Oilers Should Consider Sabres’ Pysyk as Low-Cost Defense Upgrade

The Edmonton Oilers are seeing a resurgence and boost of confidence under new head coach Jay Woodcroft. With the trade deadline nearing, they’ll still need to re-tool to make a solid push for the playoffs. It seems like general manager Ken Holland is on a never-ending search for a new goaltender, but they’ll benefit from adding a veteran defender. TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Oilers have been looking to add another right-shot defenceman.

Earlier in the season, rumours were circulating that the Oilers were kicking tires on Arizona Coyotes’ defenceman Jacob Chychrun. He’d certainly be a big addition that can change the landscape of the blue line, but without a doubt, there will be a bidding war for his services. If the Oilers are saving assets to acquire a goaltender, but want to add stability to the back end, they should consider trading for former Edmonton Oil King and local product, Mark Pysyk, from the Buffalo Sabres.

Pysyk Has Ties to Edmonton

At the age of 15, Pysyk became the first-ever draft pick of the current Oil Kings, playing his junior days in his hometown for five seasons. He recorded 125 points in 243 games, and was the first big star the club produced since their incarnation. In 2012 he helped guide Edmonton to its first Western Hockey League (WHL) championship. His exceptional junior career led him to be selected 23rd overall in the 2010 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres.

Mark Pysyk, Buffalo Sabres
Mark Pysyk, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although he was scouted for his two-way game, over the course of his career, the blueliner has established himself as a stay-at-home defender, often patrolling the third pair. He most recently played in his 500th NHL game, and within that span he’s tallied 27 goals and 76 assists.

What Can Pysyk Bring to the Oilers?

There were reports that Oilers representatives were in attendance in the game between the Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs last Wednesday. Although there were no reports on which player(s) they were scouting, let’s take a look at what the Sabres’ defenseman can offer. Pysyk is a right-handed shot, which always seems to be in short supply. He’s a fluid skater, and has good defensive awareness and hockey IQ. He has a solid, but not excellent first pass, and can skate the puck out of danger. At the same time, he’s versatile, playing both defence and forward when he played for the Florida Panthers. Since Woodcroft’s taken over coaching duties with the Oilers, he’s run 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Pysyk would be able to fill in on forward in a pinch if the team was requiring a new look, mid-game.

He signed a one-year deal with the Sabres this offseason worth $900,000 AAV. He has two goals and nine assists in 54 games and averages 18:36 of time on ice. His stats don’t scream “game-changer,” but he’s only a minus-3 on the season; which is good, considering the Sabres have a goal differential of -48. He’s not overly physical, and he doesn’t have a problem staying out of the penalty box, logging only 14 minutes in penalties. Also, he’s not afraid to sacrifice his body with 81 blocks on the season, including six in the last game against the Maple Leafs. He’d rank second on the Oilers in shots blocked.

Pysyk Would Be a Low-Cost Solution on Defence

If the Oilers aren’t able to go big-game hunting on defence, Pysyk would be a low-cost solution. In comparison with bigger names in the rumour mill like Chychrun and Ben Chiarot, Pysyk shouldn’t cost a lot to acquire. If the Oilers can offload Colton Sceviour’s contract to free up cap space, a third or fourth-round draft pick should get the deal done.

Currently, on the right side on their blue line, the Oilers have Cody Ceci, who’s been a stable defender all season. They also have Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie— both of whom play a similar game. They’re both offensive-minded defenders, who at times have lapses in the actual defensive side of the game. Heading into a playoff battle with those two may be suspect and Pysyk will add more defensive stability if those two players struggle to defend.

Related: Oilers Are Showing Interest in Trading With Canadiens & Jets

Pysyk isn’t a household name, but he’s a cheaper alternative to play the third pair and can step into a second-pairing role if needed. Could Pysyk be a solution this season on the blue line for the Oilers?

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