The Edmonton Oilers have gotten some luck this offseason already, clearing out $8.7 million for next season. Some of the money cost them some draft picks, while Duncan Keith’s retirement costs them nothing (from ‘Duncan Keith To Retire After 17-Year Career,’ The Hockey News, July 8, 2022). Ken Holland acquired Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks last offseason in an attempt to fill the second left defense spot and bring in experience and leadership. He did so and helped Evan Bouchard along the way before deciding to hang up the skates with one year left on his deal.
With the cap space available now and a spot to fill, the Oilers must use the money wisely and also possibly look for a younger and more dynamic replacement for the short-term on the left side. There are a couple of players that fit that description that may be on the move soon. It will cost the Oilers, but that’s the cost of being a contender. Let’s take a look at three solid options the Oilers could target in a trade this offseason.
The first trade target is Travis Sanheim of the Philadelphia Flyers. The team just went out and acquired Tony DeAngelo from the Carolina Hurricanes and signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract. That now has the Flyers paying five defensemen $27.77 million next season. Sanheim is the only one of the five making less than $5 million per season and he has just one year left on his deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He is just 26 years old and is playing great hockey despite the team he has been on the past couple of seasons.
Sanheim’s impact on the ice and for his partner flies under the radar, as he was a part of five of the top seven pairings for the Flyers in terms of goals for percentage (GF%) last season among pairings that played at least 60 minutes together . The only partner he had a negative GF% with was Ivan Provorov, and it makes more sense considering they are both left defensemen.
Related: Flyers’ Newest Player Tony DeAngelo – What to Expect
Sanheim has an ability to put up points and be offensive, but is also reliable in his defensive end. He makes just under a million less than the cap hit from Keith was, adds a legitimate top-four defenseman, and gives Philip Broberg one full season in the NHL to get properly acclimated before he is thrown into the top four.
MacKenzie Weegar has been very good for the Florida Panthers these past two seasons, finishing eighth and 14th in Norris Trophy voting. There’s a scenario where the Panthers could trade Weegar, but also one where they won’t and hold onto him for the final year of his deal. Weegar has a very good cap hit for what he provides, but very soon the Panthers are going to be in trouble cap-wise. They already overpay their starting goaltender while they have a capable young netminder with one year left on his entry-level deal while Patric Hornqvist is being paid a lot and they still have a significant cap hit of Keith Yandle.
It may seem odd for the Presidents’ Trophy winners to trade one of their best defensemen, but he is going to be in line for a big payday that the Panthers won’t be able to afford. It isn’t unrealistic to think that their team makes some changes after being rolled over by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2 and get something back for a player like Weegar who they will likely lose. It will be more costly than acquiring Sanheim due to the lower cap hit and very good consecutive seasons while the Oilers would likely have to pry him away from the Panthers for the final season of his contract.
Jakob Chychrun is still not traded, and now it appears as though the Oilers can make a stronger case for bringing him in. He has three years left on a solid deal worth $4.6 million per, but the Oilers would likely have to send a top prospect like Broberg back the other way. It also wouldn’t make much sense keeping Broberg in that case since he’d be stuck on the bottom pairing for three more seasons or Chychrun would turn into what the Oilers currently have in Tyson Barrie on the right side.
Chychrun is a high-risk, high-reward defenseman, but would be better suited to play alongside Cody Ceci rather than another young player in Bouchard. That may throw off the chemistry a little, but Bouchard has also shown he can play top-pairing minutes last season at times. Unlike the other two trade targets above, there has been tons of talk about Chychrun leaving Arizona and his contract would fit perfectly in the Stanley Cup window the Oilers have right now. High-risk can hurt the team after a bit of injury trouble last season, but he also scored 18 goals and 41 points in 56 games the season prior. Last season was a struggle on a very bad Coyotes team, but the Oilers have a good head coach, defensive coach, and a system that he should benefit in if acquired.
The Oilers could very well stand pat and win the Brett Kulak sweepstakes so their left defense consists of Darnell Nurse, Broberg, and Kulak. Or they could go for it and target a bigger name with some of the extra cap they freed up to make an impact right away.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. It covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
You can find more of his work here.
Follow Rob on Twitter or his hockey account Stat Hockey for the latest articles, stats, and more.