Upgrades might prove too costly for cap-strapped Oilers as trade deadline approaches – Edmonton

The West Edmonton Mall has a small section dedicated to luxury and high-end retail, including Rolex watches, Tiffany jewelry, and Louis Vuitton bags.

Imagine having too many credit cards in your wallet and being turned down when you try to buy gum.

Oilers president and general manager Ken Holland feels the NHL’s trade deadline is approaching.

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The Oilers are very stretched when it comes to salary caps, carrying only 20 players for most of the season. There are no healthy wounds here.

Holland told TSN earlier this month, “We’re dollaring in, dollaring out, so we’re starting to bring in people with big cap numbers. Gotta do some real gymnastics here to kick people out.” It will have to be,” he said.

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The Oilers have shown interest in defenses like San Jose defenseman Eric Carlson, Arizona’s Jakob Chiklun and Nashville’s Matthias Ekholm, but they’re simply nice things in the shop window that teams can’t buy. And they may not address the Oilers’ most obvious problems.

The Oilers have the league’s best offense (230 goals) and power plays (over 32% click-through rate), and can outperform defensive mistakes and iffy goaltending.

But when things get tough in the playoffs, their weaknesses could become even more apparent.

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Only six teams have a lower penalty kill rate than the Oilers’ 75% clip. Goaltending remains an issue, with Stuart Skinner (.912 save percentage) ahead of Jack Campbell (.884 save percentage).

The problem with a big name like Carlson is that he has a cap hit of $11.5 million on a contract through 2026-27. Getting the deal done with the help of a third party team, or having the sharks keep a portion of your salary, is a long-term commitment.

Yes, Carlson has scored an impressive and unexpected 77 points in 60 games this season. But no matter how well he performed, the pre-COVID deal he signed before the salary cap stagnated was simply too rich for the cash-strapped GM.

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Ekholm has a $6.25 million hit. Even Chiklung, who has a cap hit of $4.6 million, could get help from another team where the coyotes would agree to eat part of his salary, or instead willingly “buy out” some of what he owes. Unless you get it, the Oilers are a luxury they can’t afford. for assets. It’s hard to imagine being able to do dollar-in, dollar-out trading.

The Oilers may just push the narrative that their recent good results are justification for not making any kind of big deadline splash.

Despite penalty kills and goaltending issues, the Oilers have only lost two games in regulation in their last 18 games. Despite this, the Oilers’ offense is picking up the pace in the league.

“Anytime you’re collecting points, that’s our business,” said coach Jay Woodcroft. “He hasn’t been perfect from six weeks to seven weeks, but he’s doing some good things to score points. It’s a credit to the players and their hard work.”

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Before the deadline, the Oilers will host two beasts of the East, Boston and Toronto. These two matchups of his offer Holland a chance to make a last-minute assessment.

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Woodcroft said his most pressing problem is keeping players focused on the ice.

“It’s part of the NHL schedule. Trade deadlines are looming and there’s a lot of people in the dressing room. I know everyone is driven to win.”

So what does it look like for everyone to focus on the task? As a group of coaches, I think what we try to do is ask the players to control things within their control. It’s their daily attention to detail, their daily efforts, and their own personal process. “

The Oilers’ most pressing need is to find a way out of salary cap prison. Holland needs to keep the Oilers competitive, not just this season, but for years to come.

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Winger Jesse Purjujärvi, a former first-round pick who is in the final year of a $3 million cap-hitting contract, has been on the market for months, but has no takers. The Oilers were unable to deal with Purjujärvi even though he scored only 14 points in his 57 games and steadfastly refused to fire him.

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Defensemen Evan Bouchard, Crim Costin and Ryan McLeod are all RFA at the end of the season and need raises. As it stands, the Oilers have already pledged him a salary of more than $71 million for next season.

Other expiring contracts are role players Devin Shore, Matthias Janmark and Derek Ryan. Essentially, this is a team that is fixed in its direction for the long term.

The team is still believed to be a strong contender, but the specter of the 2023-24 season is also looming over the franchise. And good enough may need to be good enough.

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© 2023 The Canadian Press

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