Edmonton Oilers, Sam Lafferty

Oilers’ Attempt at Acquiring Lafferty Reveals Trade Intentions

The Edmonton Oilers had a very interesting preseason. It was well known from the start that the team would only be able to carry one extra player on their roster due to cap constraints. This was likely going to be a defenseman as the Oilers regularly liked to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen. There will be times where that isn’t the case this season, and possibly more than expected.

While certain Oilers like Ben Gleason and Raphael Lavoie had solid preseasons, they were put on waivers for American Hockey League (AHL) assignments. This doesn’t mean they can’t be called back up at any point. I believe they will be. What the Oilers will be looking for is forward depth with certain qualifications. Last season they were specific in adding Nick Bjugstad. He was a large body who could play center or the wing, cheap to acquire, had a low cap hit, and helped out defensively. It seemed as though the final spot on the Oilers’ forward group was going to go to someone who could play center, but if someone stood out, Derek Ryan or Mattias Janmark could play in the middle if necessary. This should lead to Ken Holland and the Oilers having interest in a centerman or depth forward that checks many of the boxes Bjugstad did for them last season.

Nick Bjugstad Edmonton Oilers
Nick Bjugstad, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

While a trade shouldn’t happen soon, this is something to watch throughout the first half of the season to see if there’s a desperate need for an upgrade. The Oilers are in win-now mode and they’ve assembled the best roster they’ve had in a very long time. It’s not a question of if they are going to upgrade this season but who, and what they are going to give up.

Early Look at Trade Targets That Fit the Bill

While trades aren’t as common right before the season is about to kick off, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks pulled off a trade that sent Sam Lafferty to the Canucks for a 2024 fifth-round pick. The Maple Leafs were initially in contact with the Oilers and willing to send the forward over if Vincent Desharnais was the player being sent back. Since the trade didn’t happen, the Oilers seem keen on keeping seven defensemen on the roster and in the lineup the majority of the time. But what else this reveals is that the team is already looking for forward depth. While Lafferty would have been one of the perfect types of players to fill the Oilers’ depth needs, they will have to look elsewhere… unless the Canucks are looking to sell at the trade deadline, then Edmonton can circle back around and offer a fifth-round pick to cut the Canucks’ losses.

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Insider Frank Seravalli revealed that Nic Dowd is already getting lots of attention as a low-key trade deadline target. The Oilers have to be in on this as the fourth-line center kills penalties, produces offensively and defensively, plays physically, and wins draws is spot on to what the Oilers are looking for. An added bonus is that Dowd is signed for another season after this one. While his cap hit of $1.3 million average annual value (AAV) might be a slight problem, the Oilers are also going to accrue cap space over the season and be able to afford that later.

The cap is going up next season, but the Oilers will be hit with the performance bonus of Connor Brown as well. Just like how the Maple Leafs acquired Lafferty with an extra year left on his deal and essentially used him as a rental, the Oilers have that same option if they were to acquire Dowd and not be able to afford him next season.

Nic Dowd Washington Capitals
Nic Dowd, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As the Montreal Canadiens are gearing up to sell Sean Monahan, he would fit nicely on the fourth line for the Oilers and be able to move up if necessary. The Canadiens missed their chance at trading Monahan after his value was on the rise last season. They re-signed him for cheaper so that he would be even easier to move and doesn’t fit into their long-term plans. At a cap hit of under $2 million AAV for just this season, half of his cap hit can be retained and he would easily fit in with the Oilers. Monahan would be a very good fourth line option and I wouldn’t be opposed to even giving up a second- or third-round pick for him with 50 percent retained.

The Oilers need no holes in their lineup for a Stanley Cup run. One of these players, if not someone else who could also become available, should do the trick. Along with that, there needs to be some strong internal competition for spots in the lineup and on the team. Lavoie, Xavier Bourgault, and others could even be the answer instead of making a depth trade.

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