Oilers Trade Tiers: Who could Edmonton move to improve forward corps?

Caroline Cameron and Justin Bourne discuss secondary scoring for the Edmonton Oilers in Connor McDavid’s absence.

With the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline drawing near, Sportsnet is breaking down what each Canadian club has to work with as they head toward Feb. 24. We’ve sorted each roster into Trade Tiers to hash out who’s safe, who’s available, and who’s likely on the move.

The Edmonton Oilers enter the deadline in one of the most difficult positions from a decision-making standpoint.

They’ve been good enough this season to sit in a playoff spot as we head into the home stretch of 2019-20, but not necessarily good enough to seem a genuine contender in the West. An injury to Connor McDavid throws a wrench into their situation, too. With the trade deadline just over a week away, the West still absurdly close, and McDavid out for a few weeks, even a few-game slide could drop Edmonton out of the playoff race.

So, how exactly does GM Ken Holland approach the deadline?

There are certainly areas in which the club could use some help, particularly when it comes to secondary scoring, even if they’ve taken a step forward in that regard. But with the former Red Wings manager trying to bring some stability to Edmonton, the chances he moves the type of asset that could bring in that help — a marquee Oilers prospect or a high pick — seem pretty slim.

The Oilers brass will have to decide where they feel this team currently is on their timeline to becoming a genuine contender in the West, and how much they want to shake up at this deadline to speed that up.

That said, let’s take a look at how the roster divvies up in terms of who could potentially be involved in potential deadline deals:


Not Going Anywhere

Connor McDavid
Not much explanation needed. The best pure offensive force in the game appears to somehow be getting better each year. The question is how quickly they can build a contending squad around him.

Leon Draisaitl
Much the same here. Draisaitl’s put to bed all talk of him being overpaid and simply a product of his linemate. He could very well wind up an Art Ross winner by this season’s end.

Oscar Klefbom
He’s long been one of the team’s most important foundational pieces on the back end, and that remains true now. He’s also signed for three more years at an affordable sum.

Darnell Nurse
Another of the team’s most important blue-line pieces of the future. A recent two-year extension makes clear the club’s desire to keep him in a key role for the foreseeable future, and Nurse will be working to prove he’s worth a bigger payday down the line.

Zack Kassian
He’s carved out a niche in Edmonton — one that will be all the more important come playoff time — and has found success on the team’s high-octane top line. Having just signed him for the next four seasons, there’s no indication the two sides are parting ways any time soon.

Kailer Yamamoto
He was already seen as an important piece of the Oilers’ future, but his performance as of late this season — coming up in late December and posting 14 points through 16 games — makes him immensely important to the Oilers’ cause in the here and now. Especially with their offence limited by McDavid’s absence.

(Likely) Not Going Anywhere

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
He’s long been a key part of the Oilers’ core, but has also been among the team’s most valuable trade chips in attempted past deals. The loss of McDavid makes it even more unlikely Nugent-Hopkins could get moved, but being a young, talented pivot on a team that has two superstars capable of playing in the middle means there’s always a sliver of possibility.

James Neal
The team still needs secondary scoring and, at least at times, Neal’s been one of the few who’s brought that. An injury makes a deal for the veteran even more unlikely, but he’s certainly not untouchable.

Alex Chiasson
Like Neal, Chiasson’s one of the few who’s shown in the past he can be a useful secondary scorer for the Oilers, meaning dealing him away does little to help their cause.

Ethan Bear
He’s going to be an important part of the Oilers’ back end for a long time. Bear’s precisely the type of asset that might make his way into a larger blockbuster if Holland were to consider one, but that doesn’t seem to be where the team’s at. Keeping all their young prospects in the fold to grow into bigger roles seems the better route at the moment.

Riley Sheahan
A fairly solid depth option who can hold down the middle in the bottom six — according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the club’s looking into extending the 28-year-old, rather than dealing him away.

Josh Archibald
The same goes for fellow useful bottom-sixer Archibald, who could also be in line for an extension soon, per Friedman, and likely won’t move the needle much for opposing teams.

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Joakim Nygard
The third depth forward the Oilers were said to be considering extending, he was in fact inked for one more year. That extension, plus an injury that’s landed him on the IR, make it unlikely he moves.

Gaetan Haas
The Swiss pivot, who’s playing through his first foray in the NHL, won’t attract much attention from other GMs around the league. He’s also more valuable to the team right now given McDavid’s absence up the middle.

Patrick Russell
Ditto for Russell, who has only a handful of points on the board from the wing so far this season and won’t garner much of a return from opposing clubs.

Matt Benning
The Oilers don’t necessarily have strong enough blue-line depth to deal away defenders, unless doing so is part of something bigger to land a game-changer up front. Such a deal would require a more enticing talent than Benning, though.

Caleb Jones
Like Bear, the 22-year-old Jones is far more useful to the Oilers as a player that can grow with the organization and potentially fight for a bigger role down the line.

Mikko Koskinen
The Oilers have no obvious options to step up should they deal one of their netminders, so it’s unlikely anything changes there.

Mike Smith
See above. The more interesting question here may be which of the two carries the mail once the post-season arrives, as they’ve each played 31 games for Edmonton this season. So far, Koskinen’s put up better numbers than the veteran Smith.

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Probably Safe, But It’s Possible

Adam Larsson
If the Oilers do decide now is the time to bolster their top six and bring in more help for McDavid and Draisaitl, this is the area from which they may pull assets to move. They aren’t moving young defensive prospects like Evan Bouchard, and they can’t afford to move top-end forwards, so a veteran defender like Larsson would seem a more likely bet. It’s still a longshot, and his absence would cause other problems, but the possibility is there.

Kris Russell
If not Larsson, Kris Russell’s another name that might be considered. He’s a less attractive option for opposing teams though, meaning he’d draw a lesser piece in return. It’s similarly not the most likely of scenarios — and the fact that he’s sidelined with a concussion complicates things further — but he’s one of the few pieces the team may be willing to part with that could bring something decent back to Alberta.

Sam Gagner
At this point in his career, the best spot for him is likely in Edmonton, where he has plenty of history. But if the Oilers wind up needing to move out salary to make a bigger deal work, Gagner — whose cap hit was fifth-highest among Oilers forwards this year — could be an option to go the other way.

Could Be On The Move

Jujhar Khaira
His progress over the past couple years earned him a two-year extension, of which he’s currently playing out the first year. He’s been a good depth fit in Oilers colours and could very well remain there. But he does have size — clocking in at six-foot-four, 212 pounds — which could be attractive to teams looking to change the complexion of their forward corps in that regard. The team has no reason to part with him, but his name could conceivably get included in a larger deal.

Markus Granlund
The fit hasn’t worked out in Edmonton, resulting in a demotion to the minors this season. He likely doesn’t move the needle much for opposing clubs, but he could be of use on special teams, is only 26 years old and had a 19-goal effort just a couple years ago.

Find the rest of our NHL Trade Tiers lists here: CGY | TOR | OTT | WPG | VAN | MTL

More Likely To Move

Jesse Puljujarvi
Edmonton’s most intriguing trade chip is currently playing out the season in Europe after making it clear he no longer wants to be an Oiler, and his 44 points through 45 games for Karpat make clear his potential. Holland’s made clear he doesn’t intend to move either Jesse Puljujarvi or the club’s first-round pick for a pure rental, so the young Finn likely isn’t getting moved before the deadline unless there’s a quality piece coming back who will likely be a part of Edmonton’s cause for a fair while. But he is, without a doubt, the most enticing piece the Oilers have to put on the table, and one that seems destined to leave Edmonton at some point.

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