Now that Doug Weight has been traded to St. Louis the aftermath will be lessened due to Kevin Lowe’s timing. In the best interest of the team he made the deal now to allow the new members of the club to blend into the existing fold with as little turmoil as possible.Knowing that Doug Weight’s value would diminish the longer he was kept with the team it was felt that severing the ties and receiving a reasonable return and focus on the team, as a whole would serve a greater purpose.
The deal as follows has Doug Weight and Michel Riesen going to St. Louis and Jochen Hecht, Marty Reasoner and Jan Horacek returning to Edmonton. Now on the surface it may seem that the Oilers did not receive full value for Doug Weight but appearances can be deceiving. The difficulties that arose for Kevin Lowe were the facts that Doug Weight was to be an unrestricted free agent next summer and he would not be able to afford him and he requested to be traded to a contender only. Having only a few options since Weight would not have signed with a rebuilding team this was the best that could be done by Kevin Lowe. It was felt through out the organization that trading Weight now would give the time for the team to come together as a group with the new players and establish leadership roles to replace their captain.
Both forwards from St. Louis have the type of skills that the Oilers management was looking for and each could adapt to the system quickly with a full training camp. After two seasons’ with the Blues Hecht has displayed a tremendous amount of talent and it appears to many it is just the tip of the iceberg. In the 135 NHL games under his belt Jochen has produced 32 goals and 46 assists, which should increase with more ice time and regular line mates and it is not unreasonable to expect 25 goals and 30 assists a year in the future. He has good size at 6-3/196 but he could add a little upper body strength to out muscle-opposing defenseman, which should create more scoring chances for himself and his teammates. Adding Jochen to the left side will provide depth on the left side with Smyth and Moreau that has not been seen in the City of Champions in a long while.
His partner in crime Marty Reasoner was a victim of the numbers game in the gateway to the west with very little ice time since he had Pierre Turgeon and Michal Handzus lingering in front of him. However Marty did play a prominent role in the playoff’s centering the likes of Pavol Demitra and Keith Tkachuk for 10 games producing 3 goals and 1 assist. An interesting fact when comparing Marty and Doug Weight the man he will be groomed to replace that each of them had astonishingly the same stats through their first 50+ games in the NHL. Like Marty in St. Louis and Doug with the Rangers each of them could not find regular ice time to break out on their own. The stats below tell a tale of similar starts to each career and Edmonton only hopes that the predecessor has such a turn around as the master.
Doug Weight (1991-92)
Games Played – 53 Goals-8 Assists- 22 Points – 30
Marty Reasoner (1998-00)
Games Played -54 Goals -13 Assists -21 Points – 34
If given the ice time and opportunity the Oilers management thinks there is no reason why that Marty cannot contribute next season. It would be fair to say that with the extra responsibility and regular line mates Marty could produce 40+ points next season while providing speed and youth to the line up.
Last but not least is a Czech defenseman whom the Blues had drafted in the 4th round in 1997 who has played the last couple seasons in Worchester. This 6-3/220 prospect has earned his stripes in the American Hockey League and will be given every chance to make the team as the 5th or 6th defenseman. Jan is a defensive defenseman at heart and will not be seen leading any rushes up the ice but he is quite adapt at clearing the crease and battling along the boards and that is what the Oilers are looking for. Another aspect that makes him attractive to management is his low panic level and he is a right-handed shot which makes pairing him up with a partner easier.
Financially this deal puts the Edmonton Oilers in a very favorable position going into the summer and next season. With the loss of Doug Weight, Michel Riesen and Sergie Zholtok to trade and Igor Ulanov to free agency and the cutting loose of Dominic Roussel, Frank Musil and Patrick Cote they shaved a considerable of the payroll.In a matter of one day the Oilers management removed approximately 8 million from the roster while adding only fewer than 2 million from the newly acquired players, which leaves approximately 6 million to sign the 8 restricted free agents. Now granted 2.5 million of that will go towards resigning the restricted free agents and another 750,000 for a reasonable back up goalie, but that still leaves a healthy chunk of change for a veteran defenseman. Their could be 1-2 million left in the kitty when all is said and done and overall payroll could end up in the 26-27 million range which would be far below the projected 30 million at the midway point of last season.
This team next season will have to rely on a team concept with every player buying into the system if a measure of success is expected. Youth will be served on a big platter this year with the average age of the 14 forwards at 25 but the majority will have enough playoff experience to offset the age. A strong reliable defensive unit followed up by consistent goaltending should be enough to allow some of the inexperienced forwards to blossom with the increase in ice time. The top four on defense and Tommy Salo bring stability and confidence to the rest of the team and organization will rely upon them heavily when things get tough.
All in all it was felt that Edmonton received the best they could have under the circumstances and they will try to keep this team together for the next few seasons until the collective bargaining agreement rears it’s ugly head. They should remain competitive with this group and by adding a little here and there that won’t upset the apple cart things will remain the same in Northern Alberta.