Over the next two weeks, sportsnet.ca will be taking an in-depth look at some key teams and the decisions facing them leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29. Today: Edmonton Oilers.
General Manager: Peter Chiarelli
2016 Draft Picks: 1st (EDM); 2nd (EDM); 3rd (EDM); 4th (EDM); 5th (EDM); 6th (EDM); 7th (EDM)
Cap space on deadline day: $13,422,243
Team mode: Step up the rebuild.
Cap, no-move and draft pick data via generalfanager.com
Ah, the Oilers. Another trade deadline as a seller, hovering in and around 30th place. Does the fun ever end in Edmonton?
It seems ridiculous to preach patience with a team that’s dwelled in the National Hockey League basement as long as this one, but here’s the cold, hard truth: First-year general manager Peter Chiarelli isn’t going to make the impactful moves required by his club at the deadline. This simply isn’t the forum for that, anymore.
The cap has made trading $6 million players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a top-three defenceman nearly an impossibility mid-season, and those are the components that lie in Edmonton’s near trading future — a.k.a. at the NHL Draft, where we fully expect a major Oilers deal.
In the mean time, Edmonton is like every other seller across the NHL. They’ve got a few spare parts, pending unrestricted free agents they’d be willing to part with. Plus a few dogs they’d be happy (but unlikely) to unload on whomever might want them.
Teddy Purcell tops the list of useful acquisitions here. The UFA right-winger has the ability to finish in a top-six role. Anyone looking for wingers, he’s a second-tier guy behind the Andrew Ladds and Mikkel Boedkers.
Failed defenceman Justin Schultz needs to be qualified at nearly $4 million this summer, or he’ll become a UFA. So treat him like a pure rental — because no one will qualify him at that number. He has been available for months. Will someone see value in Schultz for a playoff run?
Eric Gryba would have been sought after in a Roman Polak sort of way, but he’s out long-term with a knee injury. Nail Yakupov could be had for sure, but we defy you to tell us how a defensively deficient, low-producing forward could help a team in the playoffs, where goals against and defensive competence are of the utmost importance.
Chiarelli would surely part with fourth-line winger Lauri Korpikoski (one more year at $2.5 million), and likely top-six winger Benoit Pouliot (three more at $4 million). But again, the influence of the cap has made it nearly impossible to move term at the trade deadline.
It goes without saying that Edmonton would be all over acquiring a top-three defenceman at the deadline, but there’s a problem with that too. The teams who have defencemen to spare are playoff bound, and they’re not parting with any of them prior to a long, tough post-season run.
And the sellers out there — teams with no prayer of making the playoffs — are almost certainly in that position because they don’t have enough good blue-liners. Again, that’s a trade that for the summertime — or leading into the June draft in Buffalo.