The NHL lockout hasn’t been bad for all players.
Swedish left winger Linus Omark has been tearing it up this season with EV Zug of the Swiss League, scoring 12 goals and 43 points in 29 games by mid-December.
Omark, 25, was once considered a promising winger with the Edmonton Oilers. He had a decent NHL debut in 2010-11, with 27 points in 51 games, at times dazzling Oilers fans with glimpses of his puck-handling prowess.
Unfortunately, the 5-foot-10, 174-pound Omark struggled early in his sophomore campaign and was unable to beat out larger teammates for a roster spot. He finished last season with the Oilers farm club in Oklahoma City.
Trade rumors swirled about Omark for months. A restricted free agent this past summer, the Oilers qualified his rights rather than risk losing him for nothing via free agency. GM Steve Tambellini shopped him throughout the summer, but couldn’t find any takers.
Teamed with right winger Damien Brunner and later joined by Detroit Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg, Omark’s offensive game took off. His 43 points currently have him second in league scoring behind Brunner (50 points) and ahead of notables such as Zetterberg, Joe Thornton, John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Jason Spezza.
The trio’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic. Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News recently noted the chemistry Omark has with Zetterberg and Brunner, pointed out the Oilers were shopping him and suggested the Red Wings should have some interest.
If so, GM Ken Holland must wait until the end of the NHL lockout to formally make a pitch.
It could prove an affordable risk for the Red Wings, who lost out in the bidding for left winger Zach Parise last summer and also lost right winger Jiri Hudler to Calgary via free agency.
They had entertained plans of elevating the undrafted Brunner (whom they signed in July to a one-year contract) this season. Adding Omark, who already has some NHL experience, might also provide some needed offensive depth.
Though Omark struggled with the rebuilding Oilers, he could benefit from playing with a deeper, experienced club like the Wings, under the tutelage of respected coach Mike Babcock.
Because of Omark’s early struggles, however, the Oilers won’t get much in return.
Some Oilers fans were calling for Tambellini to acquire another puck-moving defenseman. Don’t expect to get that from the Red Wings, whose blueline depth suffered the double whammy of the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the loss of Brad Stuart to free agency.
With promising Justin Schultz earning favorable comparisons to Oilers legend Paul Coffey this season in Oklahoma City, there’s no need for Tambellini to pursue another offensive blueliner whenever the NHL finally returns to action.
Unless Omark is bundled into a larger deal, the most he’ll fetch is a fourth round draft pick, as that’s where he was chosen in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
There was little interest in Omark’s services prior to the lockout, but his performance in Switzerland may provide him another chance with a different NHL team.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.