Oilers bolster blue line by acquiring Mattias Ekholm from Predators

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers have acquired defenceman Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators.

The Oilers also receive a sixth-round pick in 2024.

Headed the other way in the deal announced Tuesday are defenceman Tyson Barrie and prospect Reid Schaefer along with a first-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-round pick in 2024.

Nashville retains four per cent (US$250,000) of Ekholm's salary per season through 2025-26.

The trade was the second of the day by Oilers general manager Ken Holland — and a big swing to help his blue line — after sending winger and 2016 fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi to the Carolina Hurricanes in a salary cap-clearing move that helped pave the way for Ekholm's arrival in the Alberta capital.

Ekholm called the trade to the high-powered Oilers an "opportunity of a lifetime."

"Honestly, it's the biggest chance of my career to (get) myself a Stanley Cup ring," he said. "In this stage of my career to come to a team like this that obviously has expectations of winning … that's all I am really focused on right now."

The 32-year-old has five goals and 18 points in 57 games in 2022-23, but an organization with plenty of firepower led by Connor McDavid didn't get the Swede for his offensive prowess.

The Swede is averaging 21:44 of ice-time this season and ranked third on the Predators in hits (62) and take-aways (16) and fourth in blocked shots (76).

Ekholm has 62 goals and 268 points in 719 career games. He's added 35 points (six goals, 29 assists) in 75 playoff appearances.

Barrie has 10 goals and 43 points this season. The 31-year-old, who signed with Edmonton in 2020, has 105 goals and 478 points in 744 career games with Colorado, Toronto and Edmonton.

He added 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 46 post-season contests.

Ekholm said he looks forward to playing with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who rank 1-2 in NHL scoring, as opposed to playing against them.

"It's the two best players in the world and to be able to be on the same team with them is obviously super exciting and I know they have a bunch of other guys that really can put the puck in the net," Ekholm said.

"As a defensive defenceman, I know that if we can get our defensive side of the game (going) and I am doing my job then I think we have a great chance of winning hockey games."

Schaefer, 19, was selected 32nd overall by the Oilers at the 2022 draft.

Puljujarvi, 24, has four goals and nine assists in 58 games for Edmonton this season.

"Jesse possesses a great blend of size and skill, and he will add to the depth of our forward group," Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said in a statement. "He has familiarity with some of our other Finnish players, and we see him as a great fit for our team and locker room."

Picked fourth overall by the Oilers in the 2016 NHL entry draft, the six-foot-four, 201-pound forward has struggled at times, amassing 51 goals and 61 assists in 317 regular-season games.

He spent three seasons in Edmonton before returning to his native Finland to play parts of two seasons in the Finnish Elite League. Puljujarvi returned to the Oilers in October 2020 and signed a one-year contract worth US$3 million in July.

Holland said he spoke with Puljujarvi and his agent a couple of weeks ago and pitched them on having the Finn return to Edmonton on a one or two-year deal with an average annual value of about $1 million. Puljujarvi said he wanted "a fresh start instead," the GM said.

Puistola, 22, has yet to make his NHL debut after being selected by Carolina in the third round of the 2019 draft.

The six-foot, 175-pound forward from Tampere, Finland has 15 goals and 23 assists in Finland's Liiga this season.

The Oilers are set to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2023.

The Canadian Press