Oilers Should Avoid Jake DeBrusk Despite His Trade Request

There’s always been a bit of an underlying sense that Jake DeBrusk might look good in an Oilers uniform. Since the forward began to show inconsistencies in his production, the Edmonton-born high draft selection whose dad still works near the organization felt like a natural fit on a team that could have used some depth at the forward position. Now, with a trade request confirmation out of Boston and DeBrusk wanting a fresh start, Edmonton’s name has popped up again.

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In the right deal, anyone that has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer is worth looking at more closely. The only issue is, this isn’t the Oilers team that existed a couple of seasons ago when DeBrusk’s name first started being connected to the Oilers.

DeBrusk Still Has Consistency Issues

Few forwards are perfect. Like any young player, DeBrusk has shown an inability to produce on a regular basis despite his obvious skill level as a goal scorer. That wouldn’t be a huge issue if the Bruins weren’t going to ask for a hefty return, which they will.

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Just because DeBrusk has asked for a trade doesn’t mean the Bruins are going to give him away. And, just because he’s not played higher up in their depth chart or been a regular in the lineup doesn’t mean the Bruins don’t see him as a player with a bright future. Whether his future is in Boston or elsewhere, that organization knows DeBrusk is a player with high-end skill. They’re going to ask for something similar in return — or at the very least, something that fits a pressing need.

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The Oilers shouldn’t be willing to give up a strong roster player or a high-potential prospect for a player with major consistency issues. They definitely shouldn’t be at his price tag of $3.675 million.

Oilers Have Their Own Contract Issues

This is as deep an Oilers’ forward corps as the organization has had in some time. And, a 25-year-old DeBrusk under contract might be a nice addition, especially if the player is ultra-motivated and the ‘change of scenery’ that was confirmed by his agent, Rick Valette, to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug creates the perfect storm. Unfortunately, Edmonton has two potentially more important pieces to consider this summer.

Jesse Puljujarvi Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DeBrusk is arbitration-eligible which means he’ll be receiving a minimum salary that potentially gets in the way of re-signing one of Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto. The Oilers shouldn’t feel good about sacrificing either to fit DeBrusk into the lineup. Both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto are pending RFAs, both are NHL regulars, and both are contributing with the potential to be better contract bargains than DeBrusk.

What the Oilers need this season is a rental. They need a player who they don’t need to commit to beyond this season and someone who won’t cost much to acquire but is likely to add that extra scoring touch or physicality on a nightly basis as they push to go deep in the postseason. DeBrusk is not that.

A Forward Isn’t the Oilers Biggest Need

DeBrusk would certainly add even more depth and flexibility to the Oilers forward group, especially if he is comfortable in any spot. That said, adding a $3.675 million bottom-six winger isn’t the best use of the limited cap space the Oilers have remaining this season.

While the needs may change — perhaps they already have based on the strong play of their goaltenders and their young blue line — the pressing need in Edmonton isn’t another winger with potential. The Oilers have Dylan Holloway and others coming. Instead, Edmonton could use depth and security on the left side of their blue line and potentially a goalie if a legitimate starter becomes available. These were needs the team identified early and until proven otherwise, should stay priorities.

Maybe Down the Road

Perhaps down the line, Edmonton should revisit the idea of DeBrusk in an Oilers’ uniform. It’s logical to suggest there’d be a fit. For now, this would be a move that doesn’t make sense. GM Ken Holland shouldn’t be comfortable giving up a useful piece off his roster, nor should he send a prospect or a pick in exchange for a salary he can’t afford.

This summer, if DeBrusk is still out there, take a look. There’s no harm in doing so. Until then, the Oilers need to stay focused on their needs. A $3.675 million winger who hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup of a less-than-stellar Bruins team feels like the wrong choice for right now.

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