As the NHL Trade Deadline approaches, teams are scouting and calling each other, players are listening and looking and fans are gitty with excitement at a time of year where chaos often overpowers logic. Half the fun for fans is creating trade scenarios between teams, wondering if the names and players rumored to be available on the trade market might, somehow, make their way into town.
Until an interview I conducted with Aaron Portzline of The Athletic and the NHL Network concluded, I never would have made a connection between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Edmonton Oilers. But, from some of the comments Portzline made about a Blue Jackets situation and management group he knows quite well, perhaps there’s a fit.
You can listen to that interview below:
We didn’t discuss a direct connection between Edmonton and Columbus, but while we spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder: in a perfect storm, could the Oilers take advantage of a situation that has the potential to get quite messy for Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen?
What Portzline Said About Bobrovsky
In respect to Sergei Bobrovsky’s situation, Portzline said, “There is an issue between this club and this player, this club and this player’s representation that I’m not sure they can come back from. I’m not sure there’s a long-term relationship here that can be salvaged.”
Now, Edmonton clearly doesn’t need Bobrovsky. The possibility of him coming to Edmonton doesn’t exist and that’s not what stood out about that comment. What made my ears perk up is that particular comment partnered with what was said a few minutes later. Portzline added, “I think the Blue Jackets have an interest in keeping him, perhaps more than any other player because of how important that position is. What do they do if he leaves? It’s hard to make a goalie swap this time of year.”
Enter the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers have two goaltenders, both with the potential ability to get hot and be a difference-maker in a stretch of games for a contending team. Cam Talbot has proven he can get a club through a playoff round, maybe two and Mikko Koskinen can be hot and cold; these days more hot than not. Furthermore, the Oilers may keep one, but won’t be keeping both past this season.
If the Blue Jackets lose Bobrovsky because they feel the need to trade him versus get nothing for him over the summer, would Columbus quickly scour the league looking for a goalie, potentially taking one that might have been harder to move than in other circumstances? As Brian Burke said today on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer in reference to Talbot, “I don’t see how Edmonton can move that contract.” This may be one of the few situations where they could. Sans Bobrovsky, Columbus becomes a team badly in need of a goaltender, therefore, might make a hasty decision due to limited options and a lack of confidence in their backup.
What Portzline Said About Panarin
When asked about his opinion on Panarin, Portzline said, “Well there’s been no signs that he wants to stick around.” He added, “If you’ve ever been dumped, that sure sounds a lot like, it’s not you, it’s me… I think Columbus is his girlfriend, I don’t think Columbus is his wife.”
This started the hint that it looks like the writing is on the wall with this player, suggesting he’s leaving Columbus despite the latest rumors that both sides have been a bit more willing to consider negotiations. The two sides are scheduled to meet over the All-Star break and Portzline said:
“At that point, they [Blue Jackets] will have to get an answer. If he says “I’m not really sure”, they have to assume they need to trade this player rather than take the risk… I think it has to be a professional agreement, ie. sign on the dotted line.”
The key comments came later when Portzline said he doesn’t think the Blue Jackets are good enough to just “go for it”. Columbus can’t take the risk of keeping both and perhaps getting ousted in the first round because the consequences of losing both Panarin and Bobrovsky with no return is unacceptable. “They gotta just dump them,” he said.
Portzline then listed teams that might consider adding Panarin and making him the piece that puts them in a position to make a run. The Oilers don’t come to mind at first when using those descriptors, but clearly, Edmonton is showing their desire to be in the playoffs this season, they might see themselves as a team that needs to add, and Panarin would certainly help that cause.
Portzline then suggested the Blue Jackets might just have to accept the best you can get for Panarin, then turn around and themselves, become a big-time buyer in the trade market before Feb 25. The idea would be to flip a first-round draft pick, top prospects and more so that the Jackets could replace Panarin with a player like Matt Duchene or Mark Stone.
Again, is this an opportunity that becomes something the Oilers should keep an eye on?
A Wild Theory as to How Edmonton Makes This Work
On the surface, making the connection between these two teams is a reach. That said, if a few dominos fall the wrong way in Columbus, there will be an opportunity for any team. Why not have it be the Oilers?
|The Framework Behind a Deal:|
|1) Blue Jackets trade Bobrovsky to (insert team here) for a potential player, draft picks and prospects|
|2) Oilers trade Talbot to Columbus for a draft pick essentially helping replace Bobrovsky|
|3) Blue Jackets now have a number of draft picks plus a goalie and Edmonton sheds salary|
|4) Blue Jackets trade Panarin to Edmonton for first-rounder plus prospect(s) (pure rental)|
|5) Oilers have forward depth to make a playoff push, Jackets have high-end picks to flip for roster players|
|6) Blue Jackets deal with non-playoff teams adding multiple players to lessen the blow of losing Panarin.|
* Disclaimer: If somehow a deal like this were to happen, Panarin is not likely to stay in Edmonton. The Oilers could try to sign him but he’ll probably test free agency and land in a city like New York. There’s also potentially more work that needs to be done from a cap perspective for the Oilers this season if a player like Andrej Sekera comes back or is deemed healthy.
At the end of the day, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t proven to have the ability to facilitate these types of trades so maybe this is extremely out-of-the-box thinking. There is also the fact Edmonton still may not be good enough to contend and traded quality long-term prospects for a Panarin that likely won’t stay in Oil Country.
It’s a stretch, but in a buyers market with a team like the Blue Jackets are facing a potential crisis, you just never know.