Lowetide: How have the Oilers’ deadline acquisitions worked out so far?



Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland made three additions (via two trades) at the 2024 deadline.

Looking to improve the quality and depth up front, he acquired centres Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick from the Anaheim Ducks.

In need of a No. 7 defenceman who was right-handed, Holland dealt for Troy Stecher, who was patrolling the blue line for the Arizona Coyotes.

In the short period since the deadline, all three have played for the Oilers.

How are they doing?

Five-on-five

The five-on-five game state is the largest by far in an NHL game. In the Thursday night game against Buffalo, the Oilers played 50 minutes at five-on-five, six minutes on the penalty kill and enjoyed almost three minutes of power-play time. The small remaining portion came at even strength outside five-on-five.

Players can impact five-on-five play by scoring points or, even more importantly, outscoring opponents while on the ice. Here’s a look at each of the new members so far, with games played, points per 60 minutes and goal share.

Player Games Pts-60 Goal Pct

8

1.23

67

7

2.09

33

3

1.42

67

All numbers five-on-five

Henrique’s scoring is lagging, but in a small sample (97 minutes). The same holds true for his outstanding goal share, especially considering his line is being outshot 53-33 and has an expected goal share of 37 percent.

Regression will hammer those handsome outscoring numbers unless his line suppresses more shots on goal.

He is establishing himself as the third-line centre and is having some success in small samples. Coach Kris Knoblauch has been featuring Henrique in the middle with veterans Evander Kane and Corey Perry. Including the game Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the trio is 2-1 in goals in 21 five-on-five minutes with an expected goal share of 60 percent.

Carrick’s performance has given the Oilers a different look on the fourth line. He’s a rugged centre and can skate well, win faceoffs and play a regular shift without worrying about defensive lapses. That’s a lot.

He is getting fed in goal share and expected goal share but has been effective so far with wingers Perry and Mattias Janmark. In 18 minutes together, they are 1-1 goals and just under 50 percent in shot share. His line Saturday (Janmark, Connor Brown) was not up to the task against the Maple Leafs.

Stecher’s games have been the most interesting and could possibly impact the playoffs more than anticipated at the deadline.

Here’s why.

So far in the 2023-24 season, veteran Darnell Nurse has been on the ice for 50 goals for and 51 against at five-on-five. The rest of the team is 107-77 (58 percent) with Nurse on the bench.

That’s a stark difference, and Knoblauch has been trying different options in recent weeks in an attempt to find a solution.

Part of the issue comes from the fact Nurse plays elite competition (via Puck IQ) without the benefit of Connor McDavid’s line. That’s a change from previous seasons, owing to the blossoming of Evan Bouchard on a pairing with Mattias Ekholm.

Nurse has played 358 minutes against elite competition at five-on-five this season. For 75 of those minutes, he played with McDavid, and Edmonton outscored opponents 6-1. Without McDavid, Nurse is 8-16 in goals.

Since Nurse is playing about 75 percent of his minutes versus elites without McDavid and struggling, an upgrade on the defensive pairing (he’s most often with Cody Ceci for the last three seasons) would be the right call.

The sample is very small, but the Nurse-Stecher pairing is 9-10 shots and has been on the ice for zero goals against.

The numbers suggest Knoblauch will eventually return Ceci to the Nurse pairing, but Stecher gives the coach a different look.

Stecher is undersized but moves the puck more expertly than Ceci and Vincent Desharnais.

It would be an extreme long shot to suggest Stecher could win the right-side spot with Nurse, but his unique qualities could give Stecher an opportunity.

There are times when the absence of opportunity can force an unusual solution.

Special teams

Henrique and Carrick are part of the Oilers’ penalty kill. Both are averaging over one minute per game and both have a clean slate (zero goals against). Stecher is not involved in the penalty kill.

The Oilers have deployed Henrique sparingly on the early power plays since his arrival, but he is unlikely to grab significant time.

Both centres have been money in the faceoff dot since arrival, giving Edmonton a major lift in this area. Henrique is at 58 percent and Carrick 55 percent in faceoffs involving all game states.

Carrick’s willingness to play an edgy, physical game is considered a positive, and the fact he has yet to take a minor penalty while playing his rambunctious style is absolutely a feature of his game so far.

Bottom line

Each of Holland’s acquisitions has adequately filled the specific roles envisioned on the day of the trades.

Henrique is an everyday player assigned to the third forward unit. He’ll be asked to take on some of the tough chores (defensive faceoffs, checking the opposition’s best at times). His five-on-five goal share is a positive, even as the underlying indicators are troubling.

Carrick has more impact than most fourth-line centres on this team because of his utility. He can do a lot of things and is the only true right-handed centre on the roster. His ability to agitate opponents may give him extra value during the postseason. A fourth line featuring Carrick and Perry is sure to drive opponents to distraction.

Stecher is the wild card in the group. He could be a marginal player and rarely see the ice over the rest of the season and into the playoffs, or he could emerge as a key defender on a team that needs to get the puck out under control.

His offensive ability and right-handedness give him extra value.

Stecher was the most interesting acquisition and has the potential to alter the roster in a big way.

We’ll know in the next two months if the bets made by Edmonton were worthwhile.

(Photo: Perry Nelson / USA Today)





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