EDMONTON – The signs of progress in Edmonton are nowhere near as obvious as they should be by now. You can’t see it in the standings, where it should be evident by now. You’ve got to dig deeper — like assessing Edmonton’s changing approach at the Trade Deadline — to find the growth.
There was a time when every Oilers veteran who could help a contender was available. Which, of course, meant there was a turnstile on the dressing room door with a bunch of new faces each spring. Those days, thank goodness, appear to be gone.
“My assessment of where our team is right now is, we’ve developed a foundation over the last few years that I am comfortable with going into next year,” second-year general manager Craig MacTavish said Friday morning. “Obviously we need to add important pieces, but I view Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks as part of that foundation going forward.”
It’s funny: A team renowned for its lack of success — despite numerous first overall draft picks — could never find any traction until it solidified a third- and fourth-line. The fact Gordon (one of the game’s top faceoff men), Hendricks (high in character/leadership, excellent penalty killer), and Rob Klinkhammer (big, decent forechecker signed to a one-year deal Friday) are all penned as fourth-liners is a sign the Oilers are finally beginning to have players slotted in where their talents deem they should be.
Same with journeyman centre Derek Roy, who has played surprisingly well in Edmonton, bringing out the best hockey in winger Nail Yakupov’s career.
“We wouldn’t trade Derek for a superficial asset. It’s very unlikely he’ll be moved,” MacTavish said of the fifth- or sixth-round pick he’d fetch on the market. “We have considerable interest in him long term, and he has meshed well with Yak, which is certainly important to us.”
So, Edmonton is actually getting somewhere — at forward, anyhow.
With the trade deadline around the corner, an already weak defensive core will take a hit when Jeff Petry gets traded, with Pittsburgh, Montreal, Anaheim and Detroit each keeping an eye on the right-shot D-man. The recent spike in Petry’s play has caused MacTavish to inquire about signing the pending UFA, but it is clear Petry is ready to test the UFA market on July 1. Thus, he must be moved before the March 2 deadline.
Mark Spector on Twitter
The usual drill for teams like Edmonton goes something like this: They trade live bodies at the deadline who can help a playoff team in its Cup chase, and in return Edmonton receives draft picks. Then MacTavish takes those picks to the June draft, where they “are more liquid,” and turns some of them back into players in deals with teams who need cap relief.
For Petry, Edmonton is shooting for a second-round pick and a prospect, though the draft pick could drop depending on how close the prospect is to playing. And that would be fine with MacTavish, if he could land, say, a Josh Manson from Anaheim. Manson played his first 19 NHL games with the Ducks this season and if Anaheim were to sign Petry this summer, that’s another D-man ahead of him on the Anaheim blueline.
“My preference would be … to add players who are more ready to come in and (play),” MacTavish said. “A draft choice is something we’d consider … with the intent on the opportunity of moving it … at the draft.”
The only thing that could change what looks to be a fairly light trading deadline for MacTavish is if he could find a goaltender. Short of waiting for Antti Niemi to lead the UFA goalie pack on July 1, the Oilers would dearly love to pry a top prospect away from a team that needs help up front right now.
That list would be comprised of Martin Jones (Los Angeles), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay), John Gibson (Anaheim) or Malcolm Subban (Boston). The chance of landing any of those prize young goalers is extremely slim, but the Oilers’ need for goaltending is the biggest issue this organization faces.