Oilers Need to Target the Blackhawks’ Max Domi

The Edmonton Oilers lost some skill and toughness from their lineup when Evander Kane went down with an injury on Nov. 8. He’s likely out for a few months, and in his absence, the Oilers haven’t been able to gain traction and string together consecutive wins. It’s obvious they’ve just been too easy to play against too.

Recently, hockey insider Frank Seravalli released a list of trade targets, and the usual suspects that the Oilers have been rumoured to be interested in — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Jakob Chychrun — were mentioned. Those three players would each have high costs to acquire, though the Oilers should still explore their availability. Yet, another intriguing player that stood out from the list that would be relatively inexpensive to acquire is Chicago Blackhawks forward Max Domi.

Domi has been playing on the Blackhawks’ first line, has a $3 million cap hit this season, and is an impending unrestricted free agent. Since the Oilers are without forward E. Kane for the next few months, Domi could be a suitable replacement in the interim to add skill (14 points in 19 games) and the toughness that has been missing from their lineup.

Domi Is Having a Good Offensive Season

Domi is in his eighth season in the NHL and was originally drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2013. He’s had stops with the Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, and now the Blackhawks. His offensive production had declined from when he recorded a career-high 72 points in 2018-19 as a member of the Canadiens. But he’s had somewhat of a resurgence this season, as his five goals and nine assists in 19 games suggest. He’s on pace for 60 points, which would make him the fifth-highest scoring forward on the Oilers (not counting E. Kane). All things considered, he would be an excellent complementary player to the Oilers’ star players and could provide secondary scoring within the team’s top-nine.

Max Domi Chicago Blackhawks
Max Domi, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He’s primarily played center on the first line with the Blackhawks with superstar P. Kane this season. And while the underlying 5-on-5 analytics aren’t necessarily in his favour, it’s worth noting that Chicago is rebuilding and that he also plays against the opposition’s top defensemen. Natural Stat Trick shows he’s played the most minutes against top blueliners like Drew Doughty (18:55), Moritz Seider (11:58), Ben Chiarot (11:25), Josh Morrisey (9:55,) and Rasmus Dahlin (9:55).

Domi Can Add Toughness to the Oilers

Recently, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector appeared on the “Oilers Now” show with Bob Stauffer and talked about how the Oilers were easy to play against. He said, “Edmonton is not tough enough” and added, “This team needs a little bit of punch in it, and needs a bottom-six with some edge, [which] to me is a major issue with this team, that [has] to get solved.” That said, Domi is the type of player that literally packs a good punch.

The 5-foot-10 Domi might be considered small by NHL standards, but he’s also feisty and no stranger to the fisticuffs. His father, Tie Domi, was renowned for being one of the best NHL enforcers of all time, and while Max is more skilled, he’s not afraid to drop the gloves when the situation calls for it. He’s credited with 13 career NHL fights, and his most recent tilt was against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 30. Tyson Jost hit P. Kane from behind, and Domi came to the aid of his linemate and went after the Wild forward with no hesitation.

Related: Oilers Should Not Trade for Canadiens’ Josh Anderson

Latest News & Highlights

While he’s not overly physical, Domi doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff. He has the skill to play on the top line, and McDavid could benefit from playing with someone who has his back at all costs. Another fun fact: Domi and McDavid are quite familiar with each other. They were junior rivals back in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Oilers’ captain said about Domi back in 2015, “I think there’s a little bit more [Tie in Max’s game] than people know. He’s one of the harder players I played against in junior, always in your face.” Additionally, they were also teammates on the star-studded Canadian World Junior team that won gold back in 2015.

Domi Can Play Center or Wing in the Oilers’ Top-Nine

So where would he fit on the Oilers? Their first, second, and third-line center positions are set with McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan McLeod. However, because Domi is a natural centerman, he could A) fill in at center if McLeod needed to be changed and B) he could be a versatile option to play either left or right wing on the Oilers’ top-nine.

At the same time, he’s having a career year in the faceoff circle, winning 60.5 percent of his draws this season. This also would bode well for the Oilers because if their centermen were struggling in the faceoff circle, he could take important draws and switch back to the wing as needed. Another positive is that he currently averages the third most minutes on the Blackhawks’ power play, and on the Oilers, he would be a good fit to add depth to their second unit.

The Oilers are very tight against the salary cap, so to acquire Domi and his $3 million cap hit, they would have to send money the other way and get Chicago to retain some salary. As per Puckpedia, the maximum salary a team can retain is 50 percent, so Edmonton could send Derek Ryan ($1.25 million cap hit), in combination with another bottom-six player making $750,000, and they would likely have to add a second-round pick as the sweetener for Domi.

The Oilers have only won three games out of their last ten. There’s no need to panic quite yet, but there’s a statistic that demonstrates that 77 percent of teams that are in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving make the playoffs, and that should be a little concerning for the Oilers, as they’re on the outside looking in. A shakeup is likely needed, and adding Domi at a reasonable cost could help the Oilers improve in the standings.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe