Oilers make two deals involving prospects

By Guy Flaming






Two Prospects Involved In Deadlines Deals

The Edmonton Oilers took part in the
NHL’s trade deadline by making two separate deals nearly a week apart.  The transactions done by the Oil impacted
their prospect depth in two areas, as one center was deleted and then a
blueliner was added to the mix.

 

Helminen To Rangers

 

On the Wednesday before the deadline, the
Oilers made their first move and it really came out of left field.  Edmonton received veteran scoring center
Petr Nedved and an extremely familiar netminder in Jussi Markkanen.  The Finnish goalie was a member of the
Oilers until last summer when he was initially dealt to the Rangers due to a
glut at the position.

 

In exchange for Nedved and Markkanen,
Edmonton gave up AHL rubber stopper Stephen Valiquette, prospect center Dwight
Helminen
and a second round pick in 2004.

 

It was the first time in recent memory
that the Oilers were clearly buying high-end talent rather than dumping a big
contract.

 

“We were in the situation that, because
we have so many good players coming up, that we could afford to trade some away
for immediate help,” commented Oiler scout Chris McCarthy.  “From our standpoint, you have to give up
something to get something and the way Brad Winchester and Joe Cullen
are playing in Toronto and Kyle Brodziak in Moose Jaw, we have a lot of
depth at center.”

 

Helminen was sacrificed for much more
immediate needs.

 

“Dwight’s a really good player and it’s a
little painful to give him up but in return we get a guy who can hopefully help
thrust us into the playoffs,” McCarthy said. 
“We used one of our assets, of which we have many in that position who
are coming along well, and he was a player who was obviously coveted by New
York, and we used him to get us a guy who could help us right away.”

 

Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe was clearly not
willing to concede the season yet by adding a rental player of Nedved’s level
to his squad.  There is some discussion
that the Czech center could be persuaded to resign with the team at a much more
reasonable rate but prominent Oiler watchers are more certain that this was not
a trade with the long term services of Nedved in mind.

 

What the Ranger deal did provide
the Oilers down the road is a new goaltending partnership.  Reacquiring Jussi Markkanen allowed Lowe to
pull the trigger on the second trade he made, the one that occurred on the
morning of the deadline itself.

 

A Tale Of Two Tommy’s

 

With Ty Conklin having such a
terrific debut this year and the return of Markkanen, the writing was on the
wall for veteran Tommy Salo.

 

“When the situation came that we had
three goaltenders we felt that Ty and Jussi could carry the load for us,”
commented Kevin Prendergast afterwards in a radio interview.

 

So with the decision made to move Salo
the Oilers needed to find a dance partner who had something of interest to offer
in return for their former starter.  At
least two teams expressed an interest in picking up the Swedish Olympian but
after consulting with his scouting staff, Lowe elected to send his goalie to
his divisional rivals in Colorado.  The
Avalanche had earlier moved offensive defensemen Derek Morris and prospect Keith
Ballard
to Phoenix so Lowe’s choices were a bit limited.

 

“Colorado had very few players that
interested us and the defenseman that we acquired is someone that was high on
our list,” said Lowe.  “It took some
time before Colorado would agree to making him available.”

 

The player that Lowe finally pried away
from the Avalanche is Wisconsin sophomore defender Tom Gilbert.

 

“(Gilbert’s) a good two-way defenseman
who uses his size and he’s good in his own zone as far as playing the man from
the corners to the front of the net,” described scout Chris McCarthy.  “He’s strong in front and he also has some
offensive upside to his game.”

 

It‘s that offensive upside that attracted
the Oilers to Gilbert in the first place because of their need to upgrade that
aspect of their prospect depth.  In his
pre-college days, Gilbert often played as a forward, which obviously has
contributed to his ability to register points now from the blueline.

 

“He plays on the power play for
Wisconsin,” continued McCarthy.  “He’s
got a great shot and he moves the puck around really quickly.”

 

“He played with (highly regarded
Nashville prospect) Ryan Suter when I saw him last and they both are on
the power play.” 

 

Gilbert has scored 39 points over the
course of his first two years at Wisconsin including 13 goals.  This year the native of Bloomington,
Minnesota is second on his team for scoring by blueliners but is only a single
point back from the leader who has played in five more games.

 

The Badgers are currently the No. 5
ranked team in the country, according to the latest USA Today poll and will be
a team to watch as the NCAA playoff season commences.

 

“I spoke to his coach (Mike Eaves) this
morning and he said that the greatest part of this kid’s game is that he’s
extremely competitive,” Prendergast added. “That’s the type of players we want
to build this team with.”

 

Lowe is very pleased to have gotten an
offensive minded player for his future blueline and couldn’t wait to share the
news with his team’s coach.

 

“I said to MacT ‘I have good news and bad
news,’” Lowe smiled.  “The good news is
we got a puck-moving defenseman, the bad news is that he’s three or four years
away’.”

 

What the Oilers have done this past week
has mostly been consistent with the way they have operated for the past few
years.  Once again another building
block has been added to the system with the post CBA Armageddon coming this
summer in mind.

 

“Gilbert was our guy basically because
he’s got two more years of school left so we’ve got a little bit of time,”
Prendergast said.  “We felt that with
what we have right now with Brewer and Semenov, and Woywitka and Lynch
in the minors, and Matt Greene coming out of school, we’ve got five
outstanding defencemen there and that would let us bide our time with Tom’s
progress coming to the NHL.”

 

“We’ve done a good job of bringing young
players into the organization and we now have some outstanding junior, college
and European players,” explained Prendergast. 
“The focus is to try and move forward and get better every day and every
year as we are going.  We feel that
we’ve stockpiled some pretty good players.”

 

Sooner or later the Oilers are going to have to
address the fact that they are getting overloaded in some positions with very
good prospects.

 

“I think if you look back at what Colorado’s done
over the years, they were able to stock pile high-end talent and then were able
to trade them to bring in high-end players to get them over the hump and that’s
what the goal of this organization is.”

 

How and when they decide to move some of their more
attractive players in their system is unknown but one would have to assume that
until the dust settles between the NHLPA and the NHL owners, it will be status
quo in Edmonton.