Oilers & Maple Leafs Competing Over Same Trade Deadline Deal

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman noted during the 32 Thoughts segment of Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast that the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs are both believed to be interested in Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets. A well-rounded defenseman who is said to be among the better defensive specialists available at this year’s NHL Trade Deadline, it makes sense both teams would have interest, especially considering their current needs and what Gavrikov brings to the table.

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Gavrikov had 33 points last season (10 points this season) and is logging more than 22 minutes a night this year, filling in as best he can for Zack Werenski who went down early in the season with a long-term injury.

Why Gavrikov for the Leafs and Oilers?

Part of the appeal isn’t just what Gavrikov brings on the ice. Yes, he’s said to be more of a ‘shutdown’ defender than some of the options out there this season, but his contract and term are appealing to both GM Kyle Dubas (Leafs) and Ken Holland (Oilers) because he’s a pending UFA. Gavrikov plays a hard game and isn’t afraid to make plays in the offensive zone. That said, both teams would be getting this skill set at a cost of $2.8 million (pro-rated for the remainder of this season). He’s a rental, even though the Blue Jackets have given any team that wants to talk trade the chance to talk extension.

Vladislav Gavrikov Columbus Blue Jackets
Vladislav Gavrikov, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For the Leafs and Oilers, salary and flexibility on contracts matter a great deal. Toronto is waiting on Jake Muzzin’s injury status before really getting involved in the trade deadline. Beyond that, they have serious cap questions over the next couple of seasons. For the Oilers, they have little cap space with which to work, only exaggerated by the need to move out money before Kailer Yamamoto returns from LTIR in a couple of weeks.

The Asking Price For Gavrikov

Like most bigger-name defensemen available ahead of March 3, the asking price is through the roof for Gavrikov. It is said the Blue Jackets want at least what they got for David Savard (a first and a third-round pick) and maybe more. The Blue Jackets wanted to re-sign him and believe this is a player who is/was better than Savard at the time Savard was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning and helped that team win a Stanley Cup.

That begs the question, is he worth it? If the Oilers and Maple Leafs have both identified this is the player they are most keen to go after, that means the price will only go up. Supply and demand mean someone is overpaying for this player and it’s fair to argue that neither team can really afford to do so.

Does Toronto Have the Edge Here?

In Edmonton, adding Gavrikov is more likely a rental trade. Those close to the team have said that the Oilers really like what they have in Philip Broberg and what they don’t want to do is limit his ability to play in important games. Stunting his development is not something Holland is looking to do and adding a player like Gavrikov essentially does that. This is especially true if the Oilers are looking to extend Gavrikov, which would make sense if they are willing to give up a ton of assets to acquire him. Gavrikov signed means Broberg is out or Brett Kulak becomes trade bait.

Philip Broberg Edmonton Oilers
Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Toronto, on the other hand, might find the idea of extending Gavrikov appealing. They need some cost certainly with their contracts, especially as big names like Michael Bunting and William Nylander — to a lesser extent Pierre Engvall and Alex Kerfoot — come due for new deals. Getting a top-four defenseman locked in at a good price helps their long-term planning. So too, Justin Holl’s contract is expiring and the Leafs might elect to make an upgrade. Jake Muzzin may never be back, even though that’s not been declared and the team is still waiting on test results.

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What’s crazy is that the Oilers and Leafs aren’t the only two teams in on Gavrikov. It’s being reported that as many as 10 teams are kicking tires on the defenseman. If the asking price gets astronomical, perhaps this is a deal that both teams should walk away from.