The Edmonton Oilers need help in many ways. Their status as a potential Stanley Cup contender has quickly faded away through the first quarter of the 2022-23 season, as their roster is being exposed for many flaws, which include a weak blue line, a lack of depth scoring, limited options in their bottom six forward group, and goaltending struggles.
While addressing all of those problems simply isn’t a possibility given their salary cap situation, Ken Holland is looking at options to fix at least one area, which, according to Darren Dreger, is in the form of blue line help. Speaking on Insider Trading, he dropped a major bomb on Tuesday afternoon, suggesting the Oilers have discussed going after San Jose Sharks’ Erik Karlsson, a player who has been involved in plenty of trade rumors as of late. While it is an interesting topic, however, the chances of it happening are less than zero.
Oilers Don’t Have Cap to Pull Off Karlsson Deal
As mentioned, the Oilers have very limited cap space at this time. In fact, they have $0 available right now, and that is with Evander Kane and his $5.125 million deal on long-term injured reserve. While the 30-year-old is expected to miss roughly two more months, he will be back before the end of the 2022-23 season.
On a deal that carries a cap hit of $11.5 million through the 2026-27 season, Karlsson’s deal was seen as untradeable just a few short months ago. However, having been healthy for the first time in years, the 32-year-old is quickly proving how good he can be, with an impressive 11 goals and 34 points through 28 games. The improved play has resulted in his trade value improving, though, with a cap hit as big as his, the Sharks will almost certainly have to retain some money in any potential deal.
Even if money were to be retained, the Oilers wouldn’t come close to being able to pull off a move like this. While they would certainly be open to moving players such as Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Tyson Barrie, none of those three would be enough to open up the space required for Karlsson, even with the Sharks retaining money. While it would be cool to see a two-time Norris Trophy winner don Oilers colours, it is an impossibility with the contract he is signed to.
Oilers Should Look to Add More Affordable Defenseman
Despite not being able to add Karlsson, the Oilers should be looking to improve their blue line. While there are other areas of concern as mentioned, it is worth noting that their top players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will receive significant help once Kane is able to return. As far as bottom-six talent goes, that is something many teams lack due to the salary cap. It certainly is an issue, but is far less concerning than their blue line struggles.
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One name that has been linked to the Oilers and several other teams, and one that I personally have been pressing on, is Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes. Not only is he far more affordable than Karlsson with a cap hit of just $4.6 million, but he is also actively being shopped after having requested a trade prior to the beginning of the season. Injuries are always a concern with the 24-year-old, but at this point he is worth the risk given that he has proven to be a legitimate top-pairing defenseman when healthy.
Another option that could be worth exploring in some sense is Damon Severson of the New Jersey Devils. While not a top pairing defender like Chychrun, he has been a very solid asset in the Devils’ top four for a number of seasons now and is in the final year of a six-year contract that carries a cap hit of just $4.16 million. Despite how well they are playing this season, they may be willing to move him in order to free up some money in hopes of adding more scoring, as he has been relied upon far less in 2022-23 than in seasons past. He would be an immediate upgrade on an Oilers’ right side that has struggled immensely with Tyson Barrie, Evan Bouchard, and Cody Ceci thus far.
Again, salary implications make adding either Chychrun or Severson difficult, but not flat-out impossible like Karlsson. While the cap is a tricky thing to navigate, Holland is fully responsible for the situation this Oilers team currently finds itself in, as he was the man who decided to throw the bag at goaltender Jack Campbell, while also giving a depth forward in Devin Shore a two-year deal prior to the 2021-22 season.
Though Holland has done some good things since being hired by the Oilers back in 2019, he has made a number of puzzling decisions as well. It is up to him to right the ship, as this team can’t afford to waste yet another year of McDavid and Draisaitl. Adding a blueliner, perhaps one of the two discussed above, would go a long way in preventing that from happening.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.