As the NHL trade deadline looms, the Edmonton Oilers are contemplating their strategy to bolster the team for a deep playoff run. Analysts suggested early in the season that the team should focus on specific areas to enhance their overall performance. It made sense because the Oilers were struggling. Interestingly, now that the team is on a roll, moves that were once considered musts by the Oilers are no longer priorities. Following 15 straight wins where some of the problem areas have become strengths. In fact, there are questions about how much the Oilers should add, if at all.
Former NHL player Joaquin Gage was a guest on the Got Yer’ Back podcast and outlined a trade pyramid, placing goaltending at the base. With solid goaltending over the past month, including standout performances from Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard, the Oilers may prioritize other positions. Jason Strudwick noted that Jack Campbell, who is playing well in the AHL, has become the Oilers’ insurance policy.
If the Oilers were to look around the market, they’d either fine one of two things: the upgrade from what they have to what they can get isn’t obvious and/or the cost to acquire the best option available is prohibitive from making a trade.
What About the Oilers Forwards?: Spend Big at the Deadline?
Moving up the pyramid, the middle section suggests solidifying the middle six forwards, possibly adding depth to the roster. While players like Warren Foegele have been performing well, Ryan Rishaug asks if that’s the guy you can absolutely, 100 percent count on in the playoffs. Is he a reliable presence in the top six? Or, should he be moved to the bottom six, bring stability, to that group, and the Oilers try to find a legitimate 20-30 goal guy?
If the Oilers are confident Foegele is as good as he’s shown, they can skip over the idea of adding a top-six forward and focus on size and versatility in the bottom half of the lineup.
The Defense Is Clicking Right Now, Don’t Disrupt It
At the pinnacle of the pyramid is the suggestion to target a veteran defenseman. Recognizing the physical toll the playoffs can take, acquiring a seasoned defenseman who can contribute minutes and provide a reliable defensive presence is considered crucial. The emphasis is on maintaining defensive reliability, especially in the face of potential injuries.
But, Gage suggests the Oilers don’t go find anyone that would be inserted into the lineup upon their arrival. He wants a seventh defenseman, someone who can come off the bench or out of the press box and play solid minutes in a lesser, but still important role.
While the trade discussions are ongoing, there is reluctance to disrupt the team’s current chemistry, given their recent success. The cautious approach is reflected in the preference for strategic, targeted moves rather than sweeping changes that could impact the team’s dynamic.
The Oilers Can Try to Do a Lot, But Should They?
As the Oilers weigh their options, the focus remains on making calculated moves that enhance the team’s strengths without sacrificing the chemistry that has contributed to their recent success. The next few weeks will likely bring clarity to the team’s strategic direction as they pursue a competitive edge for the upcoming playoffs.
They are in an enviable position. Most teams would love to be on the streak the Oilers are on and moving up the standings. At the same time, Edmonton is creeping into territory felt by teams like Boston and Toronto of last season. Add too much and it throws everything out of balance. Add to little and you might find out the hard way that what you have isn’t enough.
One of the best things about winning this much is that a panic move or a dire need is no longer required. That means the Oilers could wind up keeping their first-round pick for this summer, which on its own, is a huge win.
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