Oilers acquire Jan Horacek in Doug Weight deal

By Dean Belanger
In what was considered somewhat of a surprise move, the Edmonton Oilers traded their all-star centerman yesterday to the St Louis Blues. While no one is shocked Weight was traded, many thought the Oilers would had received more for their best asset. The deal shakes down like this; gone with Weight is RW prospect Michel Reisen for LW Jochen Hecht, C Marty Reasoner, and D prospect Jan Horacek. Of course, anytime you trade the best player in a deal, it is very hard to come out on top, but there are many factors to consider when you analyze this trade. First off, this is a money-motivated deal, which automatically puts GM Kevin Lowe behind the eight ball. Another important factor is that Weight was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and one year away from being an unrestricted free agent. All of these factors helped to reduce Weight’s trade value. Rather than debate whether Lowe received enough compensation for Weight, or possible other players he may have been able to trade for, I’m going to focus on what they received, and how the lineup has been affected.

While many people will focus on Hecht as the key to the deal, the Oilers actually feel that Horacek could be the key player in this trade. According to the Oilers scouts, Horacek is ready to challenge for a spot on the blue line this season. His game is simple…very little offense, but he can hit. He will add another physical dimension to the Oilers blue line, and is very adept to clearing the front of his own net. They believe that this 22-year-old can be a 5th or 6th D man for the Oilers. Horacek suffered from a serious wrist injury that limited him to only 11 games last year in the minors.

Hecht is a very strong two-way player and an excellent skater. He should fit very well into the Oilers system, and give them another solid penalty killer. The 24-year-old leftwinger scored 19 goals and 25 assists for 44 points last season, improving on his totals from the previous season. Lowe feels that they can count on him for at least 25 goals on the second line this year behind Ryan Smyth, and he now gives them incredible depth on the leftwing. Hecht also boasts better than average puck handling skills and has great acceleration. In order to improve on his goal scoring totals, he is going to have to go into high traffic areas and drive the puck to the net, something that he is either unwilling or unable to do at this stage in his career.

Reasoner has to be the wild card in the trade. It is at center that the Oilers have their least amount of depth, or maybe more accurately, their biggest question mark. Reasoner has all the tools to be an impact player; he has a pinpoint shot, excellent offensive instincts, and great speed. His problems are his defensive play and inconsistency. Perhaps the Oilers are willing to live with his defensive lapses if he generates enough offense, but they can’t have a player that only shows up half the time. It also remains to be seen if he has the ability to play against the other teams top checkers.

Lowe was quoted as saying that this trade gives them more depth on their wings which is true, but it remains to be seen if they have the centerman who can get them the puck. The biggest factor in this trade is that the Oilers once again got younger and cheaper in a hurry. They also now have enough in the budget to resign their remaining free agents. It is now very obvious that the Oilers goal is to try to remain competitive until 2004, which hopefully will bring a new collective bargaining agreement. The core of the roster is now 27 or younger, excluding Salo, and obviously Lowe wants this team to develop together to be able to compete for a Stanley Cup…in a new financially responsible NHL. Lowe also stated that this is hopefully the last time that he is forced to move a player because of economics.

In other news, the Oilers traded Sergei Zholtok to the Minnesota wild for future considerations involving draft picks. The pick will depend on him resigning and his performance.

Special thanks to Steve Campbell for his analysis of the players.