Edmonton Oilers

Revisiting whether the Edmonton Oilers should acquire Vladislav Gavrikov

Vladislav Gavrikov is a long defensive minded player. His greatest strength is his stick checking, as he is able to break up the opposition’s attack off the rush or in-zone. Gavrikov supplements this with a degree of physicality as well, able to break up cycles and battle at the net front, though this physicality is more functional than it is punishing.

Gavrikov won’t be adding much value on offence, without much of a shot, passing skills, or willingness to rush. That said, he plays within himself and respects his role in contributing to team success.

This season, on the Columbus Blue Jackets blueline that is quite thin by talent and injury, Gavrikov has been relied upon quite heavily. It is safe to say that Gavrikov is overextended, as he has led the Jackets blueline in icetime for most of the season, playing top duties on the penalty kill and even strength. Gavrikov has not exactly been afforded ideal partners either, though his frequent partner Marcus Bjork has had a nice season as a 25-year-old rookie.

Would the Oilers even need Gavrikov?

A defence-first left shot, Gavrikov would make a nice partner for Tyson Barrie or Evan Bouchard. Almost certainly he would be an upgrade on the penalty kill, though one of he, Darnell Nurse, or Brett Kulak might play their weak side in such an arrangement. Gavrikov would all but ensure that Philip Broberg is blocked from a regular role, a role that he has been thriving in as of late.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the play of Gavrikov and Kulak, who might occupy a similar space on the lineup card as a number four or five defensive option on the left side of the blueline. While Gavrikov is a much better stick checker, once described as octopus-like in its ubiquity, Kulak is a stronger skater, who’s feet can help escape trouble and make better plays with the puck. Gavrikov has much more experience in a bigger role than Kulak, but Kulak has had great synergy with Barrie. In a vacuum one might evaluate Gavrikov as a better option than Kulak, within the context of the Oilers roster, and with Gavrikov joining mid-season, their theoretical importance to the Oilers down the stretch of this season might be comparable.

As an expiring contract, there is some talk of extension attached to the Gavrikov trade discourse. While anything at over a $4M cap hit is almost certainly unaffordable for the Oilers (still a lot that could change here), a Gavrikov extension would cause a long term log jam at the position, with Nurse, Kulak, and Broberg all part of the Oilers long term plans.

By this thinking, Gavrikov would be a capable penalty killing, middle pair, defensively-minded rental for the Oilers. With Nurse, Kulak, Broberg, and even Ryan Murray or Markus Niemelainen on the left side, the Oilers would have a fairly insurmountable amount of depth at left D.

What the Oilers could potentially be giving up

An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and on a poor Columbus team that is focused on the future, Gavrikov is a fairly standard rental option. Players of his ilk are often moved at the deadline, though the cost can be quite high, as it was for Ben Chiarot last season.

No doubt there will be other suitors for Gavrikov, a situation that Jackets GM Jarmo Kekkalainen will be trying to leverage as much as possible. Given the Oilers focus on the here and now, it is likely that the Jackets will be looking to get a 2023 first round pick in a Gavrikov deal. The Oilers are all but forced to operate on a dollar-in dollar-out basis, which makes the possibility of Jesse Puljujarvi being a part of this hypothetical deal quite likely.

In all, the Oilers have greatly improved all aspects of their defensive play since the lackadaisical start to the season. Combined with the emergence of Broberg and Vincent Desharnais, the need for blueline bolstering might well have quelled. Gavrikov is a good player, but the circumstances with the Oilers make the prospective fit a tad cumbersome.

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

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