The NHL trade deadline is about three weeks away, however, in this shortened season the race for playoff spots is tighter than ever. The number of teams who have all but given up at this the half way point of the NHL year, is relatively few. As a result we have fewer confirmed sellers right now than we normally do at this point in the year.
Earlier in the week I looked at what Columbus had available for UFA rentals. Next we looked at why injuries will really hamper Florida’s ability to sell their UFAs, and followed that up with looks at the Buffalo Sabres, and the Colorado Avalanche. Today it’s on to the Edmonton Oilers.
Yes, I know, the Oilers are just five points out of a playoff spot, and did just beat the Chicago Blackhawks last night. Let’s remember that they are also 14th in the Western Conference, have won just 9 of 25 games this season, and were losers of five in a row before last night. I’m not saying their season is over today, but I think even the most hardcore Oiler fan can agree that they will need to put together a significant run over the next three weeks to be a true playoff contender and not a trade deadline seller. If the standings don’t significantly change between now and the end of March the following players could be available as soon-to-be UFA Rentals.
While teams don’t always trade for just draft picks, and often will look for prospects who are closer to NHL ready, I have valued these players all on the draft pick scale, so it is easier to compare them to what is available on other teams, in my other articles.
Ryan Jones: Jones had 18 goals in 2010-11 and 17 goals in 2011-12. He suffered an eye injury during the lockout, and has only recently returned to the lineup, and seems to be struggling to find his game right now. He has always been a bit of a streaky goal scorer though, so I don’t think teams should be too concerned that he can’t do it any more. He’s not the best skater in the league, but he does play the game hard, goes to the net and puts pucks in with his quick hands when he’s there. He’s also a decent penalty killer. A team looking for some versatility and scoring on their bottom lines would like give up a 3rd round pick and 6th round pick for Jones if he can find his game before the deadline.
Ryan Whitney: Whitney has really struggled defensively this season and has even been a healthy scratch for the Oilers at times. There’s no way around it – he has been disappointing this year. That said, he has been better as of late, and he has been known to put up points throughout his career so the season can be turned around. There are four UFA defencemen in Edmonton, and its almost a certainty that Whitney will not be back next year. I figure he will be one of the first Oiler D out the door, and some team who needs some help on the powerplay will pay a good price to get him. Let’s peg Whitney as being worth a second and third round pick.
Andy Sutton: Knee surgery has him on the shelf for the year. At his age, he may be done completely. I don’t see anyone trading for the expert.
Mark Fistric: The Oilers traded a third round pick to Dallas before the season began to get Mark Fistric. He’s a decent defensive defenceman who can play physically, kill penalties, and block shots. There is no offence to speak of from Fistric, but he does make a decent pass out of his own end. We wouldn’t call him a shutdown defender though, and he’s more of a solid third pairing type guy. He can bring some experience and stabilizing presence to a playoff team’s bottom pairing and I think he’ll be worth a fourth round pick. Unfortunate as that is less than the Oilers gave up to get him.
Ladislav Smid: Smid is just 27 years old and I feel that the Oilers would love to keep him. In fact if they could clone Smid and put him on two separate pairings on their defence they would likely be a better team. For this reason I think the Oilers will try to re-sign him to an extension, rather than trade him away. However, if he does get traded, he will fetch a high price as a physical defender who can play a shutdown role against top lines and kill penalties. Smid is really underrated, and I feel he’d be a great addition for almost any team. As such, I’m going to value him as being worth two second round picks.
What do you guys think? Have I valued these three trade deadline rentals too high? Too low? Feel free to add your comments below.
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