EDMONTON – Craig MacTavish said he has spoken to virtually every NHL general manager over the last few weeks, talking possible deals involving draft picks or roster players in an effort to bulk up his team.
The Edmonton rookie GM is heading to Newark, N.J. for Sunday’s NHL draft determined to add desperately needed size to the Oilers. He said he will be disappointed if he doesn’t come home with two or three roster players.
“I’m motivated to do something to help this current roster,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re at least able to add a big piece with that first pick (No. 7), but outside of that I’m pretty open minded to doing anything.”
The primary need, he explained, was size and depth.
“We will try and use some of the existing players that we have now to try to make some trades for the meat that we’ve all talked about and that everybody has identified as a real area of concern for our team,” he said.
“My sense is that we try to put together some packages to attract some of those players. We all know the division we’re going into next year is a strong division. We’re going to need big, strong players to compete.”
He said it will likely take a combination of moving some current roster players and some draft choices. After No. 7, Edmonton has two second-round picks, Nos. 37 and 56, plus one pick each in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
MacTavish said he has received some offers for his first-round pick, but nothing “that even remotely would sway me to move that pick.”
“We know the default option is a good one, we’re going to get a very good player there,” he added.
This year’s draft is considered a deep one and MacTavish is confident there will be several players available at No. 7 who could help the Oilers in the near future, if not immediately.
“We realize at seven we’re going to get one of about four players. Through the course of the last six months…I realized there are a lot of players out there I would be excited to add to our roster and certainly at seven there’s a lot.”
With the deep draft, he expects the second-round picks to become more valuable as Sunday nears.
“I feel the most liquid currency in this business are second-round picks and we have a couple of those,” he said
At the same time, he’s not overly anxious to move those picks without what he considers fair compensation in return, keeping in mind the success the early Oilers had with draft picks.
They got Mark Messier at No. 48 in 1979 and in 1980 got Hall of Fame defenceman Paul Coffey at No. 6, forward Jari Kurri at No. 69 and goaltender Andy Moog at No. 132.
MacTavish said this year’s Stanley Cup final once again demonstrated the value of having depth, something the Oilers lack with their current roster.
“The year we went to Cup final (2006) we had lots of guys who could contribute offensively and last year we really didn’t,” he said. “We had a lot of one or two or zero goal scorers who were out there…really the best you could hope for was they were a non-negative factor. We have to let the core players continue to develop…and we have to build that supporting cast around them.”
For that reason, he said the team wouldn’t be looking at role players with their later picks, but rather players with skill potential to develop. Role players, he said, could easily be found if needed.
MacTavish wouldn’t comment on his plans for the two available contract buy-outs this year or what qualifying offers the team intends to make.
He did say he is “somewhat optimistic” he can get forward Sam Gagner, the team’s second leading scorer with 38 points, signed to a long-term contract.
“At some point we have to, as an organization, start rewarding people who really embody the characteristics that we hold in high regard. Sam really fits that. There are a lot of reasons why we want to get Sam on a long-term contract.”