The NHL’s trading deadline is about seven weeks away now, and the buyers and sellers are starting to identify themselves. The Athletic’s Craig Custance (here) made note yesterday that “Half the league is a moderate to aggressive seller” at this time. That means it is a buyers market.
The Edmonton Oilers aren’t in the ‘buyer’ category just yet, but one has to imagine that is exactly where they end up when all is said and done. Bottom line is, the Oilers are still in the playoff race and their owner wants them in the dance. One has to think that means they are going to use all resources possible to make that happen.
Yesterday I touched on how the Oilers could make a three center situation work with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. One of the ways I said the club could make it happen was by making an addition, ideally two, to their winger group. It seems as though club insider Bob Stauffer is on a similar page.
The Oilers are currently ‘in it’ but that could change in the blink of an eye. Another lengthy losing streak and you can turn the lights out on this season and likely the careers of many managers and players as Oilers. A few wins, starting tonight against a tired Sharks team, and the Oil could be adding in the next few weeks.
Stauffer’s speculation, informed speculation I would think, indicates that the Oilers are okay with their defensive depth chart for now. Kris Russell is back in, while Oscar Klefbom could be back as soon as January 19th. It likely isn’t good enough to win you a Cup, but with Andrej Sekera also on the way it is enough to get you into the playoffs.
The forward group? It’s not quite there just yet. With McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins up the middle, the Oilers can send wave after wave out against the opponent. In fact, even after all the bleeding out Chiarelli has done in previous summers, that is still the best center depth chart out west to my eye.
It is the wing position that kills this team, however. Adding two guys around the deadline isn’t going to make Edmonton a contender to win it all, but it could be enough to elevate them over teams like Minnesota, Vancouver and even Anaheim.
If Jesse Puljujarvi and Tobias Rieder can get some chemistry, and more importantly results, with Draisaitl then that could be a line for Edmonton. I’d imagine one of the additions sees time with McDavid, while Kailer Yamamoto is a natural fit with 97 upon return from injury. Another addition, along with Milan Lucic, could see time with RNH, while Lucic did have chemistry with Draisaitl at points in the last two seasons.
Patrick Maroon: I’m sure some Oiler fans will roll their eyes, but there is a good case to be made here. Maroon is a favorite of the fanbase and of his teammates, has proven chemistry with McDavid and Draisaitl and is on an expiring contract. He could come in and immediately fill a top-six role for this team, while also adding some edge and passion to a team that needs it.
I can’t see the asking price being any higher than it was a year ago, and I’m almost certain in this market that Maroon could come cheaper. It’s not a sexy addition, but it could be a subtle one that pays major dividends for the club. You know what you are getting here, and it will certainly help in an area of need.
Jordan Eberle: Okay, this would be funny, right? The Islanders are having a good year, but Eberle doesn’t seem to be a fit under Barry Trotz. The smoke from NY suggests Eberle will be moved by the deadline, with the veteran set to hit free agency on July 1st. The price likely won’t be too dear, but this would be a pure rental addition for the club.
As much as I like Eberle, I think this ship has sailed and I’m not sure Jordan would even want to return to Edmonton after how things ended here.
Mats Zuccarello: A proven top-six forward on a rebuilding team, Zuccarello is certainly getting moved. He knows it, too, and it has impacted his performance this season according to himself. His price is likely to be higher than Maroon’s and Eberle’s, but he brings the kind of speed and skill that the Oil are lacking. Considering all the smoke surrounding him, I’d argue he is Edmonton’s top target this deadline season.
Gustav Nyquist: This is an option I had not considered until Custance mentioned it yesterday in his piece. A speedy and skilled winger, Nyquist brings a lot of the things Edmonton lacks to the table. He’s similar to Zuccarello in a lot of ways, but I’m not sure he’s a perfect fit for what Edmonton wants. Many see Nyquist as more play-maker than goalscorer. He’s got 10-26-36 in 44 games this season, however, and would represent a huge upgrade on Edmonton’s current wing group. I, personally, would love to see it.
Wayne Simmonds: The Flyers lost their seventh in a row last night, and it looks like their playoff hopes are dead. New GM Chuck Fletcher has to get to work, and one of his first moves is likely to deal the pending free agent. Simmonds has been a long-term target for the Oilers, and would give them a skilled yet powerful winger to add to their top-six.
Simmonds fits the Oil like a glove and would instantly be their best offensive threat on the wing. He’s my number two target among rental wingers behind only the aforementioned Nyquist.