Oilers Trade Deadline Preview: In Cup or bust year, time to go all in

Nick Kypreos joins Evanka Osmak on Sportsnet Central to discuss what the Pittsburgh Penguins plan to do with Jake Guentzel at the NHL trade deadline, where the Edmonton Oilers might look to improve, if Jakob Chychrun will get moved, and more.

BOSTON — You can argue about the players that Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland has acquired during his four previous deadlines helming Connor McDavid’s squad. But you can’t knock Holland for inactivity.

In three deadlines — one was rendered moot because of the pandemic — Holland has landed three players once and two players twice. But in the years where he settled for two additions, he had already nabbed Evander Kane and Corey Perry as free agents in January.

So we’ll credit Holland with three additions every year, in building a team that has played five playoff rounds the last two seasons and lost each time to the eventual Stanley Cup winner.

This season it’s still “Stanley Cup or bust” in Northern Alberta, and since their season-opening 2-9-1 start the Oilers have been as good a team as you’ll find across the National Hockey League. They are a legit Cup contender that has paid its playoff dues, and Holland knows he must manage his team in that frame of mind.

Edmonton’s needs are — in no particular order — second-line right wing, third-line centre, fourth-line size and one more defenceman. They won’t solve them all, but those are what Holland sees on his office whiteboard every day.

Holland isn’t flush with cap space, but at least he’s out of LTIR this season, with roughly $2.5 million in pro-rated AAV available. He’ll part with his 2024 first-round draft pick if need be, but his history tells us that he won’t deal it — or prospect Philip Broberg — for a pure rental.

Here’s a look at where the Oilers stand, with Deadline Week upon us.

Projected deadline day cap space: $2,373,102

Contracts: 46/50

Cap space committed to 2024-25: $73,266,667 million (committed to 13 players)

Draft picks

Image courtesy of CapFriendly


It’s the cap system, so everyone has weaknesses somewhere in the lineup. A GM’s job is to calculate which needs are dire and need attending to, and which ones he can live with — because you can’t scratch every itch at the deadline.

In Edmonton, Holland has deemed his goaltending sufficient. Stuart Skinner starts, Calvin Pickard backs up, and in the event of an emergency he’ll summon Jack Campbell back from the AHL.

Here’s what he’ll try to fix:

Depth on defence

Everyone knows that defencemen get hurt in the playoffs, and Holland’s seventh D-man is Broberg, a veteran of just 10 NHL playoff games. He needs an upgrade, either in the form of a Top 3 player who pushes Cody Ceci down his lineup, swapping out Ceci for an upgrade and adding a second-depth D-man, or just adding a Zach Bogosian, David Savard, Luke Schenn-type to come as a 6-7.

A RW for Leon Draisaitl

A Tyler Toffoli or Jake Guentzel would make the Oilers better up top, but the cost may prohibit Holland from other roster patches. Right now, Mattias Janmark is holding a place on the second line. So a true Top 6 acquisition would strengthen the Bottom 6 when Janmark moves down. But Top 6 players are costly, and not always the best value.

Forward depth

Today, Holland’s fourth line is too small and lacks identity. Shuffling the deck chairs higher up in his lineup and shaking Corey Perry and Janmark down a line or two is one option. The other is acquiring a depth forward for cheap. The market will dictate which road Holland travels.


If Holland goes big game hunting for his Top 6, the names are Jake Guentzel, Tyler Toffoli, Pavel Buchnevich, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Mantha and Vladamir Tarasenko. He’ll be shopping for the best bargain, perhaps Mantha, to keep some powder for a second deadline truncation.

If Holland opts for a third-line centre, the high end of a Bottom 6 fix, think Adam Henrique from Anaheim or Scott Laughton in Philly. Both would make Edmonton the strongest team up the middle in the Western Conference.

If Friday rolls around and Holland simply has room for a fourth-liner to beef up his depth, the field is wide open. Any non-playoff team with a good-sized fourth-liner on an expiring contract can collect their fifth-round pick from the Oilers.


A year ago, Holland easily created $3 million in cap space when he dealt Jesse Puljujarvi to Carolina. Then he traded out Tyson Barrie and found $4.5 million more in AAV with which to pay the incoming Mattias Ekholm in perhaps the best move made by any NHL GM a year ago.

This season, with Campbell’s $5 million AAV an obvious but near-impossible move, the so-called “assets to trade” are a much bigger part of things in Edmonton. Warren Foegele, a pending UFA with an AAV of $2.75 million, has become a fairly valuable Middle 6 winger here, whose speed and size will grow in value with the style of hockey that awaits in the playoffs.

On the blue line, Ceci is the guy with the biggest AAV — this year and next at $3.25 million. He would be this year’s Barrie, a well-liked and serviceable teammate who gets sacrificed in the name of an upgrade.

Neither are immovable, but on a depth-challenged team with excellent chemistry, swapping out either of those players comes with peril — and will not address the depth issues in Edmonton.

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