It’s going to be tough for the New York Islanders to catch up in the race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after their poor start. A team like the Edmonton Oilers could take advantage of a few players on expiring contracts that may become available near the trade deadline if the Islanders don’t get themselves in a better position.
Injuries for the Oilers has already been a problem, and it could present a problem later in the season as well if an issue like the one they are in arises again. Though their window is open to have themselves a deep playoff run, they don’t want to overpay or package away too much that could help the team in the near future while the window is still open.
The key is to have players overperforming their contracts, and that means either players on their entry-level contracts, or players due for a raise once their deals are over. A good plan of attack is to hold onto the first round pick they have unless someone with more than one year remaining on their contract comes up in trade talks.
There are some cheap rental players that the Islanders have signed. The Oilers don’t have much in the way of veterans in their forward group, and a veteran presence with playoff experience could come in handy down the stretch and into the postseason. Depending on the Oilers’ needs at the time, a veteran left defenceman could also be in the cards. Finally, regardless of if they see Mike Smith return anytime soon, a goalie with a little bit of term could bode well.
We will take a look at which players the Oilers could have their eye on from the Islanders as they get deeper into the season.
All season long the Oilers have been at the forefront of goaltender conversations. Even before Smith went down long-term with an injury there were concerns. There is still no timetable for his return, and the Oilers’ goaltending has been average, to below average, as of late.
Stuart Skinner may not be quite ready to be a full-time NHL backup, and Mikko Koskinen isn’t an NHL starter (“Skinner and Edmonton Oilers both realizing the same dream”, Edmonton Sun, Nov. 22, 2021). Though they have both been playing above what they’re capable of right now, the Oilers have managed to play to a .667 points percentage. For what was expected of each goaltender at the beginning of the season, they have held up their end.
That being said, the Oilers could use an experienced goaltender with playoff experience and past success that is signed through until the end of next season. Semyon Varlamov fits that bill, and with Ilya Sorokin guarding the crease full-time for the Islanders, they wouldn’t be too opposed to trading Varlamov. It frees up some much-needed cap space for the team for next season, and they have Corey Schneider in the AHL who could come up and back up Sorokin.
The Oilers may be able to get Varlamov at a reduced price than what he’d normally fetch considering he’s had a rough start to the season. This would also allow Koskinen to get more rest and succeed in a backup/split role. That would also allow Skinner to go back down to Bakersfield and get the reps he isn’t getting in the NHL and hopefully be ready for a more permanent role next season or the one after that.
If the Oilers look into acquiring someone like Zach Parise, it would be for his experience and what he could bring to the bottom-six, most likely the bottom line. If Edmonton does decide to add Parise, he would be in competition with the likes of Derek Ryan, Kyle Turris, Devin Shore, Colton Sceviour, and Tyler Benson.
A change in scenery or linemates may give him the kick he needs to be effective in that role in Edmonton. By the way some of those players mentioned have played as of late, he could be a refreshing look and give a spark to the bottom line. I believe he still has something left in the tank, and it wasn’t too long ago when he was a big producer for the Minnesota Wild. He would be able to squeeze under the cap, as he only makes a league minimum, $750k.
Andy Greene/Zdeno Chara
I know what you’re thinking, the Oilers could have used either of these players two weeks ago. The defensive group still isn’t fully healed, and who really knows the condition of Duncan Keith at his age after an injury. Yes, the young defencemen that the Oilers have called up have held their own, but they will need more time and can’t be expected to all play at the level they have when they are so new to the NHL.
Andy Greene could be seen as an upgrade or a sideways move from Kris Russell, except larger and more experience, during the regular season and playoffs. They are both stay at home defencemen who can be relied on in their own end and are always out there on the penalty kill. Greene would be able to bring some of his knowledge of the defensive system that he played in New York to the Oilers, causing a positive impact on this season and the future.
The Oilers have a rookie that has gotten in some games recently that reminds me a lot of Zdeno Chara, and that’s Markus Niemelainen, a large defenceman that makes hits often, and is also relied upon in his own end. The Oilers are seeing what they have in Niemelainen, but I assume he will eventually be sent back down to the American Hockey League (AHL) to finish off the season once players start getting healthy. The Oilers don’t have much of that in their lineup, and it would be beneficial to add some more grit to the lineup for the playoffs.
Chara is a cheap option, the only problem would be his lack of speed. He is efficient on the penalty kill, and wouldn’t take too much ice time away from the other defencemen. Neither would cost too much, most likely a late draft pick.
It could start becoming apparent that the Oilers should jump on an opportunity to grab up a player from the Islanders, and if it happens, expect one of these names to be in a deal.
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 the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.