The Edmonton Oilers made two trade deadline acquisitions the previous season to aid their Stanley Cup success. Mattias Ekholm’s acquisition is among the Oilers’ best-ever deadline transactions, even though Nick Bjugstad was a nice addition.
The following was the trade: Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, a 2023 first-round selection, a 2024 fourth-round pick, and Ekholm were acquired by the Oilers along with a 2024 sixth-round pick. Giving up Barrie, a prospect selected in the first round the previous year, another first-round pick, and a fourth to retain 4% of salary ($250,000) may have seemed like a steep price at the time, but things couldn’t have turned out worse for the Predators and better for the Oilers (from “Lowetide: How the Edmonton Oilers are undergoing a changing of the guard on defense”, The Athletic, Dec. 28, 2023).
Ekholm has performed admirably ever since moving to Edmonton. Beyond just his play, his influence altered Evan Bouchard’s style of play, and he became his regular defense partner. In five-on-five ice time, the duo has led the Oilers and put up incredible stats.
The pairing’s Corsi for percentage since Ekholm arrived is 61.39, shots for percentage is 59.09, goals for percentage is 65.22 (60 goals for and 32 against), expected goals for percentage is 63.68, scoring chances for percentage is 63.44, and high danger chances for percentage is 63.44, according to Natural Stattrick. Anything above fifty-five percent is excellent; if this pairing is around sixty percent, it’s at a completely different level.
Bouchard, on the other hand, had to leave because Barrie was restraining him. In addition to depriving Bouchard of power-play minutes, he was viewed as a liability himself. His $4.5 million AAV (average annual value) cap hit for the previous and current seasons was also eliminated by the trade.
Since then, Bouchard has averaged more than a point per game, but Barrie has been a healthy scratch and doesn’t belong in Nashville. Who knows if he hadn’t been transported, and something similar might have occurred in Edmonton.
Regarding the remainder of the trade, Schaefer has fallen short of the hype since going professional. The year after being drafted, the late first-round pick hardly scored more than one point per game in the Western Hockey League (WHL). In the Memorial Cup and World Junior Championship combined, he only managed three assists in 12 games. This season, he has one goal and six points in 33 games in the American Hockey League (AHL).
If Schaefer continues to improve at this rate, it will be at least three seasons before he even gets the chance to play in the NHL. Although he isn’t particularly good, Tanner Molendyk, the player the Predators selected with the Oilers’ first-round choice this past summer, is superior to Schaefer. It will take him some time to make it to the NHL as a defenseman.
Overall, with two more years left on his contract after this one, Ekholm provides the Oilers with a significant piece of the puzzle to help them win a Cup. They traded away a mid-round draft pick, a prospect selected 32nd overall, a late first-round pick, and a weak link for a player who has shown to be so much more valuable to the team. Another deal by Edmonton might send them over the top given they still have their Stanley Cup window open and their first-round pick.
Who Makes That Difference For The Oilers?
Which positions ought the Oilers to focus on this season in an attempt to find their steal at the trade deadline? It is not necessary for the Oilers to acquire a starting goalie because Stuart Skinner has been playing quite well lately. When it comes to providing Skinner with the assistance he requires, they must think smaller and avoid making any significant acquisitions.
Only a forward and a right-shot defenseman in the top four remain. If they are also fighting for a backup goalkeeper, it might be difficult to execute a deal for all three, but even one of these choices would be very beneficial. The Oilers must either get a third-line centerman or a second-line right-winger to replace Cody Ceci, or they must upgrade (as they did with Barrie). Here are a few choices:
Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers
The top-six winger the Oilers have been looking for is Travis Konecny, if we’re talking about a possible game-changer. He can score goals and create offensively on a regular basis even without the power play, which has been dreadful in Philadelphia.The winger for the Philadelphia Flyers plays with grit and accumulates a ton of minutes.
The Flyers are definitely in the running for a playoff position, even though they weren’t predicted to be in it this year. Their plans to sell and actually rebuild might not be affected by this, but it might cause them to take longer. Even if it means losing a roster player, a prospect, and another first-round selection, the Oilers would win big if Konecny produced at a level comparable to what he does routinely on a weaker offensive Flyers club. Konecny has one more year left on his contract at $5.5 million AAV.
Jakob Chychrun/Artem Zub, Ottawa Senators
Once more, the Ottawa Senators have fallen short of expectations. This season, more than any other, was supposed to be one where they were in the running for the playoffs after the decisions they made. That hasn’t happened, and before the deadline, they will make at least a few significant changes. Although the Oilers could consider looking at Vladimir Tarasenko, a top-six right winger, there are more significant long-term objectives on the back end.
As things stand, four defensemen—Jake Sanderson, Thomas Chabot, Jakob Chychrun, and Artem Zub—will receive over $25 million AAV from the Senators. Sanderson is here to stay, but Chabot is also rather secure for the foreseeable being. The contracts of Zub and Chychrun expire earlier, and the Senators must alter since they are mired in a losing streak.
Both are an improvement over Ceci and are suitable to play on the right side. The Oilers would be obtaining a defenseman who is signed past this season and might contribute to multiple Cup campaigns, even though the cap charge would be relatively identical. This move is warranted since Darnell Nurse is in dire need of a new defense mate. Even if Zub’s contract is only through the following season, Chychrun would probably cost more because of his longer lifespan (2027).
The idea that Chychrun and the Oilers could stay together after his contract ($4.6 million AAV) expires is not feasible. Although it might not be as much as the team paid for Ekholm, the haul could still be very valuable. With general manager Steve Staios’s ties to the Oilers, the Senators may grow increasingly eager to make a move.
Edmonton might be able to get a player for numerous playoff runs in a single deal for someone who isn’t a rental. It is hoped that, like Ekholm, this player would make a significant effect.For the Oilers to be able to win this season at any cost, future assets and prospects must be available.