The NHL’s annual trading deadline is less than two weeks away. On Monday, the first major domino of trade season fell. The Minnesota Wild dealt forward Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In exchange for the perennial 20-goal man, the Penguins gave up their 2020 first-round draft pick, prospect Calen Addison (2018 second-round pick) and forward Alex Galchenyuk. The Wild have had interest in Galchenyuk dating back to his time in Montreal.
The Oilers, technically, missed out on Zucker. Sources told The Oilers Rig two weeks ago that the club was in pursuit of the sniper ahead of the trade deadline. The asking price, however, included top prospect Evan Bouchard. That was a non-starter for GM Ken Holland.
An equivalent package from Edmonton for Zucker? The 2020 first-round pick, defenseman Dmitri Samorukov and a cap dump, most likely forward Sam Gagner. The Oilers were not willing to meet that price at this time.
Personally, I side with GM Ken Holland. Edmonton is not in a position to give up top assets for a player, even one with term like Zucker. The Penguins are in a different position than the Oilers, and as a result the risk makes a lot of sense for them.
The Oilers will not just go quietly now. Holland continues to work the phones as the Oilers look to add one, potentially two, forwards to their ranks prior to the trade deadline.
Some of the targets, like Ottawa’s JG Pageau, are bigger names. Others, however, are not.
A Bottom-Six Winger?
Everyone assumes that Holland will add a top-six winger. With his second line in a good place and James Neal close to a return on McDavid’s wing, that might wait until July.
A bottom-six winger, perhaps a penalty killer with a little edge, could instead be a target. Jujhar Khaira is on borrowed time, there is little doubt about that. Patrick Russell is a fine 13th/14th forward, but there are legit questions about his ability as an everyday player.
Gaetan Haas has struggled as of late, while Joakim Nygard remains on IR with no timetable for a return.
Melker Karlsson of the Sharks is a potential option. San Jose is likely to be a seller heading into the deadline, and Karlsson is a pending UFA. He carries a very manageable $2,000,000 cap hit and is a proven playoff performer.
He has just eight points (3-5-8) in 52 games this season, but his value comes in his ability to play a strong defensive game and kill penalties. One alarming stat? His 45.3% Corsi For (-5.0% rel). It’s a worrisome statistic.
Another option for bottom-six work is Anaheim’s Derek Grant, who is almost certain to be dealt by the deadline. He’s a cheap bottom-six center option who quietly has scored 13 goals this season. He’s a possession black hole, however, and is shooting at an unsustainable 18.1% clip.
Pageau Top Target?:
The Ottawa Senators are unlikely to garner a 2020 first-round pick for center JG Pageau. That could open the door for the Oilers. The club, it is believed, would be willing to deal forward Jesse Puljujarvi and their 2020 second-round pick for Pageau’s services. That might be enough to tickle Ottawa’s fancy, especially with how Puljujarvi has played in Liiga this season.
Pageau has a career-high 21 goals this season and is having one of his better possession seasons in the league. His Corsi For of 47.5% doesn’t jump off the page, but considering he plays for an Ottawa team that is a mess, it isn’t an eye sore like it normally would be.
He’s also started 60.8% of his shifts in the defensive zone, proving that his two-way game is as strong as ever. He’s also positive relative to his teammates (+1.8%) in Fenwick For on the season.
Pageau would instantly be one of the team’s top penalty killing centers along with Riley Sheahan. He’d also go right to the third line and take some of the heavy lifting away from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Pageau could be that strong two-way center who produces offense that this team desperately needs. Holland loves him, the scouts love him, and I maintain that he will be the club’s top option ahead of the trade deadline.
If the Oilers go shopping in Ottawa, Edmonton native Tyler Ennis could be of interest. He has 13 goals this season and carries a cap hit of just $800,000. Perhaps the speedy sniper could be a cheap fit on McDavid’s left wing. After all, he does shoot left.
Ennis (13-17-30) has had a resurgent 55 games with Ottawa this season. He’s also been a strong possession player on a Senators team that is, quite frankly, a mess.
If the Devils are open for business, Edmonton could look there too. Blake Coleman has 21 goals this season and only makes $1,800,000 on the cap. The club has also been connected to defenseman Sami Vatanen this season, but they’ll need to compete with the Carolina Hurricanes for his services.