Between the start of the regular season and the Olympic roster freeze in early February, there were 26 trades completed in the NHL. Eight of those trades involved the Edmonton Oilers, as general manager Craig MacTavish attempts to rebuild an organization and reshape a roster that's well on its way to its seventh consecutive non-playoff season.
Most of the trades the Oilers completed to this point have been the hockey equivalent of fixing the radio knobs on a car that has no engine and is sitting on four cinder blocks in your front yard (Mark Fraser? Matt Hendricks?). But there are still even more pieces that could be on their way out the door before the March 5 trade deadline.
A lot of teams can still be considered in the playoff race and not yet know their status as buyers or sellers. It is clear the Oilers fall solidly in the seller role.
Will this be the year the Edmonton finally goes through with an Ales Hemsky trade? Will the front office pull the trigger on something bold and move one of their young core players, or perhaps even their first-round pick?
Will Hemsky finally go?
It just wouldn't be deadline time if Ales Hemsky's name wasn't constantly talked about in trade rumors and speculation.
In the final year of a contract that pays him $5 million per year, Hemsky could be an interesting pickup if he is finally indeed dealt by the Oilers. Injuries have derailed his career in recent seasons, but he is a highly skilled player that has seen his production fall off the past couple of years. This season he has been used in a defensive role alongside Boyd Gordon (tough competition, few offensive zone starts) and he's still shown an ability move the puck and help drive possession.
A team that gets him and puts him into more of an offensive role might get a pretty productive player (he was outstanding at the Olympics for the Czech Republic) at a bargain price in terms of what it has to give up, which might be the problem for Edmonton. Given his contract status, injury concerns, and current level of production the Oilers probably don't have much leverage in terms of what they can get back.
Bad news for the Oilers, potential good news for a team in need of a top-six winger.
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Core player shopped?
The problem the Oilers might run into when it comes to its role as sellers is that once you get past Hemsky, there isn't much on the roster that would bring any sort of significant return -- unless you start looking into moving one of their young core players.
It's a pretty safe assumption that Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are not going anywhere. But should the Oilers consider dangling a Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov for the right deal? Or what about a young asset that isn't even on the roster -- their upcoming first-round pick, which is sure to be near the top of the draft once again?
Such a deal might make more sense in the offseason, perhaps even around draft time, but with a lot of young top-line forward options, and enormous holes in the bottom-six and all over the defense, nothing should be off the table. Putting Yakupov on the block at this point probably wouldn't be wise given that he's so young and you would be selling low on an extremely valuable asset, but that first-round pick could be a key piece of acquiring Edmonton's current biggest need -- a No. 1 defensemen.
Sam Gagner is another name that's been rumored to be on the move as he was connected to the Los Angeles Kings (possibly in exchange for Kyle Clifford, which didn't make any sense from an Oilers perspective) before the NHL's roster freeze kicked in.