Mattias Ekholm gives Oilers exactly what they need

Edmonton Oilers, Mattias Ekholm. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images )
Edmonton Oilers, Mattias Ekholm. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images ) /

The NHL trade deadline is closing in quickly, so the Edmonton Oilers got to work on Tuesday by making a pair of trades.

Of the two deals, the most notable was with the Nashville Predators, as the Oilers added defenseman Mattias Ekholm. The key piece going the other way in the transaction was defenseman Tyson Barrie.

My first thought was that I didn’t like seeing the Oilers lose an everyday player, as depth has been an issue for them for quite some time. I wanted to see Ekholm be an addition to the defense, not a replacement for Barrie.

However, as I thought about it more, I realized that Ekholm is a perfect fit for Edmonton, so no matter the circumstances, this is a major win for Connor McDavid and company.

The Oilers won by trading for Mattias Ekholm.

No offense in the NHL has been better this year than Edmonton’s, but the defense has been lacking, and that’s where Ekholm comes in.

The 32-year-old has logged over 21 minutes of ice time per game this season with the Predators, as he has established himself as a defensive standout in the NHL. In his last nine seasons, Ekholm has had only one season in which he had a minus rating.

He has been a key part of some stout Nashville defenses over the years, helping the Preds reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and win the Presidents’ Trophy in 2018.

A veteran of 719 NHL games, Ekholm has also proven to be valuable offensively. In 57 games this season, he has five goals and 13 assists for 18 points. He recorded 31 points a year ago and set his career high at 44 points during the 2018-2019 campaign.

While his offense will be welcomed, his defense is precisely what the Oilers have been missing. Barrie has been a great offensive player in his time with Edmonton, but the team needed a defensive boost in order to return to the Western Conference Final and advance.

This season, the Oilers rank 20th in goals against per game, conceding 3.3 goals per contest. Ekholm should help improve those numbers.

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The West feels wide open this season, and this could be the type of move that helps Edmonton take it.