July 21st, 2024

Edmonton Oilers stand pat at trade deadline after making deals earlier this week

By Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press on March 8, 2024.

Through the first half of the NHL season, the word from Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland didn’t change. Holland speaks at a press conference in Edmonton, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – Through the first half of the season, the word from Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland didn’t change. The Oilers were close to being maxed out on the NHL’s salary cap and any deal the team made would have to be “dollar in, dollar out.”

But, including the signing of former NHL MVP Corey Perry in January, Holland was able to add four players without giving up a single skater from his roster. He somehow made it work despite having very little financial flexibility.

While the Oilers did not add any players on Friday ahead of the trade deadline, they were busier earlier in the week. Edmonton added scoring depth with Adam Henrique, who had 42 points in 60 games for the Anaheim Ducks, and brought in Sam Carrick, who adds grit to the fourth line, can kill penalties and has eight goals this season. Troy Stecher was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes to add depth to the defensive core.

“When your team plays at a high level, if you can pitch in, you’d like to pitch in,” said Holland after making the Stecher deal. “You’d like to help out. What is helping out?

“Adding a player or two. In this case, it’s three “¦. I want to add without disrupting as much as possible.”

While Holland referred to the deals that brought Henrique, Carrick and Stecher to the Oilers, it all began in late January, with the addition of Perry on a US$775,000 salary. The deal was made after the Chicago Blackhawks terminated Perry’s contract and he sought help for his mental health.

Anaheim is retaining half of Carrick’s $850,000 cap hit. Holland squeezed Henrique’s $5.825 million salary onto Edmonton’s roster with some more cap gymnastics: Anaheim kept 50 per cent of the salary, and then another 25 per cent was picked up by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All of Stecher’s $1.1 million salary was taken on by the Oilers.

Edmonton sacrificed a first-round pick in 2024, a couple of fourth-round picks, and got two seventh-rounders back. The key is that the Oilers, currently second in the Pacific Division, did not give up a roster player.

To make way, salary- and roster-wise, Edmonton dispatched forwards Sam Gagner and Dylan Holloway to its AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif.

“We need a little more scoring depth throughout our lineup – guys who can contribute. I think we got that,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch.

Considering how tight a financial spot Edmonton was in, the deadline haul likely represents the best that could be done. Through the majority of the season, the Oilers have operated with a roster size lower than the 23-man maximum because of cap issues. They’ve had to make careful decisions week to week in order to stay under the cap’s red line.

Both Henrique and Carrick made their debuts in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to Columbus, which snapped Edmonton’s five-game winning streak. Carrick got into a fight, Henrique was held pointless with a shot on goal.

Stecher was expected to meet up with the Oilers on Friday in Buffalo. Edmonton faces the Sabres on Saturday afternoon, but Knoblauch said he will take a “wait and see” attitude with Stecher, preferring to leave the core six defenceman intact.

“The plan is for him to wait, right now. Obviously (he needs to get) acclimated with us, practice with us a time or two,” said Knoblauch. “We’ve got six defencemen we’re very happy with, the way they’ve been playing.

“We feel there’s no reason to switch that up.”

Defenceman Mattias Ekholm, who was a trade-deadline acquisition in 2023, said the fact that Stecher was added for depth, but that none of the core six were sent packing, represents a huge vote of confidence from Holland.

“I think that’s awesome,” Ekholm said. “I think we have a really good thing going here. I think the last 40-some games we’ve played really solid. I think we’ve found guys that fit together.

“It’s a confidence boost from the management side, too, knowing we don’t have to do a whole lot there. Everyone sees what we’re feeling, so that’s a positive, there.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2024.

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