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, Danny Briere should be all-in to acquire the 27-year-old Cologne, Germany native. Though the price tag to do so won’t be cheap. Between the Oilers’ demands 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.
It’s not an easy deal to craft, even in fantasyland. True blockbuster trades just don’t happen in the modern day NHL, let alone a player of Draisaitl’s caliber, so there’s very little references to point to when trying to come up with a realistic return.
Leon Draisaitl has two years left on his current contract at an $8.5 million cap hit, a relatively low number considering he posted 128 points in 2022-23, the fourth time in the last five seasons he broke the 100-point plateau. 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 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, theoretically under a rebuild, 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 24-year-old Edmonton native netminder has one year left at a $3.9 cap hit before becoming a restricted free agent, gives the Oilers a legitimate goaltender at a reasonable price.
Edmonton invested five years and $25 million into Jack Campbell last summer, and his .888 save percentage wasn’t exactly what they were expecting in return. 24-year-old Stuart Skinner rose to the occasion this season as their de facto starter, but his hot and cold performances could leave a little to be desired, especially come playoff time.
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 NHL, but there’s no guarantees either will have sustained success in the big leagues. Getting rid of Hart with no sure thing in his place is a huge gamble.
The next piece would probably be defenseman Ivan Provorov. The Oilers may already have a number-one-who-isn’t-a-true-number-one left-handed defenseman in Darnell Nurse and acquired Mattias Ekholm at the deadline, 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 (unless Tony DeAngelo moves their needle, which seems unlikely) so they’ll have to settle for Provorov. We know Provorov, who carries a $6.75 million cap hit for two 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 well over the cap hit of Drasaitl alone.
Financially, 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 players like Joel Farabee or Travis Konecny and their $5 million and $5.5 million aav respectively may be beyond the bounds of monetary reality. Though none of the three should be taken off the table if necessary to seal the deal.
Would they have interest in a younger guy like Cam York or Noah Cates? Maybe Owen Tippett? Age wise, they’re slightly more enticing, and financially they’d fit in much better, at least in the short term, but their lack of respective track records may not hold much weight when it comes to a team like the Oilers trying to win a Cup. The Flyers do have a bonus first round pick in 2024 that they got from the Claude Giroux trade. Edmonton may not be overly concerned about drafting these days, but it could be used as ammo for a future deal.
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, Danny Briere 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: nhl.com