While some of the pain the Edmonton Oilers are feeling right now is self-inflicted, the organization also can’t catch a break. Just when it appears they’ve got their roster ready to roll in full, injury after injury hits this team and makes it nearly impossible for the club to gain any momentum. On Sunday, it was learned that Mike Smith, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evan Bouchard weren’t on the ice, just days after Tyson Barrie was added to an already long list of missing players.
While it’s not clear how long Bouchard or Smith will be out — Bouchard fell ill during the game but it’s not COVID related and Smith seems to have tweaked something again — any lengthy absences for either player feels almost catastrophic for a team that is already playing without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kris Russell, Zack Kassian, and others.
Anyone else going down might mean the end of the Oilers’ hopes for a playoff run.
Time To Deal With This Situation Externally
The Oilers have been doing their best to cope with a lousy hand but perhaps it’s time they look outside the organization for a solution. With only two weeks remaining before this year’s NHL Trade Deadline, the Oilers could use some help now. Getting out ahead of the deadline is never a bad strategy and the Oilers would love to get some additional firepower prior to a lengthy homestand at Rogers Place, a venue where the Oilers haven’t been all that good of late.
Yes, the team could be getting Josh Archibald back for a limited run and Kassian was on the ice sporting a full cage, but this roster is severely depleted. They need reinforcements and waiting too long to acquire them might mean an uphill battle just to earn a postseason spot.
Where the Oilers Could Most Use the Help
In goal, the Oilers could simply call up Stuart Skinner and say goodbye to Smith for the rest of the season. I’ve already argued this should be the action plan for the organization and I believe that to be the case now more than ever. Smith simply hasn’t been good enough and consistently enough to warrant being offered any more rope. Another potential injury has to be the final straw for Ken Holland head coach Jay Woodcroft. Woodcroft said of Smith’s play against Montreal, “…Well, Mike Smith is part of our team and our team, I think, can execute at a higher level.” He also said the team needed to be better in all areas. Still, Woodcroft has to be running out of patience.
Tyson Barrie isn’t pegged to out long-term but Edmonton could use another experienced right-shot d-man with the way Bouchard has struggled of late. Cody Ceci is doing most of the heavy lifting for the Oilers and that’s unfair to ask of a player who wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a solid top-four replacement for Adam Larsson.
The Oilers’ top-nine is hurting and it shouldn’t cost much to find someone a team is trying to move that can help immediately.
The Problem for the Oilers
The silver lining here is that most of the injuries are not deemed to be long-term — all but Russell’s. Edmonton will likely do what they can with his salary to work LTIR and get a bit of a cushion with their salary cap. With that in mind, having Nugent-Hopkins and Puljujarvi back will be incredibly helpful.
The downside is that the Oilers are otherwise limited in what they can spend. The club is already operating out of LTIR when it comes to the deadline and unless the team moves out some serious money, they can’t bring much money back. The Oilers have been scouting the Philadelphia Flyers, Winnipeg Jets, and a couple of other teams lately. Have they recognized a player that can help? One would certainly hope so because another injury could be disastrous.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”