5 Players the Oilers Should Target Before the Trade Deadline

With the 2021 NHL trade deadline quickly approaching, Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland will be looking to try and find a roster upgrade for his team. The Oilers will likely look to acquire a highly skilled left-winger, a second pairing defenseman and a starting goaltender. There are many options for the Oilers to explore, but we’d likely see a deal being done before the April 12th deadline with quarantine rules being in place.

Although Holland mentioned that he is not expecting to give up future assets, if there is a trade offer that he likes, Holland has mentioned he will pull the trigger. Today I will be going over six players the Oilers should target in the coming weeks. 

Let’s start off with some highly skilled forwards, who are on the trade block.

Jake DeBrusk

So far this season, Jake DeBrusk has not been playing the way many people expected him to play. After having a great first two years in the NHL, DeBrusk was expected to have a breakout season. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. DeBrusk has had only five points in 17 games and is fresh off being a healthy scratch against the New York Islanders on March 9th. He obviously needs a fresh start and something to motivate him, and a trade to his hometown team would certainly rejuvenate him. 

Jake DeBrusk Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Trade Offer:

To Bruins: Tyson Barrie

To Oilers: Jake DeBrusk

This trade fills a need for each team. The Bruins require a right-shot defender with Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara leaving them in the summer. Tyson Barrie could fill that role and also take some of the load off Charlie McAvoy’s shoulders. Although some fans would hate to see Barrie go, he can be replaced by either Ethan Bear or Evan Bouchard, as they have both shown that they are capable of filling a top-four role.

For the Oilers, this trade would fill a need at the left wing spot in the top six. DeBrusk plays a heavy, power forward game and would be placed in a role where he has the chance to succeed instead of being scratched and on the fourth line in Boston. DeBrusk has shown that he has the skills to play on an offensive line, scoring 26 goals in his last two NHL seasons. He would be a fantastic addition to the Oilers’ top-six, instantly making them one of the most dangerous in the league.

Connor Brown

With the Ottawa Senators in rebuild mode, this year’s trade deadline will likely be an opportunity for GM Pierre Dorion to deal players for future assets. One of those players that may be dealt is Connor Brown. Brown is currently playing on the third line and is also on the second power-play unit. He has shown that he can be a double-digit scorer and a 40 point player. At age 27, Brown is not part of the Senators’ future, so they should trade him while they have the chance. 

Connor Brown Ottawa Senators
Connor Brown, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Trade Offer:

To Senators: James Neal, Tyler Tullio, Philip Kemp

To Oilers: Connor Brown

With the Oilers needing to send at least $3 million to Ottawa to make the salary cap work, James Neal is the odd man out. But, since Neal has such a bad contract, they will have to add extra assets to make it worth it for the Sens. Tyler Tullio, the Oilers’ fifth-round pick in 2020 and Philip Kemp, their seventh-round pick in 2017, might be enough to sweeten the deal. Tullio is currently playing in Slovakia against men, posting 13 points in 19 games. Kemp, a defensive-minded defenseman, is playing in Sweden and has 10 points in 30 games. Both these players are looking like future NHLers, but they would have to be sacrificed to make this deal work. Brown could slide in as a middle-six forward and help them defensively as he is safe and responsible at both ends of the ice. 

Rickard Rakell

Next on my list is Anaheim Ducks forward Rickard Rakell. Currently, Rakell is third on the TSN’s trade bait board, a sign that he is likely to be traded. Rakell leads his team in scoring and is on a current hot streak with 12 points in his past six games. He is a highly-skilled forward and a former first-round pick (30th). Rakell has had career highs of 34 goals and 69 points in his career. He has scored at least 15 goals in each of his 6 NHL seasons and would be a great addition to the Oilers’ top-six. 

Rickard Rakell Anaheim Ducks
Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Trade Offer:

To Ducks: 2021 first-round pick, Kris Russell, Krill Maximov

To Oilers: Rickard Rakell

The Oilers would likely have to give up someone with a higher salary cap to make this deal work. Kris Russell might draw the short straw. Although the Oilers would likely have to pay a high price such as a first-round pick and include Kirill Maximov, Rakell’s offensive skills might pay dividends for the Oilers. Maximov is currently playing in the VHL and has 27 points in 25 games, looking like a future top-six forward. Rakell has one of the best contracts in the NHL at $3.8 million until the 2022-2023 season, giving the Oilers freedom to explore free agency options until he is up for a new contract. 

Let’s dive into a defenceman likely to be available on the trade market

Mattias Ekholm

The only defenceman on my list is Nashville Predators veteran Mattias Ekholm. Right now, Mattias Ekholm is number one on the TSN trade bait board after Predators’ GM David Poile announced that his team would be selling at the 2021 trade deadline. Ekholm is almost an exact replica of Oscar Klefbom and would replace him with ease.

Ekholm plays a steady, two-way game and is responsible at both ends of the ice. He can also headman a power play, although I think Barrie has that spot locked up. The Sweden native would be a massive boost over Caleb Jones at even strength and on the penalty kill. He would finally give the Oilers some stability in their top four.

Mattias Ekholm Predators
Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators Oct. 19, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Trade Offer:

To Predators: Alex Chaisson, Dimitri Samorukov, 2022 second-round pick

To Oilers: Mattias Ekholm (50% retained)

With the Predators in rebuild mode, they will likely look to accumulate prospects and draft picks for the future. Dimitri Samorukov is an offensive defenseman currently in the KHL. He looks like he can be a top-four defender in the future but will take at least two years to become a certified NHL’er. With the Oilers having no second-round pick this year, they’ll have to give up their second next year to make it worth it for the Predators. The Oilers have a deep prospect pool, so why not give up a little part of the future when you have depth?

Jusse Saros

The final person on my list is Predators goaltender Jusse Saros. Saros is currently the starter for the Preds, as he took Pekka Rinne’s role last year. He is 25 years old, the prime age for goaltenders. So far in his career, Saros has put up strong numbers in the NHL, averaging a .915 SV% and a 2.61 GAA.

Even though Saros has put up impressive numbers, with the Predators rebuilding, he is not the goaltender of the future. That status appears to belong to 19-year-old phenom Yaroslav Askarov. Although Saros has fantastic positioning and athleticism, the only knock on him is his height as he stands at 5″ 11. 

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (AP Photo/John Locher)

Trade Offer: 

To Predators: Alex Stalock, Raphael Lavoie

To Oilers: Jusse Saros

The Predators get two pieces in this deal, including Alex Stalock, who would be a good backup for Rinne until Askarov gets to the NHL. The Preds also get sniper Raphael Lavoie, who has been tearing up Sweden as of late, putting up 45 points in just 50 games. Even though Lavoie looks like he will be an impact player in the future, the Oilers do not have many spots for him in their forward group. They have many other intriguing forward prospects, such as Dylan Holloway, Carter Savoie and Kirill Maximov. For the Oilers, Saros would fit right into their style of play. Their defensive game limits their opponent’s shots to the outside, and Saros has superb positioning which would be a good fit for both sides. He has the potential to become the franchise goaltender for the Oilers for several years to come

Although the Oilers are tight on cap space, if the right deal is in place, they should accept it. With a surplus of appealing prospects, they can move a few out without being at risk of not having any for the future. The orange and blue have three spots they need to address before the April 12th trade deadline. If the Oilers can fill one or two of those deficiencies, they will immediately become a contender for the Stanley Cup.