Edmonton Oilers: Don’t expect them to be active at the NHL trade deadline

At the time of this writing, the trade deadline is coming up pretty quickly. Will the Edmonton Oilers be active?  Probably not. Let’s look at why.

There isn’t an urgent need to for the Edmonton Oilers

Let’s face it, the Oilers are having the best season they’ve had in quite some time.  They’ve improved their points % by 40 points from last year, and that could get even higher depending on how they finish down the stretch.  Their forward group is led by the 2 greatest forwards in the game.

Their defence is led by 2 d-men who are in the top 10 in league scoring amongst blueliners (Tyson Barrie is currently 3rd in the league in scoring amongst d, and only 2 points away from 1st.  Meanwhile, Darnell Nurse is leading the league in goal scoring amongst D and 9th overall in points).  Fun fact – the Oilers are the only team in the NHL to have 2 d-men in the top 10 in league scoring amongst blueliners.

The goaltending is the weak spot of the team, but even then the tandem of Smith and Koskinen are solid enough to give the team a chance to win most nights.  #3 goaltender Stuart Skinner even had a career highlight with 1 start earlier on in the season.

Meanwhile, down Highway 2 Jacob Markstrom is struggling so bad, he’s not even NHL average – and getting paid $6 million a season to suck.  Regret that boat anchor contract yet, Brad Treliving?  Brought in for “stability” Markstrom instead has been swiss cheese for the Flames, something which makes me laugh a little to think about. Although the Oilers do have needs and they’re not the perfect team, the team needs at this point are “nice to haves” rather than “have to haves.”

After all, in the NHL it’s safe to live by the credo “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Chemistry on an NHL roster is a delicate thing, and a trade can backfire on the team just as much as it can help it.  Ask Arizona how Phil Kessel is doing on their team, or ask Buffalo if they want to go back in time and not sign Taylor Hall as a free agent.

At the time of this writing they’re jockeying for position with Winnipeg for 2nd in the Scotia North division, and only 7 points out of 1st with 16 games left to play.  1st may be a little unreachable at this point as the Leafs are on a 5 game winning streak at the time of this writing, but even so, they’re not out of the race for the division lead just yet, and even then 2nd place is more than attainable.

It’s looking more and more like the Oilers are headed for a playoff spot seeing as how they’re 7 points up on the nearest non-playoff team, Montreal.  Again, can’t take their spot in the standings for granted, but with the wildcard spot eliminated in this covid shortened season, the Oilers are in a fortunate spot right now.

There’s a reason the biggest name the Oilers are linked to right now is Luke Glendenning out of Detroit.  They don’t need urgently enough to add a bigger name at the deadline.  Their featured players are solid and their depth is doing just fine.

Edmonton Oilers are lacking in draft assets to make deals with

Most teams that want to add at the deadline deal away draft picks in order to make the deals they want.  However, the Oilers are missing their 2nd round pick this year (gone to Detroit in the Andreas Athanasiou trade from last season), their 3rd round pick this year (gone to the Flames in the Lucic-Neal trade – poo emoji), and their 5th round pick this year (gone to Ottawa in the Tyler Ennis trade from 2020’s trade deadline).

They have Pittsburgh’s 6th round pick this year from trading away the signing rights to John Marino, but that’s hardly a comfort.  That leaves them only with a 1st, a 4th, 2 6th rounders, and a 7th round pick. Can’t get much at the deadline with most of that haul – except for the 1st rounder, and even then I’d bet Holland holds onto it as he still needs more prospects to establish an actual pipeline.

Considering how much better the Oilers drafting record has been since 2015, I’m willing to bet there’s at least 1 NHLer in that haul still, but other teams won’t be too attracted to it unless the Oilers part with their 1st rounder, which IMO isn’t happening.

Edmonton Oilers are lacking in cap space

Like roughly half the league this season, the Oilers are lacking in cap space, and dollar in dollar out is the name of the game.  This means even if a guy like Luke Glendening comes here, expect the Oilers to send back a couple of cheaper depth players over to Detroit in a bland and boring deal.

The Oilers will also find a lack of trading partners because with 14 other teams in the same spot – not including the 7 other teams who are within $2 million of the cap ceiling – and the few teams with significant cap space will be the only ones you are likely to make deals with.  A lack of trading partners will drive up the price in trade, because supply will be up and demand will be down, otherwise known as a buyer’s market.

The teams with cap space will be able to demand more because there are a lot fewer teams able to buy than teams able to sell.  Do you think Holland wouldn’t be furiously working the phones for the last couple of months if the Oilers had any cap space to buy at the deadline?  Ask Tampa Bay or St. Louis how much they’d love some cap space to buy at the deadline.

Take out the teams definitely not buying because they know they’re not making the playoffs – like Detroit, Ottawa, Anaheim, or Buffalo – and the picture is even bleaker.  As 1 example, would any of these teams take James Neal off our hands for us to free up some cap space for the next 2 seasons?  Maybe, but I’m guessing it will cost us 1 1st rounder for sure, and likely 2.  That’s not worth it just to get rid of some cap space.