Tomorrow is the day that hockey junkies have been waiting for. NHL Trade Deadline Day. The day where contenders load up for deep runs into the spring, and pretenders sell off expiring assets in hopes of building towards the future. The fortunes of a few franchises will likely be altered tomorrow (if they haven’t already through trades made over the last week or so). Lives are turned upside down, families are uprooted, there are teary goodbye and new beginnings for a lot of players; and we get to watch it all unfold in real time in between pieces of ridiculous filler content on TSN.
What a day.
Some of the biggest names that were expected to be available have already been moved. Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel were traded to Columbus, and Mats Zuccarello was traded to Dallas (he subsequently left his first game as a Star after blocking a shot, and will be out for four weeks… those are the risks you take!). Brandon Montour was traded to the Sabres today. Earlier in the week, the Bruins picked up Charlie Coyle, and the Capitals acquired Carl Hagelin.
There are still some big names left out there, such as Artemi Panarin from the suddenly stacked Columbus Blue Jackets, Mark Stone from the Senators’ UFA Emporium, and aging power forward Wayne Simmonds from Philly.
This is an Oilers blog… so I have to focus on the Oilers and what they might do. Keith Gretzky basically laughed at the idea of the Oilers being in on any of the big-name rental players, as he should have. The Oilers are currently 8 points back of a playoff spot with 5 teams to hurdle in order to get into the final wild card position.
The Oilers have already made two trades prior to this deadline. They traded Cam Talbot for a younger and cheaper backup named Anthony Stolarz. They also unloaded failed experiment Ryan Spooner on to Vancouver for Edmonton’s new favourite former Oiler, Sam Gagner. Stolarz has yet to make his Oilers debut, but Gagner has 2 goals in his 4 games in an Oilers uniform since being acquired, including the game winner against the Ducks last night.
The team has gone 2-1-1 since making those trades after the loss in Carolina. Gagner represents a clear upgrade in the forward group, and the return of Andrej Sekera has been helpful. Coach Hitchcock has said that they have played well in all but one of their games since the bye week ended. They certainly haven’t been rewarded in kind for their efforts, but the team is playing better than it had been prior to the break.
What might they do on Monday?
In my article from 2 weeks ago, I suggested that the Oilers need to be sellers at this deadline. They have fired a GM and a coach this season. The Oilers need to prepare themselves for next season by arming the incoming GM with as many assets as they can. That would mean trading players with expiring contracts.
However, there are two things that might give them pause before turning the “Open” sign on. They need to ice a competitive hockey team for the rest of the season, and they still believe that they can make the playoffs.
Here is a look at the cap breakdown for the Oilers as of today (expiring contracts in bold):
Kassian ($1.95M) McDavid ($12.5M) Gagner ($3.15M)
Nuge ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Chiasson ($0.65M-UFA)
Lucic ($6M) Cave ($0.675M) Currie ($687,500)
Rieder ($2M-RFA) Brodziak ($1.15M) Rattie ($0.8M-RFA)
Klefbom ($4,167,000) Larsson ($4,166,666)
Nurse ($3.2M) Russell ($4M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($1.9M)
Gravel ($0.7M-UFA) Petrovic ($1.95M-UFA)
Active Roster: 23 (13 F, 8 D)
Puljujarvi ($0.925M-RFA)– IR
Khaira ($0.675M-RFA)– IR
Total Cap Hit = $75,157,416
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million, Gryba- $0.3 million
Buried: Montoya- $37,500, Manning- $1.225 million
Today’s Cap Hit: $78,053,249
Projected Cap Hit: $79.9 million
As always, the players that are the most likely to be moved at the deadline are the ones with expiring contracts. Here are the Oilers with expiring contracts:
Forwards: Chiasson (UFA), Malone (UFA), Rieder (RFA), Rattie (RFA), Khaira (RFA), Puljujarvi (RFA)
Defence: Gravel (UFA), Petrovic (UFA)
Goal: Stolarz (RFA – for now), Montoya (UFA)
I’ll start with who I think will stay. There has been a lot of drama surrounding Puljujarvi and his agent lately. The player apparently wants out, and he is injured. I don’t know what to make of all of it, but I highly doubt that he will be moved on Monday. Larry Brooks reported that teams inquiring about Puljujarvi would need to take Lucic in any deal for the young Finn… That’s one way to make sure that no one will want Puljujarvi. I doubt that he will be traded tomorrow.
Khaira has proven to be a useful player that can play up and down the line-up and kill penalties. The Oilers could likely sign him for a reasonable amount for next season. I don’t think the Oilers have any appetite to move him.
Malone wouldn’t muster up any kind of return, and he has been a good player for AHL Bakersfield. I think he will stay for their playoff run.
Gravel has been an effective 6-7 D this season, and he is cheap. That is a guy that I would be looking to re-sign for next season.
The Oilers just traded Talbot for Stolarz, so they will want to see what they have in him down the stretch. He stays as well.
Montoya has absolutely no trade value at this point. The Oilers will likely just let his contract run out and let him walk for next season.
That leaves Chiasson, Rieder, Rattie, and Petrovic as the most likely players to be moved tomorrow.
Chiasson has been a steal this season. He came in on a PTO and signed a contract for the league minimum, and he has scored 17 goals. He has played on the powerplay, and he has played on a top line with McDavid and Draisaitl for much of the season. However, he has only scored one goal in the last 2 months. That was on the powerplay. He hasn’t scored an even strength goal since December 16. He isn’t producing anymore. A contender would likely love to have a veteran winger that has a Stanley Cup victory from last season fresh in his mind. It would be a total win if the Oilers could get a high draft pick (2nd rounder) or a decent prospect in exchange for Chiasson. There is also a valid argument for keeping him to be made because he is a veteran winger on a team that is already weak in that position.
Rieder has 0 goals this season. He has been a disappointment in his 2nd stint in Edmonton, but he is still a 26-year old forward with speed that can kill penalties. He is also an RFA, which means that he is under team control for next season. He is a player that I would explore a one-for-one trade with. Someone might be willing to take a chance on him down the stretch like LA did last season. It might involve the Oilers taking a chance on a player that is having similar struggles in another city. It’s hard to do worse than 0 goals, so it wouldn’t hurt to take a chance on someone else if push comes to shove.
I’ve been frustrated for Rattie this season. Notice how I said “for”, not “at”. Rattie was placed on waivers as a wake-up call, which I thought was totally unwarranted because he has been effective when given a chance. He had 9 points in 14 games playing with McDavid last season. He led the league in pre-season scoring playing with McDavid. He had 2 points in 4.33 games playing with McDavid to start the year, and then he got hurt. McLellan didn’t play him with McDavid once he returned because Chiasson got hot while he was hurt. Hitchcock has used Rattie mostly on the 4th line. In the few chances that Rattie has had with McDavid, he has been effective. The line consistently gets chances when Rattie is on it. Rattie is one of the few players that can hit McDavid with speed in the neutral zone consistently. Hitchcock is quick to banish him to the 4th line every time he gets a chance with McDavid. I went to the NYI game on Thursday. Rattie fanned on a drop pass to McDavid at the circle in the offensive zone early in the 2nd period. They spent the rest of that shift playing defence. Rattie spent the rest of the game on the 4th line. He only played 7:59 last night against the Ducks. Rattie is a scorer. He needs to play with skilled players in order to be effective. He will never be effective playing 8 minutes a night on the 4th line.
Hitchcock has done the same thing with Puljujarvi. He plays mostly on the 3rd or 4th line. He gets the odd chance on a top line, but he usually gets demoted after a game or less. He got a period with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins against TB, and he got an assist. In the 2nd period, he got a pass from Nurse that was a bullet at his feet, and he turned the puck over. TB scored on a breakaway off of that turnover, and Puljujarvi was benched immediately. I don’t know how Hitchcock expects players to perform if they are not put in positions to succeed, or if they can’t make a mistake without being benched or demoted.
Anyway, I digress. All of that leaves Rattie in an interesting spot at the deadline. The Oilers could keep him and try to re-sign him next season, which may be a tough sell given how this season has gone for him. I’d bet that he would be more likely to re-sign if he knew that a new coach that would play him with skilled players would be coming in for next season. However, the Oilers could also look to trade him. He could help a contender that will miss out on the big-name rentals. The Oilers could look to add a young player that might be able to help the team out right now and in the future. One name that comes to mind is Josh Ho-Sang from the Islanders. Rattie would help NYI now, and Ho-Sang clearly wants out because he isn’t getting a chance there. Ho-Sang has a history with McDavid. They played together as youth players in Toronto. A trade involving Rattie and Ho-Sang might make sense. It would piss me off a bit because I like Rattie and I want him to succeed here, but it might make sense to explore a trade.
Petrovic is currently the 8th best defender on the Oilers roster. He is not getting into games right now, and he is an UFA. He is not coming back to Edmonton next season in all likelihood. Not with Benning, Bouchard, Jones, and Persson as potential options on the right side of the bottom pairing here next season. He could add depth for a playoff team. Depth defencemen are always a hot commodity at the deadline. It’s hard to see him NOT getting traded at this point.
There are also some players that are signed through next season that could be moved in an effort to create cap space for next season. Manning is one contract that Oilers fans would love to get rid of. That will be easier said than done though. Benning’s name has been in the rumour mill for quite a while now. I don’t think he will get moved now that Sekera is back and that Manning is in Bakersfield. Russell’s name has come up recently as well. He has a full NMC, so he is in control of his situation. That makes me think that he isn’t going anywhere.
The forwards that are signed through next year that could be moved are Kassian and Brodziak. Kassian has been productive of late, and his recent production could be hard to replace. However, his trade value will likely never be as high as it is right now. A contending team could use his size and speed in the playoffs, and they might be willing to part with a useful asset to get him. I think the odds of a Kassian trade are low because he is helping the team win right now, but I would never say never.
Brodziak has been one of many disappointments this season. Younger and cheaper players like Cave and Malone have been just as effective as Brodziak has been. They could use his $1.15 million elsewhere in the line-up next season. I’d be surprised if he was moved, but I wouldn’t count it out either.
The Oilers need draft picks, prospects, and cap space for next season. Their most imminent need for today’s roster is a shake-up in the bottom 6. The Oilers won’t make any big moves tomorrow, but they could do some tinkering to help the current roster, and some preparation for the off-season to make the incoming GM’s life easier. Whatever happens, I’ll be excited to see it and how the team does in March after the trades are all said and done! Stay tuned for a Trade Deadline Wrap within the next couple of days.