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What the Oilers get – and give up – in bold trade for Mattias Ekholm

Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland set the table for a move earlier on Tuesday when he traded Jesse Puljujarvi and his full $3 million cap hit to Carolina for a prospect.

That trade opened up a couple million dollars in cap space they just did not have icing a 20-man roster. Edmonton’s obvious need was for a defenceman and, when Holland met the media after the Puljujarvi trade, he said he was in on as many defencemen as he could be.

“By moving Jesse I hope it’s step one,” Holland said. “I hope there are other steps to come.”

A few hours later that next step came, and it was a big move. While Holland acknowledged he was more open to trading a first-round pick for a rental player than he usually is, he didn’t need to go down that road. The re-tooling Predators became a trade partner, sending Mattias Ekholm to Edmonton. Ekholm, a strong, reliable, minute-eating top-four defenceman, is signed through the 2025-26 season.

And he sounds excited to come to the Oilers.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. It’s the biggest chance of my career to (get) myself a Stanley Cup ring,” Ekholm said.

“I think I’m a good team guy who puts the team first.”

Someone who would know all about Ekholm’s game is our own scout Jason Bukala, who was working in the Predators organization when they drafted the defenceman in the fourth round (102nd overall) in 2009. So we turn to him for a breakdown of this trade.


Edmonton’s lead up to the trade deadline seemed to circle around Erik Karlsson, and the long shot idea that he could land on the Oilers. In a completely different direction, the Oilers have added veteran defenceman Mattias Ekholm instead, in exchange for Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, and draft picks.

Here’s my scouting breakdown on the deal:

Edmonton Receives

• Mattias Ekholm
• 2024 sixth-round pick

Ekholm, for me, was arguably the top defenceman available at this deadline. He’s a durable, two-way defender who can be deployed in all situations. He’s capable with the puck, but isn’t a player who will lead the rush often. Ekholm outlets well, keeps the play in front of him, and picks his spots when to join offensively as an extra layer. On the power-play he is equal parts shooter and distributor.

He’s not punishing physically. Ekholm is more of an “area” defender. He isn’t shy, however, and will get in lanes to block shots when necessary. It’s somewhat difficult to put into words, but Ekholm is a player who relies on his high-end hockey IQ in all three zones. Oilers fans will appreciate his presence.

Ekholm has term left on his deal, signed through 2025-26. His cap hit is $6.25 million, but with Nashville retaining four per cent, Ekholm will land in Edmonton with a $6 million cap hit.

Here’s a look at Ekholm’s stats this season:

After the trade, here’s what Edmonton’s draft board looks like over the next three years.

Nashville Receives

• Tyson Barrie
• Reid Schaefer
• 2023 first-round pick
• 2024 fourth-round pick

I have to honest, I feel for Barrie. He didn’t have trade protection in his deal, which made him vulnerable at the deadline. His salary is reasonable ($4.5 million) and he’s signed through next season.

Barrie was having a solid season in Edmonton. He’s a two-way/transitional defender who contributes on the power-play. The biggest difference between Ekholm and Barrie (besides the fact Barrie is more productive offensively) is that Ekholm is a much better defender. It’s obvious the Oilers valued defending over offence in this transaction. Barrie did nothing to earn a ticket out of town.

Here’s a look at Barrie’s stats this season:

Reid Schaefer was the Oilers’ first round pick (32nd overall) in 2022 and is playing in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds. He was part of Team Canada’s gold medal champion WJC team in Halifax this past December/January. He’s a big body forward (6-foot-4, 218 pounds) with an excellent release. His best work comes from the hash marks down and in the middle slot in the offensive zone. He’s definitely more of a shooter than a playmaker.

I recently viewed Schaefer on a scouting trip out west and came away with an average impression overall. He has time on his side, but I haven’t seen a significant step forward from the player I watched last season. Sometimes it takes big body forwards longer to develop, though. If he hits as an NHL power forward (his projection) Nashville has done well with this addition to their organization.

Over the past few days the Predators have stock piled their draft cupboards. This deal with the Oilers provides the Peedators with another first-round pick in the upcoming draft and a fourth-rounder as well.

Here’s a look at their draft table over the next three years, which will soon be Barry Trotz’s to manage.


This must have been a difficult deal for the Oilers to make. But they recognized the need to stabilize their defensive zone further by adding a player who can play big minutes in all situations.

The draft picks will work themselves out in time.

For today, the Oilers are a better team by swapping out Barrie for Ekholm.


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