NHL insider Elliott Friedman noted this time 32 thought segments Saturday Hockey Night in Canada reports that both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs are believed to be interested. Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Called a well-rounded defenseman among the better defensive specialists available at this year’s NHL trade deadline, it makes sense that both teams would have interest, especially considering their current needs and what Gavrikov brings to the table.
Gavrikov had 33 points last season (10 points this season) and is logging more than 22 minutes a night this year, filling in as much as he can for Zach Werenski who went down early in the season with a long-term injury.
Why Gavrikov for the Leafs and Oilers?
Part of the appeal isn’t just what Gavrokov brings to the ice. Yes, he’s been talked about more as a ‘shutdown’ defender than some options this season, but his contract and tenure are appealing to both GM Kyle Dubas (Leafs) and Ken Holland (Oilers) as he’s a pending UFA. Gavrikov plays a tough game and is not afraid to play in the offensive zone. That said, both teams will get this skill set at a cost of $2.8 million (pro-rated for the rest of this season). He’s a rental, though the Blue Jackets have given any team that wants to talk trades an extension.
For the Leafs and Oilers, salary and contract flexibility are key. Toronto is waiting on Jake Muzzin’s injury status before really getting involved at the trade deadline. Beyond that, there are serious cap questions for the next few seasons. As for the Oilers, they have little cap space to work with, only exaggerated by the need to move money before Kyler Yamamoto returns from LTIR in a few weeks.
Asking price for Gavrikov
Like most big-name defensemen available before March 3, the asking price for Gavrikov is through the roof. The Blue Jackets are said to at least want what they got David Savard (a first and a third round pick) and maybe more. The Blue Jackets wanted to re-sign him and believed it was a player who was better than Savard/at the time Savard was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning and helped that team win the Stanley Cup.
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That begs the question, is he worth it? If both the Oilers and Maple Leafs have identified this player as the one they are most interested in pursuing, that means the price will only increase. Supply and demand means someone is overpaying for this player, and it’s fair to argue that no team can do that.
Does Toronto have the edge here?
In Edmonton, adding Gavrikov is likely a rental trade. They are close to the team Said the Oilers really like what they have Philip Broberg And what they don’t want to do is limit his ability to play in important games. Stunting his development is not something Holland are looking to do and adding a player like Gavrikov essentially does that. That’s especially true if the Oilers want to extend Gavrikov, which makes sense if they’re willing to give up a ton of assets to acquire him. Signing Gavrikov means Broberg is out or Brett Kulak is trade bait.
Toronto, on the other hand, may find the idea of extending Gavrikov attractive. Their deal certainly requires some spending, especially with big names like Michael Bunting and William Nylander — to a lesser extent Pierre Engvall and Alex Kerfoot — coming in for new deals. Locking up a top-four defenseman at a good price helps their long-term plan. So, Justin Hall’s contract is expiring and the Leafs could opt for an upgrade. Jake Muzzin may never return, though that hasn’t been announced and the team is still awaiting test results.
Interestingly, the Oilers and Leafs aren’t Gavrikov’s only two teams. It has been reported that 10 teams are kicking the tires on the defenseman. If the asking price is astronomical, perhaps this is a deal that both parties should walk away from.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumours, as well as writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source at The Hockey Writers for five-plus years, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talks. For those who want to be “in the know”, the gym is a daily must.