Well that was an exciting day!
Seeing the Mike Green trade get broken in the middle of an Oilers win last night was exciting enough, but then Holland made two more deals today.
First, Holland once again dipped into the well of his former team to acquire Andreas Athanasiou and prospect Ryan Kuffner from Detroit in exchange for Sam Gagner and the Oilers’ next two 2nd round picks. According to the press release from the Oilers, the team will be retaining 10% of Gagner’s salary for this season.
A little while later, Holland pulled the trigger on acquiring Edmonton product Tyler Ennis From the Senators in exchange for a 5th round pick in 2021.
The Oilers also announced that Kris Russell was placed on LTIR (which happened last night according to Jonathan Willis), and that Tyler Benson has been sent down to Bakersfield.
In a minor trade announced later in the day, the Oilers traded Joel Persson to Anaheim for a conditional 7th round pick in 2022 and goaltending prospect Angus Redmond.
After all of that, here is where the Oilers sit in regards to the salary cap:
Athanasiou ($3M) McDavid ($12.5M) Chiasson ($2.15M)
Nuge ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Yamamoto ($894,166)
Ennis ($800k) Sheahan ($900k) Archibald ($1M)
Khaira ($1.2M) Haas ($925k) Russell ($700k)
Nurse ($3.2M) Bear ($720k)
Jones ($720k) Larsson ($4,166,666)
Lagesson ($741,666) Benning ($1.9M)
Total Cap Hit: $75,996,998
Buried: Manning ($1,175,000), Granlund ($225,000)
Buyouts: Sekera ($2.5M), Pouliot ($1,333,333), Gryba ($300,000)
Retained: Lucic ($750,000), Gagner ($315,000)
Cap Space: -$1,095,331
LTIR Relief Available: $2,305,833
The move that makes it possible for the Oilers to be over the cap right now is placing Kris Russell on the LTIR last night. Before the Green trade, the Oilers were sitting at a cap hit of $80,901,164 according to my calculations. Afterwards, they were at $82,438,664.
Putting Russell on LTIR would’ve given the Oilers $4 million on top of their total cap hit at the time of that transaction, so $80,901,164 + $4 million = $84,901,164. After the Green trade, they would’ve had $2,462,500 in cap space to play with today.
Holland definitely played!
The net result of his transactions today (not including Green) had the Oilers taking on an extra $156,667 in salary.
Once Kris Russell is healthy and activated from the LTIR, then the Oilers will have to clear $1,095,331 off of the books. They also have 3 other players on IR. They currently only have 22 players on the active roster, so 3 bodies would need to get moved down in order to get all of these healthy players on the active roster again.
William Lagesson and Patrick Russell back to Bakersfield are the most likely eventual moves here. One other player would be sent down as well eventually. I’d say that Jujhar Khaira seems to be the player that is most in danger of being placed on waivers and sent down here. Holland just acquired two guys that play his position better than he does. At this point, I’d be good with taking the risk of losing him on waivers honestly.
Enough cap talk, that will sort itself out eventually… let’s breakdown the trades!
Adding Athanasiou gives the Oilers two of the fastest skaters in the league, if not the two fastest. He’s a 25-year old RFA that has a 30-goal NHL season under his belt.
Athanasiou is an exciting piece for the Oilers, but let’s settle down a little bit on him here. Yes, he scored 30 goals last season, but that was the first and only time that he has done that in the NHL. His 30-goal and 54-point season last year was an outlier for him.
He’s 25 years old, and he could reach those heights again if given ample time with Connor McDavid, but this is not Mike Hoffman we are talking about here. This is not a player that has scored at least 25 goals in 4 of the last 5 years, and that already has 24 this year. Athanasiou is more likely to score at a 15-20 goal pace, which is definitely an upgrade for the Oilers, but I’m not planning a parade because of Athanasiou.
There are pluses and minuses to every trade. AA’s speed, his goal scoring ability, and his age are definite pluses for the Oilers, but there are some minuses here too… 45 of them, to be exact. Yes, +/- is a horribly flawed stat; but -45 is glaring, especially for a guy that has only played in 46 games this season. He’s basically a -1 per game!
We have to take the fact that Detroit is absolute garbage into consideration here. The bottom of the +/- leaderboard in the chase for the Green Jacket is littered with Red Wings. We also have to consider that the Red Wings give up a lot of goals because of the players on their team! The bottom line is that Athanasiou, a 25-year old 30-goal scorer, was made available for a reason.
This is a buy low trade. The cost of two 2nd rounders that probably would’ve taken 3-4 years each to develop and Sam Gagner is reasonable for this type of high reward risk that Holland has taken here. This looks like a massive win initially for the Oilers, but there is a level of risk involved here.
I do want to take a second to acknowledge Gagner. He was a proud Oiler. He did a lot for this team this season, whether it was being relatively productive up and down the lineup for the Oilers, or playing a leadership role in Bakersfield. He did it all with fire and intensity. It sounds like he might be willing to come back next year on a much more team-friendly contract, which is something I would love to see! I’m sad to see him go, but AA is an upgrade.
I’m excited to see what Ennis will bring to the table in Edmonton! It’s been a bit of an odyssey for him over the last few seasons. He was such a good player for Buffalo early in his career. He had 49 points in 2010-11, and then he had 34 points in 48 games (58-point pace) in 2011-12, and 31 points in 47 games in 2012-13 (54-point pace).
Unfortunately, he dealt with multiple concussion and groin injuries in 2015-16, which limited him to just 23 games (11 points in those games). He hasn’t been the same player since then.
He played in Minnesota in 2017-18, and he got 22 points in 73 games. It was an improvement over his 2016-17 season, but it wasn’t enough to earn another deal in Minnesota. Toronto gave him a shot last season, but he only got into 51 games.
Ennis landed in Ottawa this season, and he started to find his game again! Ennis has 33 points in 61 games this season (44-point pace) playing on a terrible Ottawa team. He’s starting to find top-6 production again. He’s a small, fast, and skilled forward, which is exactly what the Oilers need. It remains to be seen whether he can keep that kind of pace up or not.
The nice thing about adding Athanasiou and Ennis is that it gives coach Tippett so much more flexibility with his lines! Athanasiou is the bigger acquisition of the two, but Ennis has been the more productive player this year whether you choose to look at actual points or points per game. Both guys could probably play with McDavid and not look out of place. Both guys could provide speed in the bottom 6 as well. Whenever James Neal gets back from his ankle issue, then the Oilers could put Neal with McDavid again if they had to, although I hope that one of the new guys absolutely kills it on 97’s wing.
Here’s what I think the lines will look like when the team is healthy again:
They could also split the big 3 up and try to get 3 scoring lines because they finally have the required winger depth to make it happen:
Any of AA, Ennis, and Neal could play anywhere in the lineup. Nygard has even seen time on the top line this season. Any of Kassian, Yamamoto, Chiasson, and Archibald can also play anywhere in the lineup. All of them are capable of playing on the top line if needed. Tippett can have fun playing with line combos if he wants to play with them.
I also didn’t give much of a reaction to the Green trade last night because I was focussed on what the Oilers could do today. Green’s strengths are his skating and his puck-movement. He isn’t the offensive star he once was, but he can still move the puck effectively. That is the type of defence that Holland wants to build, and Green fits that nicely.
I get wanting to add a depth defenceman for the playoffs, I just don’t get why Holland went after a righty. There’s Larsson, Bear, and Benning already. Jones and Russell can both play the right side as lefties. There are two lefties (Klefbom and Russell) out, so why bring in a righty? I’m just trying to figure out where he fits in here.
When healthy, the Oilers defence looks like this:
If Green is going to get into games, then I’m not sure who will play 3LD. I don’t know if Green plays his off-side or not. I’ve never seen Benning play his off-side. I’m sure there will be a lot of shuffling going on with the 3rd pairing going forward. I honestly don’t know how Tippett and Playfair will tackle the deployment issue here.
I do want to point out one of the conditions of the Green trade involving the draft pick, which is that it becomes a 3rd rounder in 2021 if the Oilers reach the Conference Finals this season AND Green plays in 50% of the playoff games. The fact that this condition exists makes me think that Green isn’t going to be a regular in the Oilers line-up at any point, but he is a solid depth addition.
The Oilers got much faster and deeper at this trade deadline. Holland came here and said that he wanted to build a team that can be a contender in the long-term, and he wanted to make the playoffs this season. The fact that he added a young top 6 winger in Athanasiou, a productive depth winger in Ennis, and a solid depth defender in Green without giving up a 1st round pick or any prospects is a massive win in my eyes! These moves will serve to help the Oilers now without sacrificing much of anything for the future.
Holland’s day gets an A- from me. I loved what he did with AA and Ennis, but I still would’ve liked to have seen him get another centre instead of Green.
Buckle up for an exciting March Oilers fans! I’m hoping that will turn into an exciting spring as well.