Oilers Must Decide to Trade or Keep Warren Foegele

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Warren Foegele and have been rooting for him to succeed since he was acquired, but the Edmonton Oilers have put themselves in a position where he may have become expendable.

His season started off well playing on the third line before injuries jumbled the lines. Since, he has been all over the place filling in needs and getting a better opportunity to break his scoring slump. He gets chances but often fails to convert. After spending five games on the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Jesse Puljujarvi, he produced very little and was demoted to the fourth line in the team’s most recent game against the Washington Capitals.

Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now said he knows there are teams interested in Foegele at this time. With the recent demotion and the Oilers being really deep up front all of a sudden, teams see this as a chance to get a hard-working physical player at a cheap price.

Related: Oilers Would Make a Mistake by Trading Foegele

The cap hit by Foegele is very manageable, so if I were managing the Oilers, I would give him more time to adjust and at the very least, move him in the offseason if the team needs space. That way he will at least be able to raise his value. But if he were to raise his value, the Oilers could continue to use him on the third line where he should be playing.

Foegele’s Demotion Adds Toughness to the 4th Line the Oilers Lacked

If you think about it, one of the most brought up topics is that the Oilers are not tough enough and are too soft. Zack Kassian recently joined Foegele on the fourth line, so without having to go make a trade and acquire someone with size and toughness to fill a spot on the bottom line, there’s two new players right there.

Warren Foegele Edmonton Oilers
Warren Foegele, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The problem with that is the fourth line becomes way too expensive for the lack of ice time they will receive. Along with Devin Shore, the bottom line makes $6.8 million, about twice as much as they would ideally like. This also doesn’t exactly add more physicality to the lineup, but shifts it around so that this line can be in less of a position to create offensive chances and focus more on creating chaos.

How to Get Foegele in a Position to Succeed

The first line is out of the question with Evander Kane locking that spot down and Foegele’s production just hasn’t been up to par with what a top-six player has to produce to play on the second line. With the opportunities he gets playing alongside one of the best players in the world, the lack of finish has cost the Oilers some added goals.

The third line would be the place to try him out now seeing as both him and Zach Hyman can play either wing and Foegele would provide some physicality. With the faceoff percentage of 56.8 that Derek Ryan possesses, he should not be playing the wing on the third line. His production has been even more disappointing throughout the season than Foegele’s. Instead, Ryan should be centering the fourth line, a spot where he and his linemates have been effective in forechecking and spending time in the offensive zone.

Dave Tippett won’t see the kind of production he wants to see from Foegele on the bottom line playing even less. So if the Oilers want to get a key asset in the bottom-six going, he has to stick around on the third line. He is not going to get time on the power play, so he has to be effective at five-on-five. Though it’s not entirely on him, a team-worst minus-15 needs to be improved. The Oilers’ top lines have always been able to outscore opponents. It’s the depth that gets taken advantage of (from ‘Lowetide: Warren Foegele acquisition possible key to improving the Oilers third line’, The Athletic, July 29, 2021).

Spots in the Lineup Harder to Come By

As I mentioned, the Oilers have all of a sudden become a deep team at forward. They’ve been able to spread out the lines so that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman can succeed on the third line in less difficult matchups. This has opened the wings of the top two lines, filled by Kane, Puljujarvi, and Kailer Yamamoto.

Ryan Mcleod has proven that he is capable of sliding up and down the lineup with ease and is able to use his speed and skill to keep up with anyone he plays with. Oilers’ top prospect Dylan Holloway will arrive in Edmonton sometime in the second half of the season, and it would be wasting his talents slotting him in any lower than the third line. Highly touted prospects are generally slotted in the lineup in the middle-six once they arrive due to the fourth lines of teams receiving less playing time and having a different role.

What happens when even more Oilers’ prospects become NHL-ready over the next couple of seasons before Foegele’s contract is up at the end of 2023-24? If he can’t prove that he can compete with the offensive production and overall game of players like Yamamoto and Puljujarvi, he may become the odd man out and a future salary cap sacrifice.

Related: Oilers & Devils Should be Talking Trade Involving Koskinen & Graves

The decision to keep Foegele unless he can be packaged to get a goaltender with term is clear. But his role with the team for the next few seasons may make him expendable and the Oilers should listen to offers after the season. If he can solidify himself as a solid third-line winger, that conversation changes since he adds more than just scoring.

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