Whenever I hear the song “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen, I think of what life must be like for Edmonton Oilers general manager (GM) Ken Holland. Love him or hate him, there is a lot of pressure on Holland to improve his team by the March 3 NHL Trade Deadline.
Can Holland pull a rabbit out of the hat with the Oilers right up against the salary cap? Who should stay and who should go? Who could he trade for? Or should he just leave the roster as is? These are questions that the veteran GM is most likely contemplating as the Oilers continue their drive for the playoffs.
Is It Time to Trade Jesse Puljujärvi?
Jesse Puljujärvi is one of the most polarizing players in Oilers history. He came out of the 2016 World Juniors looking like he had all the tools to be a star in the NHL. Oilers fans such as myself felt lucky when he fell to No. 4 in the 2016 NHL Draft and the Oilers picked him up.
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Unfortunately Puljujärvi hasn’t lived up to the hype for many reasons and he may need a fresh start somewhere else. Trading him would free up a portion of his $3 million contract but is it worth it? Do the Oilers continue to remain patient or is it time to let the “Bison King” go free to possibly reach his potential somewhere else? Only Holland knows the answers to these questions at this point.
Warren Foegele – Should He Stay or Should He Go?
Warren Foegele was traded to the Oilers from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for popular defenceman Ethan Bear in the summer of 2021. Like Puljujärvi, he has shown glimpses of greatness but maybe not enough to warrant keeping him around. “McLovin” currently makes $2.75 million, and trading him for a player of equal or lesser value might be worth the risk.
Should Holland Trade the Oilers’ First-Round Draft Pick?
It might be time for Holland to go all in. After all, these are the prime years of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and the pressure is on to win now. Holland has shown that he’s a patient man, and has been working hard to restock the Oilers’ prospect pool. This might be the year he needs to hang on to his first-round pick – especially with projections that this upcoming draft is going to be a deep one. On the other hand, knowing the draft pool is deep, he might be able to leverage a trade for an even better player than he would normally get in a weaker draft year. It all might come down to what team is willing to give him a sweet deal. Let’s see how good of a poker player Holland is.
Who Can the Oilers Afford to Bring In?
There have been numerous players mentioned by different sources that could bring immediate help to the Oilers. Bob Stauffer, the host of Oilers Now, mentions Chicago Blackhawks forward Sam Lafferty as a trade possibility on almost every show.
Other names associated with the Oilers in terms of trade rumours include Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun, Carson Soucy of the Seattle Kraken, and even Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild. There have also been whispers of the Oilers needing to go after veteran help including Blackhawks forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Like their former teammate, Duncan Keith, who helped them during their 2022 run to the Western Conference Final, both Toews or Kane could provide some veteran leadership down the stretch and hopefully into the postseason.
Holland Might Just Sit Tight
With the emergence of mammoth defenceman Vincent Desharnais as well as the improved play of Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway, Holland might feel he has the right mix of players to take the Oilers deep into the playoffs. A lot depends on the chemistry of the team. During the Oilers’ recent six-game winning streak, it appeared the team had been coming together more as an overall unit and making defensive sacrifices for each other in order to win games.
It might be best for Holland to leave well enough alone including saving the Oilers’ first-round draft pick in 2023. Besides, money is tight salary cap-wise and this could be a determining factor in terms of options to improve the roster.
It’s going to be an interesting time leading up to the trade deadline for the Oilers. So far the Oilers brass hasn’t fully indicated which way they will play their cards. That’s not a bad thing. The fun part as a fan is trying to guess what Holland will do. If he can bring in another player like Klim Kostin, it could be the missing piece the Oilers need to get to the promised land this spring. Only time will tell.