The Edmonton Oilers have swung a deal with the St. Louis Blues, exchanging left shot defenceman Dmitri Samorukov for left shot forward Klim Kostin. Both players were picked in the 2017 entry draft and both have already cleared waivers to start this season, meaning both are free to join their respective organisations at the AHL level.
Although fans are hoping the best is yet to come from both players, this should be viewed as a depth move for each team. Both Samorukov and Kostin are on the very cusp of seizing roles as regulars, but the move does allocate the depth of their new clubs more desirably.
What the Oilers gave up
Although Samorukov does have an interesting profile as a potential contributor on the blueline, the Oilers are dealing from a position of strength.
Behind Ryan Murray, presumptively, the Oilers have Philip Broberg and Markus Niemelainen on the left side. Niemelainen contributes in many of the same manners that Samorukov might have, in both physicality and defensive approach.
The Oilers have both Broberg and Samorukov take some chances on the right side over training camp, but with Cody Ceci, Evan Bouchard, and Tyson Barrie solidly atop the depth chart, it is predictable that neither truly pushed for a spot. It would be a big enough ask for Broberg or Samorukov to man the third pair outright, let alone on their off side.
Kostin’s style of play
A quick look at Kostin’s career totals might not inspire any particular hopes, but his acquisition does represent a trend we have seen from Oilers’ management over the past months. It is clear, at this point, that GM Ken Holland and his team will stop at little to add forwards that can play a power style game to the fold.
In a sense, almost all of Holland’s additions to the forward group have held a degree of this physical and straightforward style. There are textbook examples, such as Evander Kane and Reid Schaefer, as well as looser interpretations such as Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele. Whether it’s allocating large cap hits, trading away young players, or even stepping over varying lines of morality, Holland has been clear and persistent in showing he believes in continuing to add players of Kostin’s ilk.
Kostin, of course, possesses a lot of the size and speed that functions as the hallmarks of a power forward’s game. He is able to leverage those strong physical abilities into results when he takes direct routes to the net front, off the rush or during sustained in-zone play. Although there is a visible degree of speed and puck skill, he has never approached a point per game at the AHL level. In 46 career NHL games he has produced 5 goals and 11 points.
How Kostin will fit in
Kostin having already cleared waivers is likely a big factor in the Oilers acquiring his services, meaning we should expect him to remain in the AHL for the time being. Having played 40 games in the NHL last season, Kostin might still be pushing for a promotion to a depth role with the Oilers in the near future. Thanks to his minuscule cap hit ($750,000) he is as cheap an option as the Oilers can find, an important detail as the team is forced to carry a truncated roster to achieve cap compliance.
At 23 years of age and based on the fairly stagnant nature of his production, it is quite unlikely that Kostin possesses much more upside than he has shown. Samorukov, a defenceman who has continued his improvements, has the better chance to continue developing out of the two traded countrymen.
That said, given the nature of their positions, as well as the Oilers relative depth at those positions, it is more likely that Kostin will be a contributor for the Oilers than Samorukov would have this season. Under that premise this deal makes enough sense for the Oilers and perhaps Kostin will be able to provide higher upside and a higher level of play than the distasteful and ineffective PTO performance of Jake Virtanen.