After months of speculation, the end of the Mike
Comrie saga has finally reached its conclusion as the Edmonton Oilers have
dealt the unsigned center to the Philadelphia Flyers. In exchange for Comrie, the Oilers have acquired highly rated
defenseman and Alberta native Jeff Woywitka, a first round draft pick in
2004 and a third round pick in 2005.
Oiler GM Kevin Lowe reportedly nearly completed a
swap earlier this month with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for OHL leading scorer Corey
Perry and a single draft pick. When
that package became public, along with the Oilers request of $2.5 million from
Comrie, it sparked a new round of calls to Lowe about his prodigal player.
In a statement released after the trade
was finalized, Kevin Lowe made it clear that the Oilers are extremely happy to
have added a player of Woywitka’s caliber into their stable of prospects.
“Jeff is a player that we have liked since we
first saw him play with the Red Deer Rebels and he has improved each year,”
said Lowe. “He was rated high on our
2001 draft list along with Ales Hemsky, and we would have liked to have drafted
him that season. We feel that Jeff will solidify our defense for the future.
There seems to be a huge premium on defensemen in the NHL and when you can get
a solid defenseman that has the upside that Woywitka does, you go after him.”
20-year-old native of Vermilion, Alberta, is currently playing in his first
professional season with the Flyers American Hockey League affiliate. After
29 games with the Philadelphia Phantoms, Woywitka has recorded 6 assists and 51
minutes in penalties.
“He’s a solid two way d-man with good
size and skills,” Oiler scout Chris McCarthy commented. “He uses his attributes to his advantage,
can play the power play, and does the little things well. Jeff skates
well for a big man, can lug the puck out of his own end and he also has a very
good shot from the point.”
The 6’2”, 210 pound Woywitka was a member
of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels’ 2001 Memorial Cup winning team, was also a key
part of Canada’s silver medal World Junior team in 2003 and also Canada’s gold medal Under-18 team
at the 2000 Four Nations Cup in the Czech Republic.
After his final season with the Rebels,
Woywitka won the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the Junior league’s outstanding
defenseman and he was also named to the Eastern Conference’s first All-Star
team. It was his second WHL All-Star selection as he had previously earned
second team honors in 2001-02.
Woywitka will report to the Toronto
Roadrunners and will ironically play his first game for his new organization
against his former Philadelphia AHL teammates this Thursday. Awaiting Woywitka in Toronto is his former
Red Deer teammate Doug Lynch, just one member of the now deep-looking blueline
corps the Oilers have for the future.
the coming days the public reaction will filter in, but the early polls have
Kevin Lowe coming out of the entire Comrie fiasco with a new popularity rating
any politician would love to have.
Although the deal may not help the Oilers today, it certainly addresses
some needs for the coming seasons. The
only negative spin Lowe and the Oilers may possibly now face will be whether
fans of the team will see this deal, and more specifically the return of the
trade, as a sign that the current season is not considered all that important
by the club.
some time now it has appeared as though Edmonton has been building its roster
more towards a post CBA negotiated 2004 success rather than for a deep playoff
run this year. Provided the new CBA in
fact does benefit the small market teams, the Oilers will be poised to
be a very successful team because of trades like the one Kevin Lowe just made.