Oilers Connected to Three Different Trade Targets In Past 24 Hours

For fans who like hockey trades, this particular NHL season could start to get more interesting. Things are a bit different this year considering the start date of the 2020-21 campaign and when you factor in how few games each team has played, but NHL insiders are looking at the makeup of contending team’s rosters and trying to determine where their holes are. All the while, they’re listening to rumblings on the trade market.

With that in mind, it’s been a busy 24 hours for the Edmonton Oilers. Three separate reports have linked three different players to the team in potential trades. Each scenario is different, but each trade is also intriguing when you consider the names involved.

Staal to Oilers as a Rental?

During Tuesday’s TSN Insider Trading segment, Pierre LeBrun linked veteran center Eric Staal to the Oilers as a potential trade deadline rental. Reports are that the Buffalo Sabres are officially sellers and further reports suggest Staal is completely open to being moved to a playoff team or Stanley Cup contender.

Eric Staal Buffalo Sabres
Eric Staal, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

LeBrun noted that after Staal was moved by the Minnesota Wild to the Sabres — somewhat against his will — the pending UFA is open to being moved again. Because he’s not with his family, he’s not overly concerned with staying in Buffalo or, for that matter, which hotel he temporarily lives out of to close the season. Furthermore, Staal has a 10-team no-trade condition in his contract that he would waive for the right team.

LeBrun adds:

“Keep an eye on Edmonton. The Oilers would have to be dollar-in-dollar out, they’re right at the cap, they’re in LTIR, but they are looking to upgrade their third line and I’m told that Eric Staal is a name that has been mentioned internally by the Oilers brass.”

Oilers Looking at Merzlikins In the Offseason?

In his latest 31 Thoughts column, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman writes that the Oilers might be looking more closely at goaltender Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unlike the Staal rumors, this is not a trade the Oilers would try to make during the season.

Friedman notes, “It might not be something that could happen until the off-season, but Elvis Merzlikins is the kind of goalie who makes sense long-term for Edmonton.” The Oilers have had question marks in net since the start of last year and it would nice if Holland could acquire someone who has the potential to be a future starter for years to come. He’s tried in the past without much luck.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets might be ready to trade a valuable asset in an attempt to land a top-line center.

DeBrusk a Better Fit in Edmonton than Boston?

After news broke that Jake DeBrusk would be a healthy scratch and not be playing for the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, talk started surfacing that the forward’s time in Boston might be running out. Head coach Bruce Cassidy said of his decision to sit the winger: “We’ve tried different angles with Jake. … At the end of the day we’re not quite getting out of Jake what we want.”

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

Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal wrote on Tuesday:

The Edmonton native has slumped badly in Boston, where he has just 1 goal in 17 games this season after scoring just once in his final 14 games of 2019-20. He has a year and a half remaining on the two-year deal he signed last fall at an AAV of $3.675 million. That puts him in the range of Kassian’s $3.2 million cap hit, albeit for two fewer years. From the perspective of contract for contract in the salary cap era, “the money works”.

source – ‘Zack Kassian back on practice ice, but where does he fit in Edmonton Oilers’ line-up?’ – Bruce McCurdy – Edmonton Journal – 03/09/2021

The hint here is that Kassian for DeBrusk is something the Oilers might want to look at. McCurdy doesn’t believe it would be a one-for-one deal, but wonders if both players could use a change of scenery and suggests the money is not that far apart.

Are Any of These Deals Possible for the Oilers?

In all cases, these are not the easiest trades to make and the Oilers would need to either: move money out, trade a player they may not want to trade, or get the other team to retain salary in any deal. All are possible, but also complex, especially with the uncertainty of future pending contracts and travel across the border.

Of the three players mentioned, each make between $3.25 million and $4 million per season. Only Staal’s deal appears less difficult because Buffalo would be in a position to retain salary, likely willing to take draft picks as compensation and there’s no commitment beyond this season for Holland.

As for DeBrusk and Merzlikins, both would require the Oilers moving a decent sized contract to make space.

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