The Edmonton Oilers will need to add as this year’s NHL trade deadline approaches – a goaltender and left-handed defenseman are among the organization’s primary needs. At the same time, if a potential top-six forward becomes available and the Oilers can clearly improve the right wing, they might choose to do so if the salary cap allows.
When you factor in that the Oilers have some incredibly skilled and high-end forwards coming into the system, it could all amount to the exit of Kailer Yamamoto this season, a player who could be an attractive addition to a rebuilding team. looking for young pieces.
The Oilers Win-Now Window
In most other situations, Yamamoto would be a room the Oilers would like to hold onto. But, because the focus will be on Jesse Puljuarvi’s overtime this offseason and because the team’s window to compete for the Stanley Cup with that core lasts for around four to five seasons, Yamamoto is quickly becoming a play as manager. General Ken Holland might have to move to get what he needs this season and put the Oilers on top.
There are a lot of things that Yamamoto does well. That said, he hasn’t exploded offensively and he may not be the right play in the Oilers’ top six to be a playoff team that goes deep this season. Instead, Holland can choose to shop around and see what kind of hire might be available with proven playoff production and a contract that doesn’t require a commitment.
The list of players who insiders say could help will vary, but Phil Kessel, Alexander Radulov, Joe Pavelski, Dustin Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov are waiting for UFA in squads that probably won’t look like playoff contenders this time. season. Some are known for their score, others for their courage and some for their leadership. All are older and probably moving on. The Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings could all be interested in Yamamoto if he becomes available.
Oilers Perspective Depth
It wouldn’t be a move the Oilers are envisioning if it weren’t for skills spouting out from below. Fortunately, letting Yamamoto ask for immediate help and then not keeping that help is an option as Matvei Petrov, Dylan Holloway, Xavier Bourgault and others work their way through the Oilers system and a few years away from potentially being players ready for NHL duty.
Bourgault leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 15-15-30 in just 15 games. Petrov signed an entry-level deal with the Oilers last week and it looks like a big draft steal for Edmonton. The forward is 11-9-20 in 15 games. Much has been said about Holloway and although he is currently injured, many insiders say he is now NHL ready. If he heals properly, he should be competing for a spot in the Oilers’ top six next season.
Not to mention that the Carter Savoie team, Tyler Tullio, Raphael Lavoie and Ostap Safin are all also in the system.
Yamamoto can be used to fill a need
If the Oilers choose not to move Yamamoto for another striker, he probably has enough cache in the NHL that he can be used as a room to acquire what the Oilers need – a goalie or a left-handed defenseman. If Edmonton prioritizes a stopped d-man to limit shots and goals against, Yamamoto might be enough to acquire this piece. If the Oilers prioritize a goalie, Yamamoto could be a piece used to land someone important.
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In the NHL, you often have to give to get. If it’s not Yamamoto, it’s Edmonton’s first-round selection next season and if there isn’t enough room on the salary cap to sign both Yamamoto and Puljujarvi, why move the first round if you don’t have to?
Can Yamamoto save his place?
All of that could change if Yamamoto finds other gear. He currently has two goals and no assists in 12 NHL games this season and while he’s playing a style that seems to suggest goals and points should come, they haven’t yet. And, that’s all while playing with incredibly gifted forwards who are strong defensively and should give Yamamoto the freedom to be creative and lead the game offensively.
Part of the problem is that Yamamoto doesn’t shoot. With just 19 shots on goal, he ranks last among the team’s top six forwards. Even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has no goals this season, shoots more in an attempt to get rid of the monkey. The good news is that Yamamoto has other valuable things that will keep him in the lineup for now. At 1:51 per game shorthanded, he was effective in that role, and the Oilers’ penalty kill is second in the NHL. He also leads the team in penalties / 60. That’s important given how powerful the Oilers’ power play is.
Is it sufficient? If 12 more games go on and Yamamoto’s point total has not improved, expect to hear his name mentioned in trade talks. It will also make sense as there is no place on the Oilers roster for players who don’t produce and the time to win is now. The longer he goes out of production, the more it looks like he’s not a part of the team’s long-term plans.
Jim Parsons is a THW Senior Freelance Writer, part-time reporter and audio / video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while writing articles on the Edmonton Oilers. He has been a trusted source for over five years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, his mission is to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and business discussions. Jim is a daily staple for readers who want to be “in the know.”
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