Edmonton Oilers fans, rejoice! It has finally happened! GM Ken Holland made a big trade to acquire Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators. The Oilers have been long rumoured to be in the market for a defender this season. One in which they’ve had never-ending struggles defending, shutting teams down, protecting leads, and utilizing the defence in transition. But this acquisition, the full details of which are below, can help address so many of these concerns.
For the Oilers, this is an important season and playoff push. They need to be competitive and they need to take advantage of a weak but close Western Conference and show that this core is able to hold their own against the best in the league. And for the Predators, the message is clear. It is time to build something new.
The big question now is, how did each team fare in this trade?
Nashville Predators Taking the Rebuild Seriously
After the shocking news that longtime Predators GM David Poile would be stepping down after the draft this offseason, it became clear that the franchise would be heading in a new direction under the next general manager, Barry Trotz. The past couple of seasons have been a struggle for the Predators, so it makes sense that they try and start fresh with the changing of the guard.
Looking in particular at this trade, the Predators made out well. Ekholm has been a valuable player for Nashville for the past 10 seasons, but it was time to move on and sell for the future.
The Predators got Schaefer, who is a 2022 first-round draft pick and one of the Oilers" top prospects. He performed well for Team Canada at the 2023 World Junior Classic and is an intriguing prospect due to his skill set. Players with size and physicality but who also possess a scoring touch and offensive instinct are rare. He should be able to crack the Predators’ lineup in the next couple of seasons. Combined with the first and fourth they also received, this is a good haul for the future.
Barrie is an odd fit for this team. Solely a powerplay specialist, there is no way he gets much powerplay time over Roman Josi. And his even strength defending leaves a lot to be desired. He was included in the trade to make the cap space work, but it would not be surprising to see the Predators trade him again before the deadline to get even more assets.
Will Mattias Ekholm be the Solution on the Oilers’ Defence?
It is no secret that this team has had defensive difficulties throughout the season. So thankfully, Holland was able to swing this deal to help improve the defence. And this is definitely a trade that will help.
Ekholm is an incredibly versatile player who can be useful in every situation. He can play a shutdown role if needed, but has an underrated offensive side to his game as well, as he usually falls around the 30-40 point range. And this is playing on some Predators teams that were fairly average offensively.
He also has the ability to play both sides defensively, something that will go a long way to helping the composition of the Oilers’ defense if he can play top pairing on Darnell Nurse’s right side or maybe second pairing on Evan Bouchard’s left side.
Either way, a player of his calibre will take a lot of pressure off of Nurse and significantly improve the defensive depth of the team.
One area the Oilers have struggled at is in transition and defensive zone breakouts. Ekholm has a very steady and reliable skillset in this area that will help Edmonton. They needed a puck-moving defender, and they found one. Since the Oilers are a team that generates a lot of offense on the rush and counterattack, acquiring someone with a quick and accurate first pass is going to make this team even more dangerous.
On arrival, Ekholm is already the oldest defender on the Oilers’ roster. And with his years in the league comes a ton of veteran leadership and playoff experience, including a run to the Cup Finals back in 2017. The current core of the Oilers is generally inexperienced when it comes to the postseason. He will be able to help guide some of the younger defenders like Bouchard and Philip Broberg, while also mentoring Nurse in how to transition his game to playoff style.
This trade has the potential to be a game-changer for the Edmonton Oilers. They don’t necessarily need the futures right now. The team is competitive and can live without the assets that might be able to help them in three to five years" time. But Ekholm can help this team win right now, doubly important given how close the playoff race is in the Pacific Divison. And his presence should help the team develop into a contender for years to come.
What do you think of this trade? Drop a comment down below with your thoughts!
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