SUN Hockey Pool

Brad gets bounce to Bruins

Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe speaks to the media about the trade of Brad Isbister to the Boston...

Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe speaks to the media about the trade of Brad Isbister to the Boston Bruins for a fourth round pick, Monday, Aug. 1, 2005. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers dealt away an underachiever yesterday, opened the door for a prospect, and put $1.1 million into the "Attract a Free Agent" section of the budget.

Brad Isbister was shipped by the Oilers to Boston for a fourth-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, following a year that saw the Edmonton-born winger put up only 18 points in 51 games. It's the third time the 28-year-old has been traded - the Oilers acquired him with Raffi Torres for Janne Niinimaa - as he's failed to live up to his power-forward potential.

"He was a little inconsistent, but at the same time we didn't afford him the ice time he needed to get comfortable," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"He had a good training camp and we saw him as a better fit as a left-winger, but with the emergence of Raffi, that diminished the quality ice time that went to Brad."

Isbister's best season in the NHL was his first with the Islanders in 1999-2000 when he notched 42 points 64 games. Brad Winchester, the Oilers' second-round pick in the 2000 draft, is the most likely candidate to fill Isbister's fourth-line spot, after putting up 40 points and 143 penalty minutes in 76 games for the Road Runners. Jani Rita, coming off a solid year back home in Finland, could finally live up to his first-round pick billing and could also take a legit run at the position.

FACTORING IN YOUTH

"We haven't factored in any young guys since (Ales) Hemsky stepping in and making the team, but we're getting closer now," said GM Kevin Lowe, pondering the futures of hopefuls like Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Rob Schremp or even Zack Stortini. "We've got to start allowing some room that some of these guys could possibly come to camp and surprise right away."

The trade came on the day that shopping began on the unrestricted free-agent market, and shortly after the store opened, Lowe was making his pitch to agents.

"We're chasing them and they're chasing us," smiled Lowe. "Part of the process for us right now is letting people now that we are in fact in the market and giving them the reasons why they should want to come here.

"We got our point across to the players that we're interested in and it was nice to hear from some of the agents that they're talking about opportunity, quality of life and the city and that it's not just about dollars. I sense that there's going to be a change when players see a hockey fit first and foremost and then the dollar fit will perhaps be less of a concern to them."

WAITING FOR CALLS

In the new era of salary caps and level playing fields, Lowe knows the fans are clamouring for him to land a big fish - or a least a couple well beyond the size of minnows. The team's wallet is out and the boss is waiting for calls.

"There's no question, for the first time in a lot of years, the Oilers have money to spend," said Lowe.

"If players do choose sign for other reasons, be it opportunity or over-payment by another club, we'll go to play B and be in position to make trades and try to upgrade our team.

"I caution our fans not to read too much into what happens in the next four or five days but evaluate it over the next couple of months."

OIL SPILLS: The Oilers' complete list of unrestricted free agents features defencemen Igor Ulanov and Scott Ferguson along with six members of the defunct Road Runners - Mike Bishai, Sean McAslan, Tyler Moss, Dan Smith, Joe Cullen and Rocky Thompson.


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