It is absolutely no secret that the Edmonton Oilers are having issues with their defense. So far this season it has been a regular occurrence for at least one goal per game directly attributable to a misplaced by a defender. Darnell Nurse has been on the causing end of a few, notably a late game-tying goal against the St. Louis Blues after which he put the blame on himself.
Goaltending has not been spectacular for the most part either, but very often the goalie is left hanging out to dry by poor defensive coverage and lapses of judgement.
What might be a key factor here? Is it inexperience? Poor roster composition? Or all of the above? Likely all of the above, but it does lean towards a poor player type composition on the back end.
Nurse has never been a defensive defender. He is a two-way defender who excels at transitional play and gets by on physicality. Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie, both of whom play right side, are purely offensive defenders.
The Oilers do not have a true shut-down defender, they have Cody Ceci playing in that role. He has been serviceable, and even had a good season in 2021-22, but it is above his ideal role in a team"s depth chart to be that guy.
So moving forward, the Oilers need a defender. Either someone who can play left side on the second pairing to mentor Bouchard and take some pressure off of Nurse. Or a top pairing right defender to push Ceci down the depth chart.
Here are a few Oilers trade targets that might be able to help fix the defense.
4 Edmonton Oilers Trade Targets
It is no secret that Jakob Chychrun is on the trade block. He’s been there for a long time. And the Oilers are a team that he has been linked to in the past. Now may be the time where Ken Holland makes a serious play for the Arizona Coyotes defender.
Chychrun would immediately slot in on the Oilers’ second pairing, exactly where they’d need him, and allow some of the workload to be taken off of Nurse. He is a solid two-way defender who has managed to put up respectable numbers and performances on some awful Coyotes teams.
The biggest knock against Chychrun is his health and reliability. Over his career, he typically misses a quarter to a third of each season due to injury. And already this year, he has been out of the lineup for a significant time. The price to acquire him will be steep, and when he is in the lineup he is worth it. But he may not be in the lineup enough to justify the price.
Joel Edmundson is a prime target for the Edmonton Oilers. A big, physical, defensive-minded defender who could provide a stabilizing force for the Oilers’ back-end.
However, he is also a prime candidate for a massive overpayment. After the Montreal Canadiens got an absolute haul for Ben Chiarot at the trade deadline last season, the Habs may be expecting Edmundson to fetch a similar return.
If the Oilers are going to pay a premium for a second pairing left defender on an affordable cap hit, they would be better off aiming for Chychrun.
With how awful the Columbus Blue Jackets’ season has gone thus far, it is highly likely that some of their players will be available for trade in the coming months. One of those targets could be Vladislav Gavrikov.
Gavrikov is one of the better defensive defenders in the league. He will not amaze anyone on the scoresheet, but he will do a lot of the little things right to quietly be an effective defender. He averages over 22 minutes of ice time per game, and his 62 blocked shots are third on the Blue Jackets, but would place him tied for first on the Oilers.
Although he would just be a rental, Gavrikov is on a reasonable cap hit, making it easier for the Oilers to fit him in the lineup, and there is always the possibility of an extension in the offseason (if the team can afford it).
Another team that has been struggling this season is the Nashville Predators. Mattias Ekholm may find himself on the trade bait board soon as the team starts to make some changes.
Ekholm may be the ideal candidate here. A versatile, defense first player who can play both sides of the pairing. This accomplishes both possibilities for improving the Oilers’ defense. Either a second pairing left defender to take the pressure off of Nurse’s pairing, or a top pairing right defender to push other players down the depth chart.
The problem is the salary. Ekholm’s $6.5 million cap hit is not particularly affordable for the Oilers immediately. They would have to free up cap space for this to work by trading players like Jesse Puljujarvi or Warren Foegele, or maybe they finally make a Tyson Barrie trade if he is the odd-man out in the Oilers’ defense.
Those are four of the most prominent Edmonton Oilers trade targets to fix their defense. Who would you want the team to acquire? Drop a comment down below!
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