Oilers Need to Prioritize Defensive Help Over Patrick Kane

Early into the offseason, there was some speculation that the Edmonton Oilers were one of several teams in on Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane. And in recent weeks, that same rumor has picked up plenty of steam once again. The Blackhawks, of course, are likely to move both Kane and Jonathan Toews either prior to or during the 2022-23 season, as they are in the very early stages of what could be a lengthy rebuild.

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In order for the Oilers to acquire Kane, of course, they would need the Blackhawks to retain a good chunk of his $10.5 million cap hit. As was recently mentioned by Bob Stauffer, they would need to move out a contract, likely Jesse Puljujarvi or Warren Foegele, in order to try and make things work from a cap perspective. (from ‘David Staples: Patrick Kane doesn’t make the most sense for the Edmonton Oilers, NHL insider says. Hmm. ‘ Edmonton Journal 08/23/22).

Adding a player like Kane would turn an already great offensive Oilers team into the most feared lineup up front in the entire NHL. Having recorded 92 points on a very weak Blackhawks roster last season, the 33-year-old is still undeniably one of the game’s premier talents and would produce even bigger numbers on a team that features players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, Zach Hyman and others. Despite how fun it would be, however, it doesn’t address the biggest need for this team right now.

Oilers Need Help on Back End

Last season, the biggest issue for this Oilers squad was between the pipes. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen were far too inconsistent to count on, as each had the ability to steal a game but were also capable of throwing one away just as easily. That problem appears to have been fixed, as general manager Ken Holland was able to sign Jack Campbell to a five-year deal on the opening day of free agency.

With the Campbell addition, the Oilers’ biggest vulnerability has changed to their back end. Darnell Nurse, while overpaid, is their top defenseman who they will continue to count on for significant and reliable minutes. Cody Ceci’s four-year deal last summer came with plenty of scrutiny, but the public perception has changed for the better with him, thanks to a great 2021-22 season. After those two, things get a bit more questionable.

Related: 3 Pacific Division Forwards Expected to be Traded This Season

Tyson Barrie is capable of making great things happen offensively, particularly on the power play, but is often considered a liability in his own end of the ice. He is viewed as an expendable piece at this point and time, as Evan Bouchard is a very similar but much younger player. After those two, there is Brett Kulak, who was solid during his short stint as an Oiler after being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens last season. The hope is that he will continue that strong play in 2022-23, but there is certainly no guarantee that happens.

Then there’s Philip Broberg, who is expected to make the team out of camp but is also a big question mark, given his lack of experience. And last but not least, there’s Slater Koekkoek, who appeared in just 19 games last season. There are a number of other young and upcoming prospects who could crack the roster as well, such as Dmitri Samorukov and Markus Niemelainen, but they’re also question marks. Simply put, there are some major concerns when it comes to this blue line right now, which isn’t convenient given that their forward group is, without a doubt, Stanley Cup caliber.

Potential Targets for Oilers to Pursue

Given that Nurse will certainly occupy the top pairing on the left side for this Oilers team, it seems as though adding a right-shot defenseman would be more beneficial to this group. It would not only allow Ceci to play in a better-suited second pairing role, but it would shelter Bouchard from some of the tough positions he was thrown into this past season. Given that the players I’m looking at are right-shot defensemen, the expectation is that Barrie would get moved, whether as a return piece for the said players below or perhaps in a separate trade made specifically as a cap dump.

John Klingberg Dallas Stars
John Klingberg, who recently signed with the Anaheim Ducks, maybe a trade option for the Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The first option is John Klingberg, who surprised many by electing to sign a one-year, $7 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks this offseason. It appears he and his former agent misinterpreted the market, as it was clear he was hoping for a long-term contract. While he will by no means be available right away, the rebuilding Ducks will be looking to move him come the 2023 trade deadline.

Another interesting name on the right-hand side is Matt Dumba. The 28-year-old has one season remaining on his deal that carries a cap hit of $6 million and has been involved in plenty of trade rumors for a number of years now. Similar to Klingberg, he may not be available just yet but could be in months to come depending on how his Minnesota Wild team fares this season.

One final interesting target is Damon Severson of the New Jersey Devils. The 28-year-old has been one of the Devils’ top blueliners since his rookie season in 2014-15, despite not getting much recognition from the NHL community as a whole. With both Dougie Hamilton, John Marino and recent second overall pick Simon Nemec on the right side, Severson will almost certainly get moved by the trade deadline, and he could likely be had now at the right price. He is entering the final season of a six-year deal that carries a $4.16 million cap hit.

Other Teams Have More to Offer for Kane

The final problem with the Oilers potentially adding Patrick Kane is that they simply do not have the room or assets to give up for him, at least not any that would make sense. Several of their prospects (Dylan Holloway, Xavier Bourgault and Broberg) are all on the verge of being NHL ready, and they all have potential to be very important players down the road. Trading them for potentially one year of Kane just doesn’t make sense at this time, especially given how deep their forward group already is.

There are other teams out there who find themselves in a better cap situation than the Oilers right now, which in itself would be enticing to the Blackhawks, as they would not have to retain a big portion of his contract. On top of that, there are likely a few general managers around the league who would be willing to part ways with a top-end prospect for Kane, something the Oilers don’t seem to be (nor should they) willing to do. Imagining No. 88 in Oilers colors is certainly a fun thought, though one that doesn’t appear to be all too realistic at this point in time.

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