The Edmonton Oilers are about to enter some very interesting times. The team will start fighting for their playoff lives on Saturday in Philadelphia when they take on the Flyers, while a roster crunch appears to be on the horizon.
The mandate to make the playoffs, from ownership, is still very much there. That is going to mean additions between now and February 25th, when the NHL’s trade deadline occurs. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again; the Edmonton Oilers are going to add at least one forward prior to the deadline.
In order to do that, however, some salary will need to go out the door. It also appears that some room on defense needs to be created. Why? Veteran defender Andrej Sekera is closing in on a return from the Achilles injury he suffered while training in the summer.
Return Of The Rej:
From this week’s ‘31 Thoughts‘ article by NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet:
7. Andrej Sekera is getting close to a conditioning stint. Edmonton is going to have to clear some cap room.
Sekera returning creates some serious cap complications for the Oilers. He is currently on the LTIR and the Oil are using some of that relief. What does that mean? It means when he gets activated, the Oilers are over the cap. Not only does the team need to create a roster spot for Sekera, but they also need to create the appropriate cap room for the veteran rearguard.
Sekera hasn’t played in the NHL since last April, and hasn’t played meaningful hockey since last May at the World Championships. While Sekera was a terrific piece during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, it is fair to ask how long it will take for him to return to form……if he ever will.
As Friedman mentions, a conditioning stint is the likely course for Sekera and the Oil. That allows him to go to the AHL and play games with the Bakersfield Condors, getting up to speed at the professional level. He will, however, count against the cap during said stint.
So, how do the Oilers create the space when Sekera returns? Remember, they’ll also need to create a roster spot for Oscar Klefbom, likely before puck drop on Saturday afternoon.
Currently on the roster, the Oilers have seven defenders: Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell, Matt Benning, Brandon Manning, Kevin Gravel, and Alex Petrovic. Two of these men are going to have to go.
The easy choice? Waiving Gravel, who was signed by ex-GM Peter Chiarelli back in July, isn’t a prospect, and doesn’t seem to fit under Ken Hitchcock. The other choice? It’s a little more complicated.
It is my belief that the Oilers have been dangling, and continue to dangle, Matt Benning in trade conversations. The New York Rangers have long been interested in Benning, and I believe Chicago has time for him as well. He’s a player that could be moved in the coming weeks to address the cap and roster crunch, and could be used as bait for help up front as well.
If the Oilers could move Manning, I think they would at this point. He hasn’t been a fit for the club, and it is my belief that both he and Petrovic aren’t in the long-term plans for the club. That said, the Oilers would have to add an asset to Manning to get him out.
I think waivers, and an assignment to Bakersfield, is more likely for Manning. If Edmonton decides to sell, Petrovic is likely to fetch a mid-round pick and create a little cap space.
The most likely scenario, in my mind? Benning is the odd man out between now and the deadline.
Talbot Winds Blowing?:
It’s been very quiet around the Oil’s pending UFA goalie. With Mikko Koskinen chosen as the man moving forward AND signed to an extension, Talbot’s time in Edmonton is essentially done. He’s going to be dealt between now and the deadline, there’s no doubt about that in my mind.
The team I’ve heard most connected with Talbot is the Flyers, but will they still be inclined to make that move? With Carter Hart playing well and adapting to the NHL, the Flyers may attempt to use a lost season to develop their goaltender of the future.
A team to potentially watch when it comes to Talbot? The Chicago Blackhawks. If they believe Corey Crawford is done, they may get ahead of Talbot and try to get him locked up moving forward. Don’t rule out the Florida Panthers as a potential landing spot as well for the similar reasons.
Darren Dreger had an update on the Talbot situation earlier this morning on TSN radio. Quotes come via Chris Nichols.
“My information as of yesterday was that things are starting to heat up in Edmonton around Talbot. I wouldn’t say a deal is imminent, but the interest is developing”
“Talbot is going to fetch something that matters in return,” indicated Dreger. “But it’s not going to be a top-six forward. So what’s it likely going to be. Is it a young NHL roster player and a pick. Is it a better pick and a prospect. I don’t know what the Oilers are looking for Talbot. What I know is that the interest is developing around Cam Talbot.”
I could see Edmonton getting a third line forward back for Talbot, but as Dreger notes there won’t be the kind of market that brings an impact return for him. That said, the Oilers could clear $4,166,667 off the books by moving Talbot, so I wonder if they would settle on a pick and move forward with the cap space.
Final note on Talbot: If the Oilers move him they’ll need to add a goaltender. Al Montoya hasn’t played since mid-November with illness and I don’t think Shane Starrett, Stuart Skinner or Dylan Wells are even close to being ready for the NHL. Calvin Pickard out of Arizona could be a cheap option for the club.