We are quickly approaching the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline and things could not be more difficult in regards to trades. Unlike previous years, the bulk of trade activity is expected to come well before deadline day. This is due to the complications surrounding COVID-19 protocols forcing players crossing the US/Canada border to quarantine for a minimum period of two weeks.
This will cause teams to trade out assets and play a handful of games before they get acquisitions onto the ice. Not ideal in the slightest.
For the Edmonton Oilers, things are expected to be a bit quieter than last year. COVID guidelines aside, Ken Holland might be weary of moving assets after giving up a bevy of draft picks for underwhelming returns with Andreas Athanasiou and Mike Green. That isn’t to say the team could use a few pieces to shore up roster holes.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman included a brief piece of information on where the Oilers could be looking to improve with their next deal. His latest edition of 31 Thoughts had the following to say:
20. It might not be something that could happen until the off-season, but Elvis Merzlikins is the kind of goalie who makes sense long-term for Edmonton.
Merzlikins has been in the rumour-mill for some time. He is currently apart of a duo of Columbus goaltenders and seems to have been beaten to the starters role by Joonas Korpisalo.
In nine games with the Blue Jackets this season, Merzlikins has put up a 3-3-1 record along with a .917sv% and 2.81 GAA. At the age of 26, he is quickly approaching the prime moment in his career where he could finally take on the role of a starter for an NHL club.
His professional career is quite impressive. In the six seasons he spent in the Swiss-A league before joining the NHL, Merzlikins’ save percentage never dipped below .913. It looks as though he has only improved his play since joining the Jackets, posting a .921sv% in 45 career NHL games.
It would be a worthy gamble to bring Merzlikins aboard. At this moment in time, the Oilers lack a young goaltender who has shown well at the NHL level. Both Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have been serviceable this season but don’t have much of a future with the club after their contracts expire.
As Elliott mentioned, it is unlikely the Oilers would be able to make this deal before the deadline. The $4 million cap-hit poses a huge problem in any potential deal as it would require Edmonton to clear one of their bad contracts. Therefore, a deal in the offseason when the team has a bunch of money coming off the books is the most likely course of action.
The asking price back in October appeared to be a top-six centerman which would seemingly mean Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from an Oilers perspective, something that should be a non-starter for Ken Holland as he tries to sign #93 to a long-term contract. What the Oilers could do is dip into their prospect pool to facilitate a deal.
As it stands right now the Jackets are most likely looking to acquire some promising futures if they decide to move on from Merzlikins, with a preference for young forwards.
Perhaps Ken Holland can entice Columbus with one of his young defenders like Caleb Jones or Dimitri Samorukov. If that doesn’t work maybe a player like Ryan McLeod or Raphael Lavoie becomes the centrepiece along with a draft pick.
It would be a difficult move to make and one that carries a lot of risk for both sides. The Jackets are in a position where they have two similar goaltenders and trading the wrong one could be a devastating mistake. Likewise, the Oilers would be giving up some good assets for a player that plays an unpredictable position.
As it stands, Merzlikins remains one of the most promising goaltenders that could be had for a reasonable price on the trade market. The Oilers lack a goalie of the future and Merzlikins's career to date suggests he could be just that in Edmonton.