The Edmonton Oilers are the gift that keeps on giving. First, the New Jersey Devils were able to steal Taylor Hall in a highway robbery “one for one” trade, only to be followed by that oh so sly Patrick Maroon trade toward the end of last season. When the Devils and Oilers are involved, the Devils seem to always come out on top.
Unfortunately, Peter Chiarelli’s tenure in Edmonton is over, and with that goes any chance of a Connor McDavid for Kurtis Gabriel trade. Chiarelli or no Chiarelli, the franchise that Gretzky left still has a lot to offer. For today’s Devil’s Army Blog Trade Series, let’s take a look at the Oilers.
State Of The Team
I’m convinced the Oilers are cursed. There’s no other excuse that a team with that much talent has found so little success after multiple first-round picks and having arguably the NHL’s best player in Connor McDavid. It’s like their franchise is built on an Indian burial ground or something, there’s no other explanation.
By no means are the Oilers in “fire sale” mode, but it’s fair to say anyone not named “Connor McDavid” is available if the price is right. Even with the Devils recent track record of successful trades with Edmonton, their somewhat spotty draft history raises a few questions and cautions for potential trade targets. For every Taylor Hall, there was a Nail Yakupov as well.
While not one of Edmonton’s infamous first-overall picks, Puljujarvi was instead a fourth-overall pick in the 2016 Entry Draft. Even though he was considered an NHL ready prospect at 18 years old, he’s never been able to fully break into Edmonton’s lineup, splitting his time between the NHL team and their AHL affiliate the Bakersfield Condors. His 2018-19 was a disappointing one that saw him struggle with his production when healthy. In addition, his season ended early when he decided to get hip surgery in February.
It’s quite clear that Puljujarvi has not lived up to the lofty expectations the Oilers had from him. By no means was he expected to be the next Connor McDavid, but he was at least expected to be good enough to be McDavid’s linemate. Yes, he was only drafted in 2016, but someone drafted as high as him should be showing considerable improvement by now.
Puljujurvi’s name has come up quite a bit in trade speculations over the past few seasons. With the Oilers in the situation they’re in, and Puljujarvi’s on-ice struggles, his price should be cheaper than ever. His career might not have accomplished much, but he came to Edmonton with huge potential. Shero should at least kick some tires and consider the situation, but consider it very carefully.
Nurse is one of, if not, the best defenseman on Edmonton’s roster. Even though his plus/minus dropped far below its career best of +15 last season, his -5 rating was still better than any Devils’ defenseman, with the exception of Mirco Mueller. More importantly, he demonstrated his offensive upside with ten goals and 31 assists for 41 points playing in the full 82-game schedule.
This was the second straight year Nurse has played in all of Edmonton’s 82 games, demonstrating his durability. Size and age all work into his favor as well, as the 24-year-old is 6-foot-4 with a big frame of 221 pounds. Nurse checks off a lot of the boxes of what the Devils need.
Nurse has been one of the few bright spots in Edmonton the past two season, which might lead the Oilers to overvalue him if trade talks ever came up. Considering he was a first round pick as well, 7th overall in 2013, Edmonton’s not going to fall for another unequal Hall for Larsson type trade. That mixed with the fact that Nurse has given the Oilers no reason to want to get rid of him might make a trade difficult to pull off. If possible, the Devils’ defense will improve by dividends.
File this one under so crazy it just might work. Hands down the weakest part of Edmonton’s roster is their goaltending. Much like the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton’s goal crease has been filled by a revolving door of characters the past few seasons. While St. Louis had some success with the ever-changing cast of characters in the pre-Jordan Binnington era, Edmonton has had no such luck. Names like Devan Dubynk, Ben Scrivens, and Cam Talbot were all brought in expecting to be the franchise’s next Grant Fuhr. Plot twist, they all fell short.
Stolarz is the next victim of the Edmonton goaltending curse, although the Oilers have a good deal locked up in goalie Mikko Koskinen. Signing Koskinen to a new contract was Chiarelli’s last major move, or mistake, in Edmonton, so he’ll most likely be Edmonton’s go-to number one starter.
Related: Free Agent Profile: Brett Connolly
That leaves Stolarz playing second fiddle, and thus expendable.
There is no room for Stolarz on the Devils’ roster. Their goal crease belongs to Mackenzie Blackwood and Cory Schneider, who still holds a no-trade clause rendering him almost immovable. That doesn’t mean New Jersey shouldn’t have interest in the New Jersey-born goaltender.
Even if the Devils aren’t exactly in the market for a goaltender (except as maybe a third-string insurance policy goalie to play in Binghamton) doesn’t mean that other teams aren’t (here’s looking at you, Calgary Flames). The Devils could orchestrate a move similar to the trade that sent Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings to the Boston Bruins, only to be flipped immediately for a first-round pick by the San Jose Sharks. Stolarz would never play a game in a Devils jersey, but maybe he can be acquired for cheap to be used as a much more valuable trade chip.