There’s nothing like the Edmonton Oilers still struggling to be competitive after all these years of rebuilding and a roster that features two of the best players in the world today. The weaknesses elsewhere in the lineup are proving too much for even Connor McDavid to overcome, and it has led to speculation that maybe moving Leon Draisaitl for a king’s ransom to plug holes throughout the team could be an inevitable path if this season doesn’t provide the prosperous ending they’re hoping for.
The Flyers are a team desperate for a top center, and, even though it’s all hearsay, if for some reason Draisaitl does hit the trade market, Chuck Fletcher should be all-in to acquire the 26-year-old Cologne, Germany native. Though the price tag to do so won’t be cheap. Between the Oilers’ wants and the rest of the league undoubtedly posing their best offers too, the Flyers will have to craft a blow-away trade to convince the Oilers to part with their superstar.
Leon Draisaitl has three years left on his current contract at an $8.5 million cap hit, a relatively low number all things considered. Because his cap hit is so reasonable, throwing half the Flyers’ roster at the Oilers can’t happen. It’ll be about targeted additions filling their biggest holes.
The Oilers don’t have much cap space to work with even during the upcoming offseason thanks to multiple long-term contract already in place and Darnell Nurse’s new contract carrying a $9.25 million cap hit kicking in. With players like Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto due extensions it could quickly eat up the few million they have to spare. So any trade will have to be built close to Draisaitl’s $8.5 million cap hit to avoid financial turmoil for Edmonton.
The Oilers are a team looking to compete. If they’re selling Draisaitl, it’s for key current roster pieces to push them over the edge of success. The Flyers roster should be prime feeding ground for a team like Edmonton as they’ve got plenty of NHL-caliber complimentary players who can be carried to great performances.
There’s no way this negotiation starts with anyone other than Carter Hart. The 23-year-old Edmonton native netminder is one of the top young goalies in the league and the Oilers are desperate for a cure in the crease, as the current duo of Mikko Koskinen and 40-year-old Mike Smith just aren’t cutting it.
Hart, who has two years left at a $3.9 cap hit, gives the Oilers a legitimate goaltender at a reasonable price. For the Flyers, it already poses a huge question- do you give up your top young goalie after searching for a franchise netminder for decades? Felix Sandstrom and Samuel Ersson have shown some promise during their stints in the AHL, but with only one NHL game between them belonging to Sandstrom, there’s no guarantees either will have success in the big leagues. Getting rid of Hart with no sure thing in his place is a huge gamble. With Koskinen’s $4.5 aav coming off the books this year, Hart’s $3.9 cap hit is actually saving Edmonton over half a million dollars, an even more attractive feature for a team pressed to the salary cap ceiling.
The next piece would probably be defenseman Ivan Provorov. The Oilers may already have a number one lefty in Darnell Nurse, but they’re pretty lacking elsewhere. In an ideal world, they’d probably value a right handed defenseman more, but the Flyers don’t have one to spare, so they’ll have to settle for Provorov. He would currently lead the Oilers in defenseman goals and be second in points from their blueliners. We know Provorov, who carries a $6.75 million cap hit for three more seasons, can be a top defenseman who has excelled when he finds chemistry with a linemate, if he gets plopped with a partner who can bring the best out of him, he’d be a nice add both offensively and defensively for the Oilers.
Do Hart and Provorov get it done? Potentially. Could the Flyers get a deal done without losing Hart? It seems unlikely. Giving up Carter Hart would undoubtedly sting, but he’s an enticing trade chip in his own right that could swing a deal in the Flyers’ favor if a bidding war ensues.
The Flyers don’t really have many needle-moving players on the roster to base a trade on other than those two, whose combined cap hit of $10.72 million is already pushing the limits of what Edmonton can reasonably afford. It takes the “quantity over quality” approach off the table unless this trade goes from blockbuster to nuclear in terms of both team shaking up their cores with multiple pieces involved. At best the Flyers may be able to throw in someone like Scott Laughton ($3 million aav) but does he do much to tip the scales further in the Flyers’ favor? Even someone like Travis Konecny and his $5.5 million aav may be beyond the bounds of reality.
Does Draisaitl leave Edmonton? Probably not. Are the Flyers buyers in the off-chance he does? They absolutely should be. A dynamic center should be atop their wishlist, and it won’t get much better than Draisaitl. It comes down to whether or not they feel like risking the foundation of the current roster to build a new foundation with a superstar forward. A player the caliber of Draisaitl is franchise altering. He can win a game on his own, a level of dominance the Flyers organization hasn’t seen in almost 30 years. For a team desperate for a scoring forward, Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers would have to seriously consider jumping through any hoop Ken Holland and the Oilers would ask if it means securing a legitimate superstar to reignite hockey in Philadelphia.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: usatoday.com