The Edmonton Oilers have a few needs ahead of this year’s NHL Trade Deadline but it’s not clear if they’ll actually be addressing any of them based on GM Ken Holland’s comments that he’s not keen on the idea of trading a top prospect or first-round pick to acquire what he needs. Most insiders realize the Oilers might need a better goaltender, another defenseman, and potentially some depth at forward with the loss of Jesse Puljujarvi for a month, but it’s the forward depth that Holland might be prioritizing, a move some might see as a bit of a head scratcher.
Puljujarvi will be back and the Oilers can really only afford to make one, maybe two moves, at best. Adding another winger might not be the ideal plan but the organization is being connected in trade talks about a winger out of Chicago anyway.
As per Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic, sitting at No. 28 in his Top 30 possible trade bets for this year’s deadline is Dominik Kubalik. The scribe has him as being linked to the Oilers.
Why Would Chicago Move Kubalik?
A pending RFA with arbitration rights, the Blackhawks are believed to be a team that will undergo massive changes this offseason. They could move a number of players this season and among the names mentioned have been Marc-Andre Fleury, Dylan Strome, Calvin de Haan, and even Patrick Kane (although that one feels like a bit of a stretch). Kubalik’s name has been out there in trade rumors and Duhatschek writes that Czech media has the Oilers interested.
Kubalik can score, but he’s struggling this season. He had 17 goals last season in just 56 games but he’s failed to maintain a pace anywhere close to his first two years nor gain any traction playing alongside Jonathan Toews — with who he had chemistry with a couple of seasons ago. He has 11 points at even strength (7 goals) and he’s played every game for the Blackhawks this year. He has one goal and one assist in the last 12 games and his lack of success is puzzling.
Ideally, the Blackhawks would rather Kubalik was producing and part of the future. But, if there’s an offer out there that’s tempting enough and the franchise can speed up their rebuild, Chicago is listening to offers.
Where Does the Oilers Talk Come From?
Duhatschek notes that a Czech media outlet has the Oilers kicking tires on the player. He writes:
In short, he’d be a perfect middle-of-the-lineup addition for any team needing a shot of goalscoring. He’s been linked in the Czech media to Edmonton, a team desperately in search of depth up front.source – ‘NHL Trade Deadline Big Board 2.0: John Klingberg, Claude Giroux and 28 others who could be dealt’ – Eric Duhatschk – The Athletic – 02/21/2022
He doesn’t get into what the Oilers might be offering but one has to think it’s not merely a later-round draft pick that gets this done. If they can afford him, it makes sense the Oilers might want to take a gamble on a player who has produced during most of his NHL career but is simply going through a rough patch. Put him with some star players and it’s possible he could explode offensively.
Remember, this is a player who was a finalist for the Calder Trophy alongside Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes in his rookie season. Kubalik scored 30 goals in 68 games for the Blackhawks that year and 26 of them came at even-strength. He’s still only 26 years old and if the Oilers weren’t in such a lousy cap situation, his reasonable contract ($3.7 million) would be a no-brainer if the acquisition cost weren’t too high in a trade.
The Complicated Part For the Oilers
Where things get a little messy is the fact that Kubalik isn’t incredibly cheap to acquire both in terms of what the Oilers would have to give up and how they’d fit him into their salary situation. Edmonton would either have to move a player and similar salary back to Chicago, or they’d need to clear a contract out to make room.
From there, his pending status as an RFA means he’s due a healthy contract and will cost the Oilers a tidy sum to keep him on the roster should he come to Edmonton and produce. Whether that means the Oilers are aware that someone like Evander Kane is not returning or they have intentions to move a player like Kailer Yamamoto or Zack Kassian, Holland would have to make room somewhere, especially if his intention is to land a starting goaltender this offseason.
There is a silver lining if the Oilers take a risk here and it doesn’t immediately pay off. If Kubalik doesn’t pick up his production, there’s a chance the Oilers could re-sign him for a lower salary in the short-term and see him pop right back to where most thought he could be. That would be a win, especially if Blackhawks’ interim general manager Kyle Davidson is selling low on the forward.
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.”