger NHL participant. Edmonton has its personal first-rounder in every of the subsequent three drafts, and given Chychrun remains to be underneath contract for 2 extra seasons at an affordable $4.6 million hit, it’s a danger that is smart to present Edmonton its greatest shot at a Cup.

Jakob Chychrun is a logical trade target for the Oilers. (Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jakob Chychrun is a logical commerce goal for the Oilers. (Photograph by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI by way of Getty Photographs)

If Edmonton have been to decide on a extra inexpensive, rental possibility, the group might take a look at Columbus’s Vladislav Gavrikov, Vancouver’s Luke Schenn, or Holland might strike a cope with a well-known commerce accomplice in Detroit to amass Olli Maatta. All three would match extra simply into Edmonton’s cap state of affairs, though with much less impression than Chychrun. Particularly, the Oilers have been linked to Gavrikov, in addition to Montreal Canadiens veteran Joel Edmundson, who would additionally present help as a rental.

With that stated, if not Chychrun, Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Jake McCabe, who has been concerned in increasing trade talks recently, can be one other match. McCabe performs a easy, dependable recreation, ideally suited as a third-pairing participant who spends time on a primary penalty-kill unit. Much like Chychrun, McCabe is signed by 2024-2025. Couple that with the actual fact the Blackhawks are reportedly prepared to retain as much as 50 % of McCabe’s wage, and the match appears even higher. The deal, nonetheless, would possible price the Oilers a first-round decide, they usually’d nonetheless want to incorporate a salaried participant. The Blackhawks and Holland made a deal in 2021 to ship Duncan Keith to Edmonton for Caleb Jones — a deal that Holland nearly definitely regrets in hindsight.

Belongings Oilers might transfer

It’s exhausting to think about Jesse Puljujarvi shouldn’t be the primary participant dangled in any deal. His $3 million cap aid would enable Edmonton to amass a blueliner, particularly if the Oilers sweeten the pot. When it comes to younger roster gamers groups like Chicago or Arizona might search, rookie Dylan Holloway is the opposite possible ask that may additionally create room up entrance in Edmonton. Holloway has one 12 months remaining on his entry-level contract, and if he does have a breakout season subsequent 12 months, he could develop into too expensive to maintain anyway.

Holland has acknowledged he’ll carry solely 12 forwards to maximise cap house when Yamamoto returns from damage, which suggests the group would want to commerce or waive no less than two forwards. Whereas Puljuarvi and Holloway are the possible commerce targets, veterans Derek Ryan and Mattias Janmark, who every carry a $1.25-million cap hit, take advantage of sense as waiver dumps.

Groups will undoubtedly inquire about blueliner Philip Broberg as properly, however provided that Edmonton’s Cup window won’t finish this season, preserving a defender who might develop into a top-four staple in coming seasons ought to be a magnet for present and future success.

Cap-strapped and roster heavy with positional wants, one thing has to present in Edmonton, and Holland will likely be working the telephones till 3 p.m. on March 3 when the NHL’s commerce deadline passes.

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