The NHL’s trade deadline is 3 pm ET on March 1st and one of the least likely teams to remain idle is the Edmonton Oilers. Entering Friday, the Oilers sat third in their division, and they looked pretty comfortable for a top-three finish and a playoff spot. However, the Los Angeles Kings have played well lately and if they get any closer to Edmonton than their current six-point deficit then that creates four teams vying for three spots, not to mention Calgary. There are wild-card hopes after that, but Peter Chiarelli can’t chance anything but a locked-up playoff spot by virtue of a top-three divisional finish.
There’s tons of pressure on Chiarelli to – minimally – get Edmonton into the post-season. First of all, Edmonton is the home of grass roots hockey in North America and it has been a terrible ride for the Oilers’ fans since the 2006 season. That ride was supposed to come to an end last season, at least before Connor McDavid suffered his broken collarbone. The Oilers are now facing making a new record for futility if they miss the post-season this year.
With the new building and a healthy McDavid, missing the playoffs would be an absolute fiasco in E-town this season. Chiarelli can’t let the key players that are on selling teams go to his Pacific Division rivals without making a competitive move for them.
Lisa Dillman, writing at NHL.com on February 9th, looked at the Pacific Division. Regarding the Oilers she said they need a “Top offensive defenseman” and “experience up front” while noting plenty of cap space. Names Dillman dropped as “Potential targets” were Jarome Iginla, Tyson Barrie, and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Iginla is the one that meets the criteria of “experience up front.” The one-time NHL MVP is approaching 40 years old and would surely welcome a chance to escape Denver, where the dismal Colorado Avalanche are all but mathematically eliminated from contention. But Iginla might be a strange player for Edmonton fans to see in Oiler colors. The former long-time Calgary Flame is from the Edmonton area by birth and upbringing. However, his main NHL team will always be Calgary. As such, Oiler fans are only accustomed to seeing him as an antagonist.
There’s also a major question of productivity. Iginla brings the experience, but what has he done lately in the league? In 51 games this season he has 14 points to date and a +/- of -18. A trade for Iginla would have to be incredibly cheap for the Oilers with the only expected return being locker-room leadership. The implications would be ambiguous and probably even just a total bust.
Barrie might be a player worth forking something out for. The half-point per game defenceman certainly isn’t a “Top offensive defenceman” with just 23 points to date in 44 games (he’s 43rd for d-man scoring). However, the Avs are the clearest of sellers at this point, and Barrie has seen better days. His numbers were better in each of the last two seasons, so perhaps the lull this season has to do with the players around him.
With Dillman name-dropping St. Louis defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk, I’m not totally sure what makes the Blues sellers to the Oilers. The Blues currently sit in playoff positioning, they just fired Ken Hitchcock, and St. Louis have won three straight. If they do want to trade Shattenkirk to strengthen another position, then I think it’d be over to the Eastern Conference to minimize the potential for the trade to burn them.
Unless the Oilers totally revamp, then regardless of what they do an Edmonton team in the playoffs is going to be loaded with inexperienced players. If you have a read on Connor McDavid, then you know that won’t bother him at all. As for Leon Draisaltl, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Cam Talbot who knows what to expect. It could be that this season is just one where the Oilers young core gets some experience. Everything considered, I think Edmonton fans should be thrilled with a second-round appearance this season.