Oilers trade deadline preview: Edmonton lacking flexibility for big moves

Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman discuss how the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers could approach the NHL Trade Deadline.

EDMONTON — Ken Holland doesn’t need depth forwards. Or defencemen. Or a goalie. It’s not that the ones he has can’t be improved upon, but like a guy with four cars, even if they may not all be Ferraris, his garage is packed full just the same.

What he needs is a top-six left winger and a trusty, draw-winning, right-shot third-line centre. And frankly, without dealing a high draft pick or good prospect, he probably doesn’t have the cap space to trade for either one of those assets.

So Holland will work the trade deadline with handcuffs on, due to the fact that Edmonton’s reliance on Long Term Injured Reserve this season — owing to Oscar Klefbom’s injury — leaves the Oilers as a “dollar in dollar out” team.

That means they must shed every dollar in salary that they bring in when making any trade, an almost impossible task at a time of year when sellers are looking picks and prospects, not James Neal.

How does that work? We asked the experts at PuckPedia to explain:

“Normally, cap hits are pro-rated by season days and cap space accrues. With 25 per cent of days left, a $4-million player only counts $1 million for the new team, increasing the deadline buying power. However, there is no pro-rating or accruing space in LTIR. Therefore, instead of needing space for 25 per cent of a player’s cap hit, an LTIR team needs to fit 100 per cent of the AAV. The Oilers are already maxed out.”

He may land the centre — there are a few out there — but he’ll be easily out-bid, it sounds like. After sending two two second-round picks out at last season’s deadline, Holland is draft-pick poor this time around.

We don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade here, but the fact that Holland does not have picks in the second, third or fifth rounds of the 2021 draft — plus the LTIR issues — severely hinders his flexibility at the deadline.

However, you never know. Just in case Holland finds a way out of jail, here’s a look at his needs and wants at the deadline.

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Restricted free agents

Kailer Yamamoto, 22, $895,000

Jujhar Khaira, 26, $1.2 million

Dominik Kahun, 25, $975,000

Devin Shore, 26, $700,00

Unrestricted free agents

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 27, $6 million

Tyson Barrie, 29, $3.75 million

Adam Larsson, 28, $2.18 million

Alex Chiasson, 30, $2.15 million

Tyler Ennis, 31, $1 million

Gaetan Haas, 29, $915,000

Joakim Nygard, 28, $875,000

Mike Smith, 39, $1.5 million

Slater Koekkoek, 27, $850,000

Draft picks

2021: 1st, 4th, 6th, PIT 6th, 7th

2022: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th

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Let’s talk needs, and not get bogged down with the realities of Holland’s paralyzing cap situation.

With a relatively deep blue-line, Edmonton’s two primary needs are clear: A third-line centre — good in the faceoff circle and preferably right-handed — and a top-six left winger, most likely for Leon Draisaitl (assuming Nugent-Hopkins plays with Connor McDavid).

Right now, Edmonton has place holders on LW2 in Dominik Kahun and Tyler Ennis, and centres Jujhar Khaira and Gaetan Haas at 3C. But neither winger is an elite finisher befitting one of the game’s better set-up men in Draisaitl, and both centres would be awesome as 4C’s, but don’t have the offence a good third-line centre requires.

This is why Calgary’s Derek Ryan remains a candidate, a pending UFA with a $3.125 AAV. Holland would have to get Calgary to eat part of that, and then decide if the draft pick the Flames require meets his eye. Ditto on Detroit’s Luke Glendening, another veteran, right-shot centre who could take some faceoff pressure off of Draisaitl and perhaps run a more potent third-line in Edmonton, though we’re hearing that ship may have sailed.

Scott Laughton is a left-shot centre that could be available from Philly. Right now, the Oilers only right-handed centre is Gaetan Haas, and he is a sub-45% faceoff winner. With McDavid and Draisaitl both lefties the Oilers need some help from the right side, a small but important element in the post-season. Glendening, 31 and a pending UFA, makes $1.8 million, while the pending UFA Laughton is at $2.3 million.

Another name out there is UFA Brandon Sutter in Vancouver, who is coming off of COVID protocol. In an injury-plagued career, Sutter has found his health this season (mostly) and is better offensively. Of course, his price tag is daunting, at $4.375 million.

As for left wingers, what about Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel? His 20-goal seasons are a few years removed, but…

Potential assets to move

Edmonton is draft-pick poor, as seen above, unless Holland is willing to dig into his 2022 stock to sweeten a deal. And they’re not loaded with forward prospects either, so if he is to send a young player or prospect out, it will be a blue-liner. That player will come from this crop:

Dmitry Samorukov — Loaned to Red Army for his 21-year-old season, Samorukov blew out his shoulder after 48 games, ending his campaign. He is still an unknown talent, but among a glut of left-shot defencemen that could be had.

Caleb Jones — With lefties Samorukov, first-rounder Philip Broberg and William Lagesson in the organization in various stages of development, if Jones can sweeten a deal for a right-now forward we think the Oilers would bite.

Ethan Bear — This is a player who would have to bring back a top-six left winger or true 3C whose contract status leaves him in club control for a while. It’s almost impossible that Bears gets moved before a playoff run, but for the right guy, the Oilers might trade Bear and open the door for Evan Bouchard to get some minutes.

Seattle Expansion Considerations

Very likely a “7 and 3” team, the Oilers will leave some hefty contracts open like everyone else, with little chance the Kraken relieve them of a Neal, a Mikko Koskinen, a Kyle Turris — or less unlikely a Kris Russell or Zack Kassian.

The Oilers do not have such pressing expansion issues that it should force a trade at the deadline. Their issues will be whether or not to protect Klefbom, who is coming off shoulder surgery, and if pending UFAs Larsson and Barrie become likely targets of Seattle if they are signed.

Bear could prove an issue, if Larsson and Barrie both sign and demand protection as part of their deals. The Oilers would protect Nurse, and that would leave Bear and Klefbom exposed.

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