Oilers Chasing Third-Line Center, Top-Six Winger?

K Holland

Tuesday night was a predictable letdown spot for the Edmonton Oilers. After three consecutive emotional games, the Oilers just never were really engaged in Glendale against the Coyotes. It was one of those nights that simply did not go Edmonton’s way. Those will happen from time to time.

The Oilers currently remain second in the Pacific Division and right now are in good position to make the playoffs. A lot can change over the final two months of the season, however, and the club should not be overly comfortable with their current spot in the standings.

The Oilers are approaching the trade deadline as if they are buyers. The club has an opportunity in a wide open Western Conference. Not only could they make the playoffs, but they could do some damage as well. Outside of the St. Louis Blues, everyone is bunched together in the race for the postseason. There is no clear-cut favorite right now.

TSN’s Ryan Rishaug had the latest regarding Edmonton’s potential deadline plans on Tuesday.

“Still believe the Oilers top priority heading to the deadline is a 3LC,” Rishaug tweeted. “Pageau would be a great fit, but not sure they’ll move their 1st. Perhaps a more traditional shutdown 3LC is more realistic. Win some faceoffs and play against top forwards.”

The Oilers have been connected to Pageau all season long, but a deal does not seem likely. If the club was not willing to part with their first round pick for Taylor Hall, they won’t change their mind for Pageau. In a loaded draft, it is an understandable decision.

Jim Matheson, longtime writer, wondered out loud about Minnesota center Mikko Koivu. The Wild are falling out of the race and the Finn will be a free agent on July 1st. He’d be a pure rental.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported, however, that a “top-six forward would be at the top of their list” heading into the deadline. One name LeBrun mentioned, although not exclusively with the Oilers, was Florida’s Mike Hoffman.

LeBrun mentioned that the Panthers would be in the market for a shutdown defender to play with Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers have previously shown interest in Adam Larsson. That interest is as recent as this past summer.

Do The Oilers Really Need a 3C?

Would a third-line center be nice? Yes, yes it would. Is it a necessity? No, it is not. The Oilers currently have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl driving their own lines at center, with Riley Sheahan and Gaetan Haas handling the bottom six duties. It isn’t a perfect depth chart by any means, but it should be enough to get this team into the playoffs.

What Edmonton really needs is another winger for the McDavid line. The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto trio has been solid for Edmonton since the start of January. It’s given the club a legit second line that can produce offense and win the possession battle.

We also know that, love him or not, Zack Kassian fits with McDavid on the top line. That left wing spot? James Neal has good underlying numbers, but the veteran is simply unable to cash anything offensively right now. Josh Archibald is nice to have as a spot winger, but he can’t handle that role on a full-time basis.

If Edmonton can add a natural sniper like Hoffman to the top line, they’ll instantly have the best top-six forward group in the Pacific Division.

The club has shown interest in Jason Zucker and Chris Kreider this season as well. Both would be top-line wingers for the club. Zucker is especially interesting because he has term and is known as a scorer.

The 2020 NHL Trade Deadline is 19 days away. Expect the Oilers to be active and add a forward between now and then.

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