Dark days indeed for Oilers

Terry Jones, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:31 PM ET

When you have to give Steve Staios to the Calgary Flames, can it possibly get any lower than that?

It was the kind of wonderful tradition which should have survived 100 years, the Edmonton Oilers having never made a trade with the Calgary Flames.

To have it end by the complete donation of a heart-and-soul character player like Staios, who wore the Oilers crest so well, makes it even harder to stomach.

If that didn’t tell Daryl Katz’s customers the depth of the mess the Edmonton Oilers franchise has become, nothing will.

Trade deadline day 2010 represented one of the darkest days in Oilers’ history. But out of the darkness came the first glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel.

Just when you thought it was impossible for the Oilers to get any worse, they did.

Intentionally. By design. By master plan.

Lopsided deals

As a straight-up, old-fashioned hockey trade, no general manager in his right mind would ever make such a dumb deal as Lubomir Visnovsky, Steve Staios and Denis Grebeshkov for Ryan Whitney, Aaron Johnson, a second-round pick, a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick.

As one big hockey trade, it simply stinks.

The worst part is that GM Steve Tambellini must be applauded for his fine work.

He went into the trade deadline as a GM who couldn’t do any general managing and gave himself some wiggle room to now move forward with a chance to do so.

No. 1, he cleared cap space.

Today Tambellini is no longer a GM wearing handcuffs. He’s still got a lot of bad contracts on his hands with veteran core players who aren’t worth the money and couldn’t be moved no matter how much the Oilers were willing to be hosed.

Dropped salaries

Grebeshkov eliminated $3.15 million for next year (although you could get picky and say they weren’t going to give him a qualifying offer anyway).

Visnovsky’s $5.6 million to Whitney’s $4 million made way for $1.6 million more.

Staios is $2.6 million off the books as Johnson is an unrestricted free agent next year who wouldn’t look to be part of the big picture here.

No. 2, the Oilers made it clear that every deal was going to have to feature two components, money and draft choices. The Oilers now have either nine or 10 picks in next year’s draft depending on whether Calgary chooses to make the third-round choice in the Staios deal part of the 2010 draft or uses the option to make it 2011.

Let’s hope the Oilers commit to using a couple of them to get goalies.

The other item was to change the size of this team at the same time as attempting to change the culture of the club.

Whitney, 27,is six-foot-four and 219-pounds. He was the fifth pick in the first round by Pittsburgh in 2002 and played defence for the U.S. in the Olympics to so-so reviews.

He hasn’t, obviously, developed into the player you expected him to be at this point. But he’s going to be quite happy to be introduced to Pat Quinn. This might be the right coach in the right place for the right player at the right time.

You knew you wouldn’t be able to get rid of Visnovsky’s contract without taking somebody else’s contract problem back. Whitney still has three more years at $4 million a year to go. Whitney comes in with the jury out.

Ryan Jones off waivers from Nashville isn’t likely to sell any season tickets but he too comes with some size.

While Wednesday effectively marked the end of Oilers hockey season until the draft because the games don’t mean squat, Tambellini put himself in a lot better position to be a player at the draft beyond the moment of calling out “Taylor Hall” or “Tyler Seguin” or “Steve Kelly.”

He now has three months with nothing better to do than figure out how to get creative with perhaps that 31st pick (first in the second round) by combining it with another pick or two to move up or as assets to solve problems in other areas.

As for the players he couldn’t move yesterday they all just got the message that nobody wants them.

There can be positives going forward in there somewhere, too.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos