The hockey calamity in Edmonton, Alberta has endured for so long that it’s almost becoming exhausting. Having recently fired their coach, Todd McLellan, and GM, Peter Chiarelli, the Oilers are likely patching together a long term plan. What that might be is anyone’s guess, but certainly it will involve some moves at this year’s trade deadline.
While the Oilers sit, once again, outside of a playoff position, they could be trying to move themselves into one, or tank down further to add some more good young talent for them to trade away later. For the purposes of this post, we’ll call them a seller.
What the Oilers Want
For the acting Oilers management group, it’s unlikely that a big splash trade is on the horizon. What they’ll be looking to do is shed future money if possible, by moving someone like Lucic, Sekera, Nugent-Hopkins or Klefbom. This will give the new management the flexibility to really shape the team in a new mold.
The other area they’ll be involved is sending out rental players for future value (picks, prospects), as any non-competing team should be trying to do.
The Oilers management in the past has been an absolute circus of bad decisions and the best way to correct this is for them to pause, breathe, and be careful about the next steps forward. There are some good players there that are ripe for the picking by other teams, but it would be surprsing to see anything major happen before a long term General Manager is put in place, and the whole management team has had time to breathe and establish a plan. This should be a fun re-tooling effort to watch.
The caveat here is the unfolding situation of Jesse Puljujarvi. The Oilers drafted him 4th overall in the 2016 NHL draft, despite him being largely ranked at #3. He lost his spot to Pierre-Luc Dubois who is looking like a great fit in Columbus. Puljujarvi, however, has not fit in well at all in Edmonton.
It has come to the point of basically asking for a trade, via his agent:
Jesse Puljujarvi's agent, Markus Lehto, tells Sportset he is unsure if staying with Edmonton is best for his client.
Column to come shortly. pic.twitter.com/QtSFGI00M6
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) February 16, 2019
Whether the Leafs could actually make this happen or not is to be determined, but when a quality young player starts to fall out of favour with his current team, the ears of all managers should peak up.
The Oilers have a number of players who are on expiring contracts that the Leafs could look at.
Alex Chiasson has been excellent for the Oilers this year, and they may want to keep him as one of their few potential-20-goal scorers. His contract does expire at the end of the year, though, and the price he could ask for may be more than they’re considering paying. If they sell him, his contract is very reasonable at league minimum, so the lineup of cap-tight teams looking to add a depth scorer for cheap will be long.
Another big-name expiring contract for the Oilers is Alex Petrovic, who they just acquired this season from the Panthers in exchange for Chris Wideman. Petrovic has not played very well this year, posting a -0.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as per the Evolving-Hockey WAR Model. It’s possible that the Oilers brought him on to play in their top-4 defense, but it’s not looking like he fits in there. Petrovic is right handed, and plays a tough style of hockey.
Another depth defender potentially available from the Oilers is Kevin Gravel. Formerly of the LA Kings, Gravel isn’t going to play much higher than a team’s bottom pairing, but he’ll play there pretty well. In 35 games this year, Gravel has added 0.3 WAR primarily due to his work on the penalty kill. Gravel is also a tough player and could fill a need for the Leafs there, but his left-handedness would leave him as a last resort for Mike Babcock.
Who the Leafs should want
For the Leafs, one of their major needs is an improvement on defense. To round out a with a top-4 right handed defender would be an excellent move. While Petrovic has contributed a -0.7 WAR so far this season in his time with the Oilers and, previously, the Panthers, he once was a good, tough defender that could move the puck with some competence. Clearly, his quality has declined since then. However, since he’s a UFA this summer, and not likely heavily favoured by the Oilers’ management due to his poor performance this season, it’s likely that the cost to acquire would be very cheap.
Out of this crop, the only really positive acquisition would be pretty much any trade that involves shedding the Zaitsev contract, or a big splash of a deal to get Puljujarvi.
While he has been a decent player, it’s hard to look at the Leafs’ future cap situation and wonder how much better things would be if they weren’t paying such a high salary for a player whose most positive adjective is “decent”.
There aren’t many ways that the Leafs can get out from under the Nikita Zaitsev contract and the Edmonton Oilers are probably not one of them. They’re already fairly cap-tight and probably are no longer incompetent enough to see Zaitsev as a major improvement to their team. While it is possible that a Zaitsev for Lucic deal could be worked out, I don’t see that kind of major money transaction happening at the upcoming trade deadline.
Likelihood of a Deal
The probability that something comes to fruition here is pretty low, it seems. A Lucic for Zaitsev move, or the farm for Puljujarvi, both are more likely to happen in the offseason. As for the more rental-type players, it’s not likely that the Leafs have any significant interest in anyone but Chiasson, and there’s probably teams with a much bigger appetite for him that will win that bidding war.
All in all, I wouldn’t expect much to happen here, at least not until draft day.