“We’re hopeful that we can get a number of things done, going into this deadline."
Edmonton Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish spoke to the various media outlets in attendance at Tuesday’s practice at Rexall Place. The GM outlined some of what the team would like to accomplish, heading into the March 5, NHL trade deadline.
Addition by subtraction appears to be the theme of what the Oilers will look to do at the deadline. MacTavish spoke about trying to recoup lost draft picks, while unloading players and opening up roster spots.
“It’s not rocket science where we are right now and what our strategy is going to be moving forward,” MacTavish said. “We’ve got a number of guys that are UFAs that are veteran players that are going to illicit attention around the league from teams that are preparing for a playoff run that will be in all of those conversations. It’s a tough market to predict at this point, but we’ll be having those discussions. 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 veteran players who they may be looking to move at the deadline. The emphasized and desired return is expected to be in the form of draft picks.
“I’d be disappointed if we weren’t able to get our second or a third rounder back and potentially more than that. 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 did not rule out the possibility of pursuing other teams’ prospects. The market however may not allow the Oilers much flexibility in that area, with their assets being listed in more of the secondary tier of players available.
“That’s an ideal situation,” he said. “Those prospects are… more difficult to obtain. It’s all trying to put a value, a market value, on what our players are going into this deadline and trying to maximize our return on these players and hopefully it heats up. I think a lot of our guys are going to be secondary market players that everybody’s going to be looking for the high profile guys, the real high-end guys. They maybe have one or two of those guys. But outside of that, I think we’re a secondary market. That’s where we’ll try and get some interest and try and get some activity in the market.”
Oscar Klefbom could be one of the young prospects closing in on a call up. Photo by OKC Barons/Steven Christy
While big, aggressive moves may not be the route that Edmonton wishes to go, at least during the season, MacTavish says they plan on aggressively testing the market for potential moves.
“We’re going to be aggressively speaking to teams and letting them know what we’re trying to do. 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. But I think that we’re going to be aggressively making those calls to let people know what our intention is.”
Once again, looking at the addition via subtraction method, the Oilers are motivated by the play of some of their own prospects. The Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League have developed multiple talents that are deserving of NHL opportunity.
“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.”
Photo by Getty Images.
Some of the players deserving of looks could possibly be Anton Lander, who has over a point-per-game average in the AHL, Roman Horak, who has 15 goals with the Barons, and Mark Arcobello. While defensively, Oscar Klefbom and Taylor Fedun are playing well and Brad Hunt, a former undrafted college free agent signed by the Oilers this offseason, is also playing well after earning a three-game call up earlier this season.
The Oilers look to hold a high first round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. It could be a juicy bargaining chip for MacTavish moving forward. Despite saying earlier this season he would look to move that piece, the GM has not seen any offers worth considering involving that particular asset.
“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.”
As the trade deadline approaches and the season moves towards its close, MacTavish also fielded questions as to whether or not the roster had any ‘untouchables’ or players that could not be moved. The general manager tread lightly with his answer.
“I never go down that path of ‘untouchable’. I think that there are guys, certainly, that I’m valuing more than the rest of the league probably. We’ve paid a pretty serious and severe price for a lot of these players that we’re not going to be parting with but I don’t want to go down the path of untouchables.”
When March 5, has come and gone, expect the Oilers to have accomplished some of the things they wanted to but don’t expect it to come in the form of big acquisitions. More picks and more opportunity for current prospects appears to be the blueprint for the Oilers before the deadline.