EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said Tuesday he plans to be cautious in his approach as the NHL Trade Deadline nears.
"I don't think we're quite ready to contend for the [Stanley] Cup," Chiarelli said. "You never know. I know it happened here in 2006 [when the Oilers reached the Stanley Cup Final].
"I just don't see us being big [deadline] players from that regard."
The 2017 NHL Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. ET on March 1.
The Oilers are third in the Pacific Division with 66 points, six ahead of the fourth-place Los Angeles Kings, who hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference. They have eight games before the deadline, starting with a game against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; SNW, FS-A, NHL.TV).
On the horizon for the Oilers are the re-signing of two important players. Center Leon Draisaitl is in the final season of his entry-level contract and can become a restricted free agent July 1. Captain Connor McDavid will be in the final season of his entry-level contract in 2017-18.
The Oilers have $4.5 million of salary cap space this season, according to Capfriendly.com.
Video: EDM@MTL: Draisaitl goes five-hole in the shootout
"I'm not going to mortgage [salary cap space] heavily this year," Chiarelli said. "From a planning perspective it doesn't make sense."
He said the Oilers, who have lost four of their five games since the All-Star break (1-4-0), could help themselves in a few areas, among them secondary scoring.
"We're in a decent spot, but it could change pretty quickly," he said. "We've got some work to do. There are some deficiencies in our game and we have to rectify them."
As he assesses the market for possible trades, Chiarelli said players who can become unrestricted free agents after the season don't interest him much.
"I really don't want to delve into that [rental] market," he said. "I think there are areas we can tinker with. I think the team deserves it. We wanted to be in the [playoff] conversation. We are.
"We've made a lot of moves in the summer; they're coming around. I'd rather see those play out. … Things fall in your lap … but I don't see being heavily involved in that market.
"I don't think it's the right time for this team, but having said that … once you get into the playoffs you never know."
Results between now and the deadline aren't likely to change his strategy, he said.
The Oilers have not made the playoffs since losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 Cup Final. They ended last season with the fewest points in the Western Conference but have been in the top three in the Pacific Division all season long.
Video: CHI@EDM: McDavid quickly steals puck, sets up Maroon
"We're in the dog days, the real grind, and maybe that's a better question posed in a month's time," Chiarelli said about how the Oilers are handling their progress. "These are the games that really count. We've got teams jockeying for positions, jockeying for their lives.
"I think they [the players] are enjoying it. I get the sense of that, just being with them away from the rink when you're on a road trip. I've talked to a few of the guys and they're enjoying it and I think they're feeling the pressure a little bit. That's part of why you're seeing that scoring dry up a little bit.
"But that's part of this game. If they weren't feeling that I'd be a little concerned. These are challenges ahead, and I would think they would relish them. We're in the conversation. I hope we stay there."