The Edmonton Oilers play the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday and the best that can come out of this game is that a victory somehow triggers the team forward on a six or seven-game winning streak. Anything less will mean missing the playoffs for another season.
Unfortunately, sitting around and watching the playoffs is a reality the team will likely have to face and that means the next week will see a trio of Oilers management making moves for next season. Keith Gretzky, Craig MacTavish, and Bob Nicholson will have a few items on their list of to-dos over the next six days. Here are the most pressing:
Oilers Salary Cap Relief
The Oilers have already started on this process with the trade that sent goaltender Cam Talbot to the Philadelphia Flyers last week. The move gave the organization enough space to bring in Andrej Sekera who was activated from injured reserve on Monday. He’ll likely make his debut against the Coyotes.
Next, the Oilers placed Brandon Manning on waivers, he cleared and was assigned to the Bakersfield Condors on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, these moves aren’t enough. If they can, the team will move Zack Kassian, Matt Benning and/or Kyle Brodziak. Kassian might have some appeal to a playoff team looking to get a little more rugged while Brodziak can offer a veteran presence and penalty killing skill. Benning being moved at all is a maybe.
There is always the optics of trying to trade Jesse Puljujuarvi but such a move would be controversial at best. The Oilers would be selling low and potentially giving up on a player who hasn’t found his mojo yet. Should he, Edmonton will certainly be kicking themselves for pulling the plug too early.
Oilers Need to Dump Assets
At this year’s trade deadline, a player like Alex Chiasson might garner some interest from opposing NHL GM’s. He’s on a cheap contract, has 17 goals and playoff experience on a Stanley Cup winning team. That’s worth something.
The return won’t be much considering he hasn’t scored since Dec. 16, 2018, but a third-round pick might not be out of the question.
Would Alex Petrovic fetch anything if moved? He was acquired in December for Chris Wideman and hasn’t done much since his arrival. A player who potentially has more of a positive reputation as a former solid blue-liner, the Oilers were convinced he had something to offer. Can Edmonton convince someone else of the same thing? He’s shown a few glimpses of hope over the last couple games.
Tobias Rieder was meant to come in and provide speed and depth scoring to the lineup. He’s fast, but he hasn’t scored — not even once. He won’t be sticking around simply because the Oilers can’t justify his qualifying offer for next year at $2 million.
Do More Than Just Dump Assets
Moving out salary and sending away contracts should not be the Oilers only mandate. This team has a number of needs including a scoring forward, top-two defenseman and potentially a starting goaltender (yes, I’m aware the team just signed Mikko Koskinen).
Achieving success with the first two needs (salary out and dumping assets) will help facilitate any ability to add pieces and perhaps these additions aren’t made at the deadline. That said, management — even if it’s not the same team who starts the 2019-20 season in charge for the organization — should give whoever enters the best possible chance at success.
This year’s market at the trade deadline is certainly one that favors buyers. If the Oilers can pull off a little magic, is it unrealistic to think they can add a piece that has some term at a reasonable cap hit if the franchise moving said piece is more interested in prospects and draft picks than anything else?
And, if a player can’t be acquired that can help this team next season, Edmonton continuing to stockpile decent picks for this year’s draft has value. With a team in Bakersfield that is ripping it up right now, how long before some of those players find their way up to the main roster? Probably not long if the Oilers season continues to go the way it’s been going.
The Oilers have serious work to do over the next few days. Another loss versus the Coyotes will make it more obvious that the work should start right away. A win is potentially just postponing the inevitable.
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