The Edmonton Oilers have some cap space to work with and need a top-six forward with Evander Kane out long-term. It may get tricky when he returns to play in roughly 3-4 months, but that’s a long time to wait without reinforcements.
Among the swirling rumours of players the Oilers could add is Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues. Mike Johnson discussed the top team he’d pick to land the winger and mentioned Edmonton. They have a massive hole to fill without Kane and already needed another top-six player with five productive offensive players who were driving the team.
Johnson also noted that if the Oilers are willing to get creative, they could find a way to fit salary. Kane has a shot that executes well alongside two of the best passers in the NHL, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Now, Tarasenko is one step above that and has been a proven sniper for years. He’s scored 33 or more goals six times in his career and set a career-high in points last season with the Blues (82) – and he’s a playoff performer.
There is no feasible way the Oilers could extend Tarasenko, but their window to win is now. They could fill a hole and create an unstoppable top-six for the latter half of the season. It won’t be easy for the Oilers to pull off a deal like this and they would have to trade a player or two as well as a high pick or prospect. But given Tarasenko’s track record and the Oilers’ lack of scoring depth, they have to try.
3 Players Blues Could Ask For From the Oilers
Elliotte Friedman suggested on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast that the Blues were searching for a player with some bite and a defenseman. The Oilers can accommodate both. Markus Niemelainen is one to watch since he is younger and very physical. The Blues are struggling in all areas of the game, but if they’re looking for someone who isn’t afraid to get dirty, it’s Niemelainen.
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He has become more comfortable with the puck the more time he spends in the NHL, and the Blues’ situation on defence isn’t great with Marco Scandella and Scott Perunovich out for six months and Robert Bortuzzo out indefinitely. Niemelainen could fit in a bottom-pairing role, give the back-end a kick, and put a big body in front of the net.
Niemelainen was chosen over Philip Broberg to play in the NHL this season, so they are high on the 6-foot-6 defenceman. But eventually, Broberg will have to find his way onto the Oilers, and Niemelainen is in his way. Broberg doesn’t have a bite to his game, but he is skilled. The Blues could very well ask for him in a Tarasenko trade, but the Oilers will want to keep their top defensive prospect.
The Oilers have been using Jesse Puljujarvi in a top-six role for a while. He’s been up and down the lineup on the right wing and now finds himself back on McDavid’s wing on the top line. He may not be able to produce offensively right now and could use a change in scenery, but he is great on the defensive side of the puck and on the forecheck.
The Blues’ top-nine has been an area of strength the past couple of seasons, and Puljujarvi might start finding the back of the net in a new situation and with new linemates. Moving him out would add some value to the trade for Tarasenko and would free up $3 million in cap space to manage when Kane returns. Considering that Tarasenko is a right-winger, he would fit right in on one of the Oilers’ top lines.
Though Warren Foegele has been one of the Oilers’ top trade candidates for a while now, he has changed that tune recently. His intensity and production over the past few games have allowed him to get shifts in the top-six alongside Draisaitl. Foegele has scored two goals (one shorthanded) in the past three games and has been on the ice for key moments late in games and on the penalty kill.
He has stepped up the most in Kane’s absence, but sacrifices must be made to acquire a player of Tarasenko’s calibre. Going back to the Blues’ need for bite, Foegele brings exactly that. He delivers multiple hits per game, shoots the puck, and can be a strong power forward. What he is showing now is exactly what the Blues need, and Edmonton would free up $2.75 million in cap space this season and next by moving him. Of course, the Blues will ask for more in addition to either Puljujarvi or Foegele to get the deal done.
It’s possible the Blues would be interested in acquiring both players. This would keep the Oilers under the salary cap once Kane returns and would address more than a few problems on the Blues. I expect the Oilers’ 2023 first-round pick to be on the move if they are trading for an elite talent like Tarasenko, but it would be worth it. Teams in Edmonton’s position must take risks to win while their window is open.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.