Are the Oilers Buyers or Sellers?

With the Edmonton Oilers closer to the basement of the NHL standings than a playoff spot, it’s hard to know whether or not the team is a buyer heading into this season’s NHL Trade Deadline or a seller.

If the team is hell-bent on making the playoffs despite the fact the outlook of doing so isn’t good, the team will be scouring the NHL marketplace prior to Feb. 25. They’ll be looking to add depth scoring and better options on the blue line, all in an effort to give struggling head coach Ken Hitchcock something to work with. They also won’t be moving names like Alex Chiasson or Cam Talbot.

However, should the Oilers decide this season’s extra play is out of reach, Chiasson and Talbot, among others, will be the first to go and Hitchcock’s job may not be all that secure.

The Case for Being a Buyer

If possible, the Oilers have to send a message that they aren’t willing to give up on the season, despite now being six points out of the wild-card race in the Western Conference. I wrote an article not long ago suggesting the Oilers can’t afford to wait and make a move. Doing so would send the message to Connor McDavid, the fans and the rest of the locker room this season is a write-off.

Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers
EDMONTON, AB – MARCH 25: Connor McDavid #97 has to be frustrated with how the season has gone for the Oilers. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

I wrote at the time:

Should the Oilers not make the playoffs… again, McDavid will have all summer to stew over just what’s wrong with this team. He’s said if there are players in the locker room who don’t want to be there, they should leave. He was probably telling the truth. But, what if he becomes one of those players? The Oilers cannot afford to let McDavid sit outside the playoffs with four months to think about things.

That’s the glass-is-half-empty look at things. The silver lining is the Oilers aren’t technically out of it yet. While six points with only 27 games to play may seem like a daunting task to overcome, it’s not impossible. The rest of the west (outside of St. Louis) is leaving the door open for the Oilers to make a run and the question simply becomes, can they make that run?

Related: NHL Rumors: Ducks, Carter, Puljujarvi, More

The Case for Being a Seller

In all honesty, the Oilers don’t have a lot to sell. A few names might pique the interest of some NHL teams — like Chiasson or Talbot and maybe Jesse Puljujarvi or Zach Kassian — but the return won’t be great.

Oilers forward Alex Chiasson
Oilers forward Alex Chiasson could be traded at this year’s deadline. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Pierre LeBrun wrote in an article on The Athletic today about the Oilers being sellers:

I think they end up moving pending UFA Cam Talbot if they can find a fit. If they’re 7-8 points out come Feb. 24, my guess is they auction off pending UFA Alex Chiasson who has had a nice year. Without a new GM to run things, I’m not sure the Oilers can really afford to be that active either way. Unless they’re simply able to move out salary. They need cap room big time ahead of the offseason.

source – ‘LeBrun: The buyers, sellers, and TBD teams ahead of the trade deadline’ – The Athletic – Pierre LeBrun – 02/11/2019

What about the players they need to move; that is, the contracts that are drowning this team? Is it realistic to think the Oilers can move the likes of Alex Petrovic, Brandon Manning, Milan Lucic, Matt Benning, and others? This is where the real problem for the Oilers occurs.

The Oilers May Not Know What They Are

It is highly possible the Oilers organization doesn’t know what they are — buyers or sellers — until right up to the deadline on Feb. 25. They need to offload salary regardless of where they are in the standings, but the trick will be whether or not they can do so and not move pieces they could use for a run towards the postseason. If this team is still in the thick of things after their upcoming three-game road trip, they’ll need all the help they can get.

If, in a week’s time, the Oilers have gone 1-2 or 0-3, anyone not named McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, and Oscar Klefbom could be on the move. Perhaps they’ll be a better indication on the Feb. 16 when the team returns home after playing the New York Islanders.