So far, the Edmonton Oilers have played their hand perfectly. With less than a month before the NHL draft, GM Steve Tambellini has yet to commit to either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin as the object of the Oilers’ affection and the player who will don their jersey with the first overall selection.
It’s called the catbird seat. Don’t ask me why, it just is.
Boston, of course, feels pretty good about having the second overall selection and though there has been the window dressing of ‘hey, we’ll take whoever they don’t – we’re playing with house money here,’ there are also major rumblings the two venerable franchises are talking deal because Boston wants Hall badly.
On paper, it makes sense – the Bruins are loaded at center and need scoring; Hall is a goal-scoring winger. But could Edmonton trade the No. 1 pick overall and not have its fans torch Rexall Place in the process?
Yes, but only to the Bruins.
Optics is very important in pro sports and Edmonton must come out of this draft with one of either Seguin or Hall. For a team with a bunch of bad veteran contracts, but some outstanding youth on the horizon (Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and I’ll throw Anton Lander and Toni Rajala in there, too), Edmonton needs everything right now; nothing is for sure. Either Seguin or Hall would both suffice in speeding up the de-suckification process.
If Boston wants Hall so bad, why not entertain a deal if you’re Edmonton? For all we know, the Oilers favor Seguin anyway. If they swap positions with Boston, the Oilers can have Seguin and add a player to a lineup full of holes.
Boston media reports have included names such as Tim Thomas and Blake Wheeler as potential pot-sweeteners, but that’s probably a sour notion if you’re an Edmonton fan. Thomas’ contract and age make him a healthier Nikolai Khabibulin, while Wheeler’s size and youth put him in a Dustin Penner category (though Penner put up far more points this season). So those names are non-starters.
Around the office, Dennis Wideman, the defenseman with offensive chops who is coming off a tough campaign, was mentioned. The intrigue here is that Edmonton undoubtedly is going to offload the unhappy Sheldon Souray before the 2010-11 season begins, so his point-man production must be replaced. In a nice bit of symmetry, both Wideman and Souray have two years left on their contracts, but Wideman would save the Oilers $1.5 million in salary cap space.
The beauty of this move if you’re a Bruins fan is that it opens up cap space as well. Even with maximum bonuses accounted for (which the cap does), Hall would be cheaper than Wideman. The B’s need to sign at least three defensemen this summer – not to mention four forwards – and already have more than $50 million committed to salary, giving them less than $8 million to play around with.
Could this be a win-win situation? Such trades actually seem to be getting more common these days, perhaps because GMs have so much more help and research at their disposal.
Make no mistake: After the wretched season Edmonton had, its fans deserve to open a Christmas present on draft day. But Hall and Seguin are both gems and if the Oilers can get a little closer to competitive thanks to the bounce of the draft lottery balls leading to a great trade position, it’s an idea Tambellini should weigh heavily before he steps up to the podium in Los Angeles.
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 appears Wednesdays and his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday.
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