It’s been a rollercoaster of a season in Edmonton. The Oilers had the best points percentage in the NHL on December 1st, and they responded to that by winning just 2 of their next 15 games and dropping right out of the playoffs. The firing of Dave Tippett and signing of maligned power-forward Evander Kane were intended to drastically reshape the way the team plays on the ice, placing more defensive responsibility on the forwards and making the Oilers a harder team to play against. So far so good. Since signing Kane the Oilers have gone 6-2, and have won all three games they’ve played since bringing in Jay Woodcroft as head coach. That run has lifted them back into a playoff position, as they mathematically hold sole possession of 3rd in the Pacific Division as of this writing. With a bit more certainty in his team’s playoff capabilities, GM Ken Holland can now focus on resolving some weaknesses in his team at the March trade deadline. Here are the best trade pieces he has to work with.
The big Finnish goalie has had a tough time with Edmonton media over his stint with the Oilers. Despite flashes of starter potential, his consistency has been a backbreaker for the Oilers on a regular basis, and the reporters in Edmonton haven’t exactly gone easy on him as a result. That said, there is reportedly still some interest in Koskinen on the trade market. If the Oilers could move out Koskinen’s $4.5 million contract, it would give them a lot more flexibility with how they approach this year’s deadline. It would also give them an opportunity to bring in a new face to tend their crease, something the team has needed for some time.
It’s unfortunate, given that the Oilers just signed Barrie to a 3-year extension last summer, but what earned Barrie that contract was his success last season as the league’s top-scoring defenceman. Despite his defensive-zone lapses, Barrie was making up for it on the offensive end. That has not been the case this year. Barrie currently has 3 goals and 18 points in 41 games and has been outpaced by 22-year old Evan Bouchard, who plays a similar game to Barrie, but stands 4 inches taller and has managed to score 9 goals and 26 points in 47 games while seeing just a fraction of Barrie’s powerplay time. Plenty of other teams are looking for some extra offence from their blueline, and Barrie can bring that in spades. He also comes with two extra years of term on a very friendly $4.5 million contract.
Trade rumors have been swirling around Yamamoto for a few months now. Expectations were high after Yamamoto broke into the league by scoring 11 goals and 26 points in 27 games during the shortened ’19-’20 NHL season. Currently, Yamamoto has 9 goals and 17 points in 47 games this year. While he is likely to set career highs in goals and points this season, his play is a far cry from his nearly point-per-game pace a couple of years ago. That said, Yamamoto is well-liked in the Oilers’ locker room and provides a strong defensive and forechecking element that the team would be hard-pressed to replace, and at only 23-years old, there is plenty of time for his offensive game to take shape. The Oilers won’t be accepting a cheap return on this player, and that may take him off the market for many teams.
Your first NHL game doesn’t always go as expected, and for Dmitri Samorukov, that is an understatement. A highly-touted defensive prospect in the Oilers organization, Samorukov came up and played his first game against the St. Louis Blues on December 29th, got scored on twice in his first 2mins of ice time, and was promptly benched by then-head coach Dave Tippett. An unfortunate start to a career, but that doesn’t take away from Samorukov’s potential. The former 84th-overall pick from 2017 is a big, mobile Russian defender who can skate remarkably well for his size. He’s shown the ability to play a smart, shutdown game in both the KHL and AHL, but also has the ability to take over offensively, like when he scored 10 goals and 28 points in 24 playoff games to lead his Guelph Storm to the 2019 OHL Championship. One NHL game will not define his whole career, and teams willing to take a chance on him now could end up with a steal of a player down the road.
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