The Edmonton Oilers may have the most top-heavy group of forwards in the NHL. Any team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl obviously can score huge goals in any game, and that is obviously a huge part of their success.
But if the Oilers want to have a long playoff run this spring, they must take care of their defense. This is a team that leads the Western Conference in goals scored with 180, trailing only the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres (183 each) in the NHL. However, the defense does not measure up.
The Oilers have allowed 159 goals, ranking 10th in the Western Conference. This has contributed to their 27-18-4 record, and while the Oilers are in the playoff structure, their margin of error going forward is very small. Edmonton has played well on the road with a 15-7-1 mark, but they have struggled at home, going 12-11-3.
Here’s a look at two defensemen and one center that could help them become a factor in the postseason.
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild
While he is having a difficult season with the Minnesota Wild and his relationship with head coach Dean Evason is not the best, there is little doubt that Dumba has more than enough talent and skill to have a positive impact on the blue line.
Perhaps all Dumba needs is a change of environment. He has a relatively benign scoring line of 4 goals and 8 assists with the Wild, but he has scored as many as 50 points in a season. He reached that total in 2017-18, and he was also a career-best plus-15 that season.
Dumba, 28, is a 6-0 and 182-pound factor on the blue line. He has a mature game and he can provide a steadying influence to the Oilers if they acquire him.
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
Chychrun has been on the market since the start of the season, and he should be one of the most sought after players by the trade deadline.
The 24-year-old Chychrun still has two years remaining on his contract, so it’s clear that he is not just a rental. Chychrun has the size and strength at 6-2 and 211 pounds to be a major deterrent to opposing forwards.
He is a big-time offensive factor on the blue line, and he has scored 5 goals and 20 assists this season. He had a career best 18 goals and 23 assists in 2020-21, and his presence would give the Oilers yet another offensive weapon.
The Coyotes are looking for a pair of first-round draft picks as well as a player or a prospect. This is a stiff price, but it may be worth hit for a team that needs significant help on defense.
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
O’Reilly was the pivotal player for the Blues when they won the Stanley Cup in 2019. The Blues have been far too inconsistent this season to even think about Stanley Cup chances, and that’s why a player like O’Reilly may be available.
He is one of the top two-way centers in the NHL, as valuable on defense as he is as an offensive factor. The Oilers make too many mistakes in their own end, and a player as responsible as O’Reilly can go a long way towards fixing that problem.
O’Reilly is currently out with a broken foot, but he should return in mid-February, ahead of the March 3 trade deadline. He could be the X-factor that the Oilers need to make them a major threat in the Stanley Cup playoffs.