Oilers’ Management Scouting Canucks – Who Has Their Attention?

As the 2023 Trade Deadline inches closer, many teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, are hard at work scouting and seeing what players would make good additions. Ken Holland, Jay Woodcroft, and Bob Nicholson attended the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche game on Jan. 20 to likely do just that.

There is a small chance that Holland, Woodcroft, and Nicholson were at the game to scout players on the Avalanche as they are in a similar position and not looking to sell off players. The interest has to lie in the Canucks as many major changes are coming to the organization and personnel. There’s also the unlikely chance that all three wanted to take in a game on the team’s night off as the Oilers were set to play the Canucks one day after. But what’s the fun in that?

Which Canucks are On Edmonton’s Radar?

The Oilers are in a unique position compared to many other contenders or teams around the league as there aren’t a ton of players on the Canucks that they can pick from. Vancouver has two cost-effective players in Luke Schenn and Andrei Kuzmenko that every contender will reach out about, including the Oilers. But there is also one interesting possibility that would involve a lot to pull off, and that’s a Bo Horvat trade.

Luke Schenn

Many defensive names around the league have been connected to the Oilers this season because of the poor play. That play has significantly picked up of late and it begs the question of if the Oilers still need to make a defensive addition at the deadline or save assets. They have been running with seven defencemen while Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais have been stellar in their rookie seasons. Broberg has played so well to the point where he needs more playing time and could even move into a top-four role.

Luke Schenn Vancouver Canucks
Luke Schenn, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If the Oilers are set on defence, then why would they need a defence? There is still time before the trade deadline and Holland would still like to see what’s out there. Anything can happen to any player on any given night. The other possibility is that Holland would still be interested in upgrading to a very solid defensive defenceman in Schenn who has an excellent cap hit of $850,000. If that is the case, it would cut into the rookies’ playing time this season but not hurt their development too much if Schenn hits free agency after the season.

Related: Broberg’s Impact Making Oilers’ Trade Deadline Decisions Easier

He could also be a much cheaper option if the Oilers look to the back end to free up cap space. Edmonton has already gotten tougher up front, but this addition would really change the complexion of the team on defence.

Bo Horvat

Any general manager on a team looking to make a run at the postseason wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t at least check in on Horvat. That being said, the Oilers could have a long or short-term interest in acquiring the Canucks’ centre. Horvat is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season with a cap hit of $5.5 million. Since the Canucks are looking for a hockey trade, which would mean sending money back, the Oilers would have the means to do so. They are already looking to move some money out in one of three players and it would help their cap situation for next season as well.

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Horvat would be a huge addition if the Oilers could land him at the trade deadline. He is having a career year where he is scoring at a very high rate. Jeff Marek mentioned the Oilers in connection to the Canucks on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast as he sees Horvat as a potential long-term fit if Leon Draisaitl doesn’t stick around. The friendship Draisaitl has with Connor McDavid and the money that the Oilers would surely make available to sign him don’t make it seem as though he would go anywhere. But in terms of the Oilers cutting costs, Marek said that Horvat could be open to signing in Edmonton and the Oilers would save themselves $3 million plus.

Vancouver Canucks forwards Vasily Podkolzin, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat
Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat celebrate a goal (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I wouldn’t take that trade as a long-term gamble considering Horvat is shooting over eight percent above his career shooting percentage and his career high in points in his nine-year career is 61. Draisaitl has produced at least 70 points in each of the past seven seasons, including this one. This argument is against Horvat being a long-term solution in Edmonton. If they can get him for the remainder of the season to add even more to the forward depth that has been great lately, it would put the team over the top.

Andrei Kuzmenko

The Oilers have gotten goals from 11 of their forwards over their six-game win streak and the depth scoring has really come around. The team is just about healthy and depth players are also fighting to stay in the lineup. The Oilers don’t have a ton of room to work with, but Kuzmenko is as cheap as they come with stellar production. Since it’s his first year in North America, he had to sign an entry-level contract. His cap hit is $950,000 this season before he becomes a UFA. Though the Canucks would like to keep him around and re-sign him, there will be a big price tag attached.

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As I mentioned, Kuzmenko will be highly sought after if he is made available due to his cap hit and having 18 goals and 40 points in 44 games. It’s never a bad thing to have too much scoring. It is a season that the Oilers should be going for the Stanley Cup again. It may cost a first-round pick or an equivalent to outbid other interested parties, but it could be worth it.

Holland has made some great moves since becoming the Oilers’ general manager and has earned the trust of the organization and fans. Woodcroft’s opinion also matters in that he works with the players almost every day. He would know what characteristics the Oilers are lacking that even Holland may not. It’s a good sign to see both in such close communication so that the Oilers are likely to hit on any addition they do make this season.