Non-denial denial at its best

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

EDMONTON — During the height of the Watergate scandal, the Washington Post coined the expression “Non-Denial Denial,” in reference to the White House’s ability to repudiate true stories while still telling the truth themselves.

They’d issue what looked like a vehement denial, which, upon closer inspection, contained enough grey area to get them off the hook if they were ever called on it later.

It’s become a very popular technique ever since.

A baseball player can swear he never once injected steroids, and still be telling the truth if he took them in pill form. Bill Clinton’s famous declaration regarding Monica Lewinsky, by legal definition, was also true.

Which brings us to the Edmonton Oilers and Mike Comrie.

Yesterday GM Steve Tambellini addressed what everyone in town already knows - that Comrie and the Oilers have been discussing a possible return to Edmonton.

It was non-denial denial at its best.

“Mike is a good player, but no decision has been made to add any player to our roster at this time,” he said. “We’ve got a full roster and salary cap issues, so I’m not going to decide to add anyone at this point.

“There’s been no negotiation to this point. We have not aggressively tried to add anyone at this point. You never know what happens, through camp and seeing what we have, but right now we’re not going to add.”

No decision has been made. At this time. At this point. I’m not going to decide. Those are loop holes big enough to drive a truck through. The White House would be proud.

The Oilers could add Comrie in two days and Tambellini wouldn’t be fibbing.

Can’t blame him. The team has been disrupted enough by trade rumours this summer and if Comrie comes somebody has to go in order to free up roster and cap space, so he’s wise to try and keep this on the down low.

But he pulled a George Washington and couldn’t tell a lie when asked point blank, “Are you saying this won’t happen, Steve?”

“I’m not going to say anything like that,” he said. “We have a long way to go as far as looking at what our team looks like in training camp. If we feel like we need to add, then we will. If there’s an opportunity, we will. But no decision has been made to add at this point.”

So there they are. No, they are not negotiating a contract, but yes, multiple sources have comfirmed that the hatchet from their bitter past is buried and conversations regarding a return to Edmonton have taken place with Comrie’s camp.

Comrie is OK with it and Kevin Lowe is OK with it.

The Oilers are just aren’t sure if Comrie, coming off a pair of lukewarm seasons, would be a good fit on a team already stocked with small, low-scoring forwards. The 28-year-old winger/centre, unsigned a week before camps open, might need the Oilers more than they need him.

But things can change in a hurry. If Edmonton goes to camp and discovers that Robert Nilsson or Dustin Penner or somebody else isn’t ready, and they need help in a hurry, and Comrie’s still available...

If not, then fine.

“In our situation, we have a new goaltender, a healthy D that is back and a new coaching staff,” said Tambellini. “We want to see what they think, their assessment of the hockey club, then we can go forward from there.”

The players, meanwhile, are on board with a return.

“I think the guys would be excited to have Mike,” said Fernando Pisani. “Guys like and respect him. He’s got good hands, he can score goals and put up points, there’s no question there. I think he’d be a good fit.”


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