Happy Krys-mas

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- There's nothing to lose.

Even with his questionable cranium and a work ethic to match, Krys Kolanos fits the Edmonton Oilers on so many levels there's no downside to yesterday's decision to pluck him off waivers from the Phoenix Coyotes.

Yes, Kolanos, who missed almost an entire season three years ago because of a concussion, is a medical gamble. But so was Eric Lindros when the Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to put pen to paper. And that move, despite much skepticism, has worked out OK.

And yes, the book on the 24-year-old from Calgary is that he's a bit of a slacker, can't check his coat defensively - or at least isn't all that willing to try - and hasn't shown any consistency over the course of his brief NHL career. Your point?

For all the things the Boston College product is not - I'm guessing Jason Smith is safe as team captain - Kolanos is a big, offensively gifted centre. I repeat, he is a big, offensively gifted centre. Hello!

WAIVER FEE

What makes paying the $54,000 waiver fee a no-brainer is that Kolanos is on a two-way contract that pays the six-foot-three, 205-pound pivot $543,400 on top and $75,000 in the minors.

GM Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish can have a look-see over the next couple of weeks, and if Kolanos isn't a fit on the ice and in the dressing room, they can flush him with no muss and no fuss. There is no downside.

"He's got big skill," Lowe said yesterday, shortly after plunking down the waiver fee. "For whatever reason, it hasn't worked out for him in Phoenix, but he's not the first young player who that's happened to. We're hoping a change of scenery will do the trick."

Kolanos, drafted 19th overall by Phoenix in 2000, has played 109 games over parts of four NHL seasons and has 17-18-35 with 74 penalty minutes in that tenure. Those numbers include 2-1-3 through nine games this season before Wayne Gretzky deemed him excess baggage.

Rated one of Phoenix's top prospects not so very long ago, Kolanos hit a brick wall on his learning curve with the concussion he sustained during the 2002-03 season on a check by Vaclav Varada, then with Buffalo.

"For whatever reason, things came off the rails for him in Phoenix," says Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson, who was surprised to get a crack at Kolanos after 11 other teams passed. "... We think being and playing in a new environment might revitalize him. What do we have to lose?"

To use MacTavish's words, Kolanos has "issues" aside from his health. And, while MacT isn't going to elaborate, rest assured Lowe isn't getting anything he isn't aware of. He spoke with Gretzky and he's got the book on the kid. There are no surprises here.

If Kolanos responds to the change in surroundings, taps into the talent everybody insists is there and resists any inclination he might have to be a pain in the backside, the "issues" will go away.

If they don't, Kolanos will.

"Sometimes, these things work," MacTavish said. "They don't always work, but sometimes they do because you get the player and he's more receptive to the coaching.

"I don't know what the book is. I'm not even going to go there. We'll draw our own conclusions when we see the player. I'm anticipating an eager, receptive player anxious to get his career on track."

We'll see about that. Where Kolanos fits, assuming he sticks beyond a cup of coffee, is anybody's guess. If he doesn't, no sweat. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

TAKE THIS TO THE BANK

Besides - and you can take this to the bank - Kolanos isn't meant to be the big move to add an offensive talent that many fans have been calling for Lowe to make. That's still out there. This is an aside. A hunch.

"We want to see him," Lowe said. "It's the new NHL. We're talking about a big, skilled player. I don't see it as a big gamble."


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