I didn’t expect the Oilers to be busy yesterday, but I certainly was not expecting total silence. The Oilers stood pat at the trade deadline yesterday. It made for a boring day for Oilers fans.
The Oilers were 8 points out of a playoff spot going into play last night, and they sit 7 points out after scrounging a point out of Nashville. The good thing about them not making any moves is that they didn’t sacrifice any of the future for immediate help. The team was far from a position where they needed to take part in the annual trade deadline day arms race. Most people within the Oilers organization still believe that the team can make the playoffs. It’s good that they weren’t tempted to spend assets on a rental player that might have helped the team in their March push for the playoffs that will more than likely fall well short of success.
Thankfully, the team held on to Jesse Puljujarvi. Reports over the last week or so have suggested that Puljujarvi is unhappy in Edmonton. His value is at an all-time low right now. It would’ve been impossible to get anything close to fair value for him at this point in time. If the team really feels that they have to trade him, then it makes the most sense to do it this summer. This will not be the last that we hear of this story, I can promise you that. It is my hope that the Oilers keep Puljujarvi because he is bound to break out at some point soon, and we will want him on the Oilers roster when he does.
The bad thing about the Oilers not making any moves yesterday is that they missed out on an opportunity to get a couple of assets. As I mentioned in my Trade Deadline Preview, their goal should have been to set their incoming GM up with as many assets as they could have. Those assets could have been draft picks, prospects, or cap space for next season.
They could have traded any of their impending free agents for picks or prospects. Moving them would have also created cap space for next season, or it would have at least allowed them to spend the money that might have gone back to those UFAs on other players next season. Alex Chiasson and Alex Petrovic were the two that were the most likely to be moved out in my opinion. Chiasson is a veteran winger that won a Stanley Cup last season. He has 17 goals after signing a league minimum contract as a reward for a successful professional tryout in training camp. Getting a pick or a decent prospect would have been a win for the Oilers, but they opted to keep him instead.
In my Trade Deadline Preview, I said that it would be hard to see Petrovic NOT getting moved. A user on Twitter suggested to me that nobody would want Petrovic. It turns out that I was wrong. Gretzky could not find a taker for Petrovic. Gretzky said that he was hesitant to trade him because they spent a 3rd rounder to get him. It does not hurt to have him around for extra depth, but he’s an UFA that is a healthy scratch on most nights. Taking a loss on the return for the player at the deadline would have been better than letting him walk for nothing. They should have taken any offer that they may have received for him.
There were rumours about some players that are under contract through next season as well, namely Zack Kassian and Matt Benning. Kassian would have been a decent depth addition for a contending team, but the Oilers were clearly not keen on moving him. It didn’t sound like there was any serious traction on a Benning deal at any point, despite his name being bandied about in the rumour mill. Moving either or both of these players would have created some much needed cap space for next season. It was a missed opportunity. Both players bring something valuable to the table, but the Oilers could also find bottom of the roster players to fill their roles for much cheaper than what they are getting. The Oilers may revisit moving one of or both of these players in the summer.
From what I gathered out of reading and watching everything yesterday, it seemed like the Oilers were asking for far too much in return for their players. That tells me one of a few different possible things. One possibility is that Oilers management grossly overvalues their players. Another possibility is that Gretzky was told not to trade anyone unless the deal was too good to refuse. He is the interim GM, after all. The other possibility is that the Oilers are short on NHL quality forwards at the moment, and selling one would have put the Oilers in a tough spot for the rest of the season. The organization still believes that they can make the playoffs, so selling would not have made sense in their eyes.
If the Oilers want to make the playoffs this year, they will need to pass 5 of these teams: Vancouver, Arizona, Chicago, Colorado, Minnesota, and Dallas.
Vancouver traded Erik Gudbranson to Pittsburgh for Tanner Pearson. It’s a deal that doesn’t move the needle for either team. Neither is the player that he was expected to be. The Canucks didn’t get better yesterday.
Arizona traded Jordan Weal to Montreal for Michael Chaput. The Coyotes subtracted some skill from their line-up. They didn’t get better yesterday.
Chicago didn’t do anything. They didn’t get better yesterday, but they have been playing really well as of late with Patrick Kane leading the way.
Colorado added Derick Brassard. This is his 3rd team this season. He was traded to Florida in the Nick Bjugstad trade, then moved to Colorado yesterday. He isn’t the player that he once was, but it is a slight upgrade in skill for Colorado. They got a little bit better, but not by much in my opinion.
Minnesota baffled me yesterday. They traded Mikael Granlund, a 27-year old forward who had 67 and 69 points in the last 2 seasons for Kevin Fiala, a 22-year old forward whose career-high is 48 points… Granlund has 49 in 63 games this season! Fiala is younger, but he is nowhere near the player that Granlund is. They also downgraded in skill by trading Charlie Coyle to Boston for Ryan Donato (who is proving me wrong so far), and by trading Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for Victor Rask. They did not get better at the trade deadline.
Dallas made a splash by adding Mats Zuccarello, but he broke his arm blocking a shot in his first game with the team. The Stars will likely only get him for a week or two of the regular season. They also added veteran depth defender Ben Lovejoy. They got marginally better at the deadline.
My point here is that none of the teams that the Oilers are competing with for a playoff spot got very much better yesterday. The Oilers have been playing better as of late. The team still believes that they can make the playoffs for some reason. The trade deadline didn’t really lower their chances any based on what the teams around them did.
The Oilers missed an opportunity to make the incoming GM’s life slightly easier at this trade deadline. They could’ve sold UFAs for picks or prospects, which would’ve increased their odds of picking higher in the draft because selling would’ve made the team worse in the short-term. Despite that, standing pat was not a horrible disaster either. No one that the Oilers might’ve traded out yesterday would’ve yielded a franchise altering player, and the Oilers will likely still end up picking in the 5-10 range in the draft.
Oh well, it is what it is.
Now we look ahead to the rest of the season. There are no more trades to be made, and there are no more roster moves that have to be made (unless Khaira or Puljujarvi come back from injury). There are still some questions that need answering though.
Do the Oilers have another magical March in them? They have a way of getting hot in March. It’s usually too little, too late. In this Western Conference turtle race, anything is possible though.
Can McDavid catch Kucherov for a 3rd straight scoring title? (Probably not).
Can Draisaitl reach 50 goals and 100 points?
Will Koskinen provide some stability in the net for the Oilers down the stretch and make Oilers fans feel a little bit more confident about his contract extension?
Will Rieder and Rattie do enough in the last 6 weeks of the season to earn contracts for next season?
How will Sekera play after coming back from his injuries? Will he be good enough to have any trade value this summer, or to help the team in a positive way?
Will Currie or any other AHL call-ups give the Oilers a reason to think that they might steal a spot on the big club next season?
Will the Oilers play Stolarz in enough games to stop him from becoming an UFA? He needs to play at least 30 minutes in 10 games to prevent that from happening. If he does become an UFA, the Oilers could still elect to re-sign him, so it’s really inconsequential… I’m really trying hard to find things to watch for the rest of the season now!
I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the year to see how it all plays out! Hopefully the boys can go on a run and get into the playoffs, beat Calgary in the first round, and keep the momentum going into June… a guy can dream, can’t he?