EDMONTON — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: being capped out is going to make it difficult for general manager (fill in the blank) to be very active at this trade deadline.
You could throw the Edmonton Oilers and GM Ken Holland into that group, but you don’t necessarily have to. There is always room for creativity, and if ever there was a deadline where Holland could make an actual hockey trade, the presence of an effective power-play quarterback such as Tyson Barrie might just make the 2022 deadline unique.
What if Holland found a team (like Seattle) that needed a power-play quarterback? And what if he could make a deal for a player with at least one year of term (Carson Soucy) who could slide into Barrie’s spot in the right side but give the Oilers a different look?
Aw, those trades never happen at the deadline. Or do they ... ?
Either way, Edmonton’s priority – beyond the impossibility of shoring up its goaltending – is a staunch defender, hopefully with size. The Oilers have got too many lighter D-men and kids – Holland needs a veteran who can clear out the front of his net.
But his cap space is limited. If he’s going to make a real splash, he’s going to have to get creative.
Projected deadline cap space (plus LTIR): $591,304
Cap space committed to 2022-23: $74,473,797
2022: EDM 1, EDM 2*, EDM 5, EDM 6, EDM 7
Conditional third-round pick traded to Chicago in Duncan Keith deal becomes a second-round pick if Oilers win 3 playoff rounds in 2022 and Keith is among top 4 defencemen in ice time.
Fourth-round pick in ’22 traded to New Jersey for Dmitry Kulikov.
2023: EDM 1, EDM 2, EDM 3, EDM 4, EDM 5, EDM 6, EDM 7.
Holland has learned two things that will influence this deadline:
First, the better his team plays defensively, the more able his goaltenders have become. And second, the goalie market is almost impossible. So, why not just shore up the defence and hope a more staunch D-core and fewer loose pucks in the crease will allow his goaltenders to operate at a level that could win them a playoff round?
What the Oilers need is a replacement for Adam Larsson, who departed as a free agent for Seattle last summer. Cody Ceci, who Holland signed shortly after Larsson’s departure, has been very good. But he’s not the same guy, and Edmonton misses Larsson’s snarly work down low and ability to win battles in the low slot.
A cleaner slot means fewer rebound goals, fewer shots from inside five feet and fewer goals against. Holland would prefer a right-shot defender, but won’t be too picky.
Carson Soucy, D, Seattle Kraken
We like this player the best among available D-men at a semi-reasonable price, and Soucy has some shelf-life: He makes $2.75 million next season before becoming a UFA.
He’s a left-shot, 6-foot-5, 211-pound Viking, Alta., native who some believe looks more comfortable on the right side than the left. He is the kind of player you would hope to sign again, a 6-5 defender to go alongside Philip Broberg and Evan Bouchard (both 6-foot-3), Darnell Nurse (6-foot-4) and Marcus Niemelainen (6-foot-6).
The cost? Other than the Barrie deal we outlined above, Seattle will want a second-round pick, and perhaps a B prospect like Dmitri Samorukov. You might talk Kraken GM Ron Francis down to a third-round pick, but at the deadline you are usually forced to overpay.
Justin Braun, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Braun is 35, shoots right, kills penalties, generally is a stay-at-home guy and has played 100 NHL playoff games.
The only caveat here is whether the market commands a second- or third-round pick for the pending UFA, who is worth no more than a fourth-round pick in normal times. Either way, Edmonton has neither a second- or third-rounder in 2022 – so Philly would have to agree to a 2023 pick. That likely leaves Edmonton out on this player, but you never know. Archibald could be part of this package, if the Flyers want to test-run the player prior to free agency.
Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Montreal Canadiens
If Holland strikes out on the blueline, he might choose this savvy defensive winger instead.
ASSETS TO TRADE
Edmonton has too many young defencemen, when you consider Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg and Markus Niemelainen have all shown they can play NHL minutes, while the farm is stocked with Dmitri Samorukov, 6-foot-7 Vincent Desharnais, 6-foot-5 Michael Kesselring, and utility D-man William Lagesson.
Samorukov is the most attractive trade prospect, and the Oilers would part with him in a deal. He is considered a B prospect, however.
Archibald will likely be moved, but quite likely for future considerations — which means no return for taking the player and his $1.5 million cap hit. The unvaccinated fourth-line winger/penalty killer is a tricky trade, as he can not cross the border without a lengthy quarantine. Only Central or Metropolitan Division teams may show interest. Watch for Pittsburgh, who drafted Archibald back in 2011, to take a look.
This is beyond a long-shot, but stay with us here. With the emergence of Bouchard, the Oilers could let him quarterback the power play, if they could turn Barrie — who has two more years at $4.5 million per — into the right player. Even if you moved Barrie in a deal for a player like Soucy — Seattle does not have an equivalent to Barrie — you could take the remaining $1.75 million and acquire someone else, like Lehkonen from Montreal, a pending RFA.