There is going to be plenty of trade talk this offseason and the Edmonton Oilers could be at the forefront of a lot of it. With money to spend in free agency, signing UFAs won’t be the only option available to general manager Ken Holland. There will be players from other teams hitting the trade market as 31 opposing clubs try to navigate another season with a flat salary cap.
Some teams are tight up against the cap while others are looking to make sweeping changes. If a couple teams can shed players, they’ll try and many of them might be attractive options on paper for the Oilers who are looking for productive forwards who have the skills to play alongside someone like Connor McDavid or accentuate the depth, which was a massive issue for the team this season.
All that said, the Oilers would be better served to stay away from some of the trade options that look good on paper, but could be counterproductive to their end goal. Here are few examples:
If we had to give odds on Patrik Laine staying with the Columbus Blue Jackets, it might be 50/50. The Blue Jackets are clearly making changes and he could be among them, but the team has also said they believe he can turn around a comparatively unproductive season for the sniper and they’d like to add pieces to help him.
On paper, Laine is a lot of what the Oilers might need. He’s been a regular 30-plus goal scorer in the past, he’s still relatively young at just 23 years old and he’s looking for a chance to prove his 10 goals in 45 games this past season is not the kind of player he’s becoming, nor that he’s entitled and unwilling to adapt to a team game.
The problem with the Oilers going after Laine is two fold. First, while this might normally be the time to buy low, he’s still going to cost a lot to acquire since the Blue Jackets gave up Pierre-Luc Dubois to land him. Second, he’s on an expiring RFA contract. Laine has bridge deal-to-one-year rental written all over him. If he rebounds next season the Oilers potentially can’t afford to add a player who might want an expensive long-term commitment.
If you’re giving up a lot to get Laine, you probably want to know he’s sticking around and at a number you can manage.
Another player who has scorer written all over him is Vladimir Tarasenko. And, from the sounds of it, the St. Louis Blues are going to see what the trade market will offer on the veteran forward. Unfortunately, he’s a costly option for Edmonton, who would love to have his production, but also need to be careful how they spend their money. A left-winger is the team’s priority.
The biggest issue with Tarasenko is his recent injury history. He’s a $7.5 million cap hit who has played all of 34 games in the past two seasons. He was relatively productive when he returned for the Blues, but it’s hard to know what kind of numbers he’ll put up over the last two years of his deal. This isn’t to say the Oilers should hang up the phone if the Blues were to call, but unless St. Louis is willing to dump the player just to free up the cap space, this might not be the Oilers best use for their money. This is especially true if Holland and head coach Dave Tippett believe Jesse Puljujarvi can increase his production on that top line right-wing spot.
Tarasenko does have a no-trade clause worked into his deal, so it might not matter, but if he’s under the impression the Blues are willing to dump him, he might be more apt to waive it.
The Oilers are going to be in the market for a third-line center. If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leaves in free agency, the team may want a third-line center who is comfortable playing in the top-six. It just so happens the Colorado Avalanche might make a player like available this summer.
Another year of playoffs where Nazem Kadri has been suspended, there are whispers out of Colorado that this might have been the final straw. Kadri offers a ton of positive attributes, but if he can’t stay on the ice in crunch time, he’s not much use to the Avalanche who seem to be doing alright without him, nor for the Oilers who need a player to help them come playoff time.
If Kadri gets moved, it would make sense that Edmonton would have a conversation with the Avs about the asking price. He’s got one more season on his contract at $4.5 million and that’s not a bad price. The question becomes how it affects the core. This is an Oilers roster that is tight where it matters. The foundation of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse is key to their long-term success and what you want to build around that core are excellent supplementary pieces who won’t rock the boat.
Kadri may not be a locker room problem, but depending on the cost of acquisition, it might not be worth the risk. If the Avs dump him to make room for some of their pending higher-priority contracts, Ken Holland should inquire. Beyond that, the GM should also make sure he knows what he’s getting.
Kadri’s production has dropped each of the last five seasons, but the potential silver lining here is that he might have something to prove in a contract year. As rental, it’s a maybe.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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