Fans and at least one media source are starting to get very excited about the Edmonton Oilers‘ future. Outside of the die-hards who truly believe every year is their team’s year, it has been a while since anyone–Oilers fans or otherwise–expected them to make the playoffs. But this year has the potential to be different, and that has people wondering whether or not the Oilers might try to make any moves to help move things along.
Obviously the Oilers could go out and surprise everybody by making a significant move or two, but the chances of this happening are slim. People talked about the Oilers trying to get in on Michael del Zotto before he re-signed with the New York Rangers, while others have suggested they take a run at PK Subban from the Montreal Canadiens, and it has even been suggested that they could be a dark horse in the Roberto Luongo sweepstakes.
The Oilers have a dearth of young, offensive talent. This point is like calling water wet, but it’s worth mentioning. In a season as whacked out as the one we’re about to watch, youth will be better served than aging veterans when it comes to recovery time on the ice. Not only could this serve the Oilers well when the season starts and most teams are still trying to get up to speed, but this could also make them less likely to get hit by the injury bug that teams will surely get nailed by this year. The Oilers defense is going to be problematic (more on that in a minute), but if the Oilers’ offense is more effective than their opponents’, then they’ll be able to steal enough games to hang around the playoff chase.
They have defensemen on the way. People keep talking about how Edmonton should trade for a great defenseman, but it’s not going to happen. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and this summer’s draft are the six primary reasons why. Those players are untouchable, however. Knowing this, teams would then require Edmonton’s first-round pick and more in such a deal, but that pick could also be problematic because teams realize that Edmonton could finish 28th or 8th depending on how this season works out. While the forthcoming draft is already considered to be far deeper than the last several years, and while a late first round pick could still be very worthwhile, teams just won’t know what they’re getting if they ask for Edmonton’s first round pick. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has shown a maddening ability to stay the course these past few seasons as the team’s rebuilding plan has fallen into place, so he will not be in any hurry to make a move here, not when they have the highly-touted Oscar Klefbom likely to make the squad next season with possibly Martin Marincin on the way a year or two after that. If they tumble in the standings again and have a shot at the Seth Jones sweepstakes, so much the better for the Oilers’ long-term plans.
Top-4 defensemen don’t grow on trees, so a team willing to give one up would have to get something concrete in return. No one wants Shawn Horcoff and the Oilers don’t know if they’re willing to give up on Sam Gagner or Ales Hemsky, so what do they really have left to offer anybody? At best you are looking at giving up one of Magnus Paajarvi or Teemu Hartikainen plus a first round pick, which won’t get the job done.
Teams just don’t know what to make of this season. This could end up being the biggest reason why the Oilers won’t make any trades of significance until later in the season, because a lot of teams simply have no idea what they have and how their rosters will be able to handle an abbreviated season. A number of teams are likely to play the wait-and-see game in the hope that they can become buyers come the end of March once they have a better idea of what they’re working with. So until then, the Oilers will probably have to make do with what they have and hope for the best. They might take a flier on a 5/6-type of defenseman who will compete with Colton Teubert, Correy Potter and Theo Peckham for the 6th or seventh defenseman spot on the roster, but don’t expect much more than this to happen for a few months.