Edmonton Oilers: A Potential Trade With The Boston Bruins

Jake DeBrusk #74, Boston Bruins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jake DeBrusk #74, Boston Bruins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Like many others, I do consume the mainstream media sports commentary sometimes. Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal posted an article a couple of days ago that was very compelling to me, proposing that the Edmonton Oilers trade the soon to be healthy Zack Kassian to the Boston Bruins for Jake Debrusk.

I like it, because the move makes a lot of sense.  I’ve posted harsh commentary of McCurdy’s work one other time, and although you can’t see it anymore, McCurdy himself actually commented on it.  Although I didn’t engage with him on the comment, I still feel the same way about it today as I felt then – that it was rather bizarre to propose a bottom six forward play in the top six when he didn’t even have a shot on goal in the bottom 6.  Every bottom 6 guy who moves up to the top six usually has a recent track record of creating offence, or at the very least creating chances.  Zykov didn’t even have a shot on net in his time with the Oilers – or at least at the time the article was written.

This time around I’m here to praise McCurdy’s work.  Of course, I’m sure he probably doesn’t care what I think about his work, it just makes for good material for my platform.

In fact, I’m here to add to what McCurdy proposed.

Rather than what McCurdy proposed – Kassian for Debrusk straight up, here’s what I’m going to propose:

To Edmonton: 

LW Jake Debrusk

Boston’s 2021 2nd round pick

To Boston: 

RW Zack Kassian

LD Caleb Jones


Let’s look at this from the Oilers point of view first.

First of all, it seems Dominik Kahun hasn’t been the answer at 2nd line LW.  Kahun has been….OK, but nothing more.  The lightning in a bottle chemistry that we thought we could capture between him and Leon Draisaitl when they made such a good duo playing together as children in Germany simply hasn’t materialized in the NHL.  Kahun isn’t expensive but he’s an RFA at the end of the season – and likely a UFA, because at this point it doesn’t appear as if he’s done enough to earn another contract with the Oilers.  He’s a healthy scratch right now and clearly the Oilers don’t need him, considering their recent shellacking of the Senators.  It’s not a stretch to say that Holland won’t extend him a QO a the end of the season.

The Oilers need a better answer at this position, which from where I stand is the only hole in their top six.

Debrusk has been struggling so bad on the Bruins that he’s been a healthy scratch as of late, and they’re also trying him on his offside which is not really a recipe for success and shows that coach Bruce Cassidy is just throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks.

In theory at least, Debrusk should fit better with the Oilers.  After all, Debrusk is the son of ex-Oiler enforcer and current Oiler media commentator Louie Debrusk.  He was born in Edmonton, and NHL players usually enjoy playing for their hometown teams more than anywhere else.  They’ll want to stick around, and you can bet that’s motivation.  Debrusk has top 6 scoring chops, having scored 27 goals in 2018-19 and scoring 19 last season – likely would have had at least 20 had the season not been cut short from the pandemic.  Suffered the same fate as James Neal last season.  Debrusk and the Bruins are crying out for a fresh start from each other.  Players who get a change of scenery often will find their careers rejuvenated as they get traded to a team they fit in much better at.  It doesn’t always work out, but you can see the theory behind it at least.

Then there’s the linemates he’d have here, which is much better than he’d have in Boston.  No offence to David Krejci, he’s a fine player, but he’s also 34 and has a lot of NHL miles on his body.  This year Krejci is also struggling, producing only one goal and 13 points in 20 games for the Bruins.  On the Oilers, his likely center is either Nuge or Leon Draisaitl, both of whom are upgrades on Krejci in every way.

Then there’s his age to consider.  Debrusk is 24 right now, and will be 25 – the start of his prime producing years – right around the traditional start of training camp in the NHL on October 17.

On paper at least, we’re catching a player who would be getting the benefit of a change in scenery and would start producing the best numbers of his career for his hometown team, in the same backyard as family and childhood friends.

Meanwhile, where does Kassian fit in the Oilers lineup right now?  Jesse Puljujarvi is better at 1st line RW, while Kailer Yamamoto is better at 2nd line RW, Josh Archibald is better at 3rd line RW, and Alex Chiasson is better at 4th line RW.

So where does that leave Kassian?  A guy with a $3.2 million cap hit riding the pines or on the taxi squad – not exactly an ideal situation.

Now why trade Caleb Jones?  I’ll go into that later, but long story short, the Bruins are CRYING out for left D because that side of their corps are so terrible.

Meanwhile, Jones is going through the sophomore jinx this season and hasn’t even been able to keep a regular spot in the lineup, having been supplanted by William Lagesson and struggling when he was in the lineup.  A mere one assist in 14 games, this lad is crying out for a change of scenery as well.

Then there’s the expansion draft to consider as well.  I couldn’t even begin to guess at who Holland would protect on defense outside of Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse.  Guys like William Lagesson and Evan Bouchard are safe as they are exempt due to either being on their ELC or because they don’t meet the games played requirement over the last two seasons.

It’s unlikely they’ll protect Koekkoek or Adam Larsson – both contracts are up after this season, anyway.  Tyson Barrie may or may not be re-signed at this point – at the beginning of the season it would be certain he wasn’t but now we’re not so sure.  We know Kris Russell will be exposed because he would be easy to replace.

So if you’re not protecting Barrie, then it’s down to either Jones or Bear to protect.  Bear is a righty puck mover, and those are harder to find and draft then the lefties.

This then leaves Caleb Jones exposed in the expansion draft, and if they end up doing that he’ll probably be the best target for Seattle to grab – a young defenseman who already has some experience and could grow with the team, provided you give him a veteran on the other side.

If you plan to keep Jones next season then where do you play him?  You have the same conundrum as you have with Kassian now.

This means you either trade Jones or run the heavy risk of losing him for nothing to Seattle in the expansion draft.  Trading Jones solves a problem for the Oilers now and in the future.

Why the 2nd round pick?  Because Ken Holland is a master negotiator, and he has the leverage because the Bruins need Caleb Jones more than the Oilers need Jake Debrusk.  The Oilers have the depth now and the better performing team to attract free agents so they don’t necessarily need Debrusk in their lineup.  A 1st round pick is asking for too much, but considering their situation there’s a good chance the Bruins would part with a 2nd rounder.  The Oilers don’t have their own 2nd rounder – that went to Detroit in the Andreas Athanasiou trade – so they could use one from another team.

Now let’s look at it from Boston’s point of view.  Boston has always been a team that likes physical players, and a power forward with scoring chops at a pretty reasonable cap hit is bound to be appealing to them.  Take a look at Boston’s depth chart at RW after David Pastrnak.  Yup, it’s not pretty.  They could use an infusion there – and it’s better for Kassian too, because not only does he get the benefit of a change of scenery but he doesn’t get caught in the numbers game in Boston – he would instantly be a regular at RW on their 2nd line.  If he fails, at least he wouldn’t be too hard to get rid of at $3.2 million a season for only 3 more seasons after this one.

Jones would get the same benefit at left D.  Take another look at their depth chart, this time on the left side of their defensive pairings.  Neither one of their top two left defensemen have scored a goal this season – seriously, I looked it up. Zboril and Grzelcyk combined have scored zero goals and 10 assists in 33 games.  In fact, Boston’s entire defensive corps outside of Charlie McAvoy is pretty suspect.

Jones may be struggling this season, but in his rookie season he had four goals and nine points in 43 points as a part time NHLer.  Surely he could be at least a temporary solution for them on the blueline.  He can’t any worse than what they have now.  Even if he stinks, at 850K for this season and next, it’s not like he couldn’t be done away with quickly.  Pretty low risk bet for the Bruins.  On paper, Jones could come in there and become a regular in very short order, something that would be tougher in Edmonton with all the depth we have now and Philip Broberg in the pipeline.

How does this work cap space wise?  

This would actually work out well for both teams.  If you add up Kassian’s $3.2 million cap hit and Jones’s $850K cap hit, that’s $4.05 million in cap space that Boston is taking on.

However, by trading Debrusk they rid themselves of $3.675 million for this season and next.

This means that the Oilers would save $375,000 against the cap – savings they need badly right now since they’re right up against the cap ceiling and the only reason the NHL isn’t clamping down on them is because they have LTIR cap space to maneuver with.

Meanwhile, Boston has over $2.55 million in cap space, so they can easily afford to take on $375,000 against the cap.  It would still leave them with over $2 million in cap space once the trade is done.  Hard to argue with that money when you can potentially solve two roster spots in your lineup.

So, bottom line

This is a trade that could actually work out very well for both teams.  Both teams get to trade players that are currently struggling and on paper are better fits for the teams they would get traded to.  The Oilers get a hometown boy who would have better linemates to find his game with again, and get to save cap space by trading away 2 guys who would both be victims of the numbers game and for sure one would be gone for nothing in the expansion draft.  Saving $375K of cap space is a great bonus for this trade, as is the extra draft pick whether it’s a 2nd or something else.

The Bruins get a power forward who would help out their 2nd line and a d-man who would add to their depth and give them the opportunity to punish one of their left D for underachieving.  They would be adding some cap space but it’s a negligible amount – and an amount they already have available to them.

IMO that’s worth even two weeks of quarantine on both sides of the border for these guys.