The Edmonton Oilers essentially stood pat at the NHL trade deadline, making just one deal, bringing in depth forward Jerred Smithson from the Florida Panthers for a fourth round pick.
Smithson will certainly bring value to the bottom six and brings size, grit and experience. He’s an excellent penalty killer and good in the face-off circle. He will help, but he is not a difference maker.
The question is, did Steve Tambellini and the Oilers do enough at the deadline to make them a serious playoff contender?
ON ONE HAND
The Oilers were never really expected to be in the playoffs this season, and even those who predicted they would be, did not give them much of a chance once they did get in. The focus has been and should continue to be for the long term. That the goal for this season according to Tambellini was to make sure their young stars were playing meaningful games in the final month of the season. That is happening and the Oilers, currently in 8th spot, are exactly where they hoped they would be with the team they have.
They also had tradeable assets and players who are on expiring contracts and are not part of the team’s plans going forward. Names like Ryan Whitney and Nikolai Khabibulin or even a Mark Fistric or Ryan Jones.
Those players could have been dealt for picks or prospects and continue to stockpile for the future. While they may help with a playoff push, none are key fixtures in the lineup and some could be lost for nothing at season’s end.
ON THE OTHER HAND
The Oilers stated that they wanted their young team to play meaningful games down the stretch and now that they are in the final month of the season and in 8th spot, why just be satisfied with the fact they are in a playoff race? The goal should now be to make the playoffs and give the young stars a taste of playoff action and gain even more valuable experience.
Players like Whitney, Jones, Fistric and Khabibulin, while not being front and centre to the lineup are pieces that the team may miss in a stretch drive.
Whitney is an excellent puck mover and has been very effective in a third pairing. Fistric adds much needed toughness and Jones brings grit and some sandpaper to the top nine up front.
Teams have also seen the value in a good back-up goaltender and Khabibulin at 40, while he can’t carry the load, can still steal a game here and there, as he showed with a recent 43 save shutout performance.
The verdict on Steve Tambellini’s deadline day, good or bad, will really only be judged after the season is over. If the Oilers make the playoffs, regardless how they do, it will be successful as being a playoff team is as much as the Oilers could’ve hoped for going into the season.
If they falter down the stretch and come up short, Tambellini could be judged for not doing enough. Whether it be not bringing in any significant pieces to help get them into the playoffs, or why did he let assets like Whitney and Khabibulin go to free agency without any compensation.
Tambellini and the Oiler brass no doubt did their extensive homework and were rumoured to be in on a number of players. In the end the cost clearly was too high to pay in those cases and the future was not sacrificed for the present.
The fact is the Oilers are a young, exciting team with a bright future and are playing great hockey and will be in playoff contention for years to come. However, they do have a number of holes, none of which was going to be truly fixed at the trade deadline without vastly overpaying.
Oiler fans should enjoy the run they are on and hope for the best, and look to upgrade the team in the offseason through a variety of avenues. There are prospects in the pipeline ready to step in and a number of viable free agents to take a run at.
In the end, the best move Tambellini may have made was virtually none at all.