EDMONTON – They’re at the bottom of the NHL standings despite having one of the league’s higher payrolls. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini will be trying to wheel and deal before the league’s trade deadline Wednesday.
That inevitability isn’t lost on such veterans as captain Ethan Moreau, the club’s longest-serving player (having arrived in ’99), who has been mentioned repeatedly in trade speculation leading up to the 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Likewise for defenceman Steve Staios and forward Fernando Pisani, neither of whom would be surprised to see their lengthy tenures in Edmonton end with a change of address.
“I realize the situation we’re in,” Moreau said Monday. “There’s a strong possibility that I’ll be moved, but that’s just my assumption from conversations with people I trust and people I know.
“Nobody in the organization has talked to me about what their plans are. I talk to my agent and I hear the same things other people do, but there is nothing concrete.”
The Oilers (19-36-6) sit 15th in the Western Conference and 30th overall with a record of 19-36-6, despite a payroll just under US$60 million. So the expectation is Tambellini will be aggressive in trying to reshape his roster.
On Monday, Tambellini traded defenceman Denis Grebeshkov to the Nashville Predators for a second-round draft pick at this year’s draft.
Grebeshkov, 26, played in 47 games this season and had six goals and 13 assists.
Moreau, Staios and Pisani all understand they too might be a part of that makeover. And that prospect would be a difficult one for Moreau (637 games with Edmonton since being obtained from Chicago at the 1999 deadline) and Staios (an Oiler since 2001), who both have deep roots with the team.
“If anybody says they don’t think about it, they’d be lying,” Pisani said. “It’s something that’s part of the game and we understand it’s going to happen.
“When you’re in the situation we’re in and you have 21 games left, anybody can get traded. Management is looking to improve the team and whatever they feel they have to do, they’re going to do.”
The Oilers are destined to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season since reaching the 2006 Stanley Cup final against Carolina. Moreau, Staios, Pisani, Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff are the only players remaining from that team.
“I can deal with what happens when it happens,” Staios said. “I’ll make the best of the situation either way.
“I can’t say enough about the way that things have gone for me here. You always want there to be more success, to help the team win. The city deserves it and the organization deserves it, too.”
Moreau, 34, has one year left on his contract at $1.75 million after this season. Staios, 36, will make $2.2 million next year. Both are seen as players teams gearing up for a playoff run would have an interest in.
“I’ve always had a level of consistency and professionalism, so if I’m playing here, I’ll play well for the next 21 games,” Moreau said. “If I’m not, I’ll join my new team. That’s not my decision.
“I’m the captain of the team and they’ve indicated they want to make changes. Our management has said that. Our ownership has said that. One can assume that means changing our leadership group. Sometimes, you have to do that. Sometimes, change is good.”
Pisani, 33, is in the final year of a four-year contract he signed after leading the Oilers with 14 playoff goals during the 2006 post-season. He’d be a rental player and, quite possibly, easier to move than Moreau or Staios.
“I don’t want to try to play GM, but if a lot of changes happen, you can understand why,” Pisani said. “If you’re not playing well as a team and you’re not having any success, you obviously have to shake things up.
“You have to do whatever it takes to make the organization better.”
The Oilers left Monday for a road trip that begins in Nashville on Tuesday and has them in Chicago for the trade deadline Wednesday. Who makes the flight back to Edmonton is the question.
“I realize how fortunate I’ve been to be a part of this organization for so long,” said Staios, who was signed as a free agent in 2001 after spending parts of two seasons with Atlanta. “If things change, it would become a new chapter in my life, but this has become our home.
“Whatever happens, I’ll make the best of the situation.”