Grading the Oilers’ Trade for Mattias Ekholm

The Edmonton Oilers made a notable move on Tuesday (Feb. 28), as they acquired veteran defenseman Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators. Here are the complete details of the trade.

With this move, the Oilers have acquired a very good top-four defenseman as they gear up for the postseason. However, the Predators also received a big return for the 12-year veteran. Here are the trade grades for each team.

Oilers Add High-Impact Defenseman With Ekholm

The Oilers’ biggest objective at the 2023 Trade Deadline was to add a high-impact defenseman. Now, with this move for Ekholm, they have done just that. Ekholm is a legitimate top-four defenseman who plays an excellent all-around game. He is primarily praised for his strong defensive play, but the 2009 fourth-round pick also chips in a bit offensively. In 57 games this season, he has five goals to go along with 13 assists.

Mattias Ekholm Nashville Predators
Mattias Ekholm, former Nashville Predators defenseman (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ekholm also offers great versatility, as he can play both the left and right sides. As a result of this, they have multiple options for him in their lineup. Since he is now one of the Oilers’ best two defensemen, there’s a real chance that we see him playing top-pairing minutes with Darnell Nurse. However, he also could replace Brett Kulak on the second pairing and play alongside young defenseman Evan Bouchard. In either scenario, Edmonton’s top four is better on paper with the addition of Ekholm.

Related: 2023 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Although the Oilers gave up a good amount for Ekholm, this is a great trade for them. He will provide them with far more defensive stability, and his contract does not expire until the end of the 2025-26 season. Therefore, he will now be a part of their core for multiple seasons, which naturally improves their grade.

Trade Grade: A

Predators Land Several Assets for Ekholm

Even though the Predators traded a major part of their core, it is hard to believe that general manager (GM) David Poile is unhappy with the return. The Predators have made it clear that they are retooling their roster, and they have landed several assets in this move that should help with that process.

Tyson Barrie Edmonton Oilers
Tyson Barrie, former Edmonton Oilers defenseman (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

It surprised me a bit to see Tyson Barrie involved in this trade, as he has had a strong season offensively. In 61 games, the 31-year-old has 10 goals to go along with 43 points. With numbers like these, he is now the Predators’ top offensive defenseman, so he will receive plenty of power-play time and top-four minutes. Yet, with the Predators being open to moving veterans, perhaps he could even be a potential trade chip for them at the deadline. That will be something to pay attention to as we get closer to March 3.

Related: THW’s 2023 Trade Grades

Reid Schaefer is a promising prospect that has the potential to become a top-six power forward for Nashville later down the road. The 6-foot-3 winger offers a nice blend of offensive skill and physicality, so it makes sense that the Predators wanted him included in this deal. In 44 games this season with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League (WHL), the 2022 first-round pick has 23 goals, 47 points, and 73 penalty minutes.

Overall, this is another strong trade for the Predators. Scoring a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick with Barrie and Schaefer for Ekholm is excellent, and their grade below reflects that.

Predators Grade: A

In my opinion, this is a trade that should benefit both teams immensely. The Oilers have improved their defensive group before the playoffs, while the Predators have picked up some strong assets for their retooling period.

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