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Oilers judicious in rare turn as buyers at Trade Deadline

Acquire three NHL players without moving first-round pick

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Edmonton Oilers often have been sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline, having missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 12 of the past 13 seasons.

It was a different story this year.

In his first season as Edmonton general manager, Ken Holland was among the biggest buyers prior to the deadline Monday, but judiciously so.

Trying to plot a new course for the Oilers, Holland paid reasonable prices for three players who have the potential to improve Edmonton's chances in the tight Pacific Division race.

 

[RELATED: 2019-20 NHL Trade Tracker]

 

The Oilers (33-22-7) are in second place, one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks and three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights, heading into their game at the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; PRIME, SNW, NHL.TV).

"At the end of the day, my message today was that we're trying to win," Holland said. "I've come to Edmonton and we've got a great nucleus and they've played hard to put ourselves in this position where we compete for a playoff spot.

"The last three years, I was a seller [as GM of the Detroit Red Wings], and we made the playoffs for 25 years before. It's fun to be in the playoffs. It's fun for the fans, for the players to have an opportunity to go against a team for two weeks, and then if you're able to win that, to move on to the next round and be in the final eight and the final four."

The Oilers acquired forward Andreas Athanasiou and forward prospect Ryan Kuffner from the Red Wings on Monday for forward Sam Gagner and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and 2021 NHL Draft.

Video: Trade Deadline: Oilers acquire Athanasiou

They got forward Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators on Monday for a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft.

Edmonton acquired veteran defenseman Mike Green from the Red Wings on Sunday for forward Kyle Brodziak and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft.

With 20 games remaining in the regular season, the Oilers have been boosted by Leon Draisaitl, who leads the NHL with 98 points (36 goals, 62 assists) and is on pace to easily exceed the NHL career-best 105 points he had last season.

They are also getting elite production from captain Connor McDavid, who is fourth in the NHL with 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists). He returned to the lineup Sunday after missing six games with a quad injury.

The deadline acquisitions are meant to bolster the Oilers' depth and improve their chances of making the postseason.

But Holland had an eye on the future too, refraining from wildly spending assets, including Edmonton's first-round pick in the 2020 draft, and trading for Athanasiou, who can be a restricted free agent after the season but can't become an unrestricted free agent until July 1, 2022.

"Athanasiou is a player I know very well from Detroit, had 30 goals a year ago," Holland said. "It's more than a rental. He's a restricted free agent for a couple of years. Certainly, we paid a price for Athanasiou, but no risk, no gain."

Athanasiou had 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 46 games for Detroit this season after NHL career highs of 30 goals, 24 assists and 54 points last season.

Ennis had 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) for Ottawa this season. Like Athanasiou, he mostly has played left wing, a position of need for the Oilers.

They are without left wings James Neal, who has missed 12 games with an ankle injury and is likely out at least two more weeks, and Joakim Nygard, who has missed 12 games with a broken finger and is out another two weeks.

Edmonton also is without forward Zack Kassian to begin this week. He must serve the final two of a seven-game suspension for kicking Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak on Feb. 13.

The addition of Green, who had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 48 games for the Red Wings this season, also is timely for the Oilers.

They are without defensemen Oscar Klefbom, who has missed three games and is out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury, and Kris Russell, who has missed 12 games with an upper-body injury. Russell's is out indefinitely, and Holland said Monday that he was placed on long-term injured reserve effective Sunday.

As he surveyed the tight Pacific race last week, Holland said he felt obligated to do what he could to help the Oilers, who have been in a playoff spot for most of the first five months of the season.

He made good on that Monday, without mortgaging too much of the future.

"We felt we'd like to do something to put a little buzz into our team," Holland said. "... They've played hard all year, battled and scratched and clawed, and we've got ourselves in a position where we're fighting for a playoff spot. We're banged up a little bit, and I wanted to provide some depth.

"I just think it was my time to try to pitch in."

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