OTTAWA -- It had to be a sweet deal to make sense.
After all, why trade for Erik Cole last summer, knowing he's going to be a UFA this summer, so he can help you get in the playoffs, and pay the bulk of his salary while he struggles to fit in, and when he finally fits in and you're closing in on a playoff spot, trade him away because he's going to be a UFA this summer?
There have to be some awfully good returns to justify that logic, and the Edmonton Oilers believe there are in newly acquired Ales Kotalik and Patrick O'Sullivan.
"I wasn't going to move Erik unless I thought there was something for now and for the future and that's the way it turned out to be," said Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, who believes he hit both targets with his complicated 11th-hour deal.
"We have a young skilled player in his mid-20s (O'Sullivan), who fits in with the age group we have here, and a veteran player (Kotalik) who's proven he can play and is strong. We're well-equipped for now and for later."
O'Sullivan, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, scored 22 goals last season with the L.A. Kings and has 14 in 62 games this season. The 24-year-old has two years left on a contract that represents a $2.925 million cap hit.
FLIPPED THE PICK
To get Kotalik from Buffalo, the Oilers gave up a second round draft pick they acquired from Carolina in the Cole deal. The 6-foot-1, 227 pounder is in the final year of a $2.3 million contract. He scored 23 goals last year and has 13 so far this season.
"It's a deal that made immediate sense to everybody," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, who expects to have both players in the lineup tonight against Ottawa, and will likely put Kotalik on the first line with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff.
"We take a little bit of hit, the way Erik was playing the last little while, but with the addition of these guys we more than make up for that."
Cole's teammates hate to see him go. He had become a popular figure in the dressing room and with four goals in his last seven games, he'd finally found his groove.
"He's been playing a lot better for us lately and he's a guy you hate to see go," said Sheldon Souray. "The guys really like him. He's a good guy and proven playoff performer. We'll miss him, but we're getting a good young player who's under contract for a couple more years and should fit in here."
Souray is more familiar with Kotalik from his days out east.
"He's a guy who can put the puck in the net. Hopefully he helps us score some goals, that's something we needed to address. I don't know too much about O'Sullivan, but obviously when you give up a guy like Erik Cole you better be getting something pretty good back."
The only concern now is how quickly the newcomers can start scoring. With the playoff race as tight as it is, if it takes O'Sullivan and Kotalik as long to adjust to their new surroundings as it took Cole, the Oilers may be in trouble.
"It's going to be up to us as coaches and teammates to integrate them as quickly as possible in to the Oiler way of doing things," said MacTavish. "This stuff does take time... but we don't really have that time, we're going to have to sort that out quickly."
Breaking in good players, says Tambellini, is better than standing pat.
"You hope they can just jump in and get rolling right away," he said. "Some teams have not made any changes, that's good for them and some teams that have made changes hope they can just get off to a quick start with new people. I don't see any problems.
"We're going to make a strong push here. We expect our players to be excited and hopefully the new players can jump in right away."