As the Edmonton Oilers struggle to win games and stay above .500, adding a player into the lineup that brings fighting as his biggest asset isn’t the right decision. Before Ryan Reaves was traded to the Minnesota Wild, the Oilers apparently had some interest there. Now there are rumours that they could be interested in a player like Wayne Simmonds.
Regardless of if Evander Kane is out of the lineup and the team moved on from Zack Kassian, the Oilers’ biggest concern at forward is the lack of depth scoring. Someone who fights and will be scratched more than half of the games wouldn’t bring many benefits. The Oilers could go and get someone better instead or use internal options like they have been doing. With that, let’s dive into the reasons why they don’t need to add this type of player in a trade.
Oilers Lack Cap Space & Roster Spots
Looking back on last offseason for the Oilers, they got rid of a lot of cap space in order to ice the lineup they had to begin the season. That included a retirement and Mike Smith landing on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) indicating his career was likely over. Besides that, they were forced to move Kassian and his $3.2 million cap hit along with a sweetener to free up money to sign a number of players. They also managed to bring back all the players they wanted but were left with a 21-man roster due to having no cap space. Ideally, they would have liked to have 23 men on the roster like they do right now.
The Oilers are only able to now ice a full roster because Kane’s cap hit of $5.125 million is on the LTIR and freed up as long as he stays there. This won’t last forever as he is coming back around January to February. That’s well before the trade deadline, and without a move, the Oilers will once again be right against the cap with only 21 players on the roster.
Oilers Have Better Options than Tough Guys
Rather than considering bringing in a player who only brings toughness to the team, the Oilers have much better options to work with. One of the benefits they had going into the season was that there were a number of NHL-level players who were forced to start the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) due to the lack of roster spots. Along with Mattias Janmark, Klim Kostin, and Brad Malone who have spent more time in the AHL than NHL this season, the team just got Tyler Benson back from injury. He’s another player who had a great training camp before getting injured.
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It’s extremely hard to replace a player like Kane and everything he brings to the lineup, but calling up Janmark and Kostin has softened the blow a bit. Janmark has spent some time in the top-six while Kostin is proving that he belongs in the NHL and plays a heavy game. I think he deserves more ice time than he’s received (10 minutes ATOI) in his first five games as an Oiler.
What the Oilers need from their bottom-six is scoring. They haven’t gotten that all season and scoring depth is a very key piece to success. It not only takes the pressure off of the top players on the team, it would provide the Oilers with more goals, especially when the top-six doesn’t score and depth scoring is needed. The Oilers have lost a few tight games where a goal at the right time would’ve changed the outcome. Without that, they sit with a 10-10-0 record on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
A tough guy would bring physicality, no scoring, and little ice time. It would almost be like a waste of a roster spot most times, especially when the Oilers can’t hold an extra forward when Kane returns. Looking at players like Reaves and Simmonds, they have a combined 16 games, one assist, and under 8:30 of ice time per game each. That’s just an example of what that type of player would bring to the lineup. Their current teams don’t have toughness in their lineups and still don’t have a use for them. That’s an indication the Oilers wouldn’t have much use for them either. What they really need is someone who will produce points for a cheap cost. It just cost the Minnesota Wild a fifth-round pick to acquire Reaves, so they would also be wasting a draft pick by adding someone who fights and doesn’t score.
I’m really high on Kostin and confident he’ll be able to fill a void and stick around in the NHL when Kane returns. He’s a former first-round pick which shows he has skill, and he’s shown the ability to make big hits and play physically. That combination is what the Oilers need rather than just a physical presence playing 10 shifts a game at most.
The Oilers don’t necessarily need to stay away from physical players, just players that don’t bring anything more to the table than that. They have one of the least productive bottom-six groups in the league and won’t get very far with the top forwards doing the heavy lifting for the team. The Oilers would do better to stay the course with what they have so that they aren’t put in a worse spot when Kane returns.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.