The Edmonton Oilers are a storied franchise that has enjoyed many successes and many difficult periods. There have been trades that have shaped the franchise. The Wayne Gretzky trade, on Aug. 9, 1988, is one of the most famous in professional sports history. It still haunts many Oilers fans to this date. However, there have also been many great trades that changed the franchise for the better. Here are the top five trades that have most positively impacted the Oilers franchise.
5. Feb. 2011: Oilers Acquire Colten Teubert and a 2011 First-Round Pick from Kings for Dustin Penner
Dustin Penner had an up and down time with the Oilers, playing four seasons with the franchise and scoring 93 goals and 186 points in 304 games. Edmonton originally signed Penner to an offer sheet when he was coming off his entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks, after seven days, were unwilling to match the offer sheet. He is the last player to have changed teams via an offer sheet.
At the time of the trade, however, Penner was a declining player on an expiring contract. Colten Teubert did not pan out for the Oilers, playing in only 24 games and scoring no goals. It was the other return on the trade that was important. With the first-round pick, the Oilers selected Oscar Klefbom with the 19th pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Klefbom was a long term project that has paid huge dividends for the team. He has cemented himself in the team’s top four on the back end and logs a ton of minutes (currently third in the NHL at 25:39/game). On Sep. 19, 2015, the Oilers signed him to a seven-year deal with an AAV just north of $4.1 million. This is still one of the best bargain contracts in the NHL. Klefbom is a staple on the power play and moves the puck incredibly well out of his own end. He has 136 points in 337 career games and it looks like he will be a fixture on the Oilers’ defence for many years to come. This trade turned out perfectly.
4. Aug. 1995: Oilers Acquire Curtis Joseph and Mike Grier from Blues for 1996, 1997 First-Round Picks
The Oilers finished the shortened (48-game) 1994-95 NHL season second last in the Pacific Division with a 17-27-4 record. They also let in a league-worst 183 goals, while only scoring 136. They needed a change in net. Enter Curtis Joseph. In this trade, the Oilers found their bonafide number one netminder, to end the Bill Ranford era.
Although Ranford was an incredible goalie, at the time he was on the decline. In order to acquire Joseph, the Oilers sent a 1996 first-round pick to the St. Louis Blues, which was used on Marty Reasoner. After playing parts of three seasons with the Blues, Reasoner was traded to the Oilers.
Although Cujo only played three seasons with the Oilers, he was incredible, playing over 70 games twice in his tenure. In the 1998 playoffs, the Oilers faced off against the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche who were heavily favoured, with Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy on their side. The Oilers fell 3-1 in the series but stormed back to win it 4-3 after three straight wins. In Games 6 and 7, Joseph posted back-to-back shutouts, as the Oilers won 2-0 and 4-0 in those games. He posted a .930 save percentage (SV%) in the series to carry the underdog Oilers to victory.
3. July 2019: Oilers Acquire James Neal from Flames for Milan Lucic
Although it is very early on in the first season after this trade, the return already looks incredible for the Oilers. James Neal is a perennial goal scorer, posting 21 or more goals in his first ten NHL seasons. He had an off year with the Calgary Flames last year, scoring only 7 goals in 63 games, and appeared to not mix well with the Flames’ coaching staff and system.
Milan Lucic on the other hand (who was sent to the Flames), has been on a steady decline for years. He is too slow for today’s NHL, and does not have the hands or skill to keep up. After a solid 23-goal, 50-point first season with the Oilers in 2016-17, he mightily struggled in his next two seasons, when he scored just 10 and 6 goals, respectively. The only thing more shocking than the original Lucic signing was the Lucic trade. The Oilers did retain $750,000 of Lucic’s salary in this deal, but it is well worth it. There was also a conditional draft pick as part of the deal. The condition is that if Neal scores 21 or more goals in 2019-20, or 10 more than Lucic, the Flames will receive a 2020 third-round draft pick from the Oilers. That condition appears likely to be met.
Neal is not the fastest player by NHL standards, but he has a nose for the net and the sweet spots on the ice. He knows where to be in order to set himself up well for scoring opportunities. As of Nov. 15, he has 12 goals and 3 assists in 21 games. Eight of his goals were scored on the power play, good for second in the NHL (behind only David Pastranak). The Oilers’ power play is clicking at 31.7% right now, tops in the NHL.
Neal has a high level shot and has been a very good boost to the Oilers’ top 6, and has helped a lot with the man advantage. This trade looks like a steal for the Oilers, after all, his nickname is “The Real Steal”. Oilers general manager, Ken Holland did the impossible.
“I appreciate that Calgary believes they need toughness in the lineup and that Lucic brings an element they were sorely missing in prior years. But I also can’t ignore the fact that their provincial rival said the same thing for years, right up until the point where they recognized that the deficiencies in Lucic’s game far outpaced whatever intangibles he might bring to a team’s bottom six,”Travis Yost, TSN Reporter.
2. March 2006: Oilers Acquire Dwayne Roloson from Wild for 2006 First-Round Pick, 2007 Third-Round Pick
In the spring of 2006, the Oilers went on a magical run all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. Although they fell one game short of the championship that year, the underdog Oilers captured the hearts of many around the city and country. Dwayne Roloson was a massive part of that success, as he carried the team on his back all the way to the finals. The most unthinkable series win was in the first round, when the Oilers took out the juggernaut Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings finished the regular season with a 58-16-8 record for 124 points, and were heavily favoured in the series. The Red Wings outshot the Oilers 238-156 in the six-game series and Roloson posted a .929 SV%.
Roloson stood on his head all the way to the finals, before being injured in Game 1 of the Final. With four minutes remaining in the third period, shortly after Ales Hemsky tied the game at four, Marc-Andre Bergeron pushed Andrew Ladd into Roloson. His knee twisted awkwardly and he was forced out of the series. Would the Oilers have won the Stanley Cup if that injury did not occur?
“There is every chance his leadership qualities have surfaced just as gradually and consistently as a byproduct of the way he plays at the top of his game and who he is every day,”from ‘A tribute to Dwayne Roloson, Hero of Oil Country,’ Edmonton Journal, 07/08/2009.
Roloson played a total of 211 games with the Oilers (fifth on the franchise’s all-time list), before signing with the New York Islanders in 2009. He was a true number one goalie, during a time when the Oilers were without one, as Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen both put up .880 SV% in 2005-06. He steadied the franchise from the net out, and was one of, if not the biggest reason the Oilers made the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
1. Aug. 2005: Oilers Acquire Chris Pronger from Blues for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka
After playing eight seasons with the St. Louis Blues (and two with the Hartford Whalers) and racking up 356 points in 598 games, Chris Pronger was dealt to the Oilers. After the 2004-05 lockout, the NHL introduced the salary cap. Prior to that, the NHL was the only major North American professional sports league with no luxury tax, no revenue sharing and no cap.
The Blues, because of the salary cap, were forced to trade one of their top players. At the time, he was one of the best two-way defencemen in the league. In the one season he had with the Oilers, he put up 56 points in 80 games. He was a monster on the back end, and a huge part of the Oilers’ Cup run that year, along with Roloson. He played just under 31 minutes per game in the 2006 Playoffs, and put up 21 points in 24 games.
Pronger was a top five defenceman in the NHL in 2005-06, and although he just missed out on a Norris Trophy nomination, he was an immense help to the team. The Oilers have never really had a defenceman on their team like Pronger. He is 6’6, 210 pounds, could skate like the wind, was incredible offensively, and tough as nails; the epitome of an all-around defenceman. Of course, Paul Coffey had incredible offensive ability and was an amazing player, but he did not have the physical prowess of Pronger.
Unfortunately, Pronger never really wanted to be with the Oilers, and he was traded after just one season. In that trade, the Oilers received the draft pick that became Jordan Eberle. Even in just one season with the team, Pronger shaped the franchise in many ways. The 2006 run to the Stanley Cup Final was an incredible time for Edmonton and Pronger was a massive part of making that happen.