EDMONTON — As the NHL trade deadline merry-go-round comes full circle in Edmonton, Evander Kane was asked how much attention he pays to the daily speculation.
“I absorb it,” he said Wednesday, in full sarcasm mode after the Oilers’ morning skate. “I follow each and every one of you (media) guys’ Twitter accounts and like to stay up to date on all the activity that’s going on.
“You know, the rumour mill is really for me,” he gushed. “I really enjoy it. So, yeah — I’m really excited about some of the players we have coming to this team. I mean, according to you guys … ”
OK, we get it. And I’m the first to say, there are certain potential trades that are about 10 per cent reality and 90 per cent media hype.
But has Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland called San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier about possible trades? Of course he has — Holland is a buyer and Grier a seller. Holland wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t talking to every GM like Grier whose teams are clearly not plotting a playoff course.
Does that mean the Sharks are willing to retain as much as $4 million of Erik Karlsson‘s salary for the next four seasons? Well, as we wrote earlier this week, that’s quite a leap.
“Honestly,” said Kane, “I’ve heard so many different things, I’ve been a part of so many different rumours, and a lot of them are bull—-. At the trade deadline, there’s always going to be speculation. There’s always going to be rumours just created for entertainment, right?
“I mean, you guys have shows. There are things that need to be talked about to fill time … ”
Here’s what we think about the Edmonton Oilers, on Feb. 15:
The cap-strapped Holland is kicking tires on the big fish, but with his salary cap issues, it is only the pending unrestricted free agents who make sense. Teams just do not want to retain salary for multiple seasons, for obvious reasons.
The St. Louis Blues would likely retain up to 50 per cent of Ryan O’Reilly’s expiring $7.5-million contract to help make a deal happen. Same with the Chicago Blackhawks and Patrick Kane, or even a player like Sam Lafferty.
Salary retention will be the death of any Karlsson deal with San Jose, we believe, and if it’s true that the Arizona Coyotes don’t want to retain — or take back a player such as Jesse Puljujarvi as part of a trade — then it will be impossible for Edmonton to be part of any Jakob Chychrun deal.
Back at Christmas, myself and most others thought that a stay-at-home, cycle-busting defenceman was what the Oilers required. Like Vlad Gavrikov or Joel Edmundson.
But as the price on those two stayed high — said to be a first- and third-round pick for both — and the Oilers defence corps began to improve, we all asked, “Are those guys, at that price, really going to make this D-corps that much better?”
Lots of folks like Chychrun as the answer, but we were never sure that any of those people resided in Edmonton’s front office. And the Karlsson news burned like a wildfire, with just the thought of that pedigree of offenceman teaming up with the players who already dress inside the Oilers locker room.
But as the Karlsson and Chychrun fires fade, we come back to difficult deals for high-priced players O’Reilly and Kane, or more doable trades for a Gavrikov, or a pending UFA such as Detroit’s Olli Maatta, who would be much easier to strike a deal on.
Do you want a forward instead of a defenceman? Do you want a shot-blocking blue-liner who eats pucks, rather than a Karlsson or Shayne Gostisbehere, two skilled guys whose best defence comes when they help move the puck north?
Edmundson’s back is a problem — personally, we wouldn’t go there, even though it is a deal that the Oilers could likely make. Gavrikov might be fetched in a deal including Marcus Niemelainen, Puljujarvi and a first — one draft pick and two players the Oilers would be OK parting with.
If had to choose from every available player, with the caveat that the deal has to make sense and be doable, I think I’d take O’Reilly for a long playoff run, and add a guy such as Maatta as a depth defenceman for a third- or fourth-round pick and whatever salaries had to go Detroit’s way.
You know the Oilers players would prefer a high-impact trade to a smaller one. But they’ll never say it — on the record, at least.
“To be honest, it never really gets in here,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, looking around the post-practice dressing room, with the Red Wings in Wednesday night. “I know there’s lots of lots of noise out there, but guys never really talk too much about it in here. I’m sure it’s hard for guys to not think about it, but at the end of the day, we’ve all got a job to do and we’re here to win games.
“The GM is gonna do what he’s gonna do. It’s just part of the business.”