Despite excellent play from the Edmonton Oilers’ rookie defencemen Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais, the team might still go out and upgrade their back end. With seven wins in eight games (for 15 points), the Oilers now sit amongst the leaders in their division and have a real shot at getting home-ice advantage in the playoffs. It should also make general manager Ken Holland’s life easier when it comes to upgrading his roster or not.
Edmonton has been running with 11 forwards and seven defencemen while they have been winning games, so why change the formula? For this season, at least, adding a rental defenceman with more experience could allow them to use six defencemen or continue to run with seven. There are two players, in particular, from the Western Conference that the Oilers have been linked to, according to Jeff Marek on Jan. 28’s 32 Thoughts segment of Hockey Night in Canada.
Why is a defenceman with good value on what looks like a playoff-bound team a potential trade candidate? The Seattle Kraken are looking for sustained success and security. Their concern lies more with defence and goaltending since they allow a lot of goals. Their offence wins games, but if they are going to be Stanley Cup contenders, they have to become a complete team. So, they could be looking for bigger names with term left on their contract.
Marek questioned whether Carson Soucy would fit with the Oilers if Seattle can’t extend him. The Kraken defenceman came over in the expansion draft and is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the season. The Oilers might have their eye on someone more impactful for the short or long term, like Shayne Gostisbehere or Ivan Provorov, who is more proven on the left side, might stick around and help the power play.
However, Soucy is the perfect blend of player and would fit well on the OIlers’ left side this season. He’s 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, very responsible and smart defensively, and is comfortable playing on the third pairing with the ability to slot in higher. This versatile defender is an underrated scorer as well, considering he potted 10 goals and 21 points last season for the Kraken. His takeaway/giveaway ratio is strong for a defenceman, and he is a solid penalty killer, giving the Oilers another option while shorthanded.
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Soucy, who is a cheap left-shot defender ($2.75 million), would also be a great partner for any Oilers defenceman who plays on the right side, Evan Bouchard in particular. Soucy has played over 100 minutes alongside Justin Schultz this season, a player similar in style to Bouchard. This pairing has a 100 goals-for percentage (GF%) with four goals for and zero against at five-on-five with the Kraken this season.
With his other partner, Will Borgen, Soucy shares a GF% of 55.81, with 24 goals for and 19 against in nearly 500 minutes together. Soucy’s ice time could stay similar to what it is now if the Oilers continue to run seven defencemen, and he would remain just as effective. Bouchard has struggled a bit compared to last season and could use a stable partner like Soucy, who can seamlessly cover his mistakes.
The St. Louis Blues are in a different position than the Kraken and are much more likely to trade defenseman Niko Mikkola. The Blues are eight points back of the second wild-card spot, with two more games played. They are nearly out of contention as we approach the All-Star break and have a number of good trade chips to help set the table for a reset in the summer. They are willing to listen to offers for any of their UFAs this season.
Third-year defenceman, Mikkola, isn’t as experienced as Soucy, but the Blues are definitely taking calls on him. Marek also brought up his name as a fit for the Oilers. He is on their third pair and plays a physical, hard, defensive game. He won’t provide much offence, but that’s not what the Oilers would need him for.
He has a very poor turnover ratio and has very mixed results in GF% with different partners. Since the Blues’ defensive group has been scrambled so often, Mikkola has played with five different partners for at least 85 min at five-on-five. He has a stellar GF% alongside Robert Bortuzzo (63.64) and Calle Rosen (83.33) but poor with Colton Parayko (26.67), Justin Faulk (46.15), and Nick Leddy (46.15). Mikkola could be used more strategically by the Oilers, who could continue to dress seven defensemen. The coaching staff would find the best fit and use him in that regard. He’s 6-foot-4, 185 pounds and would keep the size element on the blue line. The 26-year-old also has a cheaper cap hit than Soucy and is also a UFA after the season.
The jury is still out as to whether the Oilers are going to upgrade their defence at the deadline. They will have to move money out but could also lose confidence in the rookies’ abilities in the next month. Keep an eye on Soucy if he doesn’t have a new contract soon, or Mikkola as a cheap insurance addition.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.