Oilers Outperform Division Rivals at 2023 Trade Deadline

Now that the 2023 Trade Deadline has passed, we can look back on the moves the playoff contenders from the Pacific Division did and how the other teams stack up in comparison to the Edmonton Oilers. They arguably made the biggest trade among the top five teams, but the division remains very tight and it’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top or in what seed.

Oilers Addressed Pressing Needs

The biggest areas the Oilers needed to address were adding a top-four defenceman, a depth forward, and a bit more scoring help. They checked off the first two boxes while trading away Jesse Puljujarvi without having to give up any assets, freeing up the necessary cap space and roster spot.

The Oilers upgraded their defence by adding Mattias Ekholm who excels in the defensive zone and all over the ice. He will make them stronger in their own end so they don’t have to defend as much, leading to more offence. Not only do they have him for this season, but they also have him for three more. Though they gave up futures, that’s the price they needed to pay as the team is in win-now mode and the West is wide open. They have a power-play replacement in Evan Bouchard after trading Tyson Barrie in the deal, and it hasn’t missed a beat, scoring three times in the past two games.

Mattias Ekholm Edmonton Oilers
Mattias Ekholm, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In acquiring Nick Bjugstad from the Arizona Coyotes, the Oilers get a depth center/winger who is enjoying a career resurgence. He adds a ton of size (6-foot-6) and physicality (119 hits) while being able to put the puck in the back of the net in what should be a fourth-line role for him in Edmonton for the remainder of the season. Though this isn’t technically a deadline addition, Evander Kane is returning to the lineup soon after missing more time and only playing 24 of the team’s 63 games. The Oilers continue to look like a very strong team and one that could come out of the West this time around.

Kings Made Next Biggest Splash

After the Oilers’ Ekholm deal, the Los Angeles Kings made arguably the biggest deadline deal in the division or the West. They acquired much-needed help in net (Joonas Korpisalo), a left-shot defenceman (Vladislav Gavrikov), and an upgrade to their bottom-six in terms of a tough guy who can produce a bit (Zack MacEwen). They also made a couple of minor moves, but those don’t impact how the team looks this season.

Related: 2023 NHL Trade Deadline Was a Wildly Lopsided Arms Race

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After starting the season with Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen in net, they have found themselves with Korpisalo and Pheonix Copley manning the crease after Quick was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets in one of the deals. Seeing how the Kings have a .884 team save percentage this season and are still second in the division and two points ahead of Edmonton, this makes them a big threat to finish really strong.

Joonas Korpisalo Columbus Blue Jackets
Joonas Korpisalo with the Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If the Kings could be where they are, winning close games and running off of their offence before making the necessary additions, they could be more of a problem for the Oilers and the division this season. Rob Blake definitely gave his team a chance with these deadline moves.

Golden Knights Used Available Cap Space

The Golden Knights had a lot of cap space freed up right before the trade deadline, but failed to take full advantage of it. Though they sit first in the division by a hair, they have some holes. Their lack of meaningful acquisitions could come back and haunt them down the line as they had the space to do so, and the salary cap goes away in the postseason when Mark Stone is expected back.

Vegas made four depth trades to acquire Ivan Barbashev, Dysin Mayo, Teddy Blueger, and Quick. Barbashev should help provide more scoring and already has on the top line, while Blueger fits in on the fourth line to add a solid two-way presence to the mix. Mayo likely won’t see the NHL again this season while Quick is arguably worse than what the Golden Knights already had in net. He has playoff experience and experience in general, something Logan Thompson, Adin Hill, and Laurent Brossoit don’t, so that could have played a part in his acquisition. In terms of numbers, he should rank third on the depth chart at best once all goalies are healthy.

Ivan Barbashev Vegas Golden Knights
Ivan Barbashev, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Golden Knights appeared to come up short in their attempt to land a big-name player at the deadline. They had the space and didn’t package away their future as they have in the past. It was a fairly underwhelming trade deadline for them despite the four moves considering what could have been. The Oilers would still have the advantage in a matchup against them based on top-end talent alone.

Kraken & Flames Sat on Their Hands

All season there has been this overlying feeling about the Seattle Kraken that this season isn’t for real. The trade deadline has passed and they are ahead of the Oilers in the standings. That being said, Edmonton has suffered many more injuries, made key moves, and are getting healthy. As for the Kraken, they made one trade a month ago to acquire a seventh defenceman, Jaycob Megna and did nothing else (from ‘Kraken remain quiet as NHL trade deadline passes,’ The Seattle Times, Mar. 3, 2023).

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Though they have a deep team, goaltending and a lack of high-end defencemen is a huge issue as their team save percentage is .891. They may have fewer goals against per game than the Oilers, but that area was addressed with the Ekholm addition and one of their goalies having a save percentage over .895 (Skinner – .912 SV%), something the Kraken don’t have. The Oilers are tied in points with one fewer game remaining on the schedule than Seattle.

As for the Calgary Flames, they have dug themselves a big hole with their mediocre play this season and their recent slide. They have lost four in a row, five of their past six, and have three wins in their past 12 games. They are five points back of the final wildcard spot and nine points back of the Oilers with a slim chance of catching up with 20 games remaining in the regular season.

Nick Ritchie Arizona Coyotes
Nick Ritchie with the Arizona Coyotes (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Calgary made two trades on deadline day. One was to acquire a minor league player, Dryden Hunt, while the other addressed a little bit of depth, bringing in Nick Ritchie and Troy Stetcher. Considering the Flames sent Brett Ritchie and Connor Mackey to the Arizona Coyotes in this deal, it wasn’t a huge upgrade. Their needs weren’t addressed, especially considering where they sit in the playoff race right now. Another couple of losses could finish them off for the season.

To wrap things up, the Oilers had one of their best trade deadlines in recent memory, especially from a buyer standpoint. Only the Kings could match the energy Ken Holland brought to the table. Now the Oilers have a strong chance of getting back to the conference finals this season with a better shot at advancing further because of their team and the additions made compared to their rivals.

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