Report: Oilers may be forced to trade Draisaitl

Some costly errors by Chiarelli may force a move that most will hate.

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The Edmonton Oilers suffered one of the most painful decades for any National Hockey League franchise in recent memory, going from 2006 to 2016 without a single playoff run, mostly ending up in the league's basement.

A slew of draft lottery victories should have propelled this team into greatness, yet somehow, they still haven't managed to put things together.

Drafting Connor McDavid seemed like that final move that would put this team back into contention, and sure enough, their 2016-17 season was their best since their Stanley Cup Final run over a decade ago against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Fast forward to 2017-18, and the Oilers are at the bottom of the standings once again, and barring a miracle, they will miss the playoffs again. They may even win the draft lottery again.

Now some fans might actually be okay with that, because winning would mean getting Rasmus Dahlin, widely considered the best defenseman to come out of the draft in a generation.

That's something to be excited about. But if you're an Oilers fan, you're conflicted over the fact that you've seen this story unfold too many times without bearing any fruit.

The major issue here is that McDavid's entry-level contract expires this season, and his $12.5 million monster deal kicks in next season. That considerably reduces the team's flexibility to fix this roster, especially when you consider players like Kris Russell and Milan Lucic eating up significant chunks of cap space for several more years.

It was long believed that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be the guy traded, as the team's depth at centre is already so deep, and so much money is spent there, with the aforementioned earning $6 million, Leon Draisaitl earning $8.5 million, and McDavid earning... well you know what he's earning.

It was questionable to give Draisaitl that kind of money after playing a career year on McDavid's wing. 

Given the lack of trade protection on his deal, he may figure to be the team's best trade chip, according to Allan Mitchell of The Athletic.

"If Edmonton is going to address areas of weakness and trade a substantial piece, Chiarelli, or his successor, may have to consider trading Draisaitl at some point in time," Mitchell writes. "It may seem like an incredible thought, but in the clear light of day the contracts awarded to Lucic and Russell—added to the lack of adequate free-agent options—could end up costing Edmonton the giant centre from Cologne, Germany."

It should be noted that Mitchell doesn't see this as the most likely scenario, with the likes of Nugent-Hopkins and Oskar Klefbom being sacrificed despite their strong play and better contracts.

"Draisaitl's contract might make him vulnerable in the future but I don't see it being a reasonable plan of action at this time. Chiarelli isn't going to trade Draisaitl, and I don't think the next general manager (should there be one during the life of the contract) will consider it seriously. Not based on what we know today. When arriving at the topic of solving problems this summer, the major trade pieces, in my opinion, remain Nugent-Hopkins and Klefbom."

Either way, a trade of that magnitude would likely be reserved for a future GM, as Chiarelli is almost certainly on the hot seat and wouldn't be trusted with making a deal of that magnitude - again.

The possibility remains that Draisaitl may very well be traded at some point in the next couple years, purely out of need to shore up the holes on this team and solve the salary cap issue this team faces. Even with the suspected increase next season, there are too many high price tags on this team, and some to players who don't necessarily warrant them.

It will certainly be something to monitor down the line.