The Edmonton Oilers, finally, are in a desirable position: They have a generational player in Connor McDavid, more than enough goaltending in Cam Talbot, a decent blue-line corps and an overall supporting cast that has finally provided some traction after a decade out of the playoffs.
So, while nobody would pick the Oilers as a genuine Stanley Cup favourite this spring, after years as sellers this team is now in a position to sacrifice some tomorrow for some right now. To be a Deadline Day buyer — finally.
Possibly headed for a first-round matchup against Anaheim, GM Peter Chiarelli can realistically think that the right add or two could buy Edmonton a second-round series, and he has a couple of assets to spend.
If ever there was a team that could move out a first-round pick on March 1 it is Edmonton, and we know that first-rounders are the crème de la crème among Deadline Day assets. Also, with defenceman Brandon Davidson seemingly en route to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, including the 25-year-old in a deal for a pending UFA like Brian Boyle or Kevin Shattenkirk makes sense.
Edmonton has an array of more expensive players it would consider moving, but those contracts seldom move on March 1. Matt Hendricks may garner some interest as well, and Chiarelli might be tempted if such a trade could replace the second-round pick lost to Boston when Chiarelli signed with Edmonton.
Edmonton requires a No. 1 defenceman and powerplay quarterback. Good luck finding that at the deadline, but that is why the Oilers have been linked to Shattenkirk. A faceoff winning, third-line centreman is a more attainable goal. That’s why the Oilers have been looking at Boyle. Would the Oilers dangle a first-round draft pick as the primary asset for Martin Hanzal? Backup Laurent Broissoit has stabilized the No. 2 goalie position, a sore spot earlier this season.
Potential assets to move:
Brandon Davidson: Edmonton stands to lose him in the expansion draft.
Jordan Eberle: Very unlikely a player with two years left at $6 million moves at deadline.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Same as above. RNH has four years left at $6 million, but is another contract that could be moved, with McDavid and Draisaitl ready for new deals.
Benoit Pouliot: Two years left at $4 million, 10 points in 51 games this season. Good luck trading Pouliot.
2017: 1st, 3rd (own), conditional 3rd (STL), 4th, 5th (own), 5th (VAN), 6th, 7th.
2018: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th.
One bold move the Oilers could make:
Trade their 2017 first round draft pick. It’s a weak draft and the Oilers have picked inside the Top 10 for eight straight years — including four first overalls. Spending a top pick is difficult with the Oilers’ second-round pick bound for Boston. But Edmonton’s No. 1 is surely a 15-22 overall pick and if the acquisition helps the Oilers win a playoff round, then it would fall in the 23-30 range. How valuable would a couple playoff rounds be for McDavid and Co.?
I think the Oilers shouldn’t…:
Stand pat and settle for the first playoff appearance in 10 years.
In this age of parity, it’s impossible to say a team that has spent the entire season ranked in the Top 10 in the NHL’s overall standings can’t make a surprise run.
They’ve got McDavid, Draisaitl, Talbot, and a host of players like Milan Lucic, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins who have under-achieved this season. If that group awoke in a playoff run this team could be dangerous — especially if Chiarelli can add a necessary part or two on March 1.
Worst case scenario is, Edmonton loses a first-round series, takes the experience away and moves on. But two rounds would be invaluable to a team that hasn’t won in forever. And a third round?
That could make everyone in that Oilers dressing room believe that a Stanley Cup isn’t as far away as it always seemed in Edmonton.