Oilers Expressing Interest in 2 Coyotes’ Players

After some inconsistent play throughout the first half of the 2022-23 season, the Edmonton Oilers seem to be figuring things out. They are heading into the all-star break red hot, having won seven of their past eight games, and are suddenly just three points shy of the Seattle Kraken for the top spot in the Pacific Division. It appears that they are finally playing at an elite level like so many had envisioned heading into the 2022-23 campaign.

Related: Oilers Have Great Rental Options to Upgrade Defence at Deadline

But while things are going quite well in Oil Country right now, there are still some areas of concern. The main seems to be the blue line, as many believe they are missing a true top-four-caliber defenseman in the lineup. That said, it appears general manager Ken Holland may instead have interest in upgrading his team’s center ice position and is believed to have his eye on one player in particular.

Holland Looking at Bjugstad

As per the highly credible Elliotte Friedman, the Oilers are among several teams who are said to be interested in Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Bjugstad. The 30-year-old centerman is on a one-year deal that carries a minuscule $900,000 cap hit, and while he isn’t setting the world on fire, he has a solid 11 goals and 21 points on the year while averaging nearly 17 minutes per game in ice time.

According to Friedman on his latest 32 Thoughts Podcast, Oilers management believes they need to upgrade their center ice position and are considering Bjugstad to be the player who could do just that. In their most recent game, they iced a lineup that saw Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan McLeod as their centermen. While that is undoubtedly one of the deeper groups in the entire NHL, adding another to the mix would allow head coach Jay Woodcroft to move Nugent-Hopkins to the wing, likely playing alongside Draisaitl.

Nick Bjugstad Arizona Coyotes
Nick Bjugstad, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for Bjugstad, if he were to be acquired, he would likely be competing with McLeod for the third-line center position. McLeod is highly thought of by Oilers management and has a bright future ahead of them, but Woodcroft may prefer to give Bjugstad, the veteran of 590 career NHL games, the first crack in that third-line role.

On top of some offensive skill, Bjugstad is also solid in terms of his defensive play and is comfortable being used on the penalty kill. His average of 2:12 per game while down a man is second amongst all Coyotes forwards this season, trailing only Lawson Crouse, who has averaged just one second more. Factor that in with his salary, and you can certainly understand why a cap-strapped team like the Oilers is showing interest.

Gostisbehere on Oilers Radar

Though Friedman first mentioned Bjugstad, he also brought up the fact that he thinks the Oilers may have their eyes on a Coyotes defenseman. Most reading this would assume Jakob Chychrun, as the 24-year-old is the best blueliner on the market and has been linked to the Oilers at times this season. Instead, Friedman brought up another in Shayne Gostisbehere.

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Gostisbehere is a player who has been talked about plenty as a rental come the deadline, as he is in the final season of a six-year contract that carries a $4.5 million cap hit. He has had himself a solid season in the desert, as his 29 points through 48 games rank him second amongst his Coyotes teammates. That said, it is much tougher to envision a fit between him and the Oilers than it is with Bjugstad.

Shayne Gostisbehere Arizona Coyotes
Shayne Gostisbehere, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Gostisbehere is a valuable NHL defenseman, he isn’t the player most agree this Oilers team needs on the back end. The 29-year-old is viewed as an excellent puck mover who is fantastic on the power play and can put up points in bunches. His biggest issue comes defensively, as his small stature makes him rather easy to play against and can often result in him being out of position.

Given that the Oilers already have two offensively gifted blueliners in Tyson Barrie and Evan Bouchard, it doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense to add Gostisbehere to the fold unless Barrie were to be going the other way. With the chemistry he has shown on this Oilers’ power play, replacing him with Gostisbehere doesn’t seem to make much sense either.

Though many Oilers fans seemed rather unimpressed with what they saw from Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets last week, a more defensive player such as him or Joel Edmundson – two players who have been linked to Holland’s club plenty this season – would seemingly make for much better fits. But Friedman is one of the best insiders in the game, so it’s safe to assume that these two teams have had discussions on both players. Whether it results in a move being done remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Oilers are looking to be active ahead of the deadline.

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