Edmonton Oilers 2023 Trade Deadline Recap

Mar 1, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (88) and Edmonton Oilers defensemen Mattias Ekholm (14) battle along the boards for a loose puck during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (88) and Edmonton Oilers defensemen Mattias Ekholm (14) battle along the boards for a loose puck during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /
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At the time of this writing, the trade deadline has been closed for just over 30 minutes. Unlike the other years that Ken Holland has spent at the helm of the Oilers at the deadline, no last-minute moves were done, they were all wrapped up by yesterday. Interestingly enough, per CapFriendly, the Oilers literally have no cap space left, not even LTIR, although Holland reported that the Oilers had maybe $1000 left – so he may be mistaken, or they may still have a tiny fraction of LTIR cap space left.

Let’s recap all three of the moves and I’ll render my judgment on them. Your opinions of course may vary. Just don’t be a douche in the comments section about them.

Oilers Trade #1

We knew Jesse Puljujarvi was going to get his wish for a fresh start eventually, and as of three days ago, he got it.

Interestingly enough, the Hurricanes have a weird team motto something along the lines of “More Finns, more wins.” I have no idea what nationality has to go with getting wins, but at the very least Puljujarvi will be comfortable on his new team – apparently, he already has a junior teammate on his new team that he goes way back with – I don’t remember which one off the top of my head, but good for him I guess.

Puistola is a Finnish prospect who was drafted in the third round in 2019 and seems to be close to North American pro ready at least. He’s currently in the midst of a career year points wise having put up 38 points in 56 games and is one goal away from tying his career-best in that department as well.

Here’s his scouting report if you’re interested. The important part is right here:

Offensive winger with top-six upside. More of a goal-scorer but can also make plays.

If he achieves what his projections are, then this is the player who projects out to what the Bison King was supposed to be – a legit top-six winger who’s a threat to score whenever he’s on the ice.

We all knew Puljujarvi was going anyway, so this is a nice asset to get back for him. If Puistola can play his offside that would help our depth as the Oilers right now at forward are weakest at RW. We shouldn’t expect help to come from the farm either as we don’t have a surefire prospect at RW coming. Raphael Lavoie, Tyler Tullio, and James Hamblin are all potentials on the radar and Tyler Benson would be a darkhorse candidate but I wouldn’t say any of those guys are taking a roster spot on the big club 100% at this time.

Puistola may be able to bridge that gap if he can play RW for six full seasons and two partial seasons in the Finnish pro leagues.

Ultimately the biggest gain the Oilers made from this trade is the cap dump, as the Hurricanes take on Puljujarvi’s pro-rated $3,000,000 cap hit which the Oilers now gain with the trade.

The Oilers have until June 1 only to re-up Puistola before they lose his signing rights.

My verdict – thumbs up

Oilers Trade #2

Personally, I would’ve preferred the Oilers traded for Roman Josi instead of Ekholm if they’re trading with Nashville, but Ekholm is a compelling consolation prize. Since this trade is bigger, I’m going to go into a little more detail about it.

The Good

We all know the Oilers are in win-now mode, so a trade of this type was basically inevitable sooner or later. Ekholm is capable of helping the Oilers win now, and he’ll be looked at to help solidify the second pairing in Tyson Barrie’s absence. This creates a wholesale redistribution of players between the second and third pairings, as the currently struggling Evan Bouchard will be moved back up to the second pairing to take Tyson Barrie’s spot in the lineup.

Ekholm will now man the left side of the second pairing, which moves Brett Kulak back down to the third pairing and over to the right side, who will then take Evan Bouchard’s former spot on the third pairing playing with Philip Broberg at port.

Bouchard will also be elevated from the second to the first PP unit to replace Barrie at the point position. Ekholm will replace Bouchard on the second pairing PP unit at the point position as well as play on the first unit PK. That’s all here in case you’re wondering.

Ekholm has some size at 6’4″ and 215 lbs. He was deemed expendable from Nashville when they acquired Ryan Mcdonagh, who then cut Ekholm’s ice time a bit. His main calling card is his defensive play. He finished his last game in Nashville even, although it’s worth noting that he finished at +14 the previous season and +19 the season before.

At least the fall wasn’t on the wrong side of the ledger. Ekholm also has a history of elevating the play of younger players, which is why I assume that Evan Bouchard was moved up to the second pairing, hoping that being paired with another solid veteran in Ekholm will help bring him back into the top four (he previously had a solid season paired with Duncan Keith) – and Ekholm’s list of younger players whose skills he’s helped to elevate include the aforementioned Roman Josi. Not to say that Bouchard is Josi under a different name, but Holland is obviously hoping that history repeats itself in that regard.

Ekholm can also PK, which will most certainly help the Oilers struggling PK which is ranked 25th in the league and without an improvement could prove to be an impediment for the team come playoff time.

Also, one underrated part of Ekholm’s game that nobody is talking about is Ekholm has some puck-moving chops too, despite the fact he was acquired for his defensive play. In his career, Ekholm has had seasons of 40 points once, 30 points four times, and another two seasons with 20 plus points. I’d be willing to bet that Ekholm’s pedestrian 18 points in 53 games in Nashville this season is due to how badly the Preds were struggling. I like his odds at an offensive renaissance considering that on the Oilers he’ll be dishing the puck to forwards that are of a much higher calibre than he had in Nashville – not to mention cleaning up for Bouchard if teams key in on him as well.

Word is he’s also being called upon to help curb some of Darnell Nurse’s minutes, as Nurse has at times played in excess of 30 minutes per game – although that hasn’t happened this season there have been games where he’s at least pushing the 30 minutes mark. That’s probably not going to happen now that Ekholm’s on the scene, which is going to be great come playoff time.

The $250,000 in retention is also nice and even though the pick is only a sixth-rounder never underestimate the magic that Holland and his scouting staff can weave in the draft – Vincent Desharnais, after all, was a seventh-round pick.

The Bad

Ekholm was a player that was in demand in trade, so naturally, when the Oilers traded for him they had to give up a pretty good amount in trade to Nashville in order to make the trade happen.

In Tyson Barrie they give up their #1 point producer from the blueline whose defensive play has been improved thanks to Dave Manson in exchange for a guy whose game is not as focused on offence – after all, Barrie has put up 40+ points the last three seasons as an Oiler while Ekholm has only put up 23, 31, and 18 points this season. That’s a lot of offence that’s been lost from the blueline – to say nothing of Barrie’s loss on the PP for the number one PP in the league this season.

Holland is taking a risk with this trade that Evan Bouchard can replace Barrie’s minutes and presence on the PP, which is a pretty big risk considering that Bouchard is struggling and has only put up 21 points this season to Barrie’s 43, a fine number but just under half of what Barrie has produced. Only time will tell if Bouchard is up to the challenge – it’s a big ask to replace the guy who’s currently sitting at 13th in league scoring amongst blueliners.

Schaefer is also a big loss from the prospect pool, although he’s not the most NHL-ready prospect the Oilers have to offer, he would’ve certainly been called upon to solidify the forward group in Bakersfield starting next season. If Schaefer becomes an elite forward the Oilers may come to regret including him in this trade. Now Schaefer is lost, so the prospect pool has taken a hit.

But of course, if you want to get something in trade in the NHL you have to give up something, so we’ll have to resign ourselves to the fact that while the first-rounder, warm body, and prospect are a lot to give up in trade for Ekholm it was necessary.

It’s also worth noting that Ekholm will be 33 in May, and is signed for three more seasons after this one, so there is a risk that in two or three seasons we may see a decline in this player – in which case we’ll have a $6 million boat anchor contract on our hands. He can certainly help us this season but in the future, it’s a question mark.

My verdict – Let’s wait and see. If the Oilers win a cup this year or next it all becomes worth it. Winning cures all.

Oilers Trade #3

Now we come to the final trade which was completed just yesterday at the time of this writing.

Per Ken Holland’s PC, Bjugstad was a rental the Oiler’s pro scouts identified as a player the team could use to improve bottom-six depth.

Including Kesselring in the trade seems odd to me, but maybe Arizona liked the player so Holland asked for another defensive prospect in return, hence the arrival of Cam Dineen on the scene. I’ll get to him more later.

I have no objection to the third-round pick, that’s about par for the course on a solid bottom-six forward. The 30-year-old Bjugstad is excited to be rescued from the doldrums of the Coyotes. In his initial press conference, he said he doesn’t even mind Edmonton’s weather because it reminds him of Minnesota where he grew up.

Daily Faceoff doesn’t have him listed on the roster yet, but hopefully, he can make it in for tonight’s game against Winnipeg. I assume Holland made this trade because he wants to spend the remainder of the regular season and playoffs playing Nuge in the top six, which means now he needs a more veteran player in the bottom six for depth, as otherwise, the center depth would be a still somewhat inexperienced player in Ryan Mcleod and the vanilla guy in Devin Shore. Nothing against either guy, but Holland rightly believed he needed more experience and talent in his bottom six center depth without Nuge there.

Bjugstad has surprisingly experienced a career renaissance in Arizona, putting up 13-10-23 with a +7 in 59 games for the Coyotes this season.

If he can put up those kinds of numbers on a terrible team like Arizona, imagine how much he could clean up here.

He’s a bit hit-and-miss on faceoffs but has finished over 50% in the past (a pedestrian 47.2% this season). He was a key guy in Arizona this season on faceoffs, having taken almost 900 of them for the Coyotes already.  He could also play at RW if Woodcroft wants to change it up in the bottom six. If you believe in lefty/righty change-ups in the faceoff circle (I don’t, personally) but Bjugstad is a right-handed guy as opposed to all our other centermen who are all lefties.

Overall a quality veteran rental – and getting Arizona to retain 50% of his salary helped him fit into the cap structure better and probably helped Arizona get a higher draft pick (likely a fourth or fifth-round pick otherwise at full cap hit).

As for Dineen, he seems to be further along in his development than Kesselring at this point as he’s had a callup with the Coyotes already, putting up 0-7-7 in 34 games and a -16 to boot last season. Not surprising a player being called up to an awful team would have a +/- that bad.

However, Dineen does have some puck-moving chops as he followed that up with a campaign of 4-31-35 in 50 games for the Tucson Roadrunners this season with a -5.

Obviously, a player who needs more seasoning in the minors as far as his defensive play, but certainly a quality prospect.

For some reason, the Dobber Prospects page on Dineen doesn’t load, so I had to find a different scouting report on Dineen. I have a feeling Holland may have traded for an upgrade of a prospect, here’s his scouting report from that site:

The talk around draft circles is the first three defensemen picked in 2016 will not only come out of the OHL, but could all be top-10 picks. But history’s shown us that being a high-profile pick doesn’t guarantee a thing, which is why drafting a sound puck mover like Dineen after Day One’s fireworks could end up as one shrewd move regardless of whether a two-way blueliner is a team need or not. The Toms River, NJ native bested all his OHL peers in scoring with 59 points in 68 games while being used in all situations. Dineen is not big or overly physical, but he’s silky-smooth with the puck and maintained his consistency even after opposing coaches realized how big of a three-zone threat he was. He’s an exceptional passer with eyes in the back of his head, and he has soft hands to where he can deaden the puck and lay it flat to make a cleaner follow-on play. Dineen has an above-average shot, and he can fire both his wrister and slapper with authority and accuracy. He routinely makes high-percentage decisions and has all the makings of a solid top-four NHL defenseman.

Who couldn’t use another top-four defensive prospect in the system? Can never seem to get enough of those in the NHL these days.

Great find by Holland. Dineen may be a late bloomer but he seems to have a higher upside than Kesselring, or at least is further along in his development. Not to mention the right side is awfully crowded here in Edmonton at the moment (Ceci, Bouchard, Kulak, Desharnais). The left side is much more fluid. Probably more opportunity here in Edmonton for Dineen and not as much for Kesselring because of it.

My verdict – solid trade