Pipe dreams!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

"We will get a goalie."

Quote-unquote, that's what you want to hear from Kevin Lowe.

The Edmonton Oilers GM wouldn't stand up, on the record, and put those exact words out there yesterday after making two deals for defencemen. But he might as well have.

"We will take care of our needs," were the words Lowe was willing to go on the record as saying. "We are addressing our needs. Goaltending is not at the level we need to be successful. It's not like we're hesitating about doing something.

"Make no mistake, we are not trying to protect our goaltenders by making our defence better with these two trades. We know what our needs are. Today we took care of one. We still have to address another one."

Translation: "We will get a goalie."

You could make a case, and I definitely do, that the two moves the Oilers made yesterday to acquire Dick Tarnstrom from Pittsburgh and Jaroslav Spacek from Chicago, improved the Oilers' bargaining position to get a first rate netminder.

"There is not a team in the league not looking for a top four defenceman," said Lowe.

The Oilers, prior to the trade, had four. Five if you count Chris Pronger, with his ice time, as two. You have to give up something to get something. And Lowe just got something, short term, to be able to give up something everybody wants.

This ought not make Marc-Andre Bergeron in particular, or maybe even Steve Staios or even captain Jason Smith, sleep better. But it's there. Lowe has sent the message that if that's what it takes to get somebody to make a deal to give up a goalie, the area code to phone is 780.

FREE AGENTS

Both Tarnstrom and Spacek are free agents at the end of the season. In adding them now, Lowe has added just under a million in salary toward this year's budget.

In giving up Cory Cross and Jani Rita, the Oilers cut down on the popcorn consumption in the press box. You could even make a case that they've given Pittsburgh an even better chance of having the first pick in the draft yet again. Spacek cost the Oilers minor leaguer Tony Salmelainen.

Spacek is making $2.25 million US this year. Tarnstrom's contract is for $1.6. The Oilers are on the hook for $1,502,439 of that for the remainder of this season.

Cross is making $874,000 and Rita the $450,000 minimum. Work it all out and the Oilers are adding $985,756 in salary to go from $33,737,740 to $34,725,496.

"Both are pretty experienced," said Lowe of the newcomers. "The best assets of both are their puck-handling abilities. We like our forwards. They have a lot of speed and a lot of skill. We need to get the puck up to them and in their hands more often. Both are good on the power play. Both can play in all situations."

Both are 31. Lowe says this gives both a chance to try on the team and the team to try on them to see if they like each other. Spacek will play for the Czech Republic in Turin, his third Olympic Winter Games. Tarnstrom played for Sweden in the World Cup of Hockey.

"It's ironic how the deals came together on the same day," said Lowe.

An Oiler trade is always big news in the Heartland of Hockey. But these two weren't the trade Edmonton fans have been waiting to hear about.

The Oilers, with first rate goaltending, could be leading their division instead of trying to cling to the final playoff position. Lowe doesn't want Edmonton to assume that he thinks these two deals will quiet the customers on the goaltending front.

"We are constantly assessing the needs of the club, including goaltending. Now we can assess that one," said the GM who now has eight defencemen here.

"We feel really good about our defence," he said. "We are flush at that position."

'GOALTENDING IS CRITICAL'

Lowe said "goaltending is critical, no question," but says doing the right goalie deal now isn't easier said than done.

"If there is an opportunity in front of us, we'd do it tomorrow or yesterday. But the opportunity isn't there. Inside the next month there may be different options."

With the moves he made yesterday and the promise he will get a goalie, Edmonton now knows the Oiler GM isn't in any form of denial about what he has to do if his hockey club is going to do something this season.


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