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Around the West: Duncan Keith on the market, Oilers skating full steam ahead, and cracks in Winnipeg

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Preparing for the chaos that could come out of possibly the biggest RFA summer of all time.

Edmonton Oilers v Winnipeg Jets
Nik Ehlers and Patrik Laine

As the final stretch run of the season begins this weekend, let’s have a look at a few key players on the transaction market heading from the Western Conference. Who’s a buyer that could do something crazy? Who’s a seller with an asset on the table that no one believes is available. Where do the contenders stand, what do they need?

Welcome to February, aka Silly Season.

Week 17

Buyers

Edmonton Oilers

Edmoney shouldn’t be trying to sell futures and buy players for a playoff run. They still need to jump five teams at this point in the season in order to reach a wild card spot. Nevertheless, Keith Gretzky, Bob Nicholson, and the 80’s Oilers are determined to buy players at a time when players are in high demand (and therefore, their cost is higher) for a futile playoff “push.” But anything to sell box suites this summer, right?

Another smell in the Oilers “plans” started to bubble up this week when news of Andrei Sekera’s return started to circle around the city. Sekera has been on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) and as essentially been on the inactive roster without any charge to the salary cap. The fact that he is due to come back before the end of the season means the Oilers (who have made trades and taken on cap dollars since placing Sekera on LTIR) have to shed salary as soon as possible.

Edmonton put Sekera on LTIR on October 2nd of 2018. Since that time, they have made four trades and taken on a total of $2,050,000 towards the salary cap this year. Also keep in mind that the Oilers were above the cap ceiling (but made it work because Sekera and Kris Russell were both injured) at the start of the season, too.

At this point, it’s going to take shedding a Ryan Spooner, Cam Talbot, and possibly even one more piece in order to be cap compliant this season. As always, the Oilers have put themselves into a corner and are about to go try and win a trade with the rest of the league. Me thinks the problem wasn’t Peter Chiarelli.

Sellers

Chicago Blackhawks

So Duncan Keith is on the market.

Keith is 35-years-old and has five years left on his deal (including this year) at $5,538,462. The good thing about Keith’s contract is that when he retires, Chicago will get a full cap recapture of Keith’s salary, so the team that takes him on won’t have any strings attached.

There are a lot of question marks surrounding this potential deal. How long is Keith willing to play? What will the cost be? Will the cost be contingent of how many games played or seasons he plays? Will teams be able to give up assets that are potentially two or three years in advance to give Chicago that security?

This all feels like a summer trade to me. That said, teams like the Sharks and Golden Knights were hesitant on Erik Karlsson and it cost them one playoff run out of him. Possibly the difference between a Cup or not. GMs remember this stuff and it’s hard to believe they’ll make the same mistake twice.

Contenders

Winnipeg

Cracks are forming in Winnipeg as the salary cap crunch becomes more and more of a reality. Teams and agents have begun talks with each other and threats of offer sheets have begun to surface. Combined with the fact that Winnipeg only has $23 million to spend on 12 roster players, the head of that group being young Jets like Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba, and Patrik Laine, there will be decisions to make as to who stays and who goes.

Further developments out of Winnipeg add a twist to this story. Laine has had a slow season summed up by short bursts of unbelievable goal-scoring prowess and (very) long stretches where he does little to nothing — and sometimes negative — work for his team. Laine is in yet another massive slump this season alone, and cracks have started to show in the coaching staff’s faith in him.

Will we see the Jets resist the urge to move away from this young “problem” or will they lock him up long term to a big contract? What will Laine’s camp want to do? Would a mutual request for a bridge contract save both sides from their problems or will it all fall apart. The potential of having a second-overall draft pick only three seasons removed from his debut at his lowest value might be a really intriguing for a team.