Oilers Are Showing Interest in Trading with Canadiens & Jets

We are now in March, and the trade deadline is closing in with only eight more games to get there. That means trade talks are going to pick up and teams are going to be bearing down on which players they are going to make a run at the hardest.

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The Edmonton Oilers have three professional scouts out there, but the game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Winnipeg Jets brought the attention of their Director of Pro Scouting, Archie Henderson, to the game. This has to make you think of which players from either team are of interest to the Oilers.

To this point, Ken Holland has only been a part of the team for two trade deadlines and hasn’t made moves that have positively impacted the team. He has had to work with two salary-crunched seasons and making deals work with border restrictions. In two years, Dmitry Kulikov, Andreas Athanasiou, Mike Green, and Tyler Ennis have been acquired in deadline deals, resulting in two first-round exits. So maybe this season will garner some more success.

The Obvious Choice in Ben Chiarot

Ben Chiarot is the most obvious player the Oilers would have their eye on from this game, but I still believe the price hasn’t budged from at least a first-round pick. He has a modified no-trade clause, and his $3.5 million contract is up after the season.

Canadiens will definitely retain salary. Is Holland willing to give up a first-round for a rental now? I’d say no after the way the defence and team has played defensively, allowing the goaltending to be better. Even with two rookie defencemen on the left side, the seven defencemen lineup has continued to work, even with Duncan Keith back.

Ben Chiarot Montreal Canadiens
Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The top players upfront can handle the increased and evenly distributed ice time among them and control the game. Allows for at least one impactful player to be on the ice at all times.

Chiarot can play both sides, but ideally, the Oilers want players who are left-handed playing the left side and the same goes for the right. Though there still could be an upgrade for William Lagesson/Markus Niemelainen on the left side due to their inexperience, sometimes keeping them around and in the lineup in big games is the best way for them to grow and gain that experience. Nobody hits like Niemelainen, and he will be a key defenceman in a third-pairing role moving forward. While Lagesson on the other hand is rounding out his game and stepping up, proving he deserves a chance to stay in the lineup every night.

Sure, the Oilers could go out and get a rental defenceman that will be highly sought after, raising the price even more. Or they can use their resources and target a player that will not only help them this year, but after that. The final option is to stand pat and even just scout in advance in case Holland wants to circle back in free agency on Chiarot.

Unrestricted Free Agents Copp or Stastny

Now taking a look at the Jets, both Paul Stastny and Andrew Copp are unrestricted free agents after the season and both are more than likely going to be moved at the deadline. Again, if they cost a first-round pick or a top prospect, I don’t think Holland pulls the trigger. But anything less and I think it’s a no-brainer, especially how some key Oilers’ forwards have been in and out of the lineup.

Andrew Copp Winnipeg Jets
Andrew Copp, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Either could make a great addition to the third line, a spot Copp has been very effective in throughout his career. Stastny is playing on the first line for the Jets, but in reality, he is a middle-six player at best. Both are very effective in the faceoff circle, a space where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins struggles and it would give the Oilers yet another interchangeable forward in their top-nine. Stastny has a 56.5 faceoff percentage while Copp has a 53.8. Both can play centre or the left wing, and it would further allow Oilers’ top prospect Dylan Holloway time to develop fully in the American Hockey League (AHL) and join the team next season.

Related: Oilers’ Derek Ryan Playing Best Hockey of His Career

Not only may the price to acquire be a bit much, the salary cap hit for both is between $3.5 million and $3.75 million. Some money would have to be retained or at least a player going back if the deal were to work. But teams have worked with less space to get deals done before.

Could Connor Hellebuyck Even be an Option?

The Jets are six points back of a playoff spot with 28 games left to play and at least four teams to leapfrog to get into a playoff spot. That includes the Oilers who have played significantly better under Jay Woodcroft. There has been less of an issue with goaltending from Mikko Koskinen, going 7-0-1 in his last eight starts, but there remains an issue with supposed starter Mike Smith.

Smith has a sub-.900 save percentage in six starts since Woodcroft took over, highlighted by two very bad starts. The defensive system has been tightened up as I explained above, but the Oilers are still going to need the big stops going forward down the stretch and into the playoffs if they want to get anywhere this year.

Koskinen’s deal is done after this season, which takes $4.5 million off the books. While the future for Smith is not set in stone despite still having one year remaining on his contract.

This brings us to the slight chance the Oilers are looking into Connor Hellebuyck. He has two years remaining at $6.167 per and would be the exact goaltender the Oilers are looking for to cover them for at least the next couple of seasons. He is a former Vezina Trophy winner who has finished in the top four in voting three times. Only age 28, he also fits the mold of a younger goaltender in his prime who is able to put a team on his back at times.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

It would take a lot to pry Hellebuyck away from the Jets, but if they are thinking of breaking things down this season and in the offseason, he may be in play (from ‘BILLECK: Staring down another wasted year, Jets’ Hellebuyck deserves better’, Winnipeg Sun, Feb. 25, 2022). The next three weeks will determine a lot, but there are some intriguing names in Canada that the Oilers may have their sights set on acquiring before the deadline and even in the offseason. The Oilers have the prospects to make such a deal, it would just be based on how the Jets perceive their future.

Though Jake Allen has been brought up and David Savard would fit with how the Oilers would ideally structure their right defence in the future, they were both injured and therefore taken out of the possibility that Henderson was there to get a better look at them.

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