Amidst the current trade discussions dominating conversations in Oil Country, the Edmonton Oilers are in a pivotal position to make strategic moves after a somewhat sluggish start to the season. This prompts a retrospective glance at some of the most significant in-season trades in the history of the Edmonton Oilers.
Flashback to 1987: Kent Nilsson Joins the Oilers
Drafted by the Atlanta Flames in the fourth round of the 1976 draft, Kent Nilsson made his North American debut during the 1977-78 season, playing for the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets. Over two years, he emerged as one of the league’s most dynamic players, amassing an impressive 81 goals and 214 points in 158 games, with consecutive 107-point campaigns. His success continued in the NHL with the Flames, where he recorded 40 goals and 93 points in his rookie season.
After five years in Calgary, Nilsson was traded to the Minnesota North Stars in exchange for draft picks. However, his stint with the North Stars was brief, as the Oilers acquired him for cash on March 2nd, 1987.
The acquisition, spearheaded by then-general manager Glen Sather, underscored the Oilers’ pursuit of more offensive firepower despite already leading the league with 287 goals and securing a playoff spot—highlighting the timeless adage that one can never have enough scoring.
At 30 years old, Nilsson made an immediate impact in Edmonton. In the season’s final stretch, he tallied five goals and 17 points in as many games, carrying this momentum into the 1987 playoffs.
While hockey legends like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Andersson, and Jari Kurri were prominent figures, Nilsson played a pivotal role in the post-season. His six goals and 19 points proved instrumental in the Oilers’ success.
- Division Semi-Finals: Against the LA Kings, Nilsson notched three goals and seven points, contributing significantly to a five-game series victory.
- Division Finals: Facing the Jets, he recorded five assists in as many games, aiding the Oilers in securing a spot in the Stanley Cup finals.
- Conference Finals: In a standout performance against the Detroit Red Wings, Nilsson’s two-goal, four-point effort in game five was decisive in the 6-3 victory.
While his offensive production slightly diminished in the Stanley Cup finals, Nilsson’s one crucial assist in seven games set up a game-tying goal by Mark Messier in the pivotal Game Seven.
After his impactful stint in Edmonton, Nilsson briefly played overseas for HC Bolzano in Italy during the following season, accumulating an impressive 60 goals and 132 points in just 35 games. He made a nostalgic return to the Oilers for a six-game appearance in the 1994-95 season, contributing with another goal.