The Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders are entering the trade deadline with hopes of securing playoff spots in their respective conferences. Both teams have had rollercoaster seasons thus far but have rosters in place to make deep runs if they reach the playoffs.
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The Oilers reached the Western Conference Final last season led by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and a strong supporting cast around their two elite players. The Oilers have the pieces in place to take the next step but will look to make one or two big moves to put their roster over the top. The Islanders reached the Stanley Cup Semifinal in both 2020 and 2021 but took a step back last year. However, this season, they have a great roster led by one of the league’s best goaltenders in Ilya Sorokin, who can carry the team to a Cup. Moreover, general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello has already shown he’s going all in this season with the acquisition of Bo Horvat, adding a star center to the lineup.
Both teams don’t seem like trade partners but the Islanders and Oilers can help each other out at the deadline. Specifically, the Oilers’ weaknesses can be helped out by the Islanders’ strengths and vice versa, allowing both teams to upgrade their rosters in a deal.
Mayfield Helps Oilers Defense
The Oilers’ defense has been a weak link this season, allowing 3.24 goals per game. The goaltending has been the primary problem but the defense has also struggled, specifically the second and third pairings. A top priority is adding a defenseman to improve the unit ahead of the playoffs and set themselves up for matchups against some of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Oilers have been rumored to be interested in multiple elite two-way defensemen including Jakob Chychrun, Vladislav Gavrikov, and John Klingberg.
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Scott Mayfield is playing in the final year of his contract and is the player that the Islanders are most likely to trade. He’s having a great year on the defensive end of the ice and is a pivotal part of the unit but he’s the oldest defenseman on the team. As a result, the Islanders will look to trade him to gain some prospects or draft selections if they want to move on from Mayfield.
Mayfield is a right-side defenseman and not an offensive zone threat, two concerns for an Oilers team that is stronger on the right side and looking for a skater that can take advantage of open ice at the blue line. That said, he would be a reliable second-pair defenseman, playing alongside veteran Brett Kulak or mentoring 21-year-old Philip Broberg.
Additionally, Mayfield is a playoff-proven defenseman that the Oilers need for a playoff run. Last year, the defense received a spark from veteran Duncan Keith who stepped up in the first and the second rounds, helping limit the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames’ offenses. Keith retired in the offseason and the defense is now void of that presence on the blue line. While the Oilers are looking for an elite two-way defenseman, the addition of Mayfield can once again make them one of the favorites in the Western Conference.
Puljujarvi Helps Islanders Forward Depth
Jesse Puljujarvi’s tenure with the Oilers has been a rocky one, to say the least. He was drafted with the fourth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft with high expectations and a high ceiling but never tapped into his potential. Despite spending the majority of his career in a potent offense, he never scored over 15 goals in a season and only eclipsed 30 points once in his six-year career. Puljujarvi is a restricted free agent at the end of the season but with an uncertain future with the Oilers, GM Ken Holland might look to move him at the deadline, especially to create salary cap space for a big move.
He wouldn’t be a splash addition for the Islanders but Puljujarvi would provide much-needed depth on the wing. The Islanders have the centers that can carry the offense with Horvat and Brock Nelson leading the top two lines but the team needs help on the wing to round out the forward unit. Puljujarvi would play in the middle six and help set the team up for a playoff run, especially if he finds his shot in the offensive zone. Moreover, if he thrives in the new setting, the Islanders can re-sign him in the offseason and make the 24-year-old forward a part of their long-term plans.
Oilers Can Add Center Depth
The Oilers’ top six is one of the best in the league, led by McDavid and Draisaitl. They often play on the same line and the power play together but occasionally, Draisaitl will center the second line to add more depth to the forward unit. The problems for the Oilers are on the third and fourth lines where the offensive production falls off. In the Western Conference Final, the team was overwhelmed by the Avalanche’s depth, losing the series in four games as a result. They can help round out the forward unit at the deadline with the additions of either Nelson or Casey Cizikas.
Nelson is a tough player to trade. He has a modified no-movement clause and is an integral part of the Islanders’ top six. However, at 31 years old, he’s a player the team can move on from if they want to retool in the upcoming years. Moreover, for the right return, the Islanders would move him to help upgrade their roster for the long term. Nelson has two and a half more years left on his contract, making him a valuable addition for any team that acquires him, especially the Oilers who are looking to win the Stanley Cup within the next few seasons.
While Nelson is an unlikely candidate to be traded, Cizikas can be moved at the deadline as a reliable depth center. He centers the fourth line on the Islanders and is a checking forward but can also add a spark in the offensive zone. The Oilers adding him to their lineup would round out their forward unit, particularly up the middle, and give them a player that can upgrade the team both offensively and defensively. Cizikas might not bring back the same return for the Islanders as Nelson would but he would fetch a draft pick or a prospect to add much-needed youth to the team.
Other Moves the Islanders & Oilers Can Make
In a blockbuster deal, the Islanders could move a prospect defenseman like Samuel Bolduc or Robin Salo to the Oilers, especially if Lamoriello is looking to make another splash addition. The Oilers need help defensively and young skaters, especially on the left side can benefit them for years to come. Salo looked promising in the first few games of the season but since Sebastian Aho took over as the team’s final defenseman, he hasn’t returned to the NHL roster. Bolduc is a promising defenseman who received an American Hockey League (AHL) All-Star Game selection. At 22 years old, he could become one of the better young players on the Islanders but at the same time is a valuable player at the trade deadline.
The Islanders can also move goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who is playing in the final year of his contract, at the trade deadline but a deal is more complicated. The Oilers can use goaltending help but Varlamov has a no-trade clause. Additionally, goaltenders rarely move at the trade deadline, and with the Islanders fighting for a playoff spot, they will likely keep their veteran as a reliable backup for the final two months of the season.
The Islanders and Oilers are looking to win now and make a big move to help them win the Cup. With overlapping strengths, the two teams could make a deal to help each other out and propel them to deep playoff runs. The Islanders and Oilers have good rosters but need one or two additional players to put their team over the top.