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A trade with the Edmonton Oilers for Chris Tanev could make sense for both teams

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
1 month ago
The Calgary Flames have only made a handful of trades with their provincial rival.
In 2010, the Edmonton Oilers and the Flames made their first ever trade when the Flames sent Aaron Johnson and a third-round pick in 2011 to the Flames for current Ottawa Senators general manager Steve Staois. Three seasons later, the Oilers sent Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy to the Flames for Laurent Brossoit and Roman Horak.
Their last trade was before the 2019 season in what was essentially a cap swap. The Flames sent James Neal to the Oilers in exchange for Milan Lucic and a conditional draft choice. As it stands, only two players from the three trades actively play in the National Hockey League, Brossoit is the Winnipeg Jets backup netminder, and Lucic is still employed by the Boston Bruins.
With all that being said, it appears that there is a pathway for a fourth trade, and it involves Chris Tanev heading to the Oilers.

The case for the Oilers

At the end of the day, the Oilers will need an upgrade on the right side of their defence. 
Edmonton’s defence core is okay. Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard are a true number one pairing, while their third pairing of Brett Kulak and Vincent Desharnais gets the job done. However, their second pairing of Darnell Nurse with Cody Ceci is less than ideal, as the latter is a one dimensional shutdown defenceman.
In terms of points, Ceci has 11 assists in 40 games, far off his best Oiler season that he set in 2021-22 with five goals and 28 points in 78 games. In terms of his goal share during five on five play, Ceci has a 50.88% goal share and 52.07% expected goal share, which actually isn’t too bad.
Per Woodmoney, Ceci has played 223:40 minutes against elite players, which is 33.5% of his ice time. This ranks as the second most, as Ekholm has played 33.6% of his time on ice against elite players. On top of that, Ceci has killed 112:22 minutes worth of penalties in 2023-24, the second most next to his defence partner.
Still, Ceci is better suited as a third pairing defenceman rather than in a shutdown role in the second pairing. His inability to consistently make a breakout pass has hindered Nurse and his ability to produce.
Enter Tanev. The Flames right-shot defenceman has similar goal-scoring numbers to Ceci, scoring just one goal and eight points in 41 games. Tanev’s goal share is also similar to Ceci’s, as he has a 51.87 % goal share and 50.77% expected goal share.
What separates the two is that Tanev is an elite defender against elite players per Woodmoney. Tanev has played 268:70 minutes against elite players, which is about 40 minutes more. However, the percentages between the two are significant, as Tanev plays 41.4% of his minutes against elite talent compared to Ceci’s 33.5%.
Among NHL defencemen with more than 100 minutes played, Tanev ranks 13th in percentage of time on ice against elite players. So yeah, a massive upgrade over Ceci.

The case for the Flames

Improving your provincial rival is less than ideal, especially when they may win it all with the addition you send them. However, if the Flames want the best haul for Tanev, shipping him to the Oilers is the way.
As an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Tanev has a $4.5 million cap hit for the remainder of the season, along with a modified no-trade clause. It only seems logical that the Oilers would include Ceci in the trade, as Tanev would be his replacement and the cap works… sort of.
Ceci has an additional season remaining on his deal, with a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Oilers are essentially right up against the cap, so Edmonton sending an extra contract makes sense. A good example of a player on the Oilers who would help keep the Flames in playoff contention would be if the Oilers send Warren Foegele, who has seven goals and 21 points in 40 games. Furthermore, he has a cap hit of $2.75 million for the rest of the season.
However, the Oilers sending Ceci and Foegele to the Flames doesn’t come close to getting a trade done for Tanev. For the provincial tax, the Oilers would probably have to send their 2024 first-round pick as well as a young player off their roster.
For the latter, former first-round selection Dylan Holloway could make sense. During the 2022-23 season, the 22-year-old scored three goals and nine points in 51 games mainly playing in the Oilers middle six. The centre/winger has only played 14 NHL games in 2023-24 as he broke his kneecap after losing an edge.
Alternatively, the Oilers could offer Philip Broberg, their eighth-overall defenceman selected in the 2019 draft. The 22-year-old left-shot defenceman hasn’t lived up to expectations with the Oilers, as he’s played in 79 games in the NHL with two goals and 11 points. A change of scenery could do him some good.
Then you come to their very thin prospect pool. Xavier Bourgault is probably the best of the bunch, but he has just four goals and 11 points in 30 AHL games. Their highest-round pick in the 2023 draft is Beau Akey, but he missed the majority of the Barrie Colts’ season with a dislocated shoulder.
Realistically, if the Oilers want Tanev, the deal would have to be similar to the trade they made for Ekholm who still has two and a half more years on his deal. For context the Oilers sent Tyson Barrie, their 2023 first round pick, Reid Schaefer (first-round pick in 2022), as well as a fourth-round pick in 2023 to Nashville to complete this deal. 
With the provincial tax plus the Oilers’ motto of “cup or bust”, it wouldn’t be surprising if a trade between the two teams is similar to the Ekholm trade, even if Tanev will be a free agent at the end of the season. After all is said and done, the Oilers may not risk forward depth to make an upgrade at defence.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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