Despite arguments to the contrary, the Edmonton Oilers had a pretty good trade deadline. Ken Holland had little money to spend, had certain needs, and went out and did what he needed to without sacrificing the future. Some will argue the Oilers missed because they didn’t land a goaltender, but options were limited and what was out there was arguably no better than what the Oilers currently have at their disposal.
Holland isn’t getting full marks for what he was able to do. Let’s shoot down some of the myths about why the team was pegged by many as a deadline loser and make the argument the Oilers actually did more than most other Western Conference teams.
Myth 1: Oilers Missed Out on Goalie
The biggest reason the Oilers are getting losing grade by some is that the team didn’t upgrade their goaltending. There’s some validity to that but the reality is, Holland had little in the way of options. Anyone who argues Edmonton should have gone after Marc-Andre Fleury is ignoring the fact Fleury was never going to come to Edmonton. Holland did check, it was a ‘No’.
From there, Braden Holtby didn’t move because Dallas needed him. Anton Forsberg didn’t move because Ottawa signed him. Kaapo Kahkonen was the biggest name arguably dealt after Fleury and the Oilers didn’t have a Jacob Middleton to give.
The fear that Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith aren’t enough is understandable. So is the argument the Oilers don’t really know how good they can be when both guys are healthy and playing well. Holland gambled that he still has faith in the tandem. He might not be wrong.
Myth 2: Oilers Overpaid for Brett Kulak
The second-biggest shot at Holland is that he shouldn’t have paid a second-rounder (plus) for defenseman Brett Kulak. Sure, it was a lot to give but making the deal was the right move. First, Kulak is what the Oilers need — a reliable, defensively-sound, left-shot defenseman who can play 18-22 minutes per night. Second, Holland didn’t set the price.
This wasn’t a situation where Holland simply offered up a second-rounder without a fight. Holland checked around, the price on rentals was higher than it should have been because teams like Nashville gave up a second-round pick to land Jeremy Lauzon, and the trade-off is arguably worth it.
Keep in mind, this is not like Ottawa taking on Travis Hamonic’s full salary and giving up a third-round pick to trade for a player on the backside of his career. This is Montreal retaining 50% of Kulak’s salary and the Oilers getting a 28-year-old player, who recently went to the Stanley Cup Final and who can absolutely help them for a cost of $925K. Giving up William Lagesson in the deal was not an issue. The Oilers were unlikely to keep him anyway. The seventh-round pick is hardly a factor.
Myth 3: Oilers Missed Their Window To Get Better
If you’re making the argument that the Oilers didn’t do enough, ask yourself if you’d be making the same argument if Evander Kane was added to the team on Monday instead of a couple of months ago. There’s a legitimate claim one could make that Edmonton added “the best” player available to any team at this year’s deadline, they simply did so at a time it doesn’t feel like a deadline deal.
Not only that, but the Oilers gave up no assets to acquire Kane. He’s got 13 goals and 21 points in 24 games and he’s been a blessing for the Oilers’ top six. Make no mistake, this was a deadline deal — it was just a really early one. It would be like saying the Tyler Toffoli trade in Calgary doesn’t count. We all know it does.
Factoring in what Holland did in the Western Conference is also important. Only two teams in the west made big moves — Colorado and Minnesota. Neither is in the Pacific Division and as proven in Monday’s game against the Avalanche, the Oilers can hang with the best team in the league.
The Oilers Made Smart Moves
The Oilers could have sold the farm to make a run this season. Had they done so, some fans would be arguing Holland mortgaged the future and he’d have been criticized regardless. Don’t discount what Kane, Kulak, and Derick Brassard will mean to the Oilers if they make the playoffs.
These are three players that could have a dramatic impact on the longevity of the club in a playoff run and all add elements Holland needed to address when the team was at its lowest point. He spent around $3 million on the cap to get all three players. No other team can argue they did so much with so little.
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.”