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Analysis: Visnovsky addition means Edmonton must have more moves planned

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

At first glance, it’s difficult to understand why the Edmonton Oilers would trade for Lubomir Visnovsky, a soon-to-be 32-year-old defenseman who missed an average of more than 12 games a season the past six years – and, more importantly, whose five-year, $28-million contract extension begins next season.

But I wanted to give Oilers GM Kevin Lowe a break, so I glanced at the deal – which sent center Jarret Stoll and blueliner Matt Greene to Los Angeles – about 415 more times.

I still don’t get it.

Sure, it’s been wholly apparent for a while that Stoll’s days were numbered in Edmonton. A restricted free agent this summer, he suffered through a miserable 2007-08 campaign in which he put up only 14 goals and 36 points in 81 games, and it was all but a given he wouldn’t be back.

Still, wouldn’t it have been more practical for Lowe to permit Stoll to leave as an RFA and allow the still-developing Oilers to take whatever combination of draft picks his departure would deliver in return? Doesn’t that sound more appealing than a pieced-together payroll whose top earners now are Visnovsky (earning $5.6 million per season) Sheldon Souray ($5.4 million), Dustin Penner ($4.25 million) Ales Hemsky ($4.1 million) and Tom Gilbert ($4 million)?

Does that sound like a Stanley Cup-contending Top 5 to anybody?

Perhaps this is just the first of many moves Lowe has planned. Perhaps Joni Pitkanen will be shipped out of Edmonton for a front-line forward in the coming days. Perhaps new owner Daryl Katz is about to open up his massive checkbook and give Lowe the finances to be a big-time player when the NHL’s unrestricted free agent period kicks off Tuesday.

Perhaps. All I know, though, is this deal made the Kings younger – Stoll is just 26, and Greene, a physical, stay-at-home type of defender, is 25 – and removed a massive contractual burden from L.A. GM Dean Lombardi’s books.

The Oilers, on the other hand, got older and less flexible on the financial front.

In today’s salary-capped NHL, that’s usually a recipe for disaster.

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