The Edmonton Oilers are not working with a lot of cap space this season. There are typically bad contracts and players not playing to their worth on every team each season. That is no different for the Oilers.
If the Oilers are going to upgrade at any position before the trade deadline, they will need to move some cap out as they bring players making money in. There are multiple positions that have been suggested or marked as the most likely spots to upgrade.
The first is goaltending, something the Oilers have been lacking depth and consistent play in for years. Another is a left defenceman — either for the second or third line could work, depending on the price of who they’d be acquiring, the health of Duncan Keith, and if they’re willing to slide him down to the third pairing. Lastly, the Oilers will be in search of a forward, whether that is a centreman to play on the third line or a winger and they solve the third centre position internally. The forward upgrade may be at the bottom of the three needs, but only because Ken Holland has suggested that the Oilers’ bottom-6 need to try and solve some issues themselves, even if he does go out and get help.
There are three players that will most likely come up in any trade talk between the Oilers and a potential trade partner before the trade deadline. This is due to the money they are being paid on their contracts and their performance as an Oiler, not only this season but those prior.
As you may have guessed, Mikko Koskinen‘s name will most definitely be brought up in any trade talk when the Oilers are attempting to acquire an upgrade in net. His name will not only come up in attempts to upgrade in goal, but it should also be brought up if the team looks to acquire a player at another position too due to his large cap hit and expiring contract.
Koskinen is not a bad goalie when he’s in a position suited for him to succeed. That happens to be in a backup role, and due to the injury to Mike Smith this season for all but two and a half games, Koskinen has been the Oilers’ primary starter. (from “How does Mikko Koskinen wicked rollercoaster ride end? Hmm”, Edmonton Journal, Dec. 16, 2021)
Take last season as an example of how things for Koskinen can be a rollercoaster depending on his role with the team. He went 5-7-0 in the first 12 games as the starter in 2020-21, allowing two or fewer goals three times. In the remaining 14 games played, he went 8-6-0 while allowing two or fewer goals in eight games. He generally got five to seven days of rest, if not longer, between games, allowing him to reset and have the mentality of playing better with fewer chances to prove himself.
A contract that was signed while former Oilers’ general manager Peter Chiarelli was in charge, Holland has had to manage that for the past three seasons. He elected not to buy out the contract and let it run its course this season. But with the uncertainty with Smith throughout this entire season thus far, the $4.5 million he’s making may have to be moved to a different team before the season is up.
Koskinen, along with possibly Tyson Barrie, may be the largest contracts that the Oilers would be willing to move. A Barrie deal is more likely done next offseason. But, since there are only two goalie positions on the roster, Koskinen will definitely be traded the other way to make the money work if the Oilers are going to add a capable goaltender.
Zack Kassian is a player with inconsistencies in his game. One night he will be on and then next he will be invisible. That’s not something the Oilers can afford in their lineup, especially not if he’s invisible in a top-6 role some nights.
His contract of $3.2 million for two more years may be a tough one to move and also may have to be done in a trade to just send away cap. It’s suggested by Allan Mitchell and Jim Parsons that he could be a buyout candidate for the Oilers after this season if they don’t elect to trade him with a sweetener attached.
Buying out Kassian would be a solution for after this season. The issue with cap may still present itself and the Oilers will still be looking to move him before the deadline to free up that much-needed money for the rest of this season.
I suggested in a recent article that the New Jersey Devils, a team that is lacking toughness and sorely missing Miles Wood, could use an everyday player like Kassian to add that physicality and presence to their lineup. A team like this may not need much of a sweetener to get the deal done.
There has been a lot of shuffling around of the bottom-6 of the Oilers this season due to performances, injuries, and COVID-protocol. Kyle Turris has been a player that is in and out of the lineup since he hasn’t done much when he’s got his chance.
Turris has one goal and one assist in 17 games this season, but has scored two important shootout goals for the Oilers earlier in the year. The thing is, the team doesn’t commonly go into extra time, so this skill doesn’t come in handy too often. That and the Oilers have a lot of skill up front and players who can finish in his absence.
His name comes up in a piece that is likely to go the other way in a trade because he is easily replaceable in the Oilers’ lineup and his $1.65 million this season off the books could be vital for fitting under the cap.
The Turris experiment didn’t work in Edmonton, but maybe he’ll be able to find some of his former self in a new environment. (from “Edmonton Oilers’ Kyle Turris settling into new role”, Global News, Nov. 2, 2021) It is not too much of an ask to include him as a throw-in to a larger deal to free up that little bit of cap.
Holland has time to see what he has on his roster, but managing a team that has the potential to do damage come playoff time, he should be looking to upgrade wherever he can. More years with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can’t result in first-round exits. They will become more frustrated, and deserve to be shown that the team is willing to do whatever can be done to put them in a position to succeed.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.