Currently sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference, the Oilers are only five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Oilers will have to assess whether or not the team can acquire assets that can help the team make the playoffs this year, as well as make the team better going forward into next season.
The Oilers have several areas that they need to improve in order to make the next step, and with the trade deadline less than a week away, here is your Edmonton Oilers trade deadline primer to help set the stage for what could be a busy week in Oil Country.
The Oilers have a big decision to make with Sam Gagner.
The Oilers have some decisions to make with the trade deadline rapidly approaching. Several players are currently in the final year of their respective contracts, and rather than see them leave in the summer as free agents, the Oilers could decide to try and make a move at the deadline to try and acquire some assets.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Ryan Whitney - Perhaps the most likely candidate to be moved at or before the deadline is Ryan Whitney. The 30 year old is in the final year of a six-year deal, and has missed significant time over the course of his career due to various injuries. The Edmonton Journal has reported that the Bruins could be potential suitors for Whitney, a native of Boston, to help bring stability to their powerplay.
Ladislav Smid - Smid could be the player the Oilers are most likely to re-sign out of their list of potential unrestricted free agents. As David Staples of the Edmonton Journal suggests, keeping Smid would be the best decision for the Oilers considering that the team needs help on the blueline and not to create further holes. Smid will be in line for a bit of a pay raise from the current $2.25 million that he makes, but the no-nonsense defenseman has been the heart of the Oilers defense this season.
Nikolai Khabibulin - Nikolai Khabibulin represents a risky move for any potential suitor, but the 40 year-old goaltender could provide a solid backup for any team looking for a veteran as the playoffs draw closer. Though injuries have hampered his career, Boasting an amazing .941 save percentage and 1.93 goals against average, Khabibulin's performance this season has shown that he still has the ability to make key saves.
Restricted Free Agents:
Sam Gagner - The Oilers will have a tough decision to make in the next week regarding Sam Gagner. The former London Knight has been the main catalyst for the Oilers attack this season, but thanks to his performance and consistency he will see a pretty significant pay raise should he hit free agency in the summer. His solid performance this year could net the Oilers a healthy return if he was to move and the Oilers will have to decide if he's a part of the future or not and whether or not to try and sign him to an extension.
Magnus Paajarvi - Paajarvi has had quite the rollercoaster ride during his brief time with the Oilers. Due to inconsistent play, Paajarvi has seen his share of call-ups and demotions to the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. Since lining up with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, Paajarvi has seemingly turned the corner and rejuvenated his sputtering career and, in the process, perhaps increased his potential trade value.
It will be an interesting to see if this is the year Ales Hemsky is finally traded after years of rumors.
It wouldn't be the trade deadline without the speculation as to whether or not Ales Hemsky will be moved.
After signing a two-year extension last season with the Oilers, Hemsky is once again the subject of speculation.
The Oilers have an abundance of talented forwards with high-end talent, and with players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz requiring new contracts at the end of next season, Hemsky could be the odd man out.
Hemsky could provide offense to any team looking to make a push towards the Stanley Cup. A team like the Boston Bruins could be a potential suitor, especially considering the team narrowly missed out on Jarome Iginla and are left looking for an alternative.
Mike Brown has been a spark-plug for the Edmonton Oilers, a team who could use more grit and toughness in their forward lines.
A No.1 or No. 2 Defenseman:
The Oilers took a step forward at improving their blue line when they signed collegiate free agent defenseman Justin Schultz last season. Schultz provided the team with a legitimate puck-moving defenseman but has also shown that he is more than capable of being responsible in his own zone. Aside from perhaps Ladislav Smid, who unfortunately is not a No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman, the Oilers lack a player who can compete against top players every night. If the Oilers were to trade a player like Hemsky or Paajarvi, an established defenseman would more than likely be the return.
A Physical Forward:
The Oilers are loaded with high-end talent, this much is true. Names like Eberle, Hall, Yakupov and Nugent-Hopkins are all potential superstars who have the offensive ability to explode on any given night. But the Oilers lack the right mix of complimentary players to not only supplement the offense, but to provide a different kind of attack. Aside from perhaps Ryan Jones and Ryan Smyth (whose play has severely diminished this season), the Oilers lack players who can score ugly goals and provide a bit of toughness to match with their youthful forwards.
The team took a step forward with the acquisition of Mike Brown from the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the team still needs more players of this sort in order to perhaps finally find the right balance.
It appears that the Edmonton Oilers have gone all-in with their efforts to try and lure coveted NCAA free agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser.
Much like the Oilers did last season with Justin Schultz, the team is hoping that they can help address some needs with a player who could perhaps develop into a top defenseman.
As Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal suggests, DeKeyser could be a potentially ideal linemate for Schultz, providing size and skill to the blue line.
DeKeyser is expected to make his decision this week. If the Oilers are lucky enough to land the free agent, it could alter their moves going forward into the trade deadline next week.