For a team with a payroll structure like the Edmonton Oilers, having a bunch of young players who can be impact guys on the ice with a team friendly cap number, is a must. Stuart Skinner has fit that bill all season long but no other player has been able to do the same with any kind of consistency.
Well, that has started to change of late and because of it, Ken Holland might have a few more options at his disposal when it comes to the trade deadline. Funny what a red-hot run from Klim Kostin coupled with the improved play of Philip Broberg and addition of Vincent Desharnais can do for a lineup.
Before this season even started, it was clear the Oilers would have to change the mix and upgrade their backend. Well, here we are and thanks to the recent emergence of Broberg and initial returns on Desharnais being positive, Holland now has a variety of options at his disposal.
As things currently sit, Edmonton has three defencemen on the roster (Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard and Brett Kulak) who are going nowhere. The same cannot be said for either Cody Ceci or Tyson Barrie. The question now becomes whether or not Holland has the appetite to move either one in-season.
We’re all familiar with the names that have been making the rounds of available blueliners across the league. No matter what direction he decides to go, giving up a piece off the roster is a given. Be it from a value standpoint or simply making space under the cap. Something has to give.
For the longest time, Broberg has been viewed by most as a potential trade piece and frankly, still is. However, we can’t ignore the importance of the aforementioned team-friendly contract, as they will remain a must moving forward. Translation, if at all possible, use picks and prospects to make a deal.
Now, if the opportunity to make a move comes along that can put this group over the top and a potential Stanley Cup favourite, it would have to be looked at it. Priority one is about winning now. So if there is a trade out there that puts them in that spot, it would be tough to not pull the trigger.
However, if a trade can be found to improve this backend using draft picks and prospects, the Oilers may be able to have the best of both worlds. This means one of Barrie or Ceci would have to be moved to make room along the blueline, and to make the money work on the salary cap.
Both are useful players but with flaws in their games. Unfortunately, those flaws and their combined cap hit of just over $7.5 million isn’t ideal. A potential upgrade, combined with cheap internal solutions to help soften the blow, is an intriguing alternative.
From a usage vantage point, Barrie’s greatest attribute comes on the power play. Though he is not currently as polished of an option, Bouchard could easily step in and take on said role with this juggernaut of power play. Again, this is simply about fit and not meant as a shot at Barrie.
Same goes for Ceci, who is miscast playing alongside Nurse on the Oilers top pairing. In other words, he would be best suited in a support role as a number four, five or six defencman. A useful piece to be sure but one that can quickly become problematic, when asked to take on the so-called heavy lifting,
As currently set-up, Ceci will either be relied on as a minutes eating guy or one who could potentially help insulate a younger player in a second pairing role, In my mind, he can do the latter but more so in a third pairing role, where the ask at even strength would be more reasonable/realistic.
Again, it all about fit and what would work best for the collective down the stretch and into the playoffs. Broberg’s ability to make a first pass and skate the puck out of danger can’t be ignored. In case you haven’t noticed, the Oilers are in desperate need of defencemen who have said skill-set.
His confidence appears to be growing with each passing game and the talented Swede would be a perfect complement for a player who can drive a pairing and help shelter his partner along way. If Holland were able to grab that player, it could be a case of improving two spots with one move.
The sample size is tiny with Desharnais but the calmness in his game and decision making are hard to ignore. Add his size, willingness to engage physically into the equation and you have another useful young player who appears as though he could be an impact piece in a supporting role.
Some will disagree but if Holland was able to find the right fit on trade market with cost being picks, prospects and moving one of Barrie or Ceci out to make it all work, this blueline could be in pretty good shape. Yes, it would still have to be done by committee but that was always going to be the case.
At the end of the day, it comes down to being open to doing whatever is necessary to improve the team. Some of those decisions can be uncomfortable for a general manager to make and players inside the room may not like it. Fair enough but if winning is what matters, personal relationships are secondary,