The NHL’s annual trade deadline is 17 days away, and the rumors are starting to pick up. Many people believed, including GM Peter Chiarelli, that this group of Oilers would be buyers come the deadline. The team was positioned to have ample cap space to add for a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Reality, however, has turned out to be much different than the ideal situation. The Oilers still have ample cap space, but they won’t be adding prior to the deadline. The dream of competing for the Stanley Cup is dead now, with the playoffs a distant prayer away. This team fell flat on its face, and now it is time to try and figure out plan B.
The Oilers will be sellers in the lead up to the deadline, but very few people actually know what this team has to offer in this regard. The Oilers are in an interesting position, because the team doesn’t exactly have a plethora of expiring contracts to dump off to contenders. They do have a few, however, and they should garner some interest around the league.
The Heavy Hitters:
F Patrick Maroon: Obviously, Maroon is the biggest trade chip the Oilers have on the rental market. He’s on pace for his second straight 20 goal season, and has proven to be a nice fit alongside Connor McDavid. That said, with Milan Lucic already locked up long-term, it is fair to question if the Oilers can pay Maroon AND Lucic. I’d argue they cannot if they hope to improve their roster this summer.
Maroon has garnered interest from St. Louis, Anaheim, Boston and Tampa Bay, and could fetch the Oilers an NHL ready forward prospect. That appears to be the asking price. While contract negotiations are supposed to pick up in the next week, I think it is in Chiarelli’s best interest to pull the trigger on a Maroon deal. Edmonton needs a different kind of left winger to compliment McDavid in the top-six.
F Mark Letestu: Letestu has had a simply horrible season and it appears like he has lost a step. After a career year in 2016-17, Letestu has been a complete non-factor on the powerplay and can’t keep up at five-on-five. Edmonton shouldn’t consider re-signing him and should trade him before the deadline. He’s a player that can be replaced via free agency, no doubt in my mind.
Letestu’s strong postseason a year ago will help drum up interest, while teams always love to add veterans like Letestu at the deadline. Pittsburgh has shown some interest, but I wouldn’t be shocked if San Jose looked at Letestu too. Chiarelli absolutely should deal him prior to February 26th.
The Lesser Options:
F Mike Cammalleri: The Oilers acquired Cammalleri this past fall in exchange for Jussi Jokinen, a free agent signing that simply didn’t work out for Edmonton. Cammalleri has been better, but he still hasn’t been great for Edmonton. The veteran goal scorer simply hasn’t been able to produce secondary scoring, and looks like he is on his last legs. There’s no reason for Edmonton to bring him back next season, so a trade would make a lot of sense here.
Could New Jersey be interested in bringing him back in a depth role? What about a team like Boston that is looking to add a winger or two for it’s middle-six? The return won’t be good by any means, but you may as well get something for a player who has no future in Edmonton.
D Eric Gryba: Banished to the AHL earlier this season, Gryba still has another year left on his contract, making any kind of trade difficult. That said, NHL teams love to add veteran depth on defense this time of year, and perhaps a team panics and takes on that second cheap year of Gryba to add the insurance this season. Again, the return likely wouldn’t be much, but getting Gryba off the books for next season is a win in its own right for the Oilers. A team like Toronto could be interested if they lose out on top options like Erik Gudbranson.
D Yohann Auvitu: Sparingly used by Todd McLellan, Auvitu is a pending UFA that appears to not have a future in Northern Alberta. I can’t imagine there will be much of a market for the defender, but as I mentioned with Gryba, teams love to add veteran depth at this time of year. I doubt the return would be anything more than a late round pick, but as I said above I’d rather get something now than nothing in July when the player walks.
The Wild Cards:
F Anton Slepyshev: A pending RFA, Slepyshev simply hasn’t caught on following a really strong playoff last spring. Another failed bet by GM Peter Chiarelli, Slepyshev has underwhelmed when given the chance this season, but coach Todd McLellan rarely uses the Russian forward to begin with. The Oilers have publicly made the player available, and I wonder if a change of scenery deal could be in the cards. What about switching places with Toronto’s Josh Leivo?
D Matt Benning: Teams were asking about Benning early in the season. The pending RFA defender has struggled mightily this season, taking a big step back in year two in the NHL. Odds are, he’ll bounce back next season, but would it surprise anyone if the Oilers dealt him at his lowest value? It’s not an uncommon occurrence for this GM and his staff. I could also see Benning being part of a package to acquire an upgrade on defense.