Big Trade With Canadiens Off The Table For Oilers… For Now

Multiple insiders have made connections between the Edmonton Oilers and teams who have a defenseman potentially available for trade ahead of this year’s NHL Trade Deadline. The holdup is always the same, in that the Oilers don’t have the cap room to make a deal and add the piece they require. That said, there is one player out there who fits in terms of both salary and need.

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It was previously reported the team might have interest, but as per Eric Engels of Sportsnet, talk of the Oilers identifying Joel Edmundson of the Montreal Canadiens as a key target for them has picked up. He writes, “If it were as simple as just giving up a high pick, or a quality prospect, the Oilers might have already attempted to jump the market to get Edmundson in order to help suppress the chances they regularly give up.” GM Ken Holland knows the Oilers need a player like Edmundson, while the Canadiens are hoping to pick up long-term assets in return. The good news is, the money would be workable, in the right deal.

Only One Problem When It Comes To Edmundson

Unfortunately, the ask is too high for the Oilers, who know both what they can afford and what Edmundson went for when he was traded to the Canadiens in the first place. It’s hard to justify paying a first-rounder or second and a prospect when he went for significantly less than that three years ago. While prices fluctuate, Edmundson’s skills really haven’t. He’s no more or less useful than he was at that time.

Joel Edmundson
Joel Edmundson, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dustin Nielson of TSN 1260 writes, “Montreal acquired Joel Edmundson for a 5th round pick three years ago, he doesn’t appear to be any better than he was then, now the expected value in a trade is a prospect like Xavier Bourgault? Someone is going to have to explain this to me.” In fact, someone did and it was later clarified that the fifth was for the rights to sign Edmundson and not the actual player, but his point remained… He added, “I’m not opposed to moving picks or prospects, just not sure he’s the guy. I know many people are not a fan of the player at all. I saw what he did with MTL and see some value, just not that level of value.”

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In a roundabout way, Nielson may be right. The Oilers need a little help if they’re going to make this deal. If it doesn’t come in the form of a lower ask, they want Montreal to help with the money.

Engels explains:

“But a team as tight up against the cap as Edmonton would want Montreal to retain salary in the deal, regardless of how reasonable Edmundson’s contract is, and the Canadiens won’t have an interest in doing that… We suspect they’d be willing to take a contract back, but that could increase what they ask for in return for trading Edmundson.

Oilers are Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

On one hand, you have the team identifying a player they believe will help solve a number of their problems. And, the club you have to make a deal with is willing to trade the player. On the other hand, you can’t afford to overpay and the Canadiens believe they are dealing from a major position of strength.

Who budges first? Have the Oilers looked around, seen a bare market, and convinced themselves they need someone like Edmundson badly enough to overpay for a player who might be a four or five-defenseman in their lineup? Or, do they feel the price is worth it should a player like Edmundson be the missing ingredient to a long playoff run?

The Canadiens Will Have Options

Engels writes that he knows the Canadiens are willing to listen to offers, and there should be plenty of them. Edmundson isn’t going to crack every top-four blue-line corps on a contending team, but he can certainly play there. He offers leadership, experience, grit, nastiness, and shutdown skills that will be attractive to a lot of teams. When you consider the price of his deal — $3.5 million for this and next season — the Canadiens shouldn’t have trouble moving him.

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It’s the return that matters here. If the Canadiens choose to be firm on their ask, knowing they can keep the player for another season, teams like the Oilers will probably drop out of the running, at least until the ask comes down. Edmundson is useful, but is he more useful than a good pick in a deep draft? That may depend on where the Oilers feel they are at in their competitive window to win.