SUN Hockey Pool

Tambellini not in panic mode

TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Steve Tambellini says hell no, he won't go out and get a goalie.

The crease belongs to Jeff Deslaurier and Devan Dubnyk the rest of the season.

Nikolai Khabibulin is gone.

The 37-year-old Russian goalie who gave the Oilers 18 games (7-9-2, 3.03, .910) for his first year of a four-year $15 million deal, will undergo surgery Thursday in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disc in his back.

But don't expect G.M. Tambellini to rush out and try to find somebody like Marty Biron to parachute in as a band-aid solution to try stop the Edmonton Oilers free-fall.

If there's any stopping that's going to happen here it's going to have to be done by Deslauriers and Dubnyk.

If there's anything to be gained from the 37 remaining games this season it's going to be to find out if one of these two guys has a future here.

This is good news for fans tired of all the years of trying to finish in eighth place who are quite content to watch the team tumble into last place and stay there for a shot at Taylor Hall in the draft.

But that's not what this is about says the man hired to get this team out of the mess he inherited from his boss Kevin Lowe who stuck who stuck him with a bunch of veteran contracts he can't

move and no salary cap space to make many moves even if he wanted to.

“The issue we have is that these two goaltenders never had enough games and enough time to prove themselves. When Nikolai got hurt, we looked at it as a wonderful opportunity for

Deslauriers.

“J.D. has had some really good games and some he'd like to have over again,” he said, one of the latter being the loss to Nashville Tuesday night as he has so far registered a 9-13-3, 3.07 .899

season.

“Devan has been one of the best goaltenders in the AHL – probably the best from the start of the season to the new year last year,” said Tambellini of the netminder who is 0-2, 4.41 and .839

in the NHL and 10-12-1, 2.99 .916 with the equally awful farm team in Springfield.

“There aren't any better goaltending prospects in the AHL than what Devan is,” said Tambellini.

The thing is that both goalies will require waivers next year so that means that essentially with Khabibulin gone and the Oilers having essentially no chance of making the playoffs at this early date, Deslauriers and Dubnyk as of tonight have the rest of the season to prove that one of them can play and stay.

No arguments there.

But what about the rest of it? With Sheldon Souray offering to wave his no trade clause to help the Oilers out (boy that was smooth) and Lubomir Visnovsky offering to give up his no trade clause if he had one, the Oilers veterans can clearly see what's coming.

There's no need to speculate if the Oilers will be sellers or buyers at the March 3 trade deadline, only hours after the Olympics end.

With a problem obvious to everybody with Ethan Moreau as current captain, $7 million man Shawn Horcoff and Patrick O'Sullivan tied for the highest minus (-21) in the league and a whole bunch of first-rate kids waiting in the wings like Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Anton Lander, and maybe even Taylor Hall on the way, does Tambellini start doing the deals to unload veterans for draft choices asap?

All Tambellini will say is “We're not going to trade any of our future” and “Everybody is trying to do the same thing.”

He's not going to say it, but some of these guys aren't going to be easy to unload and even if they were, how many kids do you want to bring in all at once when the young talent already here is struggling so?

Working in two rookies, like Eberle and TBA (Hall, or Tyler Seguin or Cam Fowler should the Oilers maintain their current spot in the standings) might be tops.

But then there are the two Swedes Paajarvi-Svensson and Lander. Both are at the end of their contracts in the Swedish Elite League.

“They could both continue to develop in Sweden. But their team, Timra IK, could be looking at relegation,” said the sophomore GM.

Paajarvi-Svensson is close physically but would probably benefit from another year in the Swedish Elite League and particularly with the national team program. Lander could play on the Oilers third line right now but there are all those contracts to clear and he could probably use another year over there as well.

“We have to be ready for them, too,” said Tambellini.

Interesting times. Fans cheering for the Oilers to lose to get the top draft pick but cheering for a team in Sweden to win to avoid relegation because the Oilers can't dump dumb deals with under-achieving veterans to make room for blue chip prospects they've already drafted.


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