SUN Hockey Pool

Oiler return for Ulanov?

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

Craig MacTavish certainly likes the look of the Edmonton Oilers defence. How could he not?

His boss landed maybe the best blue-liner in the league in Chris Pronger to join established vets Jason Smith and Steve Staios along with blossoming talents in Marc-Andre Bergeron and Alexei Semenov.

Cory Cross is a contender to complete the starting six, leaving at least one backup role to fill. Perhaps that's where Igor Ulanov fits in.

"We're talking to Ulie about coming back," said MacTavish of the unrestricted free agent. "He played great last year and we'd certainly consider having him back.

"That would afford Matt Greene, Mathieu Roy and some other young defencemen some more time to develop."

Ulanov played in 42 games for the Oilers in 2003-04, notching 18 points and 28 penalty minutes. It's his no-fear style, willingness to play through pain, and smashing open-ice checks that made him a worthwhile commodity to pursue.

STILL A POSSIBILITY

"There's been a certain amount of progress, but I don't know how strong it is," said Ulanov's agent Brian Lawton. "It's still a possibility. I have spoken with Kevin and another West Coast team has called."

Ulanov, a 13-year veteran of 702 NHL games, was club's nomination for the Masterton Trophy in 2004 after beginning the year on the unemployment line.

BLUE HEAVEN? Jeff Woywitka was a first-round draft pick who was traded to essentially his hometown team for the city's golden child. Then he was dealt for arguably the top defenceman in the NHL. That's a lot of drama early on in a 22-year-old player's life but he's handling it all well.

"Any time you're traded for a player the calibre of Chris Pronger, who has won the Norris and Hart trophies, that speaks pretty highly of you and that people still want you," said the Vermilion native after meeting the Blues' staff yesterday in St. Louis.

"There's something that they like about me, and they're going to give me a good shot.

"They have expectations for me and I'm going to try hard to make a good impression.

EARN A SPOT

"It's my responsibility to come to training camp in good shape and if I work hard, hopefully that will be enough to have me earn a spot."

Woywitka was taken 27th overall by Philadelphia in 2001 and then shipped to Edmonton in the Mike Comrie deal two years later.

Both he and Doug Lynch struggled with the Road Runners last season, but the six-foot-three, 215-pounder was an important factor in the Blues making the deal with the Oilers that also sent Eric Brewer to St. Louis.

Woywitka should have guessed a deal was in the works - buying a house is often a tell tale sign that a trade is coming. His brother will live in the Sherwood Park pad, leaving Woywitka only one regret about leaving the Oilers' system.

"With the lockout, I never got a chance to attend their camp and that would have been nice to do," he said.

RUMOURS DU JOUR: There are fewer faces left on the unrestricted free-agent map, but a handful may still be on the Oilers' wishlist. Chris Gratton, who was bought out by Colorado, would give the Oilers some size up front. Mark Messier is still up for grabs and Eric Lindros is reportedly weighing offers from Edmonton, Toronto, Florida and Nashville.


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