For a team that supposedly doesn’t have a designated “general manager” it has been a busy couple of days for the Edmonton Oilers. So too, whoever is pulling the strings for this organization should expect his days to get a whole lot busier.
As the Oilers head into a matchup with the New York Islanders on Saturday, they’ll be doing so with a few changes to the roster. Out are Cam Talbot and Ryan Spooner. In are Anthony Stolarz and former Oilers center Sam Gagner. In one case, the change feels troubling. In another, perhaps a welcome reunion.
Over a period of 24 hours, social media for the Oilers has gone a bit nutty. Some comments contend the team has done more in two days than the former general manager Peter Chiarelli was able to do in two years. But, what’s really happened in Edmonton and what else can fans expect this team to do as it heads toward the Feb. 25. trade deadline?
Cam Talbot Out, Stolarz In
The Talbot trade was unfortunate from a few perspectives but in the end, not surprising. Perhaps it’s not so much that Edmonton couldn’t find a better goaltender — Talbot has had his chances and had not impressed over the past season and a half — but that this trade had to happen the way it did shines a negative light on the Oilers organization.
First, the deal was imminent the second Mikko Koskinen signed a three-year extension — a deal that was handed out far too early. With less than 30 games on his NHL resume, the Oilers decided Koskinen was their go-to guy and that made Talbot second-fiddle despite being one of the main reasons (not named Connor McDavid) the Oilers saw any success in the years prior to his arrival. Second, moving Talbot was done to clear cap space for Andrej Sekera.
If Sekera is playing well, he’ll be a welcome addition to the team Realistically, the Oilers should never have been in a position to need to move Talbot to make that transaction work. They were because they’d added players like Brandon Manning, Alex Petrovic, Ryan Spooner and others who were killing their cap situation.
Not all is lost.
In Anthony Stolarz, the Oilers get another big netminder but one who has struggled this season, mainly with staying healthy. If he can remain healthy, bounce back and plays 10 NHL games over the rest of the year, the Oilers have control over a young netminder who could be their backup next season. Coach Ken Hitchcock was asked if he expects to play Stolarz in the 10 games required to turn him from a pending UFA into an RFA and his response was, “Well, it’s a test drive for Koskinen. That’s who it’s a test drive for. What can he handle? For me, that’s a priority.”
Again, that speaks to the inexperience of Koskinen who will be playing in his first-ever back-to-back games over the course of his professional hockey career.
Ryan Spooner Out, Gagner In
The Oilers then moved Spooner on Saturday to the Vancouver Canucks for Sam Gagner. Gagner hasn’t been an Oiler in years and there’s a very good chance he doesn’t have the goods anymore, but the feeling today in Edmonton is that it doesn’t really matter. Fans see how unproductive Spooner had been and, at the same time, remember Gagner’s 8-point game and how he was one of the bright and shining stars for the team before the Taylor Hall’s and Connor McDavid’s of the world showed up. The minute Gagner posted his excitement to come back, fans welcomed him with open arms.
Spooner struggled and the Oilers wanted him gone. Gagner has struggled as well but the Oilers believe he can help on their power play, give them options as a right-shot center and that potentially he can contribute right away. If the Oilers are wise, they will shelter him the way the Blue Jackets did when he first arrived in Columbus and keep him away from tough matchups five-on-five and use him a lot on the man advantage.
What’s Next for the Oilers?
On Saturday it was announced the team had placed Matt Benning on injured reserve. This helped make room for the contract space that Gagner would occupy. The question is, are the Oilers done? Probably not by a long shot.
If Edmonton doesn’t defeat the New York Islanders on Saturday, they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. Already seven points out of the postseason race, another loss would put them farther back with virtually too much ground to gain. If that happens, what’s next?
First, the Oilers need more cap space heading into next season. That means moving a player like Benning from injured reserve to another location. They will also look to move Brandon Manning, Tobias Rieder, potentially Zach Kassian and someone like Milan Lucic. In most cases, the Oilers won’t find many takers.
Who Can the Oilers Move?
Two names that might draw attention and have other teams interested are Alex Chiasson and Jesse Puljujarvi. Reports are Puljuvari’s agent came out on Friday night and suggested the team and the player have gone too far the wrong direction and perhaps a parting of the ways is best for both sides. That puts the Oilers in a tricky spot if they are looking to make the player happy.
Edmonton is best to ignore the agent, do what’s best for the team and send Puljujarvi down to the AHL where he can get comfortable.
As for Chiasson, his production has dropped off the face of planet and it might be best for the Oilers to move him if there’s a taker. He wants to stay and the Oilers certainly want a 20-goal guy on the roster, but there’s no concrete proof that Chiasson is that guy. If there’s a market for him, the Oilers might need to explore it.
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Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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