SUN Hockey Pool

Doubling up on D

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Rumours Dick Tarnstrom or Jaroslav Spacek might be destined for the Edmonton Oilers had been making the rounds for some time. Yesterday, talk turned to action.

Within an hour of the Oilers announcing they'd traded Cory Cross and Jani Rita to Pittsburgh for Tarnstrom, GM Kevin Lowe completed the daily double when he acquired Spacek and a conditional draft pick from the Chicago Blackhawks, with Tony Salmelainen and a conditional pick going the other way.

With the rumour mill two-for-two, the Oilers blueline is suddenly bulging with eight bodies and what seems like a surplus of offensive talent with Tarnstrom and Spacek in the fold.

"We've added, what we think, are two pretty good defencemen," assistant GM Scott Howson said at the team hotel after the deals were announced. "We have eight here. We think we have eight good ones."

Spacek, 31, a veteran of 465 NHL games with Florida, Chicago and Columbus, had heard the trade talk, too. And when the Blackhawks called up two defenceman yesterday, the writing was on the wall.

'HEARD THE RUMOURS'

"I heard the rumours," said Spacek, a five-foot-11, 205-pound fireplug originally drafted by the Panthers 117th overall in 1998.

"I think a few teams wanted me, but I didn't think I'd stay in the west."

Spacek, who signed for his second tour with the Blackhawks as a free agent last Aug. 4, has some offensive upside with career stats of 46-140-186, including 7-17-24 this season. He'll play with the Czech Republic at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.

He's also a bit of a banger with 349 career penalty minutes -- Spacek was in the press box sitting out a suspension for running Calgary's Byron Ritchie when the Blackhawks last played the Oilers.

"I've got a chance to play in the playoffs," said Spacek, who is making $2.25 million and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. "That's good. I like it. It's good stuff for me. The Oilers play the kind of game I like to play."

In Tarnstrom, 31, the Oilers get a power-play specialist who enjoyed a career-high 16-36-52 in 2003-04 and has tallied 31-91-122 in 236 NHL games. He'd scored 5-5-10 in 33 games with the Penguins this season.

OFFENSIVE CAPABILITIES

If there's a knock on Tarnstrom, who'll earn $1.4 million this season and is also unrestricted this summer, it's his defensive play. A minus-10 this season, he is a minus-70 in his career. The Oilers, though, are looking at his offensive capabilities, not his defensive liabilities.

The Oilers actually had a deal done for Tarnstrom earlier this season, but he banged up a knee and the Penguins had to back out. His name came up again this week with the team zeroing in on Spacek.

"We've added two significant players without giving up too much," Howson said of sending Cross, Rita and Salmelainen packing. "That's a bonus and we think it makes our team better."

With Cross making $874,000 and Rita making $450,000, the Oilers will pick up some salary with Spacek and Tarnstrom the rest of the season, but still haven't bumped $35 million in payroll.

With Spacek and Tarnstrom joining Chris Pronger, Jason Smith, Steve Staios, Marc-Andre Bergeron, rookie Matt Green and Igor Ulanov, the question now is if there's room for all eight.

"We're entering the stretch drive," Howson said. "There's an old saying that you can never have too many defencemen."

Or too many bargaining chips with which to acquire a goaltender between now and the March 9 trading deadline.


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