Ken Holland said a lot of interesting things during his media availability on Friday. Perhaps the most intriguing was how he responded to a question about the status of his first-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. Considering the Oilers don’t have many picks to play with and speculation is whatever they were going to do at this year’s trade deadline had to be done with a fourth-rounder, that Holland is open to moving the first-round selection is intriguing.
Let’s preface this by acknowledging Holland was not open to using the first-rounder to grab a rental player. That takes Edmonton out of the running on any discussions involving players like Mike Hoffman, Nick Foligno, or Scott Laughton…
But, what is on the table?
If the Oilers wanted to land a top-six forward this season and one that would fit in well on the second line, look no further than Rickard Rakell. He’s rumored to be potentially available out of Anaheim, but the Ducks ask is going to be high. He’s got another year on his current contract at $3.789 million and that’s a fair salary for a player who regularly produces offensively.
The problem with Rakell is that he’s got some slight injury issues worth addressing. He was recently removed from Frank Seravalli’s TSN Trade Bait board because of them, but he’s been removed from the IR per the team website. Perhaps he’s good to go, but it’s hard to know for sure and that might not be a great gamble for Edmonton.
The Oilers will likely run with their goaltending tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith. But, we should certainly give mention to the fact that Elvis Merzlikins could be an interesting name to watch as Monday’s deadline approaches. The Columbus Blue Jackets are all but out of the running and one of the team’s two goaltenders are likely to move.
Merzlikins might be too rich for the Oilers blood at $4 million, but his numbers are better than Koskinen’s and he comes in at $500K cheaper. That said, there’s no way the Oilers send Koskinen and a first to Columbus for Merzlikins alone. A much bigger trade would have to be taking place here with multiple moving pieces that would allow the Oilers to come out ahead cap wise. Nick Foligno and David Savard are not in the discussion.
Personally, I don’t think the Boston Bruins are going to move Jake DeBrusk, despite all the chatter. The Bruins are likely to be buyers heading into Monday and their need is secondary scoring. Even though DeBrusk hasn’t been reliable there, it doesn’t seem logical to assume the Bruins will move him unless they have a bigger move pending.
At that point, one has to ask if DeBrusk is worth a first-round pick. Considering he’s got three goals and seven points in 24 games, it’s fair to make the argument he’s not. He’s reasonable in terms of cost at $3.675 million for one more season but the Oilers would have to be confident he can turn things around and be willing to sign an extension at an affordable number.
Technically, Taylor Hall is a pending UFA. By the measure alone he wouldn’t be part of the discussion. But, because there has been so much chatter about a trade-and-sign scenario coming out of Buffalo if Hall is dealt, it’s hard not to wonder if the Oilers and Sabres have had this conversation. A report from Doug MacLean suggested the Oilers were working on something that could see Hall extend, along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for $12 million total. If even remotely accurate, is that worth a first-rounder to the Oilers?
That’s fair money for both Hall and Nugent-Hopkins and gives the Oilers a deadly second line if Hall can turn his game around. Many think that he can.
Still, Money In and Money Out for Holland
Just because Holland says he’s willing to make a move for the right player with term doesn’t mean a move will be easy to make. In fact, it will quite difficult when you factor in Edmonton’s limited salary cap space and that this isn’t just a trade for a first-rounder, but would have to include a contract going back or a third-team like Chicago, San Jose or Detroit taking salary on for a sweetener.
But, if this could be worked out by Holland, is there anyone on this list that Holland should be willing to move a first-round pick? Moreover, is there someone out there that should be on this list and isn’t?
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.”