Oilers Linked to Both Toews & Klingberg

As the Edmonton Oilers prepare to enter the 2022-23 season, general manager Ken Holland has done everything in his power to bolster his lineup for head coach Jay Woodcroft. Given their now tricky salary cap situation, most would expect the long-time general manager to be finished when it comes to making moves, though according to one highly credible insider, that may not be the case.

Related: Oilers’ Goaltending Worse This Year Than Last? Some Believe So

Speaking on his 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman stated that he could see the Oilers being a fit for Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. The 34-year-old has been the subject of trade rumors all summer long as he is entering the final year of his contract.

“I assume Toews is going to be traded, I assume Kane is going to be traded,” Friedman said. “We both said the New York Rangers are the most likely team for Kane. Toews, I’ve mentioned Colorado. I know I’m trading everyone to Edmonton in this pod but I wonder if Toews would make sense there?”

This has, as you can imagine, gotten a ton of traction already, as Toews was once considered one of the game’s truly elite centermen. Though he isn’t the same caliber player anymore, he could still be extremely useful to an Oilers team looking to go the distance this season. That said, this is a team most feel could use a bolster on the blue line rather than up front, and Friedman thinks they may be in the market to do just that as well.

“This is just my prediction; (John) Klingberg finishes the year in Edmonton,” Friedman said. “I could be wrong. That’s my prediction.”

Analyzing a Toews Fit

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Holland has zero cap space to work with right now. This means that if a deal were to take place, the Oilers would have to get crafty. In fact, they would need to be extremely crafty, as Toews carries a massive $10.5 million cap hit. Of course, the Blackhawks will be needing to retain a good chunk of that regardless of where he goes, but will be looking to receive some form of compensation in picks and/or prospects in order to do so.

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That is exactly where the Oilers need to make sure they don’t get carried away. Bringing in Toews is extremely appealing given the prestige that surrounds his name. This was a player who during his prime was compared to Sidney Crosby, and even more impressively captained the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups. His leadership skills alone are worth bringing in, but it is important Holland realizes his play is far from what it once was.

Due to health issues, Toews was forced to skip the entire 2020-21 season. Unsurprisingly, it proved to have a major impact, as he returned in 2021-22 and had the worst season of his career with 12 goals and 37 points in 71 outings. It was a massive drop off from two seasons prior in which he managed 18 goals and 60 points in 70 contests.

There is some hope that Toews can bounce back in 2022-23, but that is far from a sure thing. He appeared to be slow to pucks on many occasions last season, and quite frankly looked his age. A change in scenery and being part of a better team should result in some improvement, but it is rather doubtful he becomes the Toews of old.

Because of this apparent decline, the Oilers need to be sure not to part with anything significant. If they weren’t willing to include a guy like Philip Broberg in a deal for a player with three seasons remaining on his contract in Jakob Chychrun, they shouldn’t be willing to for Toews either.

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That said, the nice thing about acquiring Toews, and perhaps why he could be more valuable in Edmonton than he was in Chicago this past season, is that he wouldn’t be relied on as one of the team’s top performers. The lesser minutes and easier matchups could prove beneficial, something Friedman himself alluded to weeks ago when first bringing up a potential match between the two sides.

“In Chicago, they see Jonathan Toews as the absolute cornerstones of a team that won three Stanley Cups,” Friedman began. “Now let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Jonathan Toews is traded to Edmonton. He’s not going to be expected to be the cornerstone. Maybe he plays (center) or wing with one of those two guys, don’t you think a guy like that could really thrive in a role (like that) at this point in his career? How good would he look as the guy taking the key faceoffs?”

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There is certainly some merit in Friedman’s comments, though it is unlikely Toews would be paired with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. If he were indeed to be shipped to the Oilers, he would likely take over the third-line center role from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This still feels rather unlikely to happen, but Friedman doesn’t often make comments like this without some sort of intel.

Analyzing a Klingberg Fit

As for the other suggestion from Friedman, most would agree that Klingberg seems much more logical. Perhaps Holland is able to find a way to create cap space for both players, but at this point in time, it seems virtually impossible. And, as mentioned earlier, if there is only room for one position to be upgraded, the blue line is the more logical one.

There have been questions surrounding the Oilers’ blue line all summer. By no means is it bad, but it certainly isn’t as strong as their forward group. Darnell Nurse will continue to play his usual solid top-line minutes on the top left pairing, and behind him, they will hope Brett Kulak can play to the same level he did in his short stint last season after being acquired at the trade deadline. As for the right side, there are a few more question marks.

John Klingberg Dallas Stars
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Despite many originally mocking his contract, Cody Ceci played exceptionally well last season. Both Tyson Barrie and Evan Bouchard have at times been fantastic, and at others have left plenty to be desired. The expectation is that Bouchard, who is still just 22 years old, will take another step forward this season.

Klingberg, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks this offseason, is more than likely to be dealt at the trade deadline, hence Friedman’s suggestion. Because of that cap hit, Barrie would very likely be headed the other way, along with some picks and/or prospects.

Again, the Oilers need to be careful not to get overly carried away here, though it does make sense to give up more for Klingberg than it would for Toews. He too isn’t a perfect defenseman, particularly in his own end of the ice, but is an upgrade over Barrie and would provide Holland’s roster with a significant boost for the playoffs. He has recorded 30 or more points in all of his eight NHL seasons to date and is coming off of a 2021-22 campaign in which he put up 47 points in 74 outings.

Oilers Becoming an Attractive Destination

Regardless of your thoughts on the Oilers acquiring either of these players, one thing all can agree on is that this is a fun time to be rooting for this team. After more than a decade of struggles, they are finally being viewed as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and for the first time in what feels like forever, players around the league want to join them. The excitement and anticipation surrounding the team right now will only continue to grow as the season progresses.

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