Peter Chiarelli is keeping his cards close to the vest when it comes to his plans for the fourth overall pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
However, the Oilers’ general manager hasn’t ruled out the possibility of flipping the pick in order to improve the team’s blue-line.
In an interview with the Edmonton Journal on Sunday, Chiarelli said there’s a “real legitimate” chance the team will explore trading the pick away on draft day to potentially add a top-four defenceman to Edmonton’s extremely thin back-end.
“There’s a real legitimate chance to look to move this pick, to improve our team — to get bigger or to get a D and get something else. We’re going to look at a lot of different things,” Chiarelli said.
TSN Insider Darren Dreger on Sunday also said the Oilers will consider shopping the fourth pick to other clubs looking to move up in the draft.
Toronto, Wpg, CBJ very unlikely to consider trading their top 3 draft picks. Edmonton's pick, 4th overall is definitely in play.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) May 1, 2016
Among several potential possibilities, Chiarelli may deal the pick to move down in the draft and still land a coveted prospect such as Russian puck-moving defenceman Mikhail Sergachev or steady blue-liner Olli Juolevi of Finland.
Chiarelli enters the draft with several trade pieces — including 2012 first over pick Nail Yakupov, who requested to be traded after another tough season with the blue and orange. With strong depth at the forward position, the Oilers could also add either Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a deal that includes the fourth overall pick going the other way.
One potential trading partner could be the Buffalo Sabres, who are somewhat deep at defence but may want to add a future top-line winger to play alongside Jack Eichel.
With Matthew Tkachuk, Pierre Luc-Dubois and Alex Nylander projected to go between 4-7, the Sabres — picking at No. 8 — may miss out on a top-end winger.
That’s where the Oilers come into play. Other clubs that may be looking to move up are the Arizona Coyotes at No. 7, the Montreal Canadiens at No. 9 and the Colorado Avalanche at 10th overall.
If the Oilers stand pat and keep the pick, there’s no doubt Chiarelli will use the selection to take the top-ranked defenceman on the board, which in this case may be Juolevi — a six-foot-two blue-liner that helped Finland capture the gold medal at the World Juniors this year.
TSN hockey analyst Craig Button calls Juolevi an “incredibly competent player who makes the game look easy in all areas.”
It will be a wait-and-see approach from now until June 24, but one thing is certain: the Oilers will come out of this draft with a top-four defenceman one way or another.