There are fans, media, management, and players in Edmonton suggesting the performance of the team right now is simply not good enough. Describing the perception of the club as a group that is often out-worked and out-chanced, that the Oilers are only two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference might come as a shock to some.
The team has made multiple in-season trades in an effort to squash multi-game losing streaks, they’ve shifted line combinations, and tried to motivate through change. While the results of those moves haven’t often paid off, the other perception is that, at the very least, the team is trying to do something.
The reality is, the Oilers are still in the hunt because, in the Western Conference, it has become a turtle’s race to the finish line. The list of teams who have struggled — Dallas, Anaheim, Colorado, and others — have left the door wide open for Edmonton and recent reports suggest the team is planning on running through that door while they still have a chance.
Oilers organization is on a full court press to find help at forward. Scouts and staff deployed en masse.
Cap situation could make it tough, but first round pick, a goaltender, maybe a young developing forward likely all in play.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) January 14, 2019
Needless to say, change in Edmonton appears to be far from over.
What’s the Plan for the Oilers?
As Ryan Rishaug of TSN recently reported, Edmonton is preparing to apply a “full-court press to find help at forward.” The desire to land that forward is so high, Rishaug goes on to say that the Oilers may be willing to part with their first-round pick, a goaltender and a young developing forward.
While no names have been mentioned in the report, it’s safe to assume Edmonton is going after a big fish. Most reports are that this trade deadline will be a buyers market and with plenty of strong forwards out there to be had, if Edmonton can figure out their current cap situation, they may be able to land a strong asset.
Could Mark Stone or Matt Duchene out of Ottawa be an option? Would one of the many forwards available from the New York Rangers be on the table? What about a player like Artemi Panarin who might be the best forward available on this year’s trade bait list? Of course, there are lots of teams that could use a player like Wayne Simmonds or Brayden Schenn.
Pressure for Chiarelli to Do Something Now
With exactly six weeks left before the trade deadline and with the Oilers still hanging around the Wild Card spot, there is huge pressure on GM Peter Chiarelli make the playoffs. Missing means Chiarelli is out of a job and perhaps more importantly, the Oilers have a number of financial concerns, such as expiring contracts for skybox suites at Rogers Place, season ticket holders losing their patience and playoff revenue that make getting in those additional games critical. This is also an opportunity to show the current stars that the team is prepared to offer and acquire help.
The biggest issue in Edmonton has been a lack of secondary scoring. Only three players have more than 40 points, and after that the drop-off is staggering. Alex Chiasson has 22, but his 17 goals make him the only other forward with more than four goals on the season. Edmonton had five before trading Drake Caggiula to the Chicago Blackhawks in a head-scratching trade for Brandon Manning.
The need for more scoring is obvious and would likely be appreciated by a player like Connor McDavid. That help is out there on the trade market this year.
How Does Edmonton Make This Work?
First, Edmonton needs to move money. They’re tight against the cap with just over $2 million dollars to add talent. But, opposing teams are not just going to accept the Oilers leftovers and help them shed their unwanted salaries. No, teams are not lining up to snag someone like Ryan Spooner, who has been rumored to be on the trade block.
Edmonton will have to offer up something of value. That could include a player like Cam Talbot, Jesse Puljujarvi, or the first-round draft pick they own in 2019. The question then becomes, ‘how big of a hole are the Oilers willing to create?’ to fill another one?
Adding a depth forward with a proven scoring track record is great. But, if it comes at the expense of a player like Puljujarvi — who hasn’t come close to reaching his potential — or opening the team up to goaltending issues with only one proven starter, is it worth it?
This is a tough call and there is potential for it to in a bad direction quickly. This is especially true if you’re one of the many fans who believe Chiarelli is not the right person to making a trade of this magnitude.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”