Home > Uncategorized > Oilers’ damned if they do, damned if they don’t at trade deadline

Oilers’ damned if they do, damned if they don’t at trade deadline

JASON FRANSON/The Associated Press Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish could be a busy man leading up to Wednesday’s trade deadline with the potential to move a handful of players, including Ales Hemsky, Nick Schultz, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones and Ilya Bryzgalov, among others.

JASON FRANSON/The Associated Press
Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish could be a busy man leading up to Wednesday’s trade deadline with the potential to move a handful of players, including Ales Hemsky, Nick Schultz, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones and Ilya Bryzgalov, among others.

Based on the track record, things don’t look to be getting better in Edmonton any time soon.

With the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday, armchair GMs are compiling their ‘trade trackers’ and many have a handful of deals in place that would (in theory) make life that much easier for Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish and his supporting cast.

Jared Waldo
Jared Waldo

However, there’s two problems with most scenarios involving trades that include any member of Edmonton’s personnel:

1) No return will actually HELP the team in the short-term.

2) Most trades proposed by fantasy GMs are wishful thinking.

Addressing my first problem, MacTavish doesn’t have a lot of selling power if you believe most of the players rumoured to be available are ACTUALLY on the market. The Oilers need three CRITICAL elements if they want to improve. A starting goaltender, an elite-level VETERAN forward with size and a top-pairing defenceman. They’re not getting that at the deadline, so the team won’t be improved following the events of Wednesday.

Best-case scenario? The Oilers add some assets to make a move at the draft, because improvement won’t come from the deadline, or via free agency.

Here’s who may be available for pickup, should a GM feel like making a call to MacT:

Ales Hemsky

Ales Hemsky

ALES HEMSKY: The 30-year-old Czech has been available for the past three trade deadlines, so it should be quite telling that no one has acquired the right-winger yet, and he’s not exactly getting any younger. There’s no denying Hemsky’s skill, but as Oilers’ fans will tell you, he always leaves you wanting more. And that is likely part of the reason no team has plucked him from the roster thus far.

Hemsky has elite passing and vision, and though his health has been a concern in recent years, he’s been relatively healthy for the better part of this season. It’s believable to assume that Hemsky could fetch the Oilers a second-round pick, but does that do anything for MacTavish?

Yes, the Oilers are looking to add a second-round pick to this year’s draft as they currently lack a second- and third-round selection, but even if a team like Detroit or Pittsburgh decides to part with a pick for Hemsky, what exactly does that do for Edmonton?

Getting younger is not the direction the Oilers need to go, but the only return for Hemsky would be a draft pick or (at best) a meddling prospect. It’s clear they have no appetite to re-sign him, and it’s probably safe to assume they’re not moving towards improvement with him in the lineup.

Nick Schultz

Nick Schultz

NICK SHULTZ: The Oilers’ top shot blocker, Schultz is a pending UFA and likely an intriguing commodity for a team with blue-line depth, looking to add another capable body to their D-corps. He’s playing a larger role and more minutes than he probably should in Edmonton, but the 31-year-old would slot nicely on a 5-6 pairing on a deep team.

The Boston Bruins may be a potential trade partner, as Schultz would provide nice insurance on an already solid back end. Would the Bruins be willing to offer the Oilers a third-round pick for Schultz? I’d guess the Bruins may turn to Schultz if they can’t secure another potential UFA rental like Chris Phillips. Schultz is a ‘B’ option to many teams, so I would suspect that if Schultz does move, it’ll be later in the day and after some other potential ‘A’ options get shipped out.

Ryan Smyth

Ryan Smyth

RYAN SMYTH: There won’t be many tears if Smyth is on the move this time around. While a nice, sentimental story, Smyth’s second stint in Edmonton hasn’t been overly strong since returning to the team a couple of seasons ago. The bloom has definitely fallen off the rose with fans, and at 38, this may be Smyth’s final season in the NHL.

He’s currently playing on the fourth line of the 29th-ranked team in the league. And he’s playing out of position, no less (C as opposed to LW). While some teams may see value in Smyth’s experience and leadership, he doesn’t offer much in the way of 5-on-5 depth and therefore wouldn’t fetch much of a return. If the Oilers got anything more than a late-round pick for Smyth (should they decide to move him), they should consider themselves lucky. Personally, I don’t see too many calls for Smyth’s services, and he’ll likely retire an Oiler.

Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones

RYAN JONES: What appeared to be a potential third-line winger with 15-20 goal potential, Ryan Jones’ fall from grace has put him out of favour in Edmonton. After back-to-back seasons of 18 and 17 goals, respectively, between 2010 and 2012, Jones took a step backwards last season and has just four goals in his last 67 games.

To be fair, Jones took a long time coming back from an eye injury suffered during the lockout last season, but he hasn’t been able to escape the fourth line much this season. Jones can still bring a small level of grit and tenacity to a team’s bottom six. And while there may be a market for a player of Jones’ calibre, the return likely won’t be much.

Keep in mind, this is a player who has spent time as a healthy scratch and started the year in the AHL. Those players don’t traditionally hold much value.

Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov

ILYA BRYZGALOV: It’s hard to say whether or not a team may come calling on ‘Bryz’ by Wednesday, but he’s a potential option for teams looking to land a goaltender with experience. It’s hard to put any value on a goalie who is currently sporting a 3.08 goals-against average and a save percentage barely above the .900 mark. However, given the goaltending carousel in Edmonton this season, it’s almost unfair to judge how telling stats are to a netminder’s abilities. For a  team like the Minnesota Wild, Bryzgalov may be an attractive option. Despite Darcy Kuemper carrying the team on his back recently, the Wild don’t appear to be comfortable resting their playoff hopes on the rookie’s shoulders. With Niklas Backstrom injured and questions surrounding the health of Josh Harding, Bryzgalov could provide a nice safety net for the Wild, all things considered.

What would Minnesota be willing to give up? Hard to imagine a large return, but a fourth-round pick may appear to be the going rate.

Anton Belov

Anton Belov

Past that, the Oilers have a few more pending UFA defencemen but none of which would likely be claimed on waivers, let alone garner any type of return from another NHL club. Mark Fraser, Corey Potter and Anton Belov are all trying to secure a regular shift with the Oilers right now. And if you can’t do that on a blue-line lacking THAT much talent . . . draw your own conclusions!

The bottom line is that the Oilers could trade all of the aforementioned players for the return that I suggested and they would be no further ahead than they are right now. It could be argued that it doesn’t matter for a team that is going to miss the playoffs for an eighth straight season, and that’s understandable.

However, whatever assets Craig MacTavish receives in return at the deadline, if he’s not looking to flip those into improved, capable bodies during the off-season, then there’s not much reason for optimism in Edmonton as we look ahead to 2014-15.

Jared (Wally) Waldo is former sports anchor/reporter turned radio marketing professional for Newcap Radio in Red Deer, Alta., but his passion for sports still exists. His experience covering local sports in Central Alberta includes the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels as a reporter for the online hockey program Rebels This Week. Follow him on Twitter: @OdlawDeraj.

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