Losers of 11 out of 12 games heading into Tuesday’s match with the Nashville Predators, the Oilers are on a full-bore death watch.
And while the team must play its best from here on out – Edmonton fans can accept no less – there’s no reason to expect a miracle turnaround at this point. Too little talent and even less salary cap space makes the Oilers a “sell, sell, sell” team right now and if recent evidence is any indicator, the early bird certainly does get the worm when it comes to trade deadline bounty.
Looking at the salaries doled out or acquired by former GM (and now president) Kevin Lowe and his replacement Steve Tambellini, the Oilers likely will have to swing for the fences and/or swallow hard in order to make over this lineup.
Edmonton’s top veteran defensemen, Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky, both make well in excess of $5 million per season against the salary cap and have several seasons left on their contracts – not exactly attractive to rival GMs.
If anyone is going to take on that salary, the Oilers must be willing to take back a big contract. Sound like a lateral movement? It doesn’t have to be. Edmonton has needs pretty much everywhere and this current group isn’t getting the job done.
Based on the team’s play, the first overall selection in this summer’s draft is looking pretty achievable right now and having seen Taylor Hall in action several times, I can say he has the capability to step right into an NHL sweater. But Edmonton has no one who can keep up with the dynamic winger right now. Ottawa’s Jason Spezza would fit the bill, however.
Sure, Spezza hasn’t played the way he did earlier in his career, but a change of scenery may be the cure. Ottawa needs an infusion of new blood just as much as Edmonton right now and the Senators’ back end isn’t what it used to be, either. Spezza for Visnovsky and a youngster – Andrew Cogliano comes to mind – would be a blockbuster fraught with peril, but it may be the only type of deal Edmonton can do that has the potential for fair value in return.
This article also appeared in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.