Oilers Reportedly Already Active In Trying to Add Defenseman Via Trade

According to Emily Kaplan of ESPN, the Edmonton Oilers are not necessarily going to wait until the NHL trade deadline to start doing their homework on a defenseman that would be available this season via trade. She writes in a recent column, “Two teams that believe they have legitimate chances to win it all this year: the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers. I’ve been told that both teams are looking to add to their blue line.”

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That the Oilers might want or need to add another defenseman isn’t really news. The left side of this blue line corps has been decimated by injuries and heading into the season, it was already considered an area where the team wasn’t terribly deep. Darnell Nurse is back and a big-minute guy in the top pair, but everything else beyond him is a bit of a question mark.

Related: Oilers’ Trade Targets on the New York Islanders

What is interesting is that Kaplan suggests the Oilers might already be making calls. If true, there could be a couple of things at play here.

Duncan Keith’s Situation Unclear?

Kaplan doesn’t come out and talk directly about Duncan Keith‘s injury situation, but what’s going on with the veteran defenseman is still a bit of a mystery. The latest is that he’ll play when he believes he’s ready and that his upper-body injury issues may or may not be close to resolved. Head coach Dave Tippett said Keith and Cody Ceci are skating on their own and Keith won’t be an option for Thursday’s game.

One has to wonder if the Oilers know more than they have released to the public when it comes to Keith’s status. Even if he does come back sooner than later, are the Oilers unsure of how many minutes he can log? If that’s at all a concern, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if GM Ken Holland is examining his options.

Oilers Might Want a Defenseman to Get Adjusted Early

It could be that Edmonton wants to bring in someone who can play more minutes and get adjusted to the Oilers system well ahead of the playoffs. GMs will often do this to ensure that a player fits into the system and, unfortunately, Holland has had the experience of trading for a player at the deadline who didn’t mesh before. Perhaps he’s looking to avoid that issue in 2021-22 and give Tippett the time to find the most suitable pairings.

Ben Chiarot Montreal Canadiens
Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the Oilers are looking at a name like Ben Chiarot, perhaps Holland is trying to beat the rest of the market to the player and get him involved early. Building chemistry with the core of the team is important and it could be a priority for the Oilers to grab their guy sooner to avoid hiccups down the road.

Send the Rookies Back to Bakersfield

Philip Broberg and Markus Niemelainen should both be commended for how effective a job they’ve done since being recalled from AHL Bakersfield. At the same time, the Oilers may know that both need more time in the AHL and that having them up on the pro team this early is not the best thing for their development or the team’s win/loss record.

Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Philip Broberg Ken Holland
Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky, Philip Broberg and Ken Holland (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

The sooner the Oilers can add a defenseman the sooner they can get those two players back where they belong and play really big minutes and gain important experience for the next time they get called up. Adding a proven piece via trade instead of relying on rookies might be the preferred option of the Oilers and potentially help turn around a bit of a slump recently.

This is not to say that the Oilers’ three-game losing streak is to be blamed on the inexperienced defensemen currently playing, but it certainly isn’t helping.

Is All of This Wishful Thinking?

As much as Kaplan suggests the Oilers are already active in trying to find a solution via trade, there might not be one forthcoming imminently. This is not exactly the time of year when big trades are done and Holland may have no choice but to wait a bit longer before teams are ready to move pieces as sellers.

The Oilers also don’t want to overpay for a defenseman and if the market isn’t set and the asking price unclear because no blueliners have moved yet in deals. Edmonton has to tread carefully to ensure they don’t spend too much to get an asset they could have gotten for less in a couple of months from now.

** Side Note: Kaplan also writes that two sources she’s talked to still believes the Oilers and Marc-Andre Fleury make a lot of sense as the Oilers examine their goaltending situation.

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