EDMONTON – Dustin Penner was in the midst of losing a game of ping pong when word came that the Edmonton Oilers had traded him to Los Angeles Kings.
“I was playing ping pong with (Shawn Horcoff) and I was down so it came at a good time,” Penner said of hearing of the deal Monday. “I would have lost $50.”
In return for Penner, Edmonton acquired young defenceman Colten Teubert, a first-round pick in the 2011 draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2012.
“They saved him 50 bucks, the last thing the organization could do for him,” joked Horcoff before saying the team will miss Penner’s presence both on and off the ice.
“Penn’s been such a good teammate since he’s been here,” Horcoff added. “It’s been at times challenging for him, but I’ve been so impressed with his professionalism. He’s a great player, the things he brings on the ice there’s not a lot of people in the NHL can do, so it’s tough losing a guy like that.”
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said he made the move for Penner because his players deserved to be rewarded for a recent 6-1-3 road trip that rescued their season.
“We’re set up now where we can focus entirely on getting better,” he told The Associated Press. “The players drove me to this, going on that road trip and saying … ‘Make us better without taking anybody out of the room.’ “
Penner came to the Oilers prior to the 2007-08 season, signing an offer sheet as a restricted free agent that Anaheim Ducks declined to match. That US$21.25-million, five-year contract made him the focal point of a lot of the fans’ discontent, especially in his second year in Edmonton.
“There were ups and downs,” the 28-year-old said of his stay with the Oilers. “I had a decent first year. The second year was something I think a lot of people like to forget. The last two I’ve enjoyed thoroughly.
“I came here with big contract … that also comes big expectations and if I tried to meet everyone’s expectations I would drive myself insane. So I focused on becoming more consistent and a player who could play every position. I think I’m on my way to that, I’m not there yet and it’s too bad I won’t be able to do it here.
“It’s a real fun place to play. My family enjoyed our time here, we had a lot of fun. I’m sad to leave. I felt we were building something together here.”
General manager Steve Tambellini said he was comfortable with whatever happened or didn’t happen with Penner because he was under contract for another year and was willing to stay and be part of the team’s future.
“We didn’t have to move him so I didn’t feel any pressure,” said Tambellini. “Then it became quite evident the return was going to fit into what we’re trying to do here. We had to give up a good player but the first-round pick, the first-round prospect of a defenceman that we don’t have a lot of, he’s not ready for prime time yet but he will be soon. Plus the second pick fits nicely into what the overall plan is. …
“There were multiple teams interested but nothing else close to what we did here. Now we have significant options here for what we want to do going forward.”
Penner returns to California where he began his NHL career. The six-foot-four, 245-pound winger was signed as an undrafted free agent by Anaheim in 2004, joining the Ducks for 19 games in 2005-06. He played a full season the next year, scoring 29 goals and 45 points and helping the Ducks to the Stanley Cup championship.
He said Los Angeles is “probably one of the better places I could go to as far as having a house down there, and a car … so there are some positives.”
Penner is having a solid season with 21 goals and 39 points in 62 games. But his name was probably the most mentioned of all Oilers in the days leading up to the trade deadline.
The other Oilers who were mentioned in the trade rumours were Ales Hemsky, Ladislav Smid and Jim Vandermeer but none of them were dealt.
Tambellini said there wasn’t even an offer for Hemsky worth considering.
“There was never anything with Ales that even came close to me considering moving our best player. I’m happy he’s under contract, that he’s partof our future, but there was never anything that made me think twice about returning the call.”
The 20-year-old Teubert was a first-round pick by the Kings in 2008 and has been playing in the American Hockey League. Tambellini said he will remain in the AHL, moving to the Oilers’ Oklahoma City affiliate.
“We were aware of him, he has played on Team Canada, played with (current Oiler) Jordan Eberle,” said Tambellini. “I know he’s not fun to play against and we need more of that. His strengths are going to be to compete, he has good leadership qualities, he’s a good person and I would say predictable puck moving type of player and we don’t have a lot of that right now.”
Edmonton made one other deal Monday, exchanging minor-league defencemen with Colorado–Kevin Montgomery coming to the Oilers and Shawn Belle going to the Avalanche.