Kevin Lowe made a splash late last night, not by snaring a marquee free agent, but by acquiring a big-name defenceman in a trade.
The Edmonton Oilers GM landed St. Louis Blues captain Chris Pronger in exchange for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka and then signed Pronger to a five-year deal worth about $6 million US per season.
"This is a guy who won the Norris Trophy and the Hart Trophy in the prime of his career," said Lowe, who grabbed the 30-year-old four-time all-star a year before he would become an unrestricted free agent.
"Guys who skate and think the game as well as he does are playing into their late 30s.
"But the No. 1 thing is as many minutes as he played that year off gave him a chance to heal his body just like Jason Smith."
SUITED FOR TEAM CANADA
Pronger, who suited up for Team Canada in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, has regularly been among the league's leading workhorses and in 2003-04, he played, in 80 games and notched 54 points - second-most among all blueliners - along with 88 penalty minutes.
The six-foot-six, 220-pound defenceman was the No. 1 pick, second overall, in 1993 by the Hartford Whalers.
"He is a good fit both offensively and defensively at the backend," said Lowe, who still expected to make more news as the free agency signing spree rolled on.
"We're still in pursuit of some players and still expect to make some changes that we see fit."
Brewer was bound to be moved in any major trade that Lowe was trying to pull off and the GM felt comfortable moving two blueline prospects with another crop coming.
Brewer's play tailed off in the last season when he managed only 25 points in 77 games.
"Eric Brewer has been a premier defenceman in the NHL for the past several seasons and we are very excited about the talents he brings to the Blues," said Blues GM Larry Pleau.
SKILLED, YOUNG D-MAN
"We are also adding two skilled younger defencemen who are up-and-coming players at this level.
"We're looking forward to having all three of these players in our lineup together one day in the future."
Woywitka, who came to the Oilers in the trade that sent Mike Comrie to Philadelphia, scored 26 points in 80 games with the Road Runners last year, while Lynch racked up 14 points and 109 penalty minutes for the farm club.
"We've drafted some good young defencemen in Matt Greene (second-round pick in 2002), who was at the University of North Dakota and Tom Gilbert (fourth-round 2002) and Mathieu Roy, who was with the Road Runners last season and we just drafted Danny Syvret and Taylor Chorney," noted Lowe.
"We did not want to give up any of our young forwards."