The Edmonton Oilers will look to add draft picks and open roster space for younger players at the NHL Trade Deadline, general manager Craig MacTavish said Tuesday.
"It's not rocket science where we are right now and what our strategy is going to be moving forward," MacTavish told the media at Rexall Place. "We've got a number of guys that are UFAs that are veteran players that are going to elicit attention around the League from teams that are preparing for a playoff run that will be in all of those conversations. It's been pretty quiet through the Olympic break, but I think that starting today it will start to heat up on a day-to-day basis."
The Oilers have several pending unrestricted free agents and veterans they may be looking to move at the deadline, including right wing Ales Hemsky and defenseman Nick Schultz. Edmonton will have a high pick in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft but has traded away its second- and third-round picks. MacTavish said he would like to make sure his team will have selections in those rounds.
"I'd be disappointed if we weren't able to get our second- or a third-rounder back and potentially more than that," he said. "If we're sitting at the draft with our first pick and then we're not picking again until the fourth round, I think that'd be disappointing so that's exactly what we're going to try and do, is get those picks back."
MacTavish said the Oilers plan to be proactive as the deadline nears.
"We're going to be aggressively speaking to teams and letting them know what we're trying to do," he said. "These conversations generally go the same way with the managers that I speak with to try and determine what they're trying to do and what they're motivated to do and what we're trying to do and see if there's a fit. Then you try and boil it down and talk about some assets and maybe there's a potential fit and maybe there isn't."
A side benefit of any players-for-picks deals would be the chance to see what the Oilers' prospects at the American Hockey League level can do in the NHL.
"We want to free up some roster spots too, to try and give some of our young players who are playing well right now, down in the American Hockey League, an opportunity," MacTavish said. "This is an unfortunate circumstance, but we have to take advantage of the position that we're in right now and try to accumulate as many assets as we can, going through this deadline, and open up some spots so our prospects down in the American Hockey League can get a look."
MacTavish said earlier in the season he would be willing to deal his first-round pick, but said Tuesday he hasn't seen any viable offers.
"It's premature," MacTavish said. "Last year, I said I was open-minded, this year I am open-minded as well. You have to be. It's just determining what the value is, what you can get for that pick and we'll be listening to every proposal that we can but, at the end of the day, last year I didn't have anything that was even remotely close to what I thought was value for that pick."