The Edmonton Oilers are headed for their ninth consecutive season without a postseason appearance. The team will need to win their remaining four games just to match their point total of 67 from last season, star froward Taylor Hall missed significant time this season because of injury and they have had losing streaks of at least five games on four different occasions.
Once the season ends, President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, General Manager Craig MacTavish and the rest of the Oilers’ brass will have to sit down and once again make some big decisions about the direction of the roster. According to nhlnumbers.com, Derek Roy, Viktor Fasth and Richard Bachman will be unrestricted free agents this summer, while the organization will have nine restricted free agents to deal with.
Here’s a look at some players that could be candidates to be moved and whether they should or should not be moved.
The Russian native was taken as the first overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and split time between Edmonton and the KHL the following season, netting 31 points (17g, 14a) in 48 games for the Oilers. Last year he appeared in 63 games for the Oilers, but saw his offensive production drop to just 24 points (11g, 13a). This season, he has had to work hard to get back to his rookie numbers, recording 12 goals and 18 assists in 77 games.
While his numbers lag behind that of other recent first overall selections Taylor Hall (2010 Draft – 261 points in 295 games), Edmonton’s own Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011 Draft – 188 points in 258 games) and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (2013 Draft – 101 points in 146 games), and questions linger about his attitude, it would be tough to give up on Yakupov after just three seasons.
Verdict: Keep (for now at least)
Acquired from division rival Anaheim at least year’s trade deadline, Viktor Fasth is in his fourth season of NHL service. He has compiled a 6-15-3 record with a 3.41 goals-against-average and an .888 save percentage in 26 appearances for the Oilers this season. According to nhlnumbers.com, the native of Sweden is in the final year of his contract that carries a cap hit of $2.9 million, while his actual salary is $3.4 million.
After winning 15 games in 25 appearances in his first NHL season in 2012-13, he has only won 11 games since. While starting goaltender Ben Scrivens hasn’t fared much better this season (he has a 15-25-10 record with a 3.09 GAA and an .893 save percentage), it might be better for the Oilers to pursue someone who can push Scrivens for the starting job in the offseason- like Ottawa’s Robin Lehner.
Verdict: Let him go
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is another one of Edmonton’s recent first overall selections in the NHL Entry Draft and is enjoying his fourth season with the big club. With the exception of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he has seen a nominal increase in his offensive production, going from 52 points (18g, 34a) in 62 games in his rookie season in 2011-12, to 56 points (24g, 32a) through 76 games played this year.
So, why then, should Edmonton consider moving such a valuable asset? Because the needs of the team are so great the Oilers could possibly fill more than one hole among their defensive and goaltending needs by moving the native of British Columbia. If they were to move him, Edmonton would still be left with the likes of Jordan Eberle, Hall and Yakupov; all who are very capable of supplying offense.
The biggest obstacle to any Nugent-Hopkins trade would be his salary. According to nhlnumbers.com, after this season he still has four years left on his contract at $6 million-per-year, which is also his cap hit. If he were to hit the trading block, any interested team would need to be ready to take on that financial commitment.
Verdict: If you can get the right deal for him, let him go