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With injuries torpedoing playoff chances, Oilers stand pat at trade deadline

EDMONTON - The question going into the NHL trade deadline was whether Kevin Lowe would be a buyer or a seller.

Lowe was neither, it turns out, as the Edmonton Oilers GM stood pat despite having an injury riddled roster destined to miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

"Overall, we just didn't feel there was an opportunity to do anything today," Lowe said.

"There was a couple of so-called big fish that had interest for every team, they had interest for us, but we weren't able to be successful in that."

With the Oilers out of playoff contention in the Western Conference and up against the US$50.3-million salary cap, there was a lot of speculation leading into the deadline Lowe would be a seller.

Much of that talk centred around defenceman Joni Pitkanen, acquired from Philadelphia with Geoff Sanderson last July 1 for Joffrey Lupul and captain Jason Smith.

Pitkanen, 24, signed a one-year contract for $2.4 million with the Oilers and will be a restricted free agent after July 1. The talk was Lowe might consider offers for Pitkanen if the Oilers and agent Larry Kelly didn't make progress on a multi-year deal.

There was also speculation Lowe would try to move Dwayne Roloson, who has lost the starting job in goal to Mathieu Garon. Roloson, 38, acquired at the 2006 trade deadline from Minnesota, has one year left on a three-year contract and will earn $3 million next season.

"In most cases of players who are rumoured to be moved, it's speculation by the media," Lowe said. "It's all great stuff. I used to dread this day just because of the TV and everything, but I'm becoming a fan of it all."

In terms of potential acquisitions, Lowe made an inquiry about "big fish" Marian Hossa, who ended up being dealt from Atlanta to Pittsburgh, but with the Oilers 11 points out of a playoff spot as the deadline approached, he didn't do a lot of pitching.

With the Oilers sitting at 241 man-games lost to injury and counting - Shawn Horcoff, Sheldon Souray, captain Ethan Moreau and Raffi Torres are out for the season - Lowe hasn't really had a chance to assess the team he put together last summer.

- Souray, Lowe's big free agent signing last summer, was limited to 26 games this season before having shoulder surgery Feb. 8.

- Horcoff was leading the team in scoring with 50 points in 53 games when he aggravated a shoulder injury. He had surgery Feb. 6.

- Torres played just 32 games before having surgery Jan. 18 to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

- Moreau, who missed the first 38 games of the season with a broken left tibia, re-fractured the same break against Colorado Sunday.

In addition to Souray, Horcoff, Torres and Moreau, Matt Greene missed 34 games with a fractured ankle, Fernando Pisani missed the first 26 games of the season with ulcerative colitis and Pitkanen was out 13 games after having his right knee scoped.

"I strongly still feel that, had we stayed healthy, we would be quite a few points ahead of where we are right now and, conceivably, would have been a buyer," Lowe said.

"Because of our injuries and because of where our contracts are . . . overall, it wasn't in our best interests to be making any moves today. We, as an organization, try to do what's best for the organization. This year, we determined that was not making a move."

Lowe made a splash last year when he dealt Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra and a first-round pick rather than lose him for nothing as an unrestricted free agent last summer.

His most significant deadline day was 2006. Lowe traded Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and a second-round draft pick to Boston for Sergei Samsonov and got Roloson for two draft picks, setting the table for the Oilers run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Lowe's only move this season came Feb. 1 when he sent defenceman Dick Tarnstom to Columbus for gritty forward Curtis Glencross.


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