Oilers Need to Follow the Lightning’s Trade Deadline Strategy

Ken Holland and the Edmonton Oilers have yet to execute a trade deadline deal as time ticks closer to March 3. Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference has loaded up with almost every big name and depth piece that has been moved so far. There are similarities between the Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning as both are very good teams, have minimal cap space, and should be doing what they can to have the best possible roster to compete each season. This should come at the cost of their future as the strategy should be to win at all costs.

Ken Holland Edmonton Oilers
Ken Holland, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s a reason the Lightning have been to three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals, and that’s because their general manager (GM) Julien BriseBois has surrounded their star players with great depth each season – sometimes at the expense of their future. After the Lightning acquired Tanner Jeannot from the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay now has only 14 draft picks over the next three years. It gets crazier. They don’t have a selection before the sixth round this year and don’t have a first-round pick in the next three. Their GM understands that this team won’t be as good as they are forever and they can worry about the future at a later date.

BriseBois’ Statement Regarding Price to Acquire Jeannot & State of the Team

BriseBois really said a lot about his most recent acquisition, the price to bring Jeannot in, and the reason why he continues to go all-in at every deadline due to the state of the Lightning. He gave up Cal Foote (2017 first-round pick), a 2025 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, and 2023 third, fourth, and fifth-round picks for Jeannot. He has a cap hit of $800,000, is 25 years old, is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and has five goals and 14 points in 56 games this season. He said:

“At the end of the day, I know there’s a perceived value of those picks, but we have a really good idea of what the actual value of those picks are. Individually, you can go ‘What’s that first round pick worth? What’s that second round pick worth?’ And so forth and so on. When we look at what that’s worth to us, based on the odds of those picks turning into good NHL players down the road, I’d rather have the good player right now for this season and next and help this group win right now. Because I know what the odds are of those picks turning into players. I also know the odds are of those picks turning into players that can help us win right now in their prime, ready to go for another long run. The odds of that are zero. None of those picks were going to help. Nine of the players we were going to draft with those picks are going to help us win this year, or next, or probably the year after that. So, when you put it into that context and you frame it that way, it ends up being a pretty easy decision actually.”

Julien BriseBois

At first glance before hearing what the Lightning GM had to say, many many people were shocked at the return (from “This Lightning trade is not just a risk, it’s a full-blown battle cry”, Tampa Bay Times, Feb. 27, 2023). But it appears as though he has a very specific way of thinking and handling the dynasty the Lightning currently have; a strategy that very few GMs, if any, really seem to share.

Tanner Jeannot Nashville Predators
Tanner Jeannot, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

BriseBois also made note of all the star players the Lightning have in their prime, all having great seasons, and their health (as opposed to recent years). Just like Tampa Bay, the Oilers have their best players in their prime and need to go all-in this year.

How Holland Can Follow Lightning’s Winning Strategy

BriseBois also dove into what a depth player with grit and speed like Jeannot brings to the lineup and how the Lightning had the third line of Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, and Yanni Gourde to drive the energy of the team. Last season they also went out and acquired Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul, two more middle-six players that have been very good pieces for the team.

Related: Oilers: 3 Potential Landing Spots for Bourgault at Trade Deadline

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Holland has been looking to make some changes to the bottom-six of the Oilers and that could involve moving any of Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Warren Foegele, Derek Ryan, or even more. In order to bring players in, some must be moved out, especially with the lack of cap space the Oilers have.

The Oilers have yet to make a trade deadline move and have 17 draft picks over the next three years including two second-round picks, two third-round picks, and all of their first-round picks. They are much more stocked in that department than the Lightning and that’s because Holland has been stingy with his draft picks so far. I can partly understand why, since he and the drafting team have done such a great job. But having said that, the Oilers have some great prospects who are further along and can provide more for the team sooner than any draft picks. A trade is imminent, and it needs to be a big one to get a step ahead of the wide-open Western Conference.

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