The Edmonton Oilers are 4-1-1 in the Ken Hitchcock era and have climbed back into the playoff race over the last two weeks. Although they are still very much alive, the Oilers still have roster holes and there are flaws that could very well prove to be fatal with this group.
The Connor McDavid line has, in large part, been held in check during the Hitchcock era. Although 97 is still a dynamic player and the best in the world in my opinion, Leon Draisaitl has yet to enjoy success with McDavid like he did during the 2016-17 season.
With that line looking somewhat human, and the ‘identity line’ playing good hockey but failing to score, the Oilers need more secondary scoring to keep the good times rolling. The onus for that falls on the Nugent-Hopkins line, which has seen their play improve under Hitch but the offense still lacking just a bit.
Drake Caggiula has impressed me in a big way on this line. I’ve always appreciated his effort and the goal scoring ability he has, but he’s finally starting to play smart hockey. There have been far too many occasions over the last season and a half where Caggiula has been a liability, but he’s looked good since the change. Ditto Jesse Puljujarvi, who finally is getting some confidence.
All that being said, the Oilers are still lacking an established goal scorer inside their top-six forward group. If they could find one more player to handle a top-six role and put the puck in the net, I’d feel a lot more confident in their playoff chances. Having two lines you can trust for consistent offense would be massive for this group.
Today, we are going to take a look at five players who could fill this hole in Edmonton’s lineup that are also likely to be dealt between now and the trade deadline. I think it’s pretty clear Peter Chiarelli must make the playoffs to keep his job, it’s time he goes and gets exactly what he needs.
Patrick Maroon, St. Louis: My favorite story from the off-season was Maroon returning home to St. Louis to be closer to his son Anthony, aka Little Rig. Maroon’s homecoming has not worked out as hoped for to this point sadly, with the Blues falling way short of expectations thus far. Maroon himself is averaging half a point-per-game, going 1-7-8 in 19 appearances this season.
That said, on a one-year deal, Maroon will be a prime candidate to be dealt should the Blues elect to sell. He’s a perfect fit for Edmonton for a variety of reasons. First off, we know he meshes well with this group and can provide some secondary offense. We know he has chemistry with McDavid, and his contract is a very manageable one that expires after the season. If the price isn’t high, the Oil would be dumb to not inquire on a reunion.
Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia: Simmonds has long been a target for the Oilers, and now might be the time to strike. The pending UFA is very similar to James Van Riemsdyk when it comes to style, and the latter just got a massive free agent deal from the Flyers. With a management change underway and the playoffs slipping away, Simmonds very well could be on the move.
He’s a natural right winger with nine goals already this season, and plays a style that would fit perfectly on a Hitchcock coached team. Simmonds has scored at least 24 goals in each of the last five seasons. If the price is right, Simmonds could be a huge get for the Oil and an instant fan favorite.
Mike Hoffman, Florida: Many will cringe at the idea because of the drama over the off-season, but Hoffman is a legit goal scorer and would fit the Oilers like a glove. He’s already got 12 goals on the season (12-12-24, 25 GP) and has been an impact player for the Panthers.
Why would they move him? Well Hoffman is making $5,187,500 this season and next and then will hit free agency. He’s going to be due for a nice payday and odds are the Panthers won’t be willing to give it to him. Florida has been a mess early this season, and currently sits outside the playoffs. If they continue to slide, you have to think they’d explore moving Hoffman.
He’d be the perfect fit for the Oilers.
Carl Hagelin, Los Angeles: Already dealt once this season, Hagelin is a prime candidate to be dealt as the Kings continue to sink in the standings. The pending UFA winger isn’t an elite scorer, but he provides speed and leadership with the ability to chip in. He likely won’t cost a team too much, and could be a nice fit on a team’s second line.
Hagelin has posted just five points in 21 games this season split between the Kings and Penguins.
Sam Gagner, Vancouver: Who says you can’t go home? After a terrific 2016-17 season, Gagner got a nice free agent deal with Vancouver in July of 2017 and proceeded to put up 31 points in his first year. That, apparently, wasn’t good enough as the veteran was waived out of camp this year.
He appeared in 15 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, going 7-8-15 for the Leafs’ minor league affiliate. He’s posted three points in seven games since returning, and could be a candidate to move as the Canucks continue their rebuilding efforts.
If Vancouver is willing to eat some salary, which is possible, then a deal could work here. Gagner could play right wing and help an Edmonton powerplay that could always use a hand.