The All-Star Break is meant to promote the best of the best in the NHL (that fact is debatable) but it also gives teams a bit of a breather before the stress and chaos of the trade deadline begins and the final pushes toward the playoffs commence. For the Edmonton Oilers, weighing on their mind must be the urgency that is moving money to become salary cap compliant before Kailer Yamamoto is ready to return to the lineup.
GM Ken Holland has options, but the ones that are trending fans won’t love.
Never Realizing Puljujarvi’s Potential in Edmonton Will Hurt
The fact that Jesse Puljujarvi is the most likely trade candidate is not news to Oilers fans by now. What will continue to sting after he’s inevitably dealt is that he’ll never have gotten to realize his potential as a member of the team that was incredibly patient with his development.
Puljujarvi is still figuring out his place in the league. One day he’ll do so. That day just won’t come in Edmonton and that’s a shame. Supporters of analytics will have a field day with this debate if and when Puljujarvi goes on to a team like Arizona, St. Louis, Buffalo or Chicago and figures it out. Those who will support the trade will argue the Oilers had no choice but to move his $3 million off the books to ensure they were contenders. Those who argued for keeping will be happy to say, “I told you so.”
Warren Foegele Is a Useful Player
He may never get the credit he deserves as a top-nine winger, but Warren Foegele does have his place on this Oilers team. He’s not flashy, he’s not overly skilled, and he’s not going to “wow you” with anything in particular. What he will do is grind, get in the face of the opposition, and move up and down your lineup as needed, playing in all situations. Those attributes are all extremely valuable during playoff time.
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Alas, his salary is one the Oilers will shop. Getting rid of his $2.75 million for both this season and next could be extremely important to the Oilers’ long-term planning. Moving Foegele isn’t just about this year’s salary concerns, but next season’s with the news that the cap isn’t expected to jump as originally estimated. There are players on this team that will need new and potentially expensive contracts. Foegele being dealt helps make navigating that easier.
Is Brett Kulak Being Pushed Aside?
One of the better value signs the Oilers made this off-season was the deal they struck with defenceman Brett Kulak. He was inked to a four-year deal and at a good number per season ($2.75 million) but he’s potentially playing over his head as a second-pair left-shot defenseman.
It has been reported that the Oilers’ priority at this NHL Trade Deadline is to grab a left-shot d-man who can play in the top four. If successful, that could potentially push Kulak down the lineup, and if the Oilers value Philip Broberg over Kulak, it could push the local product off the roster completely. If said scenario plays out, the Oilers might consider moving Kulak.
Having that depth would be a nice luxury but he’ll have value on the trade market and it’s not clear what the return for other players would be. Considering his annual average salary, the Oilers aren’t shopping him, but he is a viable solution to their cap problems.
All in all, someone is going that the Oilers don’t necessarily want to get rid of. There is potential that Holland’s sacrifice could be another team’s gain and the prospect of that stings if you’re an Oilers fan. At this time of the season, you want to be the club taking advantage of another team’s woes. You don’t want to be the club other teams see as a strong target for a value transaction and a franchise you can kick while they’re down.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”