EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers will be sellers at the trade deadline, with neither the cap space or playoff hopes to make them a buyer. But the question is, sellers of what?
They’ve got plenty of players that interim general manager Keith Gretzky is willing to move, but due to contracts and skill level, very few who are portable. Milan Lucic is an Oiler for life — or until he is bought out — but he does not fit the description of an asset that Gretzky can turn over at the 2019 deadline.
Gretzky has stated that his greatest priority is to move some money out, so he can have some wiggle room to add a winger or two on July 1. That process begins now, and almost any Oiler with term beyond this summer will be in the conversation. Almost any Oiler, we repeat.
The needs run deep in Edmonton. On the macro level, they need to get this franchise together after another epic failure in 2018-19, missing the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 seasons.
On a micro level, this team needs work at every position except centre. Priority No. 1 are top-six wingers, where the Oilers’ next one will be their first. After that, defencemen with skill are needed here. Ideally, a true No. 1, but realistically, anyone who can pass and shoot at a B-plus level would be welcome.
Oh, and a goaltender would be nice, with Mikko Koskinen signed and only the unproven Anthony Stolarz as his relief.
Pending free agents, age, salaries:
• Tobias Rieder, 26, $2 million
• Ty Rattie, 26, $800,000
• Jesse Puljujarvi, 20, $925,000
• Jujhar Khaira, 24, $675,000
*• Anthony Stolarz, 25, $761,250
(Stolarz must play 10 games this season to become RFA. Less than 10 and he is UFA).
Potential assets to move:
Alex Chiasson, RW: There are about seven players/contracts they’d like to move, but realistic trade bait would start with pending UFA Chiasson. He played on a Cup winner in Washington last year and scored 17 goals this season before going cold recently. Nice depth winger could be had for a third-round draft pick.
Zack Kassian, RW: A big, tough penalty killing winger who can skate. Kassian has one year remaining on his contract at a $1.95 million cap hit. Might be a nice add for any team who feels it can’t match up with Tom Wilson in Washington. Likely cost a fourth-round pick.
Alex Petrovic, D: Acquired from Florida for a third, they’d move him for a fifth.
Kris Russell, D: More of a long shot, with two years remaining at $4 million per. But for a contender that is light on defencemen, Russell might be worth a look.
Brandon Manning, D: Just cleared waivers, with a year left at $2.25 million. Oilers would retain salary and require nothing in return.
2019: 1st, 2nd, 3rd (Islanders), 4th, 6th, 7th
2020: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th
One bold move the team could make:
They’ve got lots of young defencemen on the way, and could part with, say, an Ethan Bear and a pick for a winger who can finish. The trades that need to be made at the draft could begin at the deadline for Edmonton. As they say, wingers are supposed to be the easiest players to acquire.
I think the Oilers shouldn’t…:
There will be talk of packaging right winger Jesse Puljujarvi, but his value is exceptionally low. They’d be better off developing the asset, considering he is the exact winger they require.
They have five core players here: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. We’d retain that core, and if you get a chance to move a good player like an Adam Larsson, take the plunge.