Blockbuster deals are difficult to pull off and less likely to occur in the middle of the season. It is easier to move around contracts and money as a general manager when you don’t have to ice a team the next night. The Edmonton Oilers are a team that may need to pull off a sort of blockbuster deal to fit their three largest needs.
But as I said, it’s tough to pull a trade like that off midseason. The Oilers are in win-now mode after signing Evander Kane and firing their coach, because along with those significant changes, they have two of the best players in the world in their primes on the team.
The more likely scenario that will play out is the Oilers address two of the needs (starting goaltender, defence, physical depth forward) by the 2022 Trade Deadline, but they may not even be huge moves. In moves involving rentals or short-term contracts, it’s likely either draft picks or prospects will be involved.
You never know what type of trade the Oilers could end up pulling off with a team, so even though they may seem like untouchable prospects, any could end up being on the table for the right return. There are a few more likely prospects that could be moved at the deadline to help the Oilers immediately.
The first man on this list is Dmitri Samorukov. Don’t let his one game where he ended up being benched almost the entire game distract you from the potential and skill here. He is a defenceman who should find his way back to the NHL at some point, but it’s more likely that will be with another team, as there are a few prominent names ahead of him on the depth chart who don’t figure to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Samorukov is a left defenceman, so unless he can somehow switch over and play the right side, he will be stuck behind Darnell Nurse, Philip Broberg, and Markus Niemelainen. Plus you can’t forget about Duncan Keith for the time being. The only right shot defenceman who should be in line to stick around in Edmonton long-term is Evan Bouchard, so the need for the future is on that side.
Samorukov’s time in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) ended very well, but he had a bit of trouble transitioning to pro for the Bakersfield Condors. He spent all of the 2020-21 season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and grew as a player while working on the areas he knew he needed to improve on. So, after coming back to Bakersfield this season, he is a better player.
He isn’t the flashiest defenceman or will shock you with his skill with or without the puck, but he is speedy, has a hard shot, and has potential. He most likely won’t develop into a defenceman who will put up a ton of offence, but if he sticks with the Oilers, that’s alright because he will need to focus on his all-around game and become more reliable defensively.
There are still aspects of his game he needs to work on like all young players, and he knows it. A couple big ones are the decisions he makes on the ice and the number of turnovers. We witnessed a couple of bad decisions early in his one NHL game that got him benched the entire game when he pinched at a bad time and got beaten twice instead of backing up and staying in position. Like the average defenceman, it will take a bit longer to develop, especially from a player who wasn’t a high draft pick. He’s only 22 years old, so there isn’t any hurry.
Raphael Lavoie is the next Oilers’ prospect, as he may be the most-likely trade chip at forward the team is willing to move. He transitioned very well from junior to the American Hockey League (AHL) and so did his best asset, his shot, scoring five goals in 19 games last season. He had a very rough start to the season, but has completely flipped the switch since his five-point outing. He now has raised his totals to 11 goals and 23 points in 40 games.
He may very well be the next forward prospect that could be up with the Oilers in the future after Dylan Holloway. Lavoie’s shooting and goal-scoring ability will grab the attention of possible trade partners for the Oilers. Not only does his offensive ability stand out, he has the size that can make him a force in the NHL at 6-foot-4, 193 pounds.
There is no rush to get him to the NHL, but there also may not be much room with the Oilers. They have built themselves a strong prospect pool after adding players like Holloway, Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio, Matvei Petrov, Carter Savoie in the last two drafts. If teams are looking for more NHL-ready forwards with scoring potential, Lavoie will be at the top of their list and manageable for the Oilers to part ways with.
Elite Prospects describes him as “A large and skilled player. Offensively, his release stands out which is very accurate and allows him to be a capable scorer. Furthermore, Lavoie reads the game fairly well and is good at distributing the puck.” He shoots a ton and projects to be a top-six winger down the line (from ‘Oilers #7 prospect Raphaël Lavoie transitioned nicely to pro hockey with his “volume shooter” rep intact’, Edmonton Journal, Aug. 30, 2021). With his size and ability to win puck battles, he could be very dangerous on a line with a legitimate playmaker. What comes with his size as well is his ability to protect the puck, and just because he is a shooter, doesn’t mean he isn’t able to pass the puck pretty well.
If the Oilers’ top-six or top-nine is crowded in the next couple of seasons after these prospects develop and are NHL-ready as it projects to be, it might be worth the while to use Lavoie as a trade chip that could allow the Oilers to compete.
Savoie is another shooter that the Oilers have in their system. Unlike Lavoie, he is still playing in the NCAA for the University of Denver. This season he tore it up, scoring 17 goals and 35 points in 28 games, which made him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Savoie was the Oilers’ 2020 fourth-round pick and is tracking to be a steal, like a number of prospects the Oilers have taken in later rounds in recent years.
He isn’t a volume shooter, but he’s a deceptive shooter that likes to use the defenders as screens when he shoots. His shots have power and are accurate. He could be a real threat on the power play if his team has a man in front of the net.
Savoie is scouted as being able to read defenders like few others. He is able to bait defenders’ sticks and is also deceptive when making plays, often looking off the player he is passing to or direction he is going to skate. Since he played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), scouts were hesitant on ranking him high in the draft. Scott Wheeler, a writer for The Athletic, wrote that “on pure, raw skill, most evaluators will agree that Savoie is a first-round talent” (from ‘Wheeler: Updated ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft’s top 100 prospects’, The Athletic, Sept. 21, 2020). Savoie should be a future NHL player and if he doesn’t remain with the team, he would be a good prospect to use to acquire the necessary needs.
With talent like the Oilers have in their system, it’s fun and exciting to watch them develop and eventually contribute to the team in the NHL. But contenders have to make sacrifices and take chances if they want to give themselves the best chance to win a Stanley Cup while the window is open. The Oilers have that in front of them, and any of these prospects could be a victim of that.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
You can find more of his work here.